Name changer

Pity the poor postman (or cabbie) when trying to locate some misspelled parts of London. You would have thought that after years of use some kind of conformity would result.

When writing about London’s New River I found the owner had had his name spelled in every conceivable way.

Sir Hugh Myddelton on many roads or Myddelton in the case of the local school.

[N]ow thanks to the patient research by Bruce Hunt I have discovered it was once misspelled Midleton Grove. I came across this treasure trove of information when tracing my family tree for many London streets where my ancestors once lived do not now exist.

At times local authorities actively change the spelling. For many years Harringay developed by the Victorians took its name from Harringay House, the grounds of which occupied most of the area west of modern Green Lanes. In the early 20th century the Municipal Borough of Hornsey tried to enforce the use of the Harringey spelling, resistance by locals prevented its adoption. But in 1965 when the local boundaries were reorganised with the combining of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham, the councillors of Hornsey got their revenge and chose the name Haringey – its sounds almost posh don’t you know?

Bridgeman Road Sometimes incorrect spelling is just done by bumbling burgers. Take the poor residents under Islington’s aegis. If you live in Hazellville Road the council often fail to give it the four L rating calling the street Hazelville Road while the 41 bus digitally displays the arrival at Hazel Ville Road.

The Victorians tried to bring order from the chaos of duplicated and miss-spelt streets. The Street Renaming Scheme was started in 1857 by The Metropolitan Board of Works this was following the General Post Office who had started introducing Postal Districts the previous year. Many streets were renamed or their spelling clarified which has led to more confusion.

Leirum Street Not to be outdone in this fine tradition of ambiguity Islington Council – yes it’s them again thought up a terrific wheeze.

Muriel Street, itself a fairly short thoughfare was split in two when the Barnsbury Estate was built. It was decided to rename one of the halves, to avoid confusion and the name given was Leirum Street.

A rather strange moniker – does it commemorate a notable local dignitary, or previous landowner? No, it derives its name from Muriel spelt backwards.

Gold shoulder

I have been a member of the National Trust for the best part of 40 years, and over that time I’ve lost count of the number of scones and cups of coffee that I have consumed in their restaurants.

I take an interest in all their properties
but for Mrs. CabbieBlog if the building is
not Palladian in style with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown she’s not very interested.

So it was that I found myself unaccompanied in Bohemian Hampstead visiting 2 Willow Road.

Willow Road2 Willow Road

[I]n the 1930s, Hampstead became a magnet for progressive artists and writers. A colony developed in lower parts of Hampstead Village, in part due to the relatively cheap property prices. Despite most being left-wing rival fractions emerged between the Surrealists and the Abstractionists.

As life became increasingly uncomfortable in Europe this creative milieu was joined by many Jews, left-wingers, progressive artists and intellectuals all of whom the Nazi’s disapproved.

Architect Ernõ Goldfinger arrived with his wife and son from Paris in 1934 and acquired a piece of land in Willow Road, occupied by four small cottages, where he intended to build a home for his family. Eventually he persuaded the council to give permission to demolish the cottages and construct a modernist home flanked by smaller properties that were to be sold to finance the construction. The project was completed a short time before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Ernõ Goldfinger was later to become synonymous with designing Brutalist London tower blocks. The three below have all been given Grade II listing.

Metro Central

Alexander Fleming House at the Elephant and Castle renamed Metro Central.

Balfron Tower Balfron Tower near the northern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel.

Trellick Tower-1 Trellick Tower in north Kensington with flats selling for £375,000.

Although many residents of his soulless post-war developments might have cause to dislike the man; or a disgruntled employee, some of which could not tolerate his flamboyant bullying nature – he had been known for sacking his assistant if they were inappropriately jocular; or even the odd miffed client who was frog-marched out of his office after disagreeing with his proposals; of all people it was Ian Fleming the author of James Bond who clashed with him after writing his latest block-buster novel.

You can bet Fleming never lived in a high-rise flat designed Goldfinger nor was he an employee. The encounter was to be more prosaic.

In the 1950s, Ian Fleming’s regular golfing partner was a businessman called John Blackwell. One day, at the St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Blackwell mentioned that his cousin’s husband was the architect Ernö Goldfinger. Fleming liked the name ‘Goldfinger’ and thought he might be able to use it: he was always on the look-out for new or unusual names, and had given several of his previous characters the names of real people and in fact in the final text of Goldfinger he used John Blackwell’s name (he was related to the Cross & Blackwell family) for a minor character.

Ian Fleming had also been an objector to Ernõ Goldfinger’s proposal to build 2 Willow Road and probably delighted in creating Auric Goldfinger a 5ft imperious megalomaniac. When Ernõ Goldfinger’s business associate Jacob Blacker was asked for his opinion on the similarity between the fictional Goldfinger and his partner, he could only find one substantial difference “You’ve called Ernõ and he’s called Auric”.

Goldfinger threatened to sue, Fleming in a clash of egos was livid. He asked Cape, the publishers to insert an erratum slip in the first edition changing the character’s name to ‘Goldprick’. Lucky for Shirley Bassey – who sang the title song in the film – Cape demurred.

Common sense prevailed and Cape agreed to call the villain Auric Goldfinger throughout the book and insert the standard disclaimer at the front stating that all characters were fictional. They also paid all Ernõ Goldfinger’s legal costs.

However Ian Fleming was to have the last laugh. When the film was released starring Sean Connery wags would ring 2 Willow Road singing the title song or worst would intone in a Scottish accent: “Goldfinger? Thish ish Dobble Oh Sheven”.

Main picture: Ernõ Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower, London W10. “I built skyscrapers for people to live in there and now they messed them up — disgusting.” Photo by See Wah, used under Creative Commons licence).

It’s a Corker

Cork Street is a short thoroughfare in Mayfair lined with art galleries, having gained its name from the 1st Earl of Burlington who also happened to be 2nd Earl of Cork in Ireland. It was he, you might recall, who had built Burlington Arcade to stop dead cats being thrown into his back garden.

Before the galleries this little street was the epicentre of Georgian London’s artificial leg industry.

[I]n the 18th century a broken leg was a common injury brought about through war or more commonly falling from a horse. If you were unfortunate enough to have suffered that fate the high risk of it turning septic, ultimately resulting in death, necessitated amputation.

The fate of the poor was a wooden extension strapped to the stump; just imagine Alastor ‘Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These were often referred as Peg Legs – a nomenclature attached (no pun) to its owner.

Mr Foote According to Mr. Foote’s Other Leg by Ian Kelly in 1766 puppet maker Mr. Addison of Hanover Street, Long Acre made for Samuel Foote England’s first articulated prosthesis. Its articulation at the knee and foot, like a puppet’s was not the only innovative aspect, Foote’s bodyweight was held by two circular straps that took the strain when he leaned on the artificial limb’s side of the body, rather than bear down on a wooden stump.

With London’s surgeons producing a steady stream of wealthy unit-pedals expert craftsmen congregated in Cork Street, meticulously fashioning bespoke, precision-made limbs using hardwoods and leather with articulated joints fitted with intricate spring mechanisms.

This superior class of limb, fitted and purchased in Cork Street soon became known as a ‘Cork Leg’ to distinguish it from the primitively made ‘Peg Leg’.

Dickens describing tourists in Little Dorrit wrote “These legs were called ‘cork legs’ in England, not because they were made of cork, for they were not, but because the best kind of them were made in London in Cork Street”.

These ingenious devices did have their drawbacks. Although one could walk in a room or smooth ground such legs were not suitable for rough terrain as the springs which moved the foot continually gave way. This instability, with its wearer continually falling to the ground gave rise to the expression “Dropped like a cork leg”.

Picture of Santa Anna’s cork leg

The luxuries of London

Today we have a guest post written by
Charlotte Stafford.
She writes about some of the finest places
to eat or stay in London.
London has some of the world’s finest
hotels and restaurants in the world.
Your visit could for that special occasion
or if you just want to be pampered on
your visit to London during Christmas or at any time.

[I]t is one of the world’s greatest cities and has been the seat of British royalty for centuries. With an unmatched architectural heritage that includes St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, London is redolent with luxury, rich in appeal to those who like the finer things in life. It has ruled over a huge empire, sent out expeditions far across the world and brought back treasures beyond compare. With its grand museums and chic galleries, its gorgeous parks and elegant hotels, it’s simply a must.

Wining and dining
One of the best things about London is its gourmet restaurant culture. Traditional French and modern Japanese cuisine come together in spectacular fashion at the Dorchester, which has three Michelin stars and is guaranteed to please. Hibiscus in Mayfair is a delight, with finest quality fresh ingredients brought in from Wales to create simple meals with sophisticated appeal; and of course there’s Pied á Terre, whose fiercely contemporary yet delicate dishes just melt in the mouth.

Luxury hotels
When it comes to luxurious London hotels, there’s still nowhere like the Ritz, which continues to live up to its grand reputation by delivering an experience that is rich in every detail yet never for a moment lacking in class. By contrast, Claridge’s is coolly charismatic, but it also has staff that understand the importance of attention to detail and a stay there never disappoints. After a busy day spent exploring the city, the spaciousness and elegance of a room at the Savoy is always a pleasure, whilst for sheer regal glory it is impossible to match the breathtaking Lanesborough Hotel.

Sights to see
No trip to London is complete without a visit to the British Museum, where visitors will discover something new every time. From the sublime sculptures from the Parthenon to the famous Rosetta Stone, it’s a place full of marvels. The National Gallery is also a must, with works by Renoir, Titian, Van Gogh, Da Vinci and more, whilst the Victoria and Albert Museum contains a multiplicity of artistic treasures and exotic curiosities collected through the ages. For those ready to travel just outside the city centre, a visit to The Globe makes it possible to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays as they were meant to be seen, and at night there’s nothing like a stroll along the Thames Embankment to take in its beautiful illuminated bridges.

Luxury shopping
London is famous worldwide for the quality of its shops, from the high profile glamour of Harrods or Fortnum & Mason to the long established sophistication of Savile Row. For hidden art galleries, exquisite fashion boutiques and the very best antique dealers, Mayfair is the place to go, and there’s really nothing like the thrill of Bond Street for the lover of contemporary chic, with designers like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana all within easy reach. London is a city where it’s easy to lose oneself in luxury and it’s a city that the well-to-do traveller will want to return to again and again.

The London Grill: Lucy Inglis

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.


[L]ucy Inglis writes the award-winning blog It is the largest body of study on eighteenth century London freely available online. Unearthing murders, love affairs, shady business dealings, spiritualism, corsetry and dog-napping it has featured in The Times, the Guardian and Time Out. Her recently published book Georgian London: Into the Streets is about the Georgians who called London their home, from dukes and artists to rent boys and hot air balloonists along the way. It investigates the legacies they left us in architecture and art, science and society, and shows the making of the capital millions know and love today.

What’s your secret London tip?
Walk as much as you can, and look around you instead of at the pavement.

What’s your secret London place?
The City of London at the weekend. It’s so full of people rushing around in the week that it’s hard to see the landscape.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The public transport. I walk or cycle pretty much everywhere to avoid it. Or take a cab of course!

Lucy What’s your favourite building?

St. Paul’s cathedral. It’s a beautiful building with an amazing history. And it really did rise from the flames. One of my favourite images is of Old St. Paul’s burning, and young William Taswell, a Westminster schoolboy coming to explore the still-baking ruins. He put pieces of twisted metal from the molten bells in his pockets and against the east wall he found the corpse of a woman who had huddled there, trying to shelter from the fire. Her body had been mummified by the heat.

What’s your most hated building?
NeoBankside, currently being built behind Tate Modern and completely ruining the roofline. Or Baynard House near Blackfriars, which is a rotting monument to the worst London architecture of the 1970s. Baynard House probably.

What’s the best view in London?
In all directions from an empty Millennium Bridge at dawn on a summer morning.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The dome of St Paul’s cathedral, particularly after a long day or time away. Then I know I’m home.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
A Clockwork Orange captured the menace of bad urban planning perfectly.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Rising Sun in Carter Lane is always friendly and their beer is good.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
A quick look around Borough Market, early to avoid the crowds, a drink by the river with my husband, walking the dog to Wapping. Mainly just sitting somewhere and watching the world go by.

This ‘Grill’ was first posted on the Radio Taxis blog.