City Limits

Ask any cabbie where the centre of London would be and you’ll get an unequivocal answer – The King Charles I Island in Trafalgar Square – there is even a plaque to prove this assumption.

The official street at this location is Charing Cross, one of the roads whose importance has been lost while the name has been retained, even if in this case it is just a few yards long.

[T]oday we assume Charing Cross is either a railway terminus or a cone-shaped oddity, erected in 1865 in the station’s forecourt as a publicity stunt to attract attention to the new station behind, now it just gets in the way of cabs as they weave their way around it moving up the rank.

When order broke down in London due to triffids and blindness in John Wyndham’s classic Sci-Fi thriller he put Piccadilly Circus as the natural centre where survivors might gravitate.

Before the Millennium Wheel was constructed, now the focus of the annual pyrotechnics display, New Year’s Eve revellers would try to get into Trafalgar Square fountains regarded as the epicentre of the Capital’s celebrations.

The Romans thought London Stone, that battered piece of rock languishing behind railings opposite Cannon Street Station was at the city’s heart.

Later when Westminster became the seat of government in the 11th century the City Fathers didn’t want to trudge across wasteland from the old walled city so a half-way point was agreed to meet, the plaque at King Charles I statue marks this spot equidistant from the two Londons.

It is this point that we measure the centre of the 6-mile circumference that cabbies have to learn every point within that boundary on The Knowledge.

Five years ago using a spent packet of Marks & Spencer cheese cracker selection the Londonist tried to ascertain: Where Is The Centre of London? Finding The Real Midtown. Complete with illustrations aka Blue Peter with the aid of a pin they confidentially calculated the Capital’s geographical centre to be Lambeth North tube station.

Open-map Recently Tom Hoban has calculated the City’s centre using more reliable methodology, his result is likely to strike fear into London’s cabbies. Tracing an electronic map in AutoCAD software Hoban was able to calculate the City’s centre digitally to an accuracy of +/- 40cm. For those of you who want to know it is at E 531331.025, N179645.831 Lat 51Deg,30′ 1.806956″ Lon –0Deg, 6′ 33.458418″.

Street-ViewOr Greet House, off Frazer Street SE1 roughly where the silver car is on the right in the Google Street View picture above.

Now cabbies will have no excuse for telling punters “Sorry, Guv I’m not going South of The River.

Map data © ODbL OpenStreetMap contributors. Map tiles © CC BY-SA 2.0 OpenStreetMap

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