Humanist walks in Bloomsbury and Manchester commemorate 125 years of Humanists UK

1 October, 2021

Photo of Holyoake House by Stephen Richard. Used and adapted under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Humanists UK has partnered with the guided walking tours app Go Jauntly to produce free guided walks for two sites rich with humanist history: Bloomsbury and Manchester.

About our humanist walking tours

The walks provide an opportunity to learn more about a host of better and lesser-known humanists, and their role in shaping the world we live in today. In both Bloomsbury and Manchester, the routes take in people and places associated with everything from arts and culture, suffrage and socialism, to education and medicine. These include the ‘inventor of secularism’ George Jacob Holyoake, chair of Humanists UK’s first annual congress Elizabeth Swann, and Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown.

Brown spent the final years of his life painting the murals in Manchester’s town hall, and was described by his fellow artist and humanist Ernestine Mills as ‘a cheerful and reverent Agnostic, whose whole life was one of unselfishness and devotion to lofty aims’. Brown’s death was later marked in a humanist funeral conducted by Moncure Conway in 1893. A pioneering humanist leader, Conway’s legacy is remembered today in the popular humanist arts and culture space Conway Hall, which is one of the major sites of the Humanist Bloomsbury tour.

Part of our Humanist Heritage project

These walking tours were created as part of the Humanist Heritage project, whose main output has been a new website unearthing and cataloguing the individual humanists, places, and ideas that have shaped our modern society.

In the video below, Humanist Heritage Coordinator Madeleine Goodall discusses the creation of the walking tours in a talk for the London Knowledge Quarter.

Humanists UK’s Humanist Heritage Coordinator Madeleine Goodall commented:

‘From its earliest days, our Humanist Heritage project has aimed to put humanist history on the map, and to emphasise that even without churches and cathedrals, echoes of humanist impact and activity are everywhere – especially if you know where to look.

‘Our first Go Jauntly walk was piloted almost precisely when the second national lockdown hit. In the end this provided some of our central London members an excellent opportunity to get in their daily exercise and experience something cultural and educational out of the house at a time when household mixing wasn’t allowed. We’re delighted now to be expanding the line to cities across the UK, starting with Manchester.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson added:

‘These new humanist walking tours present a brilliant way of stepping into our movement’s history. They make it immediately obvious just how profoundly the humanist approach to life has influenced every corner of our society for the better. And over that long journey, our values, our guiding principles, and vision for society have remained much the same: think for yourself, act for everyone.’

Humanists UK is planning to release further humanist history walks across other UK towns and cities in the near future, starting with a tour of the secret humanist history of Belfast.

A snapshot of the Humanist Heritage map looking at Birmingham, with its profile of Harold Blackham selected

How to access our humanist walking tours

All of the Humanist Heritage walking tours are available directly through the Go Jauntly app, which is free on iPhone and Android.

Go Jauntly’s format means that, whether you are in Bloomsbury, Manchester, or somewhere else entirely, you can preview and save the walk from anywhere, for free. The ‘read more’ tabs peppered throughout will give you detailed information on the stories and humanist connections of the people and places described, and link outwards to the Humanist Heritage website for more.

Individuals can also create walking tours of their own by visiting the Humanist Heritage website and exploring its interactive map, which gives a snapshot of some of the people and places in a given area connected with the story of humanism in the UK.


For further comment or information, contact Humanists UK Humanist Heritage Coordinator Madeleine Goodall at

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

More on Humanist Heritage and our 125th anniversary: