London’s Urban Myths

The Seven Noses of Soho

The Myth of the 7 Noses of Soho is a peculiar one. Rumour has it that there are 7 sculpted noses on buildings in the square mile that is Soho. It’s said that if an individual finds all 7 they also attain infinite wealth. Oh! If I find all 7 noses and become infinitely wealthy you can be assured that I would share the infinite wealth fairly with everyone who reads CabbieBlog. Paul Raymond is the only person attributed to finding them turning him from a failed ventriloquist into a property mogul.

Pigeon Travel cards

It’s not much as urban legends go, but many people claim that pigeons regularly ride the Underground on certain routes, routinely boarding and exiting at the same stations. Not surprisingly, my sources aren’t clear on which stations or lines the pigeons have been seen riding. I’ve seen one board a train at Earl’s Court, but I’m not certain it was deliberate. I didn’t see it alight from the train, either. Scary thought, that: first clever sheep, now intelligent commuting sky rats.

moon Ghost of the Underground

While on the theme of the Underground, it is less expected to discover a ghost on the Tube, and not far from the Tower. Staff at Aldgate station have been keeping a log of such incidents since the 1950s. In one report a maintenance worker is said to have survived a 22,000 volt shock from the third rail, immediately after a colleague had observed what he took to be a grey-haired figure, presumably his guardian angel, gently stroking his hair.

Queen’s Resting Place

Boudica was queen of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia. She joined up with the Trinovantes of Essex to rebel against the Roman treatment of her people. Together they attacked Roman settlements at Colchester, St Albans and destroyed the city of Londinium in AD60. She is said to be buried under platform 9 or 10 of King’s Cross Station.

Nelson in a gilded cage

Contrary to the popular rumour Nelson’s body isn’t in the gilded ball on the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral but down below in the crypt. Brought back to England preserved in a barrel of rum, Nelson’s body on arrival was placed in a magnificent sarcophagus originally intended for Cardinal Wolsey. The Cardinal didn’t need it after his altercation with Henry VIII.

Sniffy Judges

Judges presiding at the Old Bailey today still at certain times carry nosegays of aromatic herbs. This is a tradition harking back to a time when typhus or “jail fever” was endemic in the Justice Hall of Newgate. There is of course no evidence that a nosegay provides any protection whatsoever.

Camelot in Cockfosters?

Sir Thomas Mallory seemed convinced that Winchester was Camelot. Now there is another contender for the site of Arthur’s legendary Court, this time in North London, at the far end of the Piccadilly Line. Yes, I know it sounds rather far-fetched, but all the evidence (and there is plenty of it) indicates that a real Camelot once existed at the very centre of Enfield Chase, the Royal Hunting Ground of the Plantagenet Kings. Today it is still there, hidden in woods on the fringe of Trent Country Park, and known as Camlet Moat. Archaeological digs have been conducted, back in the 1880s and again in 1923 and some interesting finds were unearthed. They suggest a substantial structure with stone walls over five and a half feet thick, a massive drawbridge 38ft long and a subterranean dungeon. Sounds like a castle, doesn’t it? Smaller relics from the Roman period suggest the site is originally of impressive antiquity.

So how far will your cabbie go?

Sorry, I had to clear up this Urban Myth. Cabbies do not have to take you wherever you choose. Unless we have a good reason not to, drivers must: Accept any hiring up to 12 miles (20 miles if starting at Heathrow Airport) or one hour duration if the destination is in Greater London. Fares for destinations outside Greater London may be negotiated between the passenger and driver before the journey. If no fare is agreed before the start of the journey then the maximum fare will be that shown on the meter at the end of the journey. There, now don’t ask me again.

4 thoughts on “London’s Urban Myths”

  1. Please don’t call pigeons “sky rats” or “flying rats”. Zoologically they are not rats so the designation is incorrect to start with, and is unabashed if ignorant propaganda designed to unthinkingly induce us to dislike pigeons. And you wouldn’t want to be a victim of unthinking induction, would you?

    I like pigeons and rescued one the other day when it was stuck behind a big window in a cafe. Everyone else stood around weakly murmuring “We can’t get it to leave” and I just picked it up and took it outside. Holding a pigeon in my hands was the high point of the day.

    The only thing wrong with pigeons is people: it is the mess you people leave lying around that attracts pigeons. Clean up the town, put your rubbish in the bin, and there wouldn’t be a problem. I would call humans “two-legged rats” except that that would be grossly unfair to rats.

    I don’t think pigeons deliberately travel on the tube. However, they do get used to accidentally taking a ride. I used to regularly travel from Edgware which, as you no doubt know, is a terminus where the trains stand for some time with the doors open. Because people are dirty litter louts, there is plenty of food on the trains and the pigeons go aboard to collect their share. Sometimes the doors close while they are dining. As long as they are not hassled, they wait calmly until the train reaches Burnt Oak where they fly out, often surprising passengers about to board. It’s fun to watch.

    Once during a transport strike, I took a taxi to get home. Being unused to the wonderful world of taxi usage, I became confused and asked the driver, as I might a bus driver, “Do you go to Golders Green?” Of course, he replied “I go wherever you pay me to go, guv!”

    Fortunately, Golders Green (where I transferred to a bus) is less than 20 miles from Camden Town (where I hailed the taxi), so I was conveyed to my goal without hesitation or negotiation.

    My longest taxi ride was from Swansea to Shrewsbury, paid for by the railway company when the trains were blocked by a bridge strike. It was an ex-London black cab and while I am sure you love your taxi I can say they are not built for such long journeys and I was feeling very uncomfortable by the time we arrived. Whatever else you might say about cabs, they are not built with the customer’s comfort and convenience in mind.


    1. Cripes! Your comments in defence of our rodent friends was longer than my post, but thanks for your contribution.
      You are right though, if we humans were much cleaner the pigeon and rat populations would decline, we can only blame ourselves . . . or others.

      A black cab isn’t designed for passenger comfort, or the driver’s comfort for that matter, it’s just an iconic vehicle that reached its zenith in the 50s.

      For more commuting wildlife you might like to follow this link:|%20Mail%20Online)


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