Anglia & Angst

Recently one of East-Anglia’s most prolific bloggers was good enough to publish an extract from Pootling around London.

BeetleyPete started blogging only 6 years ago, but in that short time has developed a strong following, many of who are prepared to spend their time writing comments.

My contribution to Pete’s site has 19 comments alone.

[A] HUGE NUMBER, at CabbieBlog getting that number of comments in a month would be remarkable. Check out BeetleyPete for his output of thoughts, opinions and general interest posts. Also, next month on CabbieBlog Pete is subjected to a London Grill.

. . . And Angst

For nearly 10 years, twice a week I’ve written about London. Come rain or shine these nuggets have appeared on Tuesdays and Fridays. Unfortunately recently I have sustained an injury making it difficult to write. With the NHS in crisis, I cannot in all confidence anticipate when I’ll be able to write over 1,000 words a week.

Much as I dislike discussing health problems, we men are always reluctant to talk of such matters, I feel that I owe it to you, dear reader, to keep you informed.

For the foreseeable future, some posts will be regurgitated material from past years. Newer followers will have the advantage of perusing these posts for the first time. For more seasoned devotees of CabbieBlog, a small reminder will appear signifying the original date of publication.

Those of you who have generously committed to supporting CabbieBlog via Patreon, I’m hoping still to publish Pootling around London twice a month.

Thank you all for taking time out of your day to support CabbieBlog and hopefully, we’ll be back on road in the not too distant future.


London Trivia: Wedded bliss

On 29 July 1981 Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 600,000 filled the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple, while the televised nuptials reached an estimated global audience of 750 million, making it the most popular programme ever broadcast. Brian Johnston commentated: “Here they come, down the pavilion st- . . . the cathedral steps.” The UK had a national holiday on that day to mark the wedding.

On 29 July 1972 Screaming Lord Sutch was arrested in London after getting off a bus in Downing Street accompanied by 4 naked women

The original medieval London Bridge in use for more than 600 years featured heads of criminals displayed on spikes for more than half of that time

The Metropolitan Police’s iconic revolving sign ‘New Scotland Yard’ once on Broadway performed over 14,000 revolutions every day

Kenneth Grahame author of The Wind in The Willows and secretary of the Bank of England was shot at in the bank by a deranged George Robinson

Big Ben is the bell, not the clock tower, now renamed Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen. Its chime is in the key of E

Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine once shared a small flat at 13 Linden Gardens, Notting Hill

French Ordinary Court EC3 takes it’s name from a fixed price menu or as Samuel Pepys called it a French Ordinary

On 29 July 1948 King George VI opened the 14th modern Olympic games in London, the first Summer Olympics to be held since 1936

Only two Tube stations have all five vowels in their name: South Ealing and Mansion House and more than half of the London Underground network in fact runs above ground

Old Billingsgate Market was originally opened in 1016 selling food and wine, with fish becoming the sole trade later

Princess Diana’s first owned apartment was at Coleherne Court, Earls Court given to her as an 18th birthday present

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: Oranges and Lemons

Down Your Alley: Orange Yard

After recently highlighting Orange Street, today we go all oranges and lemons. First off is Orange Yard: from Tottenham Court Road Station walk along the west side of Charing Cross Road. Cross Falconberg Court, Sutton Row, Goslett Yard and then turn right into Manett Street. Orange Yard is about 20 yards on the right.

[W]ILLIAM OF ORANGE could have had associations with Orange Yard. Nell Gwyn may have trudged down here on one of her excursions, although I can hardly think why; there might have been an orange warehouse here or perhaps a fruit merchant held his stall in the vicinity. On the other hand its name could even reflect the predominant colour in a coat of arms; in fact, the Yard could have been named after any one of these, or a combination maybe. More than likely we have all been led up the garden path and the place has never had any connections with oranges, lemons, fruit and vegetables, colours of the rainbow or anything else of that ilk.

One fine detail we can call up in relation to Orange Yard is that there is nothing here to attract the revelling tourist in search of London’s most exhilarate attractions. Foyles bookshop, claiming to be the largest in the world, is nearby. It was set up by the two Foyle brothers who, having failed an examination to enter the civil service, made a decision to sell their textbooks for the highest price they could get for them. The speedy sale and acceptable profit gleaned from the exercise prompted them to purchase a job lot of second-hand book and repeat the process. They soon realised that the foundation of their business was in place. Foyles moved from number 121 Charing Cross Road in 1966 to 113-119 Charing Cross Road, now as a result of CrossRail they have moved again to their present building at 107 Charing Cross Road.

For a late hour splurge, the Borderline Nightclub is on the corner of the Yard.

Down Your Alley: Church Court

For our lemons, we go to Church Court. From Monument Station continue north along the east side of King William Street and turn right into Clement’s Lane. The Court is just past the church on the right.

Tucked away from view, as though hiding from the thousands who daily tramp the pavements of King William Street and Gracechurch Street, only feet away, is narrow Church Court. It gracefully rises from Clement’s Lane up three steps. In the midst of these great streets, rarely resting from the scramble of City traffic, it lies in tranquil obedience like a dog at the feet of his master. It is one of the City courts responsible for a great deal of confusion in years gone by, resulting from the multiple church-side paths simply called ‘church court’. For clearer identification it was more frequently referred to as St Clement’s Court, leading to St Clement’s churchyard – now almost completely disappeared, and subsequently, the name was officially changed to reflect its public pseudonym. Now that all, with the exception of Church Court in the Temple, have been renamed and the case of mis-identity no longer exists, the path around St Clement’s has very recently reverted to its original title.

This was not always the throttled down backwater of today; prior to 1831, when King William Street was built, Clement’s Lane was a bustling thoroughfare. In those days it was the main connecting road between Candlewick Street (Cannon Street) and Lombard Street with tradesmen’ houses lining the route. As far back as 1370 the residents of Clement’s Lane joined with those of Candlewick Street in a protest against an assemblage of plumbers who had set up a lead smelting plant nearby. They claimed that the chimney of the furnace was not high enough and that the noxious fumes emitted forth were causing untold ill-health. In consequence, the Mayor declared that the plumbers would be allowed to continue with their work providing the height of the chimney was raised.

The church of St Clement’s, Eastcheap, after which the Lane (and previously the Court) are named, was built by Wren in 1687 to replace an earlier building destroyed in the Great Fire. By comparison with many of Wren’s creations, it is a plain structure of almost entirely stuccoed brickwork. It has undergone many internal changes since Wren left the scene; firstly by Butterfield in 1870 and again in 1933 when some of the woodwork was embellished by Ninian Comper. The fine Harris organ of 1695, originally installed in the gallery, was relocated in one of the aisles by Butterfield but in 1936 it was returned to the gallery. Among the memorials is one to Brian Walton, compiler of the Polyglot Bible who later became Bishop of Chester and died in 1661.

There are some who claim that the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons rightly belongs to St Clement’s Eastcheap and not to St Clement Danes. But the truth we shall never know since the author died some five centuries ago and the ditty would have gone the same way had Wynkyn de Worde not included it in his Demaundes Joyous children’s book in 1510. I include the rhyme here to sway on the side of the Eastcheap church, not merely to be contradictory to popular belief, but because all of the other churches mentioned are within ‘cockney’ London; St Clement Danes is not:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St Martin’s.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I’m sure I don’t know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chop, chop, chop, chop!

The ringing of the bells might be a most pleasant experience but the chopper remains as doubtful as the rhyme’s origin.
On the wall of St Clement’s House, by the side of the church, is a small plaque telling us that Dositey Obradovich, a scholarly writer of his time, lived in a house on this site. We may never have heard of him but someone thought him worthy of recognition.

Signs at the entrance to St Margaret’s Close, City of London. St Margaret’s Close, formerly Church Court, is closed off by a wrought-iron gate from the street; it squeezes between the east end of St Margaret Lothbury and an adjacent Victorian office building. By Christopher Hilton (CC BY-SA 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.

Orange Street

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a cut through as: ‘to get quickly and directly through or past (something that blocks one or slows one down)’. These days, what is left of cabbies’ cut throughs, those useful back-doubles, learnt by rote on The Knowledge, have all but disappeared through CrossRail construction, pedestrianisation and cycle lanes. This occasional feature CabbieBlog will give away the odd trade secret.

[J]UST NORTH OF TRAFALGAR SQUARE is a very useful cut through, which circumvents Trafalgar Square, and takes you to Charing Cross Road from Haymarket, this narrow thoroughfare is the curiously named Orange Street, which stands on the site of The Duke of Monmouth’s stables, known as Orange Mews, a reference to the colour of Monmouth’s coat-of-arms. So far pretty dull trivia with which to use remembering the name of this handy cut-through.

The Duke of Monmouth was the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II. In 1685, after declaring himself King, he led an unsuccessful rebellion to depose his uncle King James II, but lost at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Tried for treason he had the misfortune to meet his Maker at Tower Hill via the good offices of Jack Ketch, London’s most inept executioner. Ketch took six or eight blows, witnesses said that Monmouth started to rise in an effort to reproach the executioner for his incompetence, but eventually the deed was finished with a knife.

Just another chapter in England’s bloody history, but according to a popular, if dubious legend, it was realised that no official portrait existed of the Duke.

His body was exhumed, the head reaffixed to the body and he sat unknowingly for his portrait.

However, there are at least two formal portraits of Monmouth tentatively dated to before his death currently in the National Portrait Gallery, which curiously is on the corner of Orange Street and Charing Cross Road.

Another exists of a painting once identified with Monmouth that shows a sleeping or dead man that could have given rise to this story.

Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, Monmouth holds the distinction of being the only executed body there with the head attached, albeit sewn on.

London Trivia: Caught short

On 22 July 1965 the Rolling Stones were at it agin. Appearing before East Ham Magistrate’s Court charged with insulting behavious after urinating on the wall of a petrol station when refused entry to use the toilet. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman were each fined £5. The incident had occurred on 18 March with the petrol station attendant Charles Keeley describing Wyman as “a shaggy-haired monster wearing dark glasses”.

On 22 July 2005 Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police at Stockwell Station mistaken for a suicide bomber

London gangster Charlie Richardson claimed to have help bug Harold Wilson’s Downing Street phones for South African intelligence agency

Clerkenwell is named after the ‘Clerk’s Well’ that supplied Charterhouse. It can be seen through the window of Well Court, Farringdon Lane

There was a public latrine on Old London Bridge that plopped directly into the Thames, providing boatmen with a fresh source of worry

Voltaire, Edgar Allen Poe, Ho Chi Minh, Mahatma Gandhi, Vincent Van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, and Hiter’s older half-brother all lived in London

London’s home to the world’s largest block of acrylic by Tower Hotel it’s a 1-tonne cuboid reject for 2001: A Space Odyssey – black was used

Zog self-proclaimed King of Albania, fled to London when Mussolini invaded with his country’s gold. Booked into the Ritz and paid in bullion

London’s oldest sports building still in use for its original purpose is the Real Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace, one of its walls dates back to 1625

On the eastbound platform a roundel still reads St. James’ Park, the rest have the current spelling and punctuation, St. James’s Park

The Queen’s Remembrancer the oldest legal post presides over the Trial of the Pyx where 26 gold smiths are sworn in to weigh Royal Mint coins

MiscIt’s an odd coincidence at £4m modern London Bridge cost the same as buying, transporting and re-erecting the old bridge at Lake Havasu, USA

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.