London Trivia: Elevating Nelson

On 30 September 1840 the first stone of Nelson’s Column was laid by Charles Davison Scott, son of Nelson’s secretary, John Scott, at a ceremony conducted, according to the Nautical Magazine, “in a private manner, owing to the noblemen and gentlemen comprising the committee being absent from town”. Prior to the installation of the statue in November 1843 a banquet took place on the plinth.

On 30 September 1967 BBC’s Radio 1 was launched at 7 am with Tony Blackburn’s Breakfast Show, the first record played was Flowers in the rain by The Move

Karl Marx once narrowly avoided arrest for drunkenly smashing street lights in Tottenham Court Road after an all-day bender

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is based as close as it can be to the address of 221b Baker Street, the house is government protected, due to its ‘special architectural and historical interest’

During World War II suite 212 at Claridges was declared Yugoslav territory by Sir Winston Churchill so that Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia could be born on home territory

When Suetonius, the Roman General, defeated the uprising of the Iceni tribe led by Boudicca, he slaughtered 80,000 Britons on the site of what is now Kings Cross

Many people think the London Palladium is London’s biggest capacity theatre, but in fact the Coliseum Theatre just pips it, having 2,358 seats to the Palladium’s 2,286

The Serpentine is London’s oldest boating lake (1730) but it is artificial, created to look as if it has evolved naturally, part of the old River Westbourne was dammed to help create it

Wembley Stadium has 2,618 toilets, more than any other venue in the world, and the total length of the escalators is the same as a 400 metre running track

Adverts in tube carriages are known as ‘tube cards’, they are very good value; in 2009 they cost £10 per week, and travellers spend an average of 13 minutes per journey viewing them

By the end of the 18th century, London was the centre of the watch-making trade, with more than 7,000 men in Clerkenwell assembling 120,000 watches a year

There are 46 places on six continents named after London, the United States alone has five in: Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia

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: Alderman’s Walk

Alderman’s Walk is one of those names that tend to spark off thoughts of summery strolls along well-kept tree-lined avenues. Indeed, if we were contemplating our walk in a suburban village or almost any place other than the City of London that is what we may very well expect to find.

However, the City of London is where we are and Alderman’s Walk is not remotely like that.

[O]N THE DOORSTEP is Liverpool Street Station, the modernised gateway to eastern England; only yards away and visible from all angles of the City, the Natwest Tower reaches skyward; a mere stone’s throw away is the Bank, the ‘old lady’ who has her thumb on the hub of financial London.

This has been a busy section of the City for centuries; carts and trucks have been rumbling around here ever since the Romans built the Bishops Gate and opened up a main thoroughfare into the City. Despite all this turmoil Frances Dashwood, an 18th-century Member of the Common Council of the City, liked it so much that he built his house here, on the south side of the Walk near to Old Broad Street. When Dashwood received a Knighthood the place became known as Dashwood’s Court until he was elected to the Court of Aldermen of the City of London and from that time the name changed to Alderman’s Walk.

Adjoining the Walk, on the south side, is the church of St Botolph, Bishopsgate, one of three surviving churches dedicated to the seventh-century patron saint of travellers. The first church on this site was built about the beginning of the 13th century and was probably twice replaced before the 17th century. On Tuesday the 4th September 1666 St Botolph’s was shaking in its foundation as the Great Fire swept across the lower reaches of Bishopsgate, moving round to Throgmorton Street where it took the Drapers’ Hall. Although there was a sigh of relief when the danger was past, St Botolph’s was not in the best of repair and sixty years after the fire (1725) the church was demolished and rebuilt by James Gold. The unusual interior has two aisles separated from the nave by enormous Corinthian columns supporting a gallery running around the north, south and west sides. Strangely, the square tower is at the east end and therefore above the chancel and sanctuary, an arrangement only occasionally encountered. The marble fluted font is a relic of the 18th century, doubly celebrated because John Keates, poet, was baptised in it in 1795. In the graveyard of the old church, Ben Jonson and his family gathered to mourn the passing of his young son, a tragic victim of the plague.

The church once controlled a charity school for fifty poor boys and girls. In 1861 the classrooms were transformed into the parish hall and it can be seen to the west of the church with two charming statues of the charity children; a boy and a girl each wearing a badge and holding a book.

Featured image: Bishopsgate Churchyard, London, EC2 by David Hallam-Jones (CC BY_SA 2.0)
With the footpath that passes through St Botolph’s-without-Bishopsgate churchyard behind them, pedestrians heading in the direction of New Broad Street find themselves passing the entrance of this former underground Turkish Bath establishment. Apparently, there had been baths of one kind or another on this site since 1817. These “new” (replacement) baths were opened as “The New Broad Street Turkish Baths” on 5 February 1895. They were situated partly underneath the original New Broad Street House (since demolished) and partly beneath Alderman’s Walk (now called Bishopsgate Churchyard). Potential bathers entered the kiosk topped by an onion-shaped cupola and decorated with a star and crescent and went down a faïence-lined (earthenware tiled) winding staircase to a vestibule where s/he bought his ticket. Although protected, it seems that they have been adapted into a restaurant.

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.

Waterborne Cabbies

In the 16th Century the Company of Watermen were the equivalent to today’s cabbies. Created by an Act of Parliament in 1556 and given a grant of a Royal Patient in 1585, their trade like ours today was carefully licensed. They would ply for hire from designated locations along the Thames, with the cry of “Oars! Oars!” which later was forbidden as the cry could be confused by tourists with “Whores! Whores!”

[W]hen the watermen were not transporting people they would turn their hand to salvage and found a brisk trade in finding bodies, either suicides or those who’d accidentally drowned or been murdered. By a curious quirk of history, the origins of which are now lost, bodies were almost always landed on the south side of the river because the authorities would pay a shilling for a body landed in Southwark but only sixpence for one landed on the north bank. Clearly waterborne cabbies were not averse to “going south of the river” in those days.

A nice little earner would be from the City to as far up river as Hampton Court, and by 1700 over 10,000 watermen plied for hire.

The trade was not without its dangers; if you wanted to travel downstream below London Bridge you risked life and limb. A major feature of London Bridge was the effect it had on the Thames. The location of the bridge’s 19 timber pier supports (called starlings) was determined by riverbed conditions and this meant that they were varied in spacing across the river. Consequently, the arch spans varied in size too and boats navigating the arches encountered different currents and river conditions at each one. Some were more dangerous than others. Over the years, boatmen christened the arches with various names, such as Gut, Lock and Long Entry.

Navigating through these arches in a boat could be very dangerous because the closeness and number of starlings backed up the river water, creating rapids. In some places the drop in water height from one side of the bridge to the other was more than the height of a man. Many people lost their lives “shooting” the bridge and “Drowned at the bridge” became a common entry in the registers at nearby graveyards.

Most Londoners took Cardinal Wolsey example. On his frequent visits to Greenwich to see Henry VIII, he would have his barge stopped above the bridge and get out and travel to Billingsgate by mule, where he would rejoin his barge, providing it had successfully negotiated the rapids.

The illustration is a detail from an artistic reconstruction of Old London Bridge based on an engraving from approximately 1600 by John Norden available from Old London Reconstructed. As you can see the bridge was entirely built up; there were houses, businesses, even a chapel, perched on the bridge clear across the Thames. Additional information from Engineering Timelines and Scribalterror.Blogs.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 5th June 2009

London Trivia: Charlie comes home

On 23 September 1952 Charlie Chaplin returned to England for the first time in 21 years, told reporters it was a “shock” to see Waterloo Bridge – which has been rebuilt since he was last in the capital. Born in London in 1889, to music hall entertainers, at 5 his mother had a nervous breakdown and his father died, he danced in the street for pennies with his half-brother and was then sent to an orphanage.

On 23 September 1814 work began on the original Southwark bridge by John Rennie, it was built as three cast-iron spans over the river

During World War I a baker on Chapman Street was jailed for 3 days after selling fresh bread, the rationale being fresh bread is difficult to cut thinly, and people would therefore consume more if the slices were thick

Fruit Lines Ltd used to own the wharf at Canary Wharf. It was where they imported fruits mainly from the Canary Islands – hence the name

On 23 September 1897 Britain’s first car fatality occurred when 9-year-old Stephen Kempton cadging a ride was crushed to death when his coat was caught in the driving chain

On 23 September 1941 General de Gaulle formed French government in exile in Carlton Gardens, from 1942–44, he lived in Hampstead

Composer Felix Mendelssohn stayed at 4 Hobart Place, Belgravia, whilst staying here he dined with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Charles Dickens

In 1736 Fortnum and Mason wrapped hard-boiled eggs in sausage meat and breadcrumbs thus creating the Scotch egg

Polo imported in 1870 by cavalry officers serving in India was first played in Britain on Hounslow Heath and then Richmond Park

Finsbury Park station has murals that show a pair of duelling pistols, harking back to a time when men would visit the park after hours to defend their honour

The first parking ticket was issued to Dr Thomas Creighton on his Ford Popular as he attended a heart attack victim (£2 fine – later rescinded)

On 23 September 1959 the country’s first heleport was opened betweeen Battersea and Wandsworth Bridges

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: Laurence Stephan

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.

[L]AURENCE STEPHAN was born in 1987. In his early years, he gained skills and experience in all things creative and still has a zeal for writing music, videography and graphics. He obtained degrees in Nutrition, Exercise and Health, and Psychology, while working the nightclub scene; initially as a doorman, and subsequently as a nightclub manager. During his time at university, he rose to the position of Rugby President and then President of Student Sport. It was during this period that he found his passion for creating and organising different events, revolving around games, socialising and competition.

After university, he pursued a career in sales, but after two successful years, he had to leave due to chronic ill health. With an overactive mind and lots of free time, he decided to explore one of the events he ran at university called BucketRace. Initially designed as a 48-hour race throughout Europe, visiting multiple countries in a short space of time, the idea was condensed into a 4-hour race around London, replacing countries with London boroughs.

What’s your secret London tip?
Don’t sync your Spotify with an Uber Taxi and then play orgasm noises all the way home . . . it will significantly lower your rating.

What’s your secret London place?
The Stoop, home to the Harlequins! What I love about The Stoop are all the things surrounding the rugby matches. Before the games, you’ve always got fun rugby challenges you can take part in, and after the game, they have a bar with live music, which is something that’s hard to come by these days! It reminds me of my uni rugby days, where all the people playing sport during the day, met up and partied in the evening.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Pollution. I think we’re only just starting to understand the impact pollution has on our health and the environment. It’s been associated with metabolic diseases and mental health, and it’s such a shame that such an amazing city can be coated in such a dark cloud.

What’s your favourite building?
The Natural History Museum. It’s simply marvellous. I’ve loved it ever since I’ve been a child. It hosts some of my favourite exhibitions, such as photographer of the year award, and provides so much great information. Although I’m sad about Dippy the Diplodocus leaving!

What’s your most hated building?
I’m not sure I hate any, however, I’m not a huge fan of the Shard, it’s too tall and I have vertigo. I love cities like Reykjavik, where most of the tallest buildings are around four storeys (with the exception of Hallgrímskirkja), so if you’re going to build something that tall, then you should at least attempt to make it beautiful, which it isn’t. It also personifies a vibe of rules, fakery and soullessness.

What’s the best view in London?
Greenwich Observatory. Where else can you find an amazing view of London and outer space at the same time?

What’s your personal London landmark?
I’d have to say the fortress that is Twickenham Rugby stadium. I think any rugby lover would be mad not to!  What I love about Twickenham is the atmosphere. It’s far enough outside London to get away from it all, and on match days it carries its own culture and community that you don’t get at places like Wembley.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
I thought fairly hard about this and nearly went for a highbrow answer that personified sophistication. However, in the end, opted for Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are comic geniuses, plus I love a good Cornetto.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I’m not sure if this counts as I don’t drink alcohol. I’m going to say my local coffee shop – Electric Coffee. I’m there almost every day. Food wise, I don’t think you can beat street food. I think I’d have to say my favourite spot is Hatton Garden.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Participating in a BucketRace of course! Although that wouldn’t be a day off for me. So, instead, I’d go for a local brunch. I used to visit a cafe called Bob’s, however, sadly they’ve recently closed. I’d then grab an Electric Coffee and honestly, I’d go to the gym with friends, train, play sport and relax in the spa. However, that’s a little boring, so backing up to Electric Coffee… I’d head into East London for an activity like Junk Yard golf or Flight Bar with the lads, grab some chocolate at Dark Sugars, grab Indian food for dinner and then head over to Aeronaught in Acton for their circus and VR games. I may substitute Aeronaught for Four Thieves in Clapham, which is a venue I’ve heard lots about and really want to visit.