Mogg’s Cab Guides – Part 2

During the 1851 Great Exhibition, which welcomed over six million, visitors it was realised that London cabbies were incapable of finding their way around London, and so The Knowledge was born.

Before that time Edward Mogg had produced was then regarded as the definitive guide to the Capital in a series of guides for visitors: London: Edward Mogg’s Strangers Guide to London.

[I]n this the second Guest Post by Paul Dobraszczyk he recounts how chaotic the prices and journeys undertaken by licensed cabbies could be in London before regulation

Measuring Victorian London: Mogg’s cab fare book


1. Mogg’s Postal-District and Cab-Fare Map, 1859. Drawn by Edward Mogg, lithographed by C. Whittingham, London, published by William Mogg, London. 532 x 720 mm (Paul Dobraszczyk)

Running parallel to the development of fare books in the nineteenth century (like Mogg’s Ten Thousand Cab Fares) was the publication of what might be described as ‘at a glance’ information: that is, information contained on one sheet of paper in the form of comprehensive fare tables or maps. Books of fares, no matter how well designed, were clearly problematic to use, whether carried in a pocket or consulted in a cab: in a book format information could never be ascertained ‘at a glance’; pages had to be turned, indexes consulted, destinations and cab stands memorised.


2. Detail of Mogg’s Cab-Fare map, 1859

Mogg attempted to address this problem with his series of Postal-District and Cab-Fare maps (1 & 2), drawn by his brother Edward. Superimposed onto a conventional topographic map of London are grid squares at half-mile intervals, labels of the postal districts, and the four-mile radius from Charing Cross (shown as a dark circle) that marked the transition from a sixpence to a shilling fare per mile. In addition, referencing aids are included around the edges of the map: letters along the top and bottom; numbers on the sides. In the 33-page index that accompanied the map and listed 3,000 places, readers were instructed on how use the map (3): first, they were to locate their required destination in the index, and, second, to memorise the letter and figure of the square required (4). By then consulting the map and matching the letter and figure to those given around its edges, the user could find the required place ‘instantly’.


3. Explanation of how to use Mogg’s map


4. Index to Mogg’s Cab-Fare map

Whether cab maps were indeed ‘useful’ to visitors to London is difficult to ascertain. Punch, in 1851, provided its own satirical image of a map like Mogg’s being used (5). It showed two visitors to London engaged in a ‘topographic problem’, that is, trying to use a similar map to find their way from Seven Dials to the Eastern Counties Railway Station (now Liverpool Street), a distance of about 3 miles. With one visitor holding the map securely while the other squints up close at the obviously far too detailed map to try and measure the distance with his fingers, Punch mocks the optimistic claims publishers like Mogg generally made of their maps.


Main picture: Sherlock Holmes Museum

Mogg’s Cab Guides – Part 1

This is the first of two Guest Posts by Paul Dobraszczyk, a profuse writer of history whose website rag-picking history is subtitled unearthing hidden places and pasts. His first book, Into the Belly of the Beast: Exploring London’s Victorian Sewers was published by Spire Books in 2009.

In the 19th century Edward Mogg published what was then regarded as the definitive guide to the Capital was
[L]ondon: Edward Mogg’s Strangers Guide to London. followed by the addition of a series of supplemental books produced, including giving Victorians a guide to cab fares.

Measuring Victorian London: Mogg’s cab fare book


1. Title page of ‘Mogg’s Ten Thousand Cab Fares’ (1859)

In the 1840s and 1850s one publisher dominated the field of London transport guides: William and Edward Mogg. In 1844 Edward Mogg published his first Omnibus Guide which also included a separate section detailing cab fares. Better known was his brother William’s Ten Thousand Cab Fares (1 & 2), first published in 1851 and running to many editions. The authority of this guide centred on the fares being calculated by ‘actual admeasurement’, apparently undertaken at dawn when the city was quiet, with 104 destinations measured from 74 stands using a perambulator.


2. List of fares from the cab stand at Adam Street West

It appears that readers responded enthusiastically to this new guide: The Times celebrated it as ‘one of the most useful little books that have issued from the press that would make London’s cabmen honest’. Such was its fame that the eponymous hero of Robert Surtees’s 1852 novel Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour had his Mogg as a constant companion in his pocket, not for resolving disputes with cabmen but for working out fares in his armchair at home, as a means of relaxation (3). This even extended to keeping it under his pillow at night.


3. Mr Sponge reading Mogg’s book of cab fares

Mogg himself encouraged his readers to come to his own offices in cases of disputes with cabmen, where he would act as a mediating authority. If Mogg’s knowledge of London’s distances was not in question, others doubted their own abilities: one writer to The Times in March 1851, anticipating the number of visitors to the Great Exhibition who were likely to become victims to extortionate cabmen, asked: ‘who but Mr Mogg is in a condition accurately to determine exact distances?’ The Illustrated London News encouraged cabmen themselves to read Mogg, the result being that when a cabman was asked his fare ‘there would be no hesitation in his voice or manner’ for ‘he would know the precise sum and would wish for no more’ (4).


4. The Illustrated London News on London’s cabs in 1853

Not surprisingly, passengers did not share this hope: even as late as 1870, one regular cab user complained in The Times that even though he had studied his Mogg well and knew ‘the exact length of a shilling fare’, he was still perplexed by the lack of a fixed system of fares. A self-confessed ‘short-sighted, corpulent, dowdy’ man, he felt helpless in the face of disputes with ‘rough’ cabmen who, as countless Punch cartoons showed, had an intractable tendency to rip-off their customers (5).


5. One of many cartoons in Punch picturing the delicate relationship between cab drivers and passengers

Main picture: Hansom cab – Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli called them ‘the gondolas of London’ London Vintage Taxi Association

London crap tours

There are certain tourist ’musts’ that are possibly unique to London, and best avoided: Madame Tussauds; Trooping the Colour; The University Boat Race each in its own way a way a spectacle.

The capital also has some pretty prosaic
sites but it’s not just tourists that miss their delights. With Easter just around the corner here are some tours that feature man’s basic needs.

Loo Tours


[S]ubtitled ’Not your bog standard London experience’. It’s taken an American to give us a tour of places that we, the Brits, are too – well, British – to discuss in polite company.

Rachael armed with a plunger takes you on a 3-hour walking tour. Along the way you discover Victorian water closets, now protected for their historical importance; she shows what happens at the Savoy to the well-heed’s stools.

For the romantically inclined there is a Loo Tour Date Night. I suppose if the friendship doesn’t work out you could always ’dump’ your partner.

Book your tour at London Loo Tours or, be a ’privy’ to Rachael’s toilet facts @londonlootours which gives such ’wee’ gems as: How many years does the average person spend on a toilet in a lifetime?
Photo: London Loo Tours © James Morgan

A Rubbish Trip


[I]t must be the question on everyone’s lips: “What happens to our rubbish”. Rosie Oliver founder of Dotmaker Tours offers a walking tour described as ’a rubbish trip’. Starting at Mudshute (its purpose self-evident) the tour offers a winding 2-mile trail of ’muck and rubbish’ taking in the delights of historic dumps and landfills. You will be invited to examine the City’s waste past and present and marvel at its transformation. Photo: Horse manure heap, Mudchute Farm ©Marsha Bradfield 2013

A shrine to sanitary ware


[L]ondon’s most famous plumber, Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers has started a small museum at his Sail Street headquarters. Classic Crappers, art-deco basins from the 1930s some donated by his ’A’ list clientele. Admission is free (presumably there isn’t a charge to spend a penny), but a charitable donation is requested.

Crossness Pumping Station


[I]f you wish to see the treatment of effluent on an industrial this is the place to be. Open occasionally during current improvements this Shrine to Sanitation shows where Bazalgette’s system was plumbed into – see here for open days.

London’s Lost Rivers (and Sewers)


[W]alking the streets of London with Paul Talling. He’s the author of two books – London’s Lost Rivers and Derelict London. He walks groups up the old river Fleet, which essentially, is hidden in a sewer underneath Farringdon Road. A 3-hour walk with tales of the Fleet mostly involving nasty smells, carcasses floating down the river, and of putting women in barrels and rolling them down the hills either side of the Fleet. Up to Smithfields and on to Clerk en Well, where you can lie down in the middle of the road to peer a down a drain and hear and see the fast flowing river.

Main photo: Dogpoo Lane, Moseley by Manuel Ebert CC BY-SA 2.0

The London Grill: Jenny Jones

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.

Jenny Jones[J]enny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb joined the House of Lords in 2013, having been chosen for this appointment in a ballot of all Green Party members. She has also been a Green Party member of the London Assembly since its inception in 2000. She grew up in Brighton, East Sussex, and has lived in Herefordshire, Lesotho in southern Africa, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, before moving to Camberwell, South London, in 1991. Before entering politics, Jones worked as an archaeologist, studying carbonised plant remains. Jenny has been named among London’s 1,000 Most Influential Londoners every year since the award’s inception. She has said that she fell in love with the capital during a visit to London Zoo at the age of five and has described London as the ‘best city in the world’. She has a canal boat in the North of the City, loves the cinema that London offers, takes yoga classes and cycles everywhere.

What’s your secret London tip?
Camberwell High Street. It has so many excellent café’s and pubs at reasonable prices.

What’s your secret London place?
My back garden, where I grow herbs, courgettes and tomatoes, but my neighbours can see in.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Its air pollution. We are being threatened with an EU fine of £300m if we don’t clean it up, not to mention what it’s doing to our lungs, hearts and life expectancy.

What’s your favourite building?
The BBC’s Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus. It’s a lovely blend of old and new.

What’s your most hated building?
I might once have said the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, but I’ve grown fond of its ugliness. Otherwise, Buckingham Palace – so heavy and ugly.

What’s the best view in London?
Into my garden while lying in bed. Or, from my office, looking east past Tower Bridge across to Canary Wharf and Blackheath. Or (am I allowed 3?) looking west while on Waterloo Bridge – quintessential London.

What’s your personal London landmark?
City Hall – the out-of-place bauble that has contained so much of my political life.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Passport to Pimlico or the bit at Waterloo from the Bourne Ultimatum.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Fox at Hanwell and JJ’s Indian in Southampton Way, SE5

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Time on our canal boat on the Grand Union with family and friends.

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

Plimsoll Line

This is a Guest Post from Baldwin Hamey.

This peculiar symbol that looks like some sort of secret code, is in fact the symbol painted on the hull of a ship to ensure the ship is not overloaded.

The line through the middle of the circle is known as the International Load Line, Plimsoll line or water line, and that line is not to disappear under water when the ship is loaded up.

[W]hen Samuell Plimsoll (1824-1898) came up with the scheme, the circle and the horizontal line where all that was required, but over time the additional symbol on the right was added to allow for different water conditions and hence different water densities.

Plimsoll was not the first to come up with the idea; there were already loading regulations in Crete 2,500 BC and in the Venetian Republic, and the city of Genoa and the Hanseatic League required ships to show a load line. In the case of Venice this was a cross marked on the side of the ship, and for Genoa three horizontal lines. In the 1860s, losses of ships through overloading increased dramatically and Samuel Plimsoll set out to find a solution. In 1867, he tried to get a bill passed through Parliament dealing with the load line question, but in vain as there were too many shipowning MPs who feared for their profits. Subsequently, Plimsoll published Our Seamen. An Appeal in which he set out his concerns and solution. Following the publication, a Royal Commission on unseaworthy ships was set up. In 1876, the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act made the load line mark compulsory.


On 14 February 1928, almost 30 years after Plimsoll’s death, a notice appeared in The Times, announcing plans to erect a statue to honour Plimsoll.

Permission is being sought from the Office of Works to set up, at the Westminster end of the Embankment, a statue of Samuel Plimsoll, known as “the Sailors’ Friend”, and the originator of the load line for British shipping. The statue which weighs three tons, is of bronze on a granite base, and is the work of Mr. P.V. Blundstone, of Kensington. The Seamen’s Union decided, instead of endeavouring to raise money for the memorial by public subscription, to defray the cost themselves. Mr. J. Havelock Wilson, the president of the National Union of Seamen, said that the idea of a memorial to Plimsoll had been in the minds of those associated with the seamen’s movement for some time. Seafarers from all parts of the world would attend the ceremony.

It took a year and a half to sort out the permission and logistics, but the Daily Mail of 21 August, 1929, could announce in their ‘To-day’s events’ column that “Sir Walter Runciman unveils memorial to Samuel Plimsoll, Victoria Embankment Gardens”. A very short announcement, but one with a lasting result as we can still walk past the gardens (on the outside, at the Embankment side) to see the statue.





Although plimsoll or plimsole shoes, that is shoes with canvas uppers and a rubber sole, had been known since the 1830s, they only had a name change from ‘sand shoe’ to ‘plimsole’ in the 1870s, because the horizontal line on the rubber resembled the plimsoll line on ships. And as with ships, if the water came above the line, you got wet.


More information on the Plimsoll Line and on Samuel Plimsoll himself on the Wikipedia-pages here and here.

This is a Guest Post from Baldwin Hamey who I’m assured by his blog is a pen-name, a pseudonym, or an alias, who, for someone born in Bruges in 1568 curiously is on Facebook. Whatever, he blogs about London Details and publishes under a Creative Commons Licence. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)