Down Your Alley: Pudding Lane

You’re going to hear a lot about The Great Fire of London in the next few weeks, seeing its 350 years since the conflagration took place.

Christopher Wren wanted to rebuild London with wide boulevards (not that he called them that), but pragmatic Londoners just laid claim to their little piece of land they occupied prior to the fire and rebuilt their city much the same layout as before.

[T]hese lanes must have been some of the first to go on Sunday 2nd September 1666, but today they remain much as they did prior to London’s greatest disaster.


Lovat Lane

The residents and visitors to Lovat Lane must have called to a halt early their activities on that Sunday night. Lovat Lane runs parallel to Pudding Lane and the seat of the fire.

Lying slightly to the east and with the fire moving remorsefully west they must have had time to vacate these houses for Lovat Lane used to be called Love Lane, not that love (apart from the love of money) had anything to do with this passageway, prostitutes worked in this little alley.


To save the embarrassment of fishmongers, who it must be said are rather tender souls, the name was changed in 1939 – their excuse was that confusion was caused by having two Love Lanes.


Botolph Alley

All three ‘Botolph’s’ – Botolph Alley, Botolph Lane and Botolph Row – are memorials to St Botolph, Billingsgate which was destroyed by fire in 1666 and never rebuilt. Of the four City churches originally dedicated to St Botolph, three survive to this day; they are at Aldersgate, Aldgate and Bishopsgate. Whilst not occupying a place in the list of ten best known saints, it may be surprising to learn that the dedication of over seventy churches throughout England were inspired by St Botolph. He was a 7th century saint of Saxon parentage who became a mobile Benedictine monk and fulfilled his vocation by travelling around the country, preaching wherever he could draw a crowd. Thus he was thus adopted as the patron saint of travellers which prompted the architects of the time to appropriately site all four churches at ancient gates to the City.

Botolph Lane lies in a particularly ancient area of the City that once sported churches on almost every corner. St Botolph’s, built in the mid 12th century and repaired in 1624, stood at the southern end of Botolph Lane, adjacent to the bridge gate of the first London Bridge. When the Great Fire saw it off, the parish was amalgamated with that of St George’s, a small church rebuilt by Wren which stood opposite to Botolph Alley, on the west side of Botolph Lane. In 1895 the structure of St George’s was reported to be in an unstable condition and it was closed, with demolition following ten years later.

At its western end the Alley begins as a covered passage and runs through to Lovat Lane where it emerges opposite the church of St Mary at Hill. Here, on the corner of the Alley, is a bracketed gas light now converted to electricity, a feature that is repeated at intervals along the Lane. The old cobblestones of Lovat Lane and central drainage channel assist in raising its status to one of the most enchanting lanes in the City, and whilst most of the old buildings have now gone, their replacements are in tasteful keeping with antiquity.


Talbot Court

It is many years since a ‘talbot’ was sighted stalking the bounds of Gracechurch Street. No doubt they were once a regular sight but that would have been a good few centuries ago, perhaps even before the time of the herb, or grass, market which lent itself to the naming of the street. This long extinct large breed of hound was usually white with long drooping ears and massive jaws; a favoured animal for tracking and hunting.

It could have been this beast that was responsible for the naming of the inn which occupied the site adjacent to Talbot Court until 1666 when the Great Fire swallowed it and left nothing but a heap of ashes. On the other hand it may have been a similar corruption suffered by Chaucer’s celebrated Tabard in Southwark, changed to the ‘Talbot’ after it was rebuilt in the early 17th century. There is no conclusive evidence to the origin of its name but the Talbot as it stood in Gracechurch Street was one of a whole array of inns and taverns, about ten in all, between here to Threadneedle Street.

Talbot Court is cobbled as it leaves Gracechurch Street through a modern square archway, turning southwards through 90° to link with Eastcheap. The Ship public house has now taken over dominance in the Court, a very popular resort on summery evenings when crowds of ale-swilling workers congregate and block the way.

Lovat Lane cobbled street from Lower Thames Street to Eastcheap by Mike Faherty (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pudding Lane sign by Ben Sutherland (CC BY 2.0)

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 more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

What’s the point of . . .

. . . London cabs Quentin Letts considers the point and the future of the black cab while acknowledging they are as much a part of London’s heritage as Big Ben, Beefeaters and double-decker buses.

The black cab can trace its lineage back to Oliver Cromwell. But the black cab industry is under threat, and London cabbies go through gruelling oral and written exams on the topography of London, past and present.

[T]he process can take up to five years in order to get their licences, while the number of private hire vehicles in London has doubled in the last ten years. Sat-nav, Uber and now driverless private hire vehicles are just round the corner. Can black cabs keep up with the technology or will they go the way of the red telephone box?

Clearly a fan of the London cab he talks to detractor journalist Harry Mount who now refuses to use London cabs as a cab once took him on the wrong route through Camden to his home and curiously tells us that London cabbies should aspire to the standards of service that Uber provide.

Boris bikes have been and gone what what of Sadiq Khan cabs? Apparently driverless cabs are just around the corner: get in, inset your credit card; and tell the vehicle where to go. Nothing was mentioned about unannounced road closures or drunks with a propensity to dive in front of cabs on a Friday night.

In the light of these developments, Quentin Letts considers the future of the black cab and in his quest to answers these questions talks to cabbies, among others, Alf Townsend who has contributed to CabbieBlog.

What’s the point of London cabs was broadcast on Wednesday 24th September 2016 and is available on BBC iPlayer

Discover North London in 20 great songs

Are you considering moving to London? The UK’s historic capital has a total population of over 8.5 million and growing.

It’s the country’s fastest growing region and expected to top the 10 million mark within 10 years.

There’s plenty of opportunity for everyone but the greater London area takes up over 600 square miles, so where’s best?

[N]orth London is made up of six borough: Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington, and each borough provides a unique and different environment.

  • London is famed for its green spaces including Regent’s Park and Alexandra Park, Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill in the northern part of the city.
  • Transport links in the northern part of the capital are excellent, with many Underground and railway lines serving the area. The new CrossRail link is set to improve North London’s infrastructure even further.
  • Highgate Cemetery is Grade I listed and boasts illustrious residents including Karl Marx, George Eliot, Christina Rossetti, Douglas Adams and Malcolm McLaren
  • North London attractions range from the historic London Zoo at Regents Park to quirky shopping and music around Camden Lock, to Harry Potter World near Watford.
  • North London is home to three football stadiums – Wembley Stadium, The Emirates stadium (home to Arsenal football club) and Tottenham Hotspurs stadium at White Hart Lane.

North Londoners tend to be fiercely proud of their neighbourhood, and it’s easy to see why. No wonder so many of its areas have been immortalised in song.

To get you into the North London spirit while you’re deciding where your next home should be, we’ve compiled our 20 favourite songs with a North London theme. Enjoy!

1. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

2. Belle & Sebastian – Mornington Crescent

3. Loudon Wainwright II – Primrose Hill

4. Tori Amos – Abbey Road

5. The Stranglers – Another Camden Afternoon

6. Al Stewart – Belsize Blues

7. Razorlight – Don’t Go Back To Dalston

8. Imelda May – Kentish Town Waltz

9. Pet Shop Boys – King’s Cross

10. The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies

11. Babyshambles – Pentonville

12. Fatboy Slim – North West Three

13. Madness – NW5 (The Liberty of Norton Folgate)

14. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – Willesden to Cricklewood

15. Coldplay – Violet Hill

16. New Vaudeville Band – Finchley Central

17. Candy Dulfer – Finsbury Park, Café 67

18. Microdisney – Singers Hampstead Home

19. Rod Stewart & Ron Wood – Highgate Shuffle

20. St Etienne – Archway People

And one more for good luck:
21. Highbury by Ivor Game – Highbury

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry, working in London. For the information in this post, local Chartered Surveyor Peter Barry was consulted.

Featured image: A man from Togo (or at least with Togo written on his clothes) is playing the saxaphone on Westminster Bridge. © Lewis Clarke CC BY-SA 2.0)

CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

The London Grill: Amy Coats and Vanessa Cain

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]my Coats and Vanessa Cain are keen runners and avid London historians. Keen to reveal London’s fascinating stories to a livelier crowd than your standard tour punter, they launched Secret London Runs in October 2015. Since then, they’ve been showing visitors and Londoners a different side to London, exploring London’s secret sights and hidden history.

Secret London Runs is a running tours and events company that aims to help people use their time wisely. Its founders, Amy and Vanessa, design unique themed tours and team challenges, so you can get your kit on, get the endorphins flowing, and cover far more ground than a bus or walking tour.


You’ll run at your own pace as your guide reveals the most fascinating tales that lie tucked away under cobblestones and behind grand façades. Whether you’re a gentle jogger or ultra-marathon runner, you’ll love their running tours and events.

What’s your secret London tip?
Do a tour. Bus, bike, boat, walking, running – your choice. There’s so much about London that people just don’t know that sits right under their feet. The real life stories; the insanely rich history, is there on the streets waiting to be told. Having a guide who knows their stuff is priceless. We’re a bit biased of course, so we’d say a running tour is the best way to do it. If you’re running, you can cover more ground and go down the little side streets, nooks and crannies. So a themed sight jogging tour – a combination of running and urban exploration – for locals or visitors is perfect in London!

What’s your secret London place?
We love Pickering Place. Its unspoilt architecture, original Georgian gas lamps and pea-souper smog coloured walls that lean about quirkily, take you right back to a time of duels, deals, and dark conversations.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The queues outside some of the most rubbish, trite, overrated, extortionate attractions. Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the M&M shop in Leicester Square… the list goes on. Why are they so bloody popular? These things get such disproportionate traction. It’s baffling. We want to scream at those poor tired tourists who have heard somewhere that those are the things to do – go visit Postman’s Park, or Lincoln’s Inn Fields or one of London’s many amazing museums or galleries! But each to their own though I suppose . . .

What’s your favourite building?
The Boot and Flogger on Redcross Way. It’s so cool inside – original wooden panels and old farming equipment in the downstairs dining rooms make it delightfully eerie. It is London’s first ‘real wine bar’, and the only premises in the country to be able to call itself a Free Vintner. This means it can sell wine without a license, a privilege granted only by the Worshipful Company of Vintners – an organisation dating back to the 12th century.

What’s your most hated building?
The swish private apartments that line the Thames and monopolise the river path and view, for example in Wandsworth. Who on earth allowed that? You feel as if you’re trespassing when you weave through them, only to see corrugated iron car park shutters or get blasted with the stink of chlorine from private gyms. Sorry, ranting. Grrr.

What’s the best view in London?
Standing on the Blue Bridge in the middle of St James Park. If you go there in the evening or early morning and look west you see the sun glimmering on the Angels of Justice and Truth – the golden Victoria memorial statue outside Buckingham Palace. But the real treat is looking east. The grey stone pointy and domed turrets and towers of Westminster renders it some kind of unrecognisable fairy tale land. The view from the top of Greenwich Park is pretty lovely too.

What’s your personal London landmark?
London Bridge. As the city swelled with industry and commerce on both sides, London Bridge was the only way to cross the Thames up until 1726. Its story really sums up a lot of things about London; inefficient, crooked, filthy, and endlessly charming.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
The Ladies Bridge by Historian Dr Chris Wall, Jo Wiser and Karen Livesey. Chris Wall discovered after years of trawling through archives, the story of Waterloo Bridge being built by women during the Second World War. Official history has written this out – which is crazy given that 24,000 female construction workers took on jobs such as building Waterloo Bridge during World War II! In 2005 Wall was joined by film-maker Karen Livesey to pursue the story through oral history.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Boot and Flogger – mentioned above. We love it so much that we held our launch event there J

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Strolling round Bermondsey Street. Peeking into some of the galleries around Southwark and Borough and grabbing some lunch at Southbank food market. We also love a day on a Boris Bike because of the slow, up-right nature of it and that feeling you get when you jam it into the dock and walk like a badgirl. But remember to be careful and compassionate to other commuters!

Pictures: © Duncan Kelman KoaSound Photography

Watered down: Lost London fountains

Three years ago I pondered on the fate of the Centre Point fountains about to be swallowed up by the regeneration taking place in St. Giles. Now removed and replaced by a glass wedge, or pyramid according to their designer; a new entrance to CrossRail’s Tottenham Court Road station.

No amount of searching by me has uncovered these ironic Twentieth-Century masterpieces designed by German artist Jupp Dermbach-Mayen who built the Grade II Listed fountains at his Swiss Cottage studio in 1963, now divorced from their intended location at the foot of Centre Point.


[T]he fate of these fountains seem to be a recurring theme in London. When Crystal Palace was moved from Hyde Park at the end of The Great Exhibition and relocated in Sydenham, formal gardens were created to show off this Victorian masterpiece. Taking inspiration from Paxton’s aquatic landscaping at Chatsworth it had an upper terrace lines with 24 statues personifying trading nations, its lower terrace had a series of fountains set amongst the formal flower beds. The subsequent fire on 30th November 1936 put pay to the landscaped gardens along with its magnificent fountains.


Another lost fountain was to be found in Hyde Park’s North Ride. Only a plaque now marks the site of the Gothic masterpiece given to us in 1867 by the splendidly named His Highness the Hon Maharajah Meerza Vijiaram Gajapati Raj Manea Sooltan Bahadoor of Vijianagram. K. C. S. I. Removed in 1964 its whereabouts is unknown.


Victorians did like their water features, long before the numerous television gardening programmes encouraging us to construct one our back yard on 5th October 1872 Bryant & May to celebrate the abolition of the proposed match tax, erected, by public subscription, a testimonial fountain outside Bow railway station. Its Victorian opulence is remembered in a plaque a little further to the east along Bow Road whose widening resulted in the fountain’s removal. The terrible working conditions of match girls at Bryant & May seem to be lost on the company’s philanthropy when it came to fountains.

Poets’ Fountain in Hamilton Place of which no images seem to exist. You would have thought the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton commemorated aquatically would have been worth saving. When Hamilton Place was redeveloped, presumably to build hotels so tourists could get a taste of Victorian London, the 1875 Thomas Thornycroft’s homage to England’s greatest poets would have been worth restoring after sustaining bomb damage in World War II. Inaugurated on 9 July 1875 the multi-figure composition included figures of the Muses and statues of the three poets crowned with a personification of Fame; all but the last of these have been lost since the fountain was dismantled in 1948 never to be seen again.

Picture: View of the ornate drinking fountain, in front of Bow railway station; a young girl stands next to fountain with a jug, other children sit to the left, a mother and child stand looking at fountain; in an arched frame. British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).