Smeed’s Law

With a name like Reuben Jacob Smeed one could be forgiven for thinking that he’s a Dickensian character. In fact Professor Smeed devised a formula which advanced a theory, much derided at the time, of how London’s traffic would always travel at 9 miles per hour. Using the formula [below] Smeed’s Law calculates that when traffic speeds fall below this magical number of nine drivers’ patience evaporates and alternative modes of transport are sought.

[I]t was Smeed we can now blame for the Congestion Charge when he chaired a committee which recommended road pricing in 1964, it was finally introduced into London in 2003 when average speeds in the capital rose from 8.7mph to a blistering 11mph, but only for short duration before it declined to its optimum 9 miles per hour.


Now for 50 years his theory has stood the test of time, that is, until the rebuilding of London’s roads, a project so vast and far reaching it has not been equalled since the Second World War.

In its annual traffic score-card INRIX found that Londoners wasted more time in traffic than any other European city: 101 hours in fact. The nearest European city was Stuttgart, in Germany at a mere 73 hours. Even Los Angeles, a city where other forms of locomotion have passed it by, scored 81 hours.

So has Smeed finally been defeated by Boris? Are there just no viable alternatives to driving now that the elusive 9mph has been breached? The A2203 Blackwall Lane northbound registers an average of 3.8mph in the morning rush hour, with Tottenham Court Road close on its heels at 3.9mph. In fact the 10 slowest roads in Britain, all scoring fewer than 5mph are to be found here in London.

Bolding’s Grosvenor Works

Bolding’s factory, or to give them their full name, John Bolding & Sons Grosvenor Works, were situated at 56-58 Davies Street from 1891 to 1969. The building nowadays holds Grays Antique Centre with small antique shops positioned around a visible stretch of the Tyburn river (see here), but it was for many years the workshop, salesroom and despatch department of one of the major manufacturers of sanitary appliances.

[T]he decorations on the outside of the building are a reminder of the Bolding history and have fortunately been left as they were and have not fallen victim to someone’s misguided idea of modernization.

Bolding 2

The firm was established in 1822 by Thomas Bolding in South Molton Street. In the 1841 census, Thomas could be found at that address with his two sons Thomas junior and John, all three listed as ‘brass founders’. The 1841 census does not give any house numbers, but from Thomas’s will (he died in 1849), we learn that the business was situated at number 19. Thomas leaves his share in the business to the two sons he was in partnership with, Thomas Edward and John Lupton, no doubt the two sons already mentioned in the 1841 census as being brass founders. Thomas Edward lived at Hammersmith and died in 1866. John Lupton could be found above the business in South Molton Street in the 1851 census as brass founder. One of his sons, George, is also living there and has the same occupation as his father. By 1871, John Lupton had moved to 27 Elgin Road, Chelsea. In 1881 and 1891 he can be found at 23 Elgin Crescent and is listed as ‘retired brass founder’. In the mean time, in 1871, 19 South Molton Street was occupied by son John Thomas Bolding, the only son of John Lupton to show a lasting interest in the business. name label

In August 1879, John Lupton announces that he is retiring in favour of his son John Thomas and from the notice in The London Gazette (12 August), we learn that the firm has branched out and that they are no longer just situated at 19, South Molton Street, but also at 14, Barratt’s Court, Wigmore Street, and at 304, Euston Road. They describe themselves as ‘wholesale and retail brass and metal founders, lead, iron, tin, and general metal merchants’.

The activities of the firm must have slowly evolved from brass founding to sanitary appliances and that is what they became known for. Already in 1871, John Lupton and John Thomas, together with one Joseph Titsink, acquire a patent for “improvements in water closets and in valves and regulating apparatus for the same” (The London Gazette, 20 January 1871). South Molton Street was outside the City of London and there was no need for a member of the brass founding family to become a member of one of the Worshipful Companies of the City, but in 1883, John Thomas nevertheless deemed it in his interest to do so and he became a member of the Company of Painters by redemption. This membership gave him the right to apply for the Freedom of the City, which he duly did.

1883 freedom John Thomas

1893-1895 Ordnance Survey

1893-1895 Ordnance Survey

At the end of the 1880s, the firm moved the business to a new building on a triangular plot on the corner of Davies Street and South Molton Lane, not very far from their old premises in South Molton Street (see for the whole building Google Street View here). The building was designed in the northern Renaissance style by John Thomas Wimperis and William Henry Arber who were strongly associated with the Grosvenor Estate who owned and still owns large swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia (see here). It is thus no wonder that Bolding named their business Grosvenor Works. The new building had showrooms, a warehouse and workshops on three of the floors, but, no doubt to the relief of the neighbours, the foundry was moved out in 1894 to Eden Street. John Thomas, according to one story, always came to Davies Street in a brougham and would not allow any females to work in the business. All the administration had to be entered by hand by the clerks or salesmen. John Thomas retired in 1824 and shortly after, the firm became a public limited company, although members of the Bolding family remained on the board.

1932 trade catalogue

1932 trade catalogue

Despite John Thomas’s old-fashioned practices, Bolding’s were one of the first companies to grant their employees holidays with pay and a sickness benefit fund. In 1932, the building in Davies Street was modernised with a new entrance and the basement workshop was turned into a showroom. New workshops and garages were constructed in Davies Mews. The 1930s were a busy time for Bolding’s as the taste in sanitary appliances moved away from the solid Victorian designs to more elegant bathroom furniture that was easier to clean and could be supplied in more colours than just plain white. In 1963, Bolding’s was able to buy their competitor Thomas Crapper & Co., but only a few years after that, the Bolding business was wound up, while Crapper still exists and, as they proudly announce on their website, is still producing bathroom fittings (see here).

1898 advertisement (Source: Graces Guide)

1898 advertisement (Source: Graces Guide)

Basin from Bolding's (Source: English Salvage)

Basin from Bolding’s (Source: English Salvage)

'Plate 21: No. 58 Davies Street, Boldings', in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1980), [accessed 26 February 2016].

‘Plate 21: No. 58 Davies Street, Boldings’, in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair (London, 1980), online via British History Online here

This postage stamp with Bolding's name as a commercial overprint comes from

Postage stamp with Bolding’s name as a commercial overprint (Source: COSGB)

More information on Bolding’s can be found in “A History of John Bolding & Sons” in The Plumber and Journal of Heating, vol. 84 July 1962 issue, p.474-478.


CabbieBlog-cabThis is a Guest Post by Baldwin Hamey who write extensively about London at:
London Details – Details you did not know about London.
All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

Post nosh at paupers prices

What’s one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of London? “Expensive”, right? How you’re going to be broke by the time you leave the city, having spent all of your hard-earned tuppence on sustenance whilst you’re here. Well, let me tell you, that when it comes to eating out in London, it doesn’t have to be that way! You won’t have to be resigned to living off 20p microwave noodles for the following three months.

[B]elieve it or not, there are actually plenty of reasonably priced, and some you could even say “cheap” places to eat in London. And I’m not talking about the dodgy cafe (note the intentional absence of e-acute!) down the road or daily trips to the golden arches. There really are some decent eateries out there which won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Why not try:

Candid Café
A unique and quirkily designed café in Angel, great for lunch or tea. Its relaxed atmosphere makes it the perfect place to catch up with friends or even chill out on your own with a book. It’s spacious, but at the same time has a cosy feel to it. The mid-range budget menu includes a variety of simple well-loved meat and vegetarian main courses, such as chicken or fish with rice and salad or vegetable lasagne or curry, with prices ranging from £6 to £9 for a main.

Pizza Union
For real Italian style thin and crispy pizzas, head to Pizza Union in King’s Cross or Shoreditch. You’ll pay a measly £3.95-£6.50 for one of these fire-baked 12” beauties. And although the restaurant prides itself on being superfast, this isn’t just “grab and go”, stay a while and savour the flavour. There’s a great choice of toppings, and salads and desserts too, if your pizza isn’t quite enough!

If you find yourself way up the Northern Line, make sure you pay a visit to Siaim in Finchley Central. They describe themselves as “Mediterranean Seafood and Grill”, but their menu includes much more, such as a variety of delicious pasta dishes and middle eastern style starters. Price wise, with a good quality steak and dauphinoise potatoes at £12.95, you can’t really ask for more. To make the most of their lower priced selections, visit at lunchtime for one of their big delicious sandwiches for £4.95 or the Shackshuka omelette for £5.95.

Bibimbap is Korea’s national dish, and three restaurants of the same name have popped up in Charlotte Street, Soho and Leadenhall. Build your own dish by choosing what type of rice you want, whether you want meat, seafood or something vege-based and if you would like an egg in it or not. Finally, you get to choose what kind of bowl you’d prefer! Or alternatively, opt for one of their mouth-watering pre-designed dishes for around £7.

Tuk Tuk
This café/restaurant on Old Compton Street in Soho is perfect for a quick pre-theatre Thai, or rather popularly, a cure for late night PDH (post drinking hunger). But don’t worry, the clientele are generally well-behaved! It is basic but the food is tasty and service quick with many main dishes costing around £5-£6.

Herman Ze German
If you’re after a good quality hotdog, or should I say “wurst in a roll” (as is on their menu), then you’ll want to exit Tuk Tuk, cross the road, and step into Herman Ze German. Whether you’re partial to a Bratwurst, Bockwurst or Chilli Wurst, you’ll not pay more than £4.45. The veges amongst you do have to pay a pound extra though, with a Veggie Wurst priced at £5.45, but find solace in the fact that you can add crispy onions to any wurst for free! Yum yum. Branches also in Charing Cross and Fitzrovia.

This vegetarian Indian restaurant has three London locations – Covent Garden, Hammersmith and West End. They serve delicious south Indian cuisine, with the thoughtful emphasis of keeping people with certain dietary restrictions in mind. Specific vegan, wheat free, nut free and onion and garlic free menus are available. Very useful. And on top of that you’ll get a set lunch for around £6 at the Hammersmith restaurant.

Smack Lobster
Named after “smacks”, what the boats that catch lobster are called, this Dean Street deli is the takeaway version of parent company Burger and Lobster. At B&L you’ll pay £20 for succulent lobster in a soft brioche role. For a tenner you’ll get the exact same delicious sandwich, but to-go and at half the price. Ok, so it may not exactly be dining on a budget, but for great lobster, I think that we can make an exception!

Grab a scrumptious classic British pie at one of the Pieminister cafés located at Gabriel’s Wharf, Imperial University and Leather Lane. At Gabriel’s Wharf, any one of these delicious meat-filled pastry creations won’t cost you more than £4.50. Bargain! The struggle you’ll have here is trying to decide which to choose. Do you go for the tried and tested chicken and mushroom favourite, or perhaps something a little more adventurous with the wild venison, smoked bacon, kidney bean, scotch bonnet chilli and BrewDog ale pie! There are lovely vegetarian options too, including Somerset goats’ cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion or wild mushroom, asparagus, white wine and cream.

Beigel Bake
For a 24 hour bakery with filled rolls for literally pennies, head to Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. You’ll get an egg or cheese roll for 90p, but I’d recommend treating yourself to a smoked salmon bagel for a whopping… £1.40! You may even have change left over for a 50p apple slice or 30p doughnut afterwards. Careful though, we wouldn’t want you to over-do it!

Aside from these great eateries and many more well-priced independent cafés and restaurants, it is worth checking out some of the big chains for discounts and offers. Restaurants like Prezzo, Café Rouge and Pizza Express have mailing lists and nearly every week email out excellent offers. The discounts that they offer vary, but I have come across up to 40% off in the past and “buy one main get another for £1”. Generally you’re looking at around 20% off though, and there are usually day and time restrictions.

Another worth checking out is Côte’s set menu. Depending on which one of their many locations that you end up at, and the day and time, you can treat yourself to a three-course meal for as little as £12.95, with plenty on the set menu to choose from, too. And for some Spanish fare, install the La Tasca app or request a loyalty card for 20% off your tapas meal. There are some great menu choices here, prices are already reasonable, and you can use the discount seven days a week.

So there you go. You really don’t have to break the bank to eat out in London. Hope I’ve made you hungry!

Article provided by Best Venues London, a completely FREE service allowing you to discover the greatest, quirkiest and most inspiring venues for corporate days and events.

Photo: Food by Tighten up! (2007) (CC BY 2.0)


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The London Grill: Montserrat Cano

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.


[A] cheese & choc lover and a marketer who would like to explore and share those aspects that still have the power to make her stay in the amazingly vibrant city of London after over 10 years. Montserrat regularly blogs about London and travel for those who are curious about life in London at A Londoner from Afar.

What’s your secret London tip?
Scratch the surface. There´s always something for everyone if you look for it.

What’s your secret London place?
I enjoy the small coffee shops, often hidden from the main roads, such as the Map Studio Cafe. They have music performances too!

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
It is hard to maintain friendships. I find it is easier to party with people than meeting them for coffee and a chat.

What’s your favourite building?
St. Paul´s cathedral by night, as seen from the Millennium Bridge.

What’s your most hated building?
The Shard, what were they thinking about when they even first drafted it? It´s Mordor via Bank.

What’s the best view in London?
The view from Primrose Hill is quite nice. I haven´t tried the London Eye, but the views from there must be magnificent, with so many landmarks.

What’s your personal London landmark?
A number of them, most notably the British Museum with the dome in the Great Court.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Hard to choose, as there are a few. The new Sherlock Holmes series with Benedict Cumberbatch, Closer. I have heard about a documentary called The Up Series, where seven kids´ lives are being followed since 1964, when they were seven years old, and where they assumed that their class would influence their future. It must be interesting to watch.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I always look for the unusual and for the best quality. I have usually enjoyed the Feng Shui Inn. I am not a big fan of the expensive type, although the Madison, which overlooks St. Paul´s, is a good place for a special occasion. In terms of pubs, I can name some, but it is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese stands out. Old, very big inside, it provides for different occasions, e.g., fine or pub dining, intimate.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
I would start by going to a market, such as Spitalfields or Camden, lunch in any pub overlooking the river. Then walk along the river to check on any activities organised there, going to the Aquarium or jumping on the Eye. An alternative would be catching a boat to either Hampton Court or Greenwich. Then, back to South Bank or to the West End to see a show or a concert and have dinner somewhere.

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

Down Your Alley: Fleet Street-2

Having reached Ludgate Circus last month we turn to climb up Fleet Street and explore the alleys stretching down towards the Thames. The first landmark is unmistakable, that of the spiritual home of the newspaper industry that once flourished here. Most printers have now left only to return to honour a deceased member of their trade here at St. Brides Church from which our first alley takes its name.

[T]he narrow lane of St. Bride’s Avenue which leaves Fleet Street almost opposite Shoe Lane and turns eastward to pass between St Bride’s Church and the rear of the Old Bell Inn, with an additional branch leading by way of a wide covered path into Salisbury Court. It was once a significant passageway, arched over at the Fleet Street entrance, but is now open to the elements and serves merely as a short cut, for those in the know, between New Bridge Street, Fleet Street and the Bishop of Salisbury’s Court.

St. Bride's Avenue

St. Bride’s Avenue

The rear entrance to the Old Bell, by which most of the regulars arrive, is really quite unobtrusive; a plain door devoid of any accompanying signs leaping out to declare the facilities on offer. Inside, there are no plush carpets or secluded lighting, no gimmicky themes – the Bell is a solid pub and exists for the solid City drinker as it was originally intended. It stands on the site of the Swan tavern, where Wynkin de Worde, assistant to William Caxton, is supposed to have used a room as his workshop. When Sir Christopher Wren drew up his plans for rebuilding St Bride’s church in 1671 he constructed the Bell as accommodation for his men working on the site.

Continue past Salisbury Court and Hood Court is a tiny opening on the left and leaves Fleet Street by way of a quaint narrow covered passage and leads up two shallow steps into a secluded little courtyard to the south, where a mixture of modern and older buildings surround. A connecting path in the southeast corner links with Salisbury Square. The name of the Court is probably taken from a previous inhabitant although it has been suggested that there may have been a connection with Thomas Hood who founded a paper called Hood’s Magazine. If you had lived in the 16th century and been making a visit to the Temple Church then your access would probably have been through Mr Davis’s tailors shop, here in the Court. In those days all churches, their graveyards and cemeteries were places of sanctuary where law breakers could deposit themselves in full assurance that they were out of reach by the hand of justice. The Temple Church was one of the most popular resorts for such criminals and Mr Davis must have been sick to the high teeth with the constant procession through his premises. Henry Styrrell, a barrister of the Middle Temple, too was at the end of his tether with the annoyance caused by the disorderly gathering. In 1610 he petitioned the societies of the Inner and Middle Temple to take action and withdraw the right of way through the tailors shop. Three months after the petition Davis was forced to leave and the building was pulled down. To avoid any future nuisance it was also decided to wall up the gateway between the churchyard and Fleet Street.

Pleydell Court

Pleydell Court

Pleydell Court is the next alley your encounter walking west. Named after the Peydell-Bouveries, the Earls of Radnor who were Huguenots from Spanish Netherlands silk merchants who set up business in Threadneedle Street.

The small alley of Hare Place leads to Hare Court was built by Sir Nicholas Hare, who modestly gave it his name. This notable silk created the Master of the Rolls (probably awarding himself the honour) in 1553. During Elizabeth I’s reign he sat on the commission which tried Sir Nicholas Throgmorton for ‘imagining the Queen’s death’. Sir Nick was lucky to escape the executioner’s axe.


Falcon Court

Falcon Court also features in the very early history of London printing. Wynkyn de Worde, London’s second printer, owned a house here. After his apprenticeship to William Caxton he set up in business in 1502 and remained the predominant printer in London until his death in 1534. It is amazing to learn that on his primitive hand press, laboriously printing one page at a time, he succeeded in the production of over 600 books. He was also the pioneer of music printing in England, a technique developed by wearisome trials. In his will he left a sufficient sum of money to supply a pension for the printing apprentices of Fleet Street and a legacy for St Bride’s church. He was buried in the previous church of St Bride, which was destroyed in the Great Fire.

Pictures: St. Bride’s Avenue Paul Farmer (CC BY-SA 2.0 UK)
Falcon Court. @Tony Grant
CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no longer with us. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.