This week I found a little mouse sitting on top of the bird seed which is stored in plastic containers in my shed. How he came to be there I have no idea.
The sight of my furry friend reminded me of what is claimed to be London’s smallest statute although Peter Berthoud would seem to disagree.
[T]wo mice are fighting over a piece of cheese high up on a building on the south-eastern corner of Philpot Lane by the junction with 23 Eastcheap. They apparently date from 1862 when the building was constructed for the spice merchants Messrs Hunt & Crombie by John Young & Son.
A homage to fromage
No documents seem to exist as to who sculpted this homage to fromage, however, they could be a memorial to a tragic fight between two builders over a cheese sandwich – except the sandwich hadn’t been invented at that time.
The builders in question were working on the Monument, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1671-77 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. It stands on the junction of Fish Street Hill and Monument Street about 400ft away from Philpot Lane.
At some point during the Monument’s construction, the two builders sat down to enjoy their packed-lunch of bread and cheese. Having a head for heights – well you would doing that job – the men were content to sit at their workplace, perched on a high piece of scaffolding. This was before steel scaffolding, hard hats and the ubiquitous hi-vis jackets, no health and safety in those days.
A fight on the roof
One of the men noticed that his cheese had been nibbled away. His suspicion as to the identity of the cheese nibbler, for reasons best known to him, fell on his mate sitting beside him perched high up on the Monument.
A fight broke out not wise when you’re poised so high up. Trading punches, the unfortunate pair lost their footing and plunged to the ground to their deaths.
It was only later, after similar disappearances of bread and cheese, that the real culprits were discovered – an infestation of tiny mice.
Pictures by Donna Ratherford.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 22nd March 2013