Killed in a cab

The newspaper archives are riddled with stories of murders and perversely suicides in cabs. In the second half of Victorian London, no fewer than 12 people are recorded as taking their lives in the back of a cab. The most famous being The Earl of Shaftesbury who shot himself in April 1886, probably in desperation after listening to the cabbie droning on about something.


Flo Dudley

Murders were also commonplace in cabs. Music hall artist Florence Dudley was shot dead in the back of a cab near Fenchurch Station by Edward G. Hopwood, but it was in post-war London that saw a bizarre and grim pattern of cabbies being murdered. These included the so-called ‘Cleft Chin’ murder of cabbie Edward Heath, by an American paratrooper and a female dancer in January 1945.

That same year in October Frank Everett was murdered in his cab, and the next month on 1st November ‘Russian Robert’ Ruben Martirossof was shot dead in his cab.

‘Jolly Cabbie’, Joseph Desmond, again was shot dead in his cab on 6th October 1947 and oddly, three of the post-war murders either took place in or were linked to, Notting Hill.

The survey results

Thanks for taking the time to vote on this, my first readership survey, of those who viewed last week’s post over half filled in the questions.

The typical CabbieBlog reader is a male from the London area, who is approaching the twilight of his life. He has received via email my missives for over half a decade which he devours rapaciously every day. Although his preference is London’s history a bit of trivia doesn’t come amiss, and thinks CabbieBlog could do better, even though he hasn’t himself written a blog.

After that rather tongue-in-cheek summary, let’s have a look at the real data.

(1) Male or female?

I don’t believe there are fewer females reading stuff on the internet than men, so either I’ve disillusioned female readers or else my choice of subject matter has proved more appealing to male anoraks like myself. Sorry ladies, I’ll try not to lose any more of you.

80% male; 20% female

(2) Age?

I’m rapidly haemorrhaging the younger audience too, ten years ago when meeting other bloggers and blog readers almost all were under 30, but that’s now less than 10 per cent. I suspect blogging’s become a bit old school for the younger generation, many of whom prefer video content to twice-weekly 600 word essays. Admittedly I’m now two age groups higher than when I started the blog in June 2008, and many of my readers will have aged along with me, but my audience is maturing faster than that, which may be why some days the comments descend into a nostalgic wallow. Over 90 per cent of my readers are over 50 and, as you might expect, none under 20. Curiously also there are none in the 40-year-old group.

Under 20 none; 20-39 8%; 40-49 none; 50-59 24%; 60-69 20%; 70+ 48%

(3) Where do you live?

Nearly half of my readership lives in London, the city I write about the most, while one quarter is from the rest of England, most likely with an Eastern England bias if my comments are anything to go by. Over one-quarter of you are still from outside the UK, so it can’t only be my reports about cabs to Cockfosters which keep you coming back. I guess in these travel-restricted times it doesn’t really matter where you’re from, so long as you don’t mind reading about somewhere you’re unlikely to be able to visit.

London 48%; England 24%; United Kingdom 0%; Europe 12%; World 16%

(4) When did you first check out CabbieBlog?

This question celebrates the longevity of CabbieBlog’s readers. 12 per cent of you claim to have been reading for at least 12 years, and another 16 per cent for more than 10 years (assuming your memory of that first visit is truly accurate). More and more of you have joined in as successive years have passed, and as hardly anyone ever gets redirected here from anywhere else any more, surprisingly 20 per cent have arrived since 2020. But thank you all for sticking around, however long it’s been.

2008-2010 12%: 2011-2013 16%; 2014-2016 20%; 2017-2019 32%; 2020+ 20%

(5) How often do you read CabbieBlog?

Curiously 56 per cent of respondents read CabbieBlog every day, even though I only post four times a week. Nearly a third peruse the site weekly, and hardly surprisingly no one filled in the survey upon stumbling upon CabbieBlog for the first time.

Daily 56%; Weekly 32%; Occasionally 12%; First visit 0%

(6) How do you find out when new posts are published on CabbieBlog?

This was for me the most revealing question that 60 per cent discover my new missives from receiving an email, and rather reassuringly 20 per cent check out CabbieBlog regularly to read any new posts.

RSS feed 16%; Newsify 0%; Bloglovin’ 4%; Twitter 0%; CabbieBlog emails 60%; Check out CabbieBlog site 20%

(7) Are four posts a week?

While the majority thought CabbieBlog posted about enough times a week, those who wanted more or felt I droned on too much were identical in number.

Too many 12%; About right 76%; Not enough 12%

(8) What is your best-liked category?

Considering CabbieBlog’s raison d’etre is London’s history it’s hardly surprising that the most popular category is not the opinion of a London cabbie, with zero votes, but history with trivia trailing far behind.

Trivia 16%; Quotations 0%; London history 72%; Thinking allowed 0%; None particularly 12%

(9) Do you own a blog?

A substantial number of you either never wrote a blog in the first place or have given up on producing original long-form content in favour of merely reacting via social media to what others have written. But it’s reassuring to know that blogging isn’t quite dead yet and that I still have competition from at least some of you.

Yes 20.8%; No 79.2%

(10) How do you rate CabbieBlog?

I hesitated to include this question as the result could have been far from reassuring, or worse in telling me that I have been wasting my time this past decade. I squeezed past the halfway point when seven out of ten was my lowest score, and nearly a third of you gave me full marks. Conclusion I must try harder.

1/10-0%; 2/10-0%; 3/10-0%; 4/10-0%; 5/10-0%; 6/10-0%; 7/10-11.5%; 8/10-19.2%; 9/10-38.5%; 10/10-30.8%

London in Quotations: Mary Elizabeth Braddon

London’s like a forest . . . we shall be lost in it.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915), Taken at the Flood

London Trivia: Punch and Judy debut

On 9 May 1662, the first performance of a Punch and Judy show at Covent Garden was recorded in Samuel Pepys’s diary entry, it is believed a similar puppet show has been seen there every year since. The original was performed by the Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde from Bologna, otherwise known as Signor Bologna and was honoured with a royal command performance by Charles II at Whitehall.

On 9 May 1949 Britain’s first coin-operated launderette, Central Wash, opened for a 6 month trial in Queensway, Bayswater

On 9 May 1726 five men found at Mother Clap’s molly house (“molly” being slang for a gay man at the time) were hanged at Tyburn

The Brick Lane Mosque’s building has also been a protestant church and a synagogue, the only building in the world to have done so

Pugin designed St. Thomas of Canterbury Church on Rylston Road it has Joseph Aloysius Hansom, who invented the Victorian cab in its graveyard

St. Edward’s Crown the centrepiece of a coronation is only ever touched by The Monarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Crown Jeweller

It cost a penny to watch the Bard’s plays at the Globe, standing they were called ‘groundlings’, mockingly referred to as ‘penny-stinkers’

On 9 May 1914 William Newell made the first parachute jump in Britain from an aeroplane over Hendon Aerodrome. He survived

Mitcham cricket green is believed to be the oldest in the world continuously used to play the game, it has seen the game played since 1685

Britain’s first ubiquitous speed bumps were installed on Linver Road and Alderville Road, Fulham in 1984, the nightmare had begun

Chancery Lane was previously known as Chaunceleres Lane, and prior to that New Street, it has been home to the legal profession since 1377

The Queen Mother started the enduring royal wedding tradition of leaving the bride’s bouquet on the Abbey’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

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.

Test Your Knowledge: May

This month’s quiz is rather eclectic. I’ve posed these questions before so that should give you a fighting chance. As before the correct answer will turn green when it’s clicked upon and expanded to give more information. The incorrect answers will turn red giving the correct explanation.

1. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 1952 had to be abandoned, but what was the reason?
Smog drifting into the theatre obscured the stage from the audience
CORRECT It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
The tenor in mid-aria collapsed with a heart attack
WRONG It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
The Sadler’s Well overflowed flooding the auditorium
WRONG It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
2. At the junction of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road is known by cabbies as ‘Hot and Cold Corner’. Why?
Either you are inundated with work or there’s nothing
WRONG The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
The statutes of David Livingstone, explorer of Africa and Ernest Shackleton hero of the Antarctic is to be found there
CORRECT The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
Cold air rolls off Hyde Park, while the Albert Hall shelters you from the icy blast
WRONG The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
3. You probably see it every day, but what is Johnston Sans?
The typeface used on London Underground
CORRECT Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
The design of a street waste paper bin
WRONG Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
French for an Oyster card
WRONG Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
4. In a little courtyard off St. James’s Street lays Pickering Place, it once housed an embassy, but which short-lived nation-state was represented?
The Republic of Crimea
WRONG Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
The State of Somaliland
WRONG Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
Texas
CORRECT Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
5. The Russian word for a railway station is also the mainline terminal in London, which one?
Vauxhall
CORRECT One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
Waterloo
WRONG One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
Marylebone
WRONG One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
6. London has experienced many ‘Great Storms’, but one in 1703 dislodged a well-known icon, what was it?
The lantern on the roof of St. Paul’s just recently completed
WRONG Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
Oliver Cromwell’s head
CORRECT Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
The plaque commemorating the beheading of King Charles on Whitehall Palace
WRONG Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
7. What is the connection between Dirty Dick’s pub opposite Liverpool Street Station and Charles Dickens?
The famous novelist’s father drank himself to death there
WRONG The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
The pub’s collection of stuffed cats inspired the novelist to write The Old Curiosity Shop
WRONG The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
Its namesake provided the basis for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations
CORRECT The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
8. Norman Balon, the proprietor of Soho’s Coach and Horses for over 60 years, was celebrated as ‘the rudest landlord in London’. Under what name did he often appear in the satirical magazine Private Eye?
Bally Balon, the benign friend of the boozer
WRONG Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
Norman Nice, the kindly landlord
WRONG Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
Monty Balon, the genial mine host
CORRECT Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
9. Since 1820, what has a sailor done each Good Friday at the Widow’s Son pub in Bow?
Placed a hot cross bun in a basket hanging from the ceiling
CORRECT A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
Rung the Bow Bell kept behind the bar
WRONG A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
Poured a pint to celebrate Christ’s resurrection
WRONG A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
10. The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is London’s oldest remaining riverside inn. What was it originally named?
The Smuggler’s Rest
WRONG Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.
The Devil’s Tavern
CORRECT Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.
The Damn Your Eyes
WRONG Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.

Taxi talk without tipping

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