Some say it was a Helter-skelter, when oysters were sold as a cheap and popular fast food of the day, Netten’s Oyster House was marked with a lighthouse – kind of the McDonalds ‘golden arches’ of their day . . . . . . . . . .
Exclusively for Patrons, here is List 2 Run 31 Kentish Town Station NW5 to West Smithfield EC1, again I hope you find it both amusing and informative.
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Is there an R in the month?
Mr Price has reminded me that London is just a collection of villages. I knew about the French University and French bookshops in South Kensington, the West Indians in Brixton, large numbers of Irish populating Kilburn, even Kangaroo Valley in Earl’s Court due to the young people from the Antipodes, I discovered in my first six years at work in Clerkenwell, that Italians provided great delicatessens and cafes for a hungry youth.
The Carriage Officer’s question was for me to identify the location of Saint Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, informing me that the area was well known as being populated by Greeks.
Having `dropped’ the question I’m anxious to check out Kentish Town Road, the location of the cathedral, and surprisingly, opposite is the headquarters of the curiously named organisation, Jews for Jesus.
A short drive past the back of St. Pancras Station, this road will later be the rank for the Eurostar and cabs stretching back hundreds of yards around the corner. Turning left into Euston Road past the front of King’s Cross Station, where an urban myth exists that Queen Boudicca, leader of the Iceni tribes, is buried under the station between platforms 9 and 10, after being defeated by the Romans, she was said to have committed suicide, a more modern, and more plausible theory is that she ran through the wall marked platform 9 1/2 and escaped to Hogwarts.
The station is named after a monument to King George IV which was erected at the corner of Pentonville Road and Gray’s Inn Road. This huge, much-derided statue, some 71 feet high whose base was used as a police station before becoming a pub, was demolished seven years before the station opened, but the name stuck.
Cabbies and Knowledge boys seem to spend most of their time staring at the road ahead (with the occasional glance for street hails), but in London looking up at the rooftops can sometimes provide a rewarding experience with some very quirky sights. On the same junction of Pentonville Road and Gray’s Inn Road it is worth a glance skywards. Apparently owned by the splendidly named – The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (or just P&O), the King’s Cross Lighthouse has been left to rot since Edison Lighthouse appeared in the charts during the 1970s. There are many explanations for this strange building, which was erected in 1875, but no one seems to be absolutely sure. It has been semi-derelict for many years and always seems to be on the point of being regenerated, or falling down, but never quite getting there.
Used as the location for Harry Palmer’s office in the 1967 film Billion Dollar Brain, some say it was a Helter-skelter, another explanation, discounted by others is that when oysters were sold as a cheap and popular fast food of the day, Netten’s Oyster House was marked with a lighthouse – kind of the McDonalds ‘golden arches’ of their day.
As a footnote: The building, including its rooftop curiosity has been completely renovated. Much of the King’s Cross area has now been transformed from a seedy and frankly dangerous area to a vibrant place of entertainment, employment and education, leaving some of the smaller hotels without their business of offering bedrooms by the hour.
Riding down the main thoroughfare towards Blackfriars Bridge on the right is Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, the largest in Europe, the road that gives its name to the building only fulfils one of the twin assertions: it’s certainly hilly but not that pleasant. A small crescent opposite called Coldbath Square takes its name from Coldbath Prison, notorious for its strict regime of silence and use of the treadmill, which probably does recall its inmates receiving cold baths.
On a lighter note opposite is the magnificently decorated and named ‘The Quality Chop House’, assuring anyone entering its Grade II listed portal that it is a ‘Progressive Working Class Caterer’, and claims to offer ‘London’s noted cup of tea’ and should you still be reluctant enjoy its culinary delights: ‘a plate of meat, bread and half a pint of ale for sixpence’.
Turning left into West Smithfield on my left is Smithfield Market, I turn into East Poultry Avenue, which perfectly describes this highly decorated Victorian structure’s function, nearby Cowcross Street was, surprisingly, where cows crossed the road on their way to slaughter.
A place of entertainment for centuries with tournaments, jousting and sporting events for the rich, and a place of execution for the poor to watch and be entertained. In the sixteenth century during a four-year period over 200 martyrs were burned at the stake, their fat was said to have coated the adjacent walls.
One point to be discovered is the only statue to King Henry VIII to be found in London, admittedly it is rather small, which makes it a favourite with the examiners, despite the statue’s small size his Majesty adopts a rather masculine pose, legs astride and with a rather large codpiece. It stands above the main entrance erected in thanks that the king allowed the hospital to remain open during the Reformation, serving the poor and needy. Their gratitude wasn’t that great as the statue was commissioned 150 years after that much-maligned monarch had died.
One last point is the small plaque marking the spot where the Scottish rebel William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered after being captured, while on The Knowledge nobody took notice of this illuminating fact. Three years later, after Hollywood had shown we English the error of our ways, floral tributes are always adorning the railings surrounding the inscription.