London Trivia: Don’t eat the neighbours

On 29 April 1826 a public meeting was held chaired by Sir Stamford Raffles. Its purpose was to ascertain the viability of importing animals and putting them on display to the public. Sir Stamford had his reservations as to the zoo’s location “The Regent’s Park is to be the headquarters . . . though we do not know how the inhabitants of the Park will like lions, leopards and lynxes so near their neighbourhood”.

On 29 April 1968 after 139 years of operation the Metropolitan Police’s first black woman, Fay Allen (21) started work in Croydon

The term ‘down-under’ comes from a tunnel on Millbank which deported prisoners were led in chains to barges on their first leg to Australia

Chiswick House built to house Lord Burlington’s art collection became a lunatic asylum before being listed for demolition in the 1950s

In 1974 Cass Elliot died of a heart attack in Harry Nilsson’s Mayfair flat the same block that The Who drummer Keith Moon died 4 years later

The Lamb and Flag pub at St Christopher’s Place in the 19th century was reputed to be the haunt of anarchists

Naked statutes outside Zimbabwe House caused an outcry when unveiled in 1908 the building opposite replaced its windows with frosted glass

Pasqua Rosee a Sicilian servant first introduced coffee to London first to his master’s guests then in a shed by St Michael Cornhill in 1652

Set up in 1869 the Hurlingham Club originally hosted pigeon shooting before becoming a major venue for tennis

The longest tube journey one can take without changing trains is Epping to West Ruislip a distance of 34.1 miles

In April 1755 after 9 years work and payment of 1,500 guineas Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language was published in London

Zizzi is French for willy at Zizzi’s on the Strand in April 2007 a man ran in took a knife jumped on a table dropped his trousers and cut off his penis

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Down Your Alley: Great Scotland Yard

Curiously Scotland Yard to most is synonymous with London’s Metropolitan Police Force. Even some of their most famous, or infamous policemen had ‘of the Yard’ as a suffix to their names.

So how did this little alley’s name come to follow one of the world’s most famous police organisations as they moved its headquarters around the SW1 postcode?

[L]IKE SO MUCH in London the etymology stretches way back in time, in this case to a medieval palace said to have been used as the base for Scottish kings and diplomatic representatives when visiting London.

Later the road built on the site of this palace, and adopting the Scottish connection, had among its resident’s architects Sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones and poet John Milton.

Government buildings sprang up around the area and among them was the nascent Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s office at 4 Whitehall Place, not far from the Corinthian Hotel now stands.

As with many English traditions the ‘Yard’ didn’t adopt the obvious name of ‘Whitehall Place’, but took the rear entrance of Great Scotland Yard as its nomenclature.

As the Metropolitan Police grew in size and stature they moved to the Norman Shaw Building on the Victoria Embankment [featured next week on CabbieBlog] taking their nickname with them.

A century later the Met has moved again, this time adjacent to the Norman Shaw Building, their sparkling new headquarters is called the Curtis Green Building. Although modern famous (or infamous) coppers are unlikely to be given the name of Curtis or Green, it will be forevermore . . . of the Yard.

Arch to Great Scotland Yard by N. Chadwick (CC BY-SA 2.0) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

London for free

London is a vast and vibrant city with plenty to do, but it also has a reputation for being expensive.

While London can certainly be pricey, whether you’re planning a weekend trip to the capital, or already live here, there are still plenty of things to do on a budget.

Here are 20 London attractions you can visit for free.

1. Bayswater Road Market
Strolling through this leafy Kensington street is a treat any day of the week, but every Sunday you can browse through the original collection of art for sale in the market by talented local artists.

2. Little Venice
This picturesque stretch of London canal is host to plenty of waterside cafes and pubs, where you can have a relaxing stroll, or take a boat ride up the canal towards Camden.

3. Battersea Park
Battersea Park is a calm sanctuary from the bustle of Central London and is a great day out for families thanks to its 200 acres of parkland, children’s zoo and boating lake.

4. Natural History Museum
One of the capital’s most notorious tourist locations, the Natural History Museum justifies its popularity, thanks to its incredible range of artifacts and installations which offer an insight into the many wonders of the natural world.

Interior of the Natural History Museum

5. Hunterian Museum
The Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum is situated near Holborn and is not for the faint of heart. Browsing the museum’s collection of anatomical and pathological specimens, instruments and artifacts is a gruesomely intriguing day out.

6. Hyde Park
In addition to the park itself, on Friday nights you can visit Hyde Park’s group skating sessions, and enjoy an active group jaunt around London.

7. Highgate Cemetery
This is no ordinary cemetery, as a permanent home to many famed historical figures and the site of some of the capital’s most incredible architecture and nature, Highgate Cemetery is a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon.

8. Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden
The traditional-style Japanese garden is a beautiful and tranquil addition to the hectic lifestyle of London, offering a small slice of zen in the nation’s capital.

Kyoto Garden, via

9. Alfie’s Antiques Market
London’s largest indoor antiques market is a great place for a browse, even if you’re not buying. With its vast array of eclectic treasures, you can while away many hours enjoying the range of antiques on offer, and even the shop’s iconic Egyptian-style facade.

10. Abbey Road
For music fans, the zebra crossing at Abbey Road is a fun tourist destination, allowing you to interrupt local traffic to recreate the Beatles’ iconic album cover. As an added bonus, you can check out other people walking in the footsteps of John, Paul, George, and Ringo via the joys of webcam.

11. Saatchi Gallery
Charles Saatchi’s Gallery at Kings Road boasts a fine collection of contemporary paintings and sculpture, while also playing host to several different exhibitions, talks and workshops every year.

12. Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament are home to the country’s government, and the world’s most famous clock, Big Ben (yes, that’s not it’s proper name). You can pay a visit inside the buildings, although you may need to reserve ahead, or just enjoy the neo-Gothic architecture from the outside.

Houses of Parliament

13. V&A
The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, and hosts an enormous collection of historic fashion, design and ceramics items alongside visiting exhibitions.

14. Street art across East London
You can find lots of street art across East London, but Shoreditch in particular is a prime spot for some impressive graffiti. Check out the ultra hip Brick Lane for some excellent urban art, as well as Middlesex Street and Sclater Street.

15. Sky Garden
The top three floors of 20 Fenchurch Street, or ‘walkie talkie’ as it is known locally, offers one of the best free vantage points in Central London. With indoor viewing decks and restaurants occupying this space, it’s a great spot to view this sprawling city.

16. Portobello Road Market
If you want to live like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill (and really, who amongst us doesn’t?), then take a trip to the energetic Portobello Road Market to peruse a range of sellers flogging their wares.

Portobello Road Market, image via

17. Temple Church
Dating back to the 12th Century, this historic church is a distinctive building amongst the contemporary steel and glass buildings of the city, and will be of particular interest to fans of the Da Vinci Code, for its famous role in the film.

18. Platform 9¾
Another one for movie fans, you can have a go at pushing Harry Potter’s trolley through the wall at Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station.

19. Changing the Guard
If you take a trip up to Buckingham palace, it’s unlikely you’ll get to see the Queen, but you can witness the daily changing the guard ceremony, with this display of pomp and circumstance an entertaining and unique sight.

20. South Bank
Take a stroll up the regenerated and picturesque South Bank, where you can stop at a variety of bars, shops and restaurants, take part in some skateboarding, and visit the exceptional Tate Modern.


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London Trivia: Brakes, you need brakes?

On 22 April 1760 history was made this day by Belgian Jean-Joseph Merlin. The instrument maker demonstrated his invention much loved by children ever since. At a masquerade at Carlisle House in Soho Square, while playing a violin he roller skated across the polished floor. Unfortunately he had not mastered the art of stopping – with or without – a violin and crashed into a large wall mirror severely injuring himself.

On 22 April 1884 an earthquake centred in Essex was felt by workmen at the top of Victoria Tower as it swayed 4 inches

On 22 April 1737 William Hicks Wallingford’s MP was attacked by highwayman Dick Turpin in a coach travelling to London through Epping Forest

Richard Rogers’ Lloyds building was completed in 1986 and Grade I listed in 2011, the youngest building ever to gain that level of protection

In Charterhouse Square are the remains of a monastery where monks prayed for the souls of those who died in the 1348 Black Death

Huguenots (French Protestants) fled to London in the 1680s because of religious persecution in France, with many settling in Spitalfields

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he of Sherlock Holmes fame) once described Putney as the ‘cultural desert of South London’

The BBC’s Maida Vale Studios started life as Maida Vale Skating Palace and was the largest roller skating rink in the world

The highest temperature recorded at the London Marathon 21.7C degrees on 22 April 2007: coldest 13 years previously in 1994 at 7.6C degrees

Tufnell Park is named after landowner William Tufnell who’s manor (since demolished) stood on the site occupied by the Holloway Odeon

Before the BBC pips, Ruth Belville made a living by setting her chronometer at Greenwich, then touring London’s watchmakers selling the time

On Good Friday a bun is put on the ceiling of Bow’s Widow’s Son pub in memory of one baked by a widow for her drowned son

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

The London Grill: Jonno Riley

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.


[J]ONNO IS a co-founder of the London Pub Crawl Company and has lived in London for most of his life. From being abolished by Margaret Thatcher when working at the Greater London Council, to working in the private sector in an office under the Waterloo – London Bridge railway line, to starting a pub crawl company with his partner’s cousin from Australia. Jonno and his partner Troy bring a different view to London and are passionate in providing locals and tourists alike with the best London pub experience. Jonno and Troy have also developed an iPhone app in Australia – Best Melbourne Pubs and Bars and are working on Best UK Pubs and other app ideas.

London-PubWhat’s your secret London tip?
The Mayflower in Rotherhithe. This is a fascinating pub right on the river and is where Christopher Jones set sail in the Mayflower to pick up the Pilgrim Fathers on their trip to America. We took some American friends on our Old London Docks pub crawl, which includes this pub and they were almost speechless. So much history packed into such a small area. One of my favourite walks on a Sunday afternoon.

What’s your secret London place?
St Brides church crypt. Another beautiful monument built by Wren on the site of a former church destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666. Latter restoration works uncovered 6 foundations of former churches on the site and a roman road.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Peak hour on the tube – I tend to walk now. London is a very walkable city and it’s worth the effort, particularly when you know a few good coffee shops on the way!

What’s your favourite building?
The Zurich Building on Great Tower Street. I love the look of this building nestled in between Billingsgate and the Gherkin. It’s pretty unique looking and to me is reminiscent of the gothic cathedrals in Europe.

What’s your most hated building?
I don’t actually hate any building in London. There are some very ordinary looking buildings, but they are a reflection of the era in which they were built. Architecture is a very personal thing and what someone hates someone else will love. It’s what makes the world work.

What’s the best view in London?
My favourite view of London is sitting outside the Horniman pub in Hays Galleria (London Bridge). Overlooking the river Thames, HMS Belfast, Billingsgate Market, Zurich building and the Gherkin. It’s a great view of London’s past and present.

What’s your personal London landmark?
County Hall. I was a trainee engineer here and was lucky enough to be working under Ken Livingstone. I have never met a politician that I have more respect for, even though I do not agree with many of his views.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Harry Brown with Michael Caine – Returning to his roots, this is a film that portrays the hard side of London. Filmed in the social housing estate of Silvertown, the film is grim and somehow too realistic and captures the grit that Hollywood just cannot match.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
My favourite pub is the Jerusalem tucked behind Farringdon station. This is a wonderful old pub behind the museum of the Order of St John (as in ambulances). The history of St John is amazing and I half expect Crusaders to walk into the Jerusalem for a swift pint. It is run by St Peter’s Brewery too, so a rather nice drop of beer.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
London is way too big for one day! I would have to start early and grab a hearty breakfast in one of the local cafes with a good coffee before getting the Oyster card out and travelling to Colindale to visit the RAF museum. Back on the Tube and a short drop down to Hampstead for a nice lunch in the Holly Bush, a great pub tucked away behind the High Street. There is a narrow stone set of stairs that will take you there. The afternoon would be walking around Piccadilly and has to include tea at Fortnum and Masons, everyone should do this at least once. Back down the Tube and up to Goodge Street and a wander through the Building Centre. Not everyone’s bag, but if you like planning and architecture, this is a very interesting place. Afterwards, I would wander down Store Street to Store Street Espresso for a pick-me-up coffee (another great London café). In the evening I would catch up with friends in one of London’s many great pubs. Undoubtedly we would do our favourite pub crawl around Notting Hill starting at the Uxbridge and ending at the Churchill Arms for a feed of pub Thai. This lovely pub walk is in our London Pub Crawls app (iPhone and Android). But then our passion is pubs, so we may just wander under the pretext of “research”!