London Trivia: McNaughton’s Rules

On 20 June 1843 Edward Drummond, Peel’s Private Secretary, was fatally shot in the back, in Parliament Street, by the deranged Daniel McNaughton, his institutionalisation for life led to the creation of McNaughton’s Rules.

On 20 June 1955 at the Old Bailey the trial began of Ruth Ellis, accused of the murder of David Blakely, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged

Marc Isambard Brunel got his idea on how to dig the Thames Tunnel whilst in debtors’ prison watching a shipworm bore through wood

18th century writer Samuel Johnson’s cat Hodge has a statue in Gough Square. Next to Hodge are oysters, his favourite food

Nell Gywnn, orange seller and mistress to Charles II was born in the Coal Yard, now Stukeley Street off Drury Lane in 1650

In June 1815 Major Henry Percy interrupted a ball at 16 St James Sq. to announce that 3 days earlier we had defeated the French at Waterloo

Starring Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane and Scarlett Johansson Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Scoop wasn’t given a London cinema release

In Regency times Bond Street was more popular with male shoppers such as royal fashion adviser Beau Brummell

The colour scheme at Boston Manor Tube station was inspired by local team Brentford FC’s nickname – ‘The Bees’

The longest journey without change is on the Central line from West Ruislip to Epping, and is a total of 34.1 miles

Hoare’s Bank, Fleet Street first operated from the Golden Bottle, Cheapside in 1672. Customers have included Pepys and John Dryden

Byward Street near the Tower of London takes its name from the word ‘byword’, meaning password, which was used at the Tower each evening

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Uber’s predecessor

Tomorrow marks 60 years of London’s minicabs, correctly termed Private Hire. Before 1961 the black cab reigned supreme on London’s streets. The drivers had spent years riding around the capital on push-bikes at that time, learning The Knowledge and many cabbies on gaining their badge had used their army gratuity to start purchasing the iconic FX4 recognised today as a London cab.

A few months earlier Tom Sylvester had found a loophole in the 1869 Carriage Act, which meant ‘ply for hire’ was restricted to black cabs but if one telephoned his cab office – Carline Cabs – you could circumvent the Act as his drivers weren’t plying for hire, simply responding to a telephone call.

Starting on 6th March 1961 his small fleet of 12 Ford Anglia 2-door 105E vehicles hardly posed a threat to the thousands of black cabs stalking London’s streets. Yet, incredibly, in the first week of operations, they carried 500 passengers.

Their passengers liked the genuine door-to-door service he offered and spurred on with its success Carline Cabs ordered 25 black-and-grey livered Fiat Multiplas a 4-door long-wheelbase genuine 6-seater [featured].

The challenger to the Black Cab’s supremacy on London’s roads came on 19th June 1961 – sixty years ago when an exceptionally publicity-conscious young law graduate named Michael Gotla fronted an outfit called Welbeck Motors. Welbeck’s had ordered 800 bright red Renault Dauphines garnering press attention with its £560,000 price tag, a small fortune in those days.

Welbeck Motor’s Renault Dauphine Dinky toy

In the days when telephone numbers carried a quaint indication of their owner’s location calling WELbeck 0561 would summon a driver resplendent in a beige corduroy suit and forage cap ready to transport you for a mere 1/- (5p) per mile. As with Uber today, public support was strong. Dinky toys even produced a model of the company’s vehicle.

The Times warming to the public’s enthusiasm for this new form of public transport wrote:

The reaction of the hard-done-by travelling public to the coming of minicabs is – the more the merrier . . . men of wealth have been heard to cry out against the taximeter – men who think nothing of signing away many thousands in seconds in the wiggle of a pen, but find it very painful to sit helplessly in the back of a taxi watching their money dripping away in three penny stages”

The paper’s editor had fortuitously forgotten that his paper some 60 years ago been at the forefront of a campaign for the introduction of the taximeter.

London’s streets had never before, or since, seen what followed as the press would dub the confrontations: “Minicab Wars”; “Gotla’s Private Army”; and “The Battle of Belgrave Square”. Gotla would claim that six of his drivers were attacked while another 15 were threatened.

Time magazine wrote colourfully:

. . . their exhaust pipes billowing clouds of diesel smoke, their cabbies shaking irate fists and shouting unprintable war cries”

Public sympathy was inevitably with the underdog, who just happened to be a millionaire businessman trying to scratch a living; such was the ability of Gotla’s persuasive rhetoric.

As we see today with Uber, rules were meant to be broken, when Private Hire is trying to get fares. They would tout for fares but then hand their car phone to the customer and ask him to place his order with the dispatcher – who would then repeat the same order to the driver.

Twelve months later after scenes of hostility regularly featuring in the media, a court ruling on 31st May 1962 decreed that some private hire drivers had indeed been plying for hire, and therefore was breaking the law.

The saga then took a bizarre twist: Legend has it that Gotla’s entire army was instantly demobbed via a frantic radio message ordering them to drive their Dauphines to the nearest convenient dark alley and strip it of all advertising.

Welbeck’s went into administration with total liabilities of £50,000. It was rumoured at the time that the millionaire Mr Isaac Wolfson, who had put most of the finance into place, had been told that the bad press surrounding his private hire venture could well prejudice his coveted knighthood. Soon after he did receive his gong.

It only goes to prove that, as today, when it comes to transporting the public around London; for some – be they Black cabbies, Gotla’s corduroy army or Uber – rules were made to be adhered to, and its only enforcement from the authorities that protect the public.

Essex Man halts ice advance

With climate change at the top of the news agenda, it’s a question on everyone’s lips: Just where did the last ice age stop its advance?

Now thanks to Diamond Geezer we have the definite answer – Hornchurch or more precisely Maywin Drive, just north of St. Andrews Church.

In 1892 the Romford to Upminster branch line was constructed which involved digging the 25ft deep Hornchurch Cutting, in so doing an unexpected seam of boulder clay overlaid by sand and gravel was exposed.

The Essex Field Club investigated the excavations (presumably trains weren’t yet in operation) and discovered several Jurassic fossils that could only have been carried from the Midlands by an ice sheet.

Since then, with all of the construction taking place in London, no such glacial deposition has been found further south than Hornchurch, which has led geologists to conclude that Maywin Drive was the ultimate limit of advancing ice during the last 2 million years.

It wasn’t so much the glacial deposits as the gravel on top of them, because normally that’s found underneath. This was evidence that the Thames was younger than the fossils, confirming that the Thames was diverted to its present course after the arrival of the ice sheet. Hornchurch is the only place this layering of Thames gravel and boulder clay has been seen, hence the only location that confirms precisely when the big shift took place.

Confirming the ice sheet hypothesis, in the 1970s a new electricity sub-station was built in a former gravel pit behind St. Andrew’s Church and quarter-of-a-mile to the south of the Hornchurch railway cutting.

Here more boulder clay was found but no further glacial deposits could be found confirming that the sub-station was further south than the ice sheet had advanced.

St. Andrew’s has a further claim to scientific fame, Rev. William Derham was rector of Upminster from 1689-1735 and a friend of Sir Isac Newton (he of gravity fame) and Dr Edmund Hailey (his meteor). The Rev. concluded death-watch beetles, apart from infesting his church, could eat their way out of a wooden box.

But his greatest achievement was calculating the speed of sound. Standing on St. Andrew’s Church tower he observed the difference in time the flash from a gun fired in Aveley and the sound reaching him. Repeating the experiment from several locations he calculated the speed of sound at 768mph, only 8mph out from the actual speed of 760mph, not bad for 1705.

Featured image: St Andrew’s Church Hornchurch, London, location of just south of the furthest that any ice sheet in Britain reached during the Anglian glaciation 450,000 years ago by Dudley Miles (CC BY-SA 3.0).

London in Quotations: V. S. Pritchett

[London is] like the sight of a heavy sea from a rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic . . . One lives in it, afloat but half submerged in a heavy flood of brick, stone, asphalt, slate, steel, glass, concrete, and tarmac, seeing nothing fixable beyond a few score white spires that splash up like spits of foam above the next glum wave of dirty buildings.

V. S. Pritchett (1900-1997), London Perceived

London Trivia: Beanz means

On 13 June 1886 Henry J. Heinz, an American businessman, visited Fortnum & Mason of Piccadilly returning on the 16th, he later sold his consignment of baked beans, Britain’s first, and was to sell Fortnum & Mason his tomato soup in 1910.

On 13 June 1944 the first V1 Rocket, a pulse-jet powered unmanned aircraft, reached London early this morning and hit Grove Road in Mile End

Between 1196 and 1783 more than 50,000 people were hanged at Tyburn, the original was expanded in 1511 into the Tyburn Tree capable of hanging 24 at a time

The 2nd Duke of Westminster fell in love with Coco Chanel and allegedly put the linked Cs of Chanel on the lampposts of his Grosvenor Estates

John Thompson was Royal Foodtaster to four Monarchs: Charles II, James II, William III and Anne. He is buried at Morden College, Blackheath

The last private resident of 10 Downing Street was a Mr Chicken, nobody knows anything about him other than his name, he moved out in 1732

Between 1891-1894 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived at 12 Tennison Road, South Norwood his first work featuring Sherlock Holmes A Study in Scarlet was taken by Ward Lock & Co on 20 November 1886

In 1841 the Metropolitan Police reported there were 9,409 prostitutes and 3,325 brothels known to the police across the 17 police districts

Fulham’s first football ground, in 1879, was located on a patch of land known locally as Mud Pond, its location is not known, but the place was described as being in Lillie Road

Aldgate tube station is built on the site of a plague pit mentioned by Daniel Defoe in Journal of a Plague Year in which 1,000+ were buried

The 19th century classic writer Anthony Trollope who also worked for the Post Office helped create the red letter box

The City’s Square Mile is now an imperfect 1.16 square miles following 1990s boundary changes incorporating an area north of London Wall

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Taxi talk without tipping

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