London’s Urban Myths

The Seven Noses of Soho
The Myth of the 7 Noses of Soho is a peculiar one. Rumour has it that there are 7 sculpted noses on buildings in the square mile that is Soho. It’s said that if an individual finds all 7 they also attain infinite wealth. Oh! If I find all 7 noses and become infinitely wealthy you can be assured that I would share the infinite wealth fairly with everyone who reads CabbieBlog. Paul Raymond is the only person attributed to finding them turning him from a failed ventriloquist into a property mogul.

Pigeon Travel cards
It’s not much as urban legends go, but many people claim that pigeons regularly ride the Underground on certain routes, routinely boarding and exiting at the same stations. Not surprisingly, my sources aren’t clear on which stations or lines the pigeons have been seen riding. I’ve seen one board a train at Earl’s Court, but I’m not certain it was deliberate. I didn’t see it alight from the train, either. Scary thought, that: first clever sheep, now intelligent commuting sky rats.

moon Ghost of the Underground
While on the theme of the Underground, it is less expected to discover a ghost on the Tube, and not far from the Tower. Staff at Aldgate station have been keeping a log of such incidents since the 1950s. In one report a maintenance worker is said to have survived a 22,000 volt shock from the third rail, immediately after a colleague had observed what he took to be a grey-haired figure, presumably his guardian angel, gently stroking his hair.

Queen’s Resting Place
Boudica was queen of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia. She joined up with the Trinovantes of Essex to rebel against the Roman treatment of her people. Together they attacked Roman settlements at Colchester, St Albans and destroyed the city of Londinium in AD60. She is said to be buried under platform 9 or 10 of King’s Cross Station.

Nelson in a gilded cage
Contrary to the popular rumour Nelson’s body isn’t in the gilded ball on the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral but down below in the crypt. Brought back to England preserved in a barrel of rum, Nelson’s body on arrival was placed in a magnificent sarcophagus originally intended for Cardinal Wolsey. The Cardinal didn’t need it after his altercation with Henry VIII.

Sniffy Judges
Judges presiding at the Old Bailey today still at certain times carry nosegays of aromatic herbs. This is a tradition harking back to a time when typhus or “jail fever” was endemic in the Justice Hall of Newgate. There is of course no evidence that a nosegay provides any protection whatsoever.

Camelot in Cockfosters?
Sir Thomas Mallory seemed convinced that Winchester was Camelot. Now there is another contender for the site of Arthur’s legendary Court, this time in North London, at the far end of the Piccadilly Line. Yes, I know it sounds rather far-fetched, but all the evidence (and there is plenty of it) indicates that a real Camelot once existed at the very centre of Enfield Chase, the Royal Hunting Ground of the Plantagenet Kings. Today it is still there, hidden in woods on the fringe of Trent Country Park, and known as Camlet Moat. Archaeological digs have been conducted, back in the 1880s and again in 1923 and some interesting finds were unearthed. They suggest a substantial structure with stone walls over five and a half feet thick, a massive drawbridge 38ft long and a subterranean dungeon. Sounds like a castle, doesn’t it? Smaller relics from the Roman period suggest the site is originally of impressive antiquity.

So how far will your cabbie go?
Sorry, I had to clear up this Urban Myth. Cabbies do not have to take you wherever you choose. Unless we have a good reason not to, drivers must: Accept any hiring up to 12 miles (20 miles if starting at Heathrow Airport) or one hour duration if the destination is in Greater London. Fares for destinations outside Greater London may be negotiated between the passenger and driver before the journey. If no fare is agreed before the start of the journey then the maximum fare will be that shown on the meter at the end of the journey. There, now don’t ask me again.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 8th December 2009

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