London Trivia: Church of Casanova

On 29 September 1792 the first church in England since the reformation dedicated to St. Patrick was consecrated in Soho Square, its successor was completed in 1893. It stands on the site of Carlisle House which became a venue for dazzling soirees, recitals and concerts. Once the home of a Venetian courtesan Mrs Cornelys, an opera singer, serial bankrupt and socialite, she had a child fathered by Cassanova.

on 29 September 1829 this Tuesday the first Metropolitan policeman went out in the streets of London from the unfinished Scotland Yard

‘The bells of Old Bailey’ in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons are the bells of St. Sepulchre rung to mark an execution in Newgate Prison

The three Barbican towers were Europe’s tallest residential buildings when built – the drains zig-zag down so nothing hits the bottom too hard

St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the parish church of Buckingham Palace and any baby born at the Palace is entered into its church register

Ravens are kept at The Tower of London for ancient legend predicts that if they should depart the Monarchy will fall

The Beatles filmed the video for Penny Lane in Angel Lane Stratford (very near Olympic site) they didn’t have the time to go up to Liverpool

Mon Plaisir Restaurant, Monmouth Street claims to be London’s oldest French restaurant having been established in the 1940s

In 1702 while riding at Hampton Court William III was thrown when his horse stumbled on a molehill and died as an equestrian statue depicts

There are no Roads in the City of London only Streets, Lanes, Alleys to be named road highway had to be wide enough to allow two carts to pass

City Livery Companies have their halls in the City except The Gunmakers their use of gunpowder it was deemed prudent to locate at a distance

By the early 12th century the population of London was about 18,000 (compare this to the 45,000 estimated at the height of Roman Britain)

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.

A bitter pill for all

Once was the time that every Londoner knew who Doctor Butler was, and the alleged restorative properties of his famous brew.

Such was his fame a number of London pubs carried his name.

[A]LAS ALL BUT ONE HAVE GONE or become a generic pub/restaurant. The last survivor to carry his name is to be found in Mason’s Avenue in The City.

The surviving establishment has a good reputation according to Fancy a Pint who give it four-stars which would not be the case if the hostelry still served up the good doctor’s celebrated ’purging ale’.

No qualifications

‘Doctor’ Butler had no medical qualifications, but that didn’t stop him selling an evil concoction of laxatives that included senna, liquorice and scurvy grass (a type of cabbage) all mixed in a strong ale and allowed to ferment for three days.

First produced in 1616 the brew laid claim to treat all manner of maladies:

An excellent stomach drink, it helps digestion and dissolves congealed phlegm upon the lungs and is therefore good against colds, coughs, phthisical and consumptive distempers, and being drunk in the evening it moderately fortifies nature, causeth good rest and hugely corroborates the brain and memory.

With medical science in its infancy King James, when suffering from sciatica reached for a jug of the doctor’s purgative concoction. Its powerful effects took the King’s mind off his original ailment, and when he emerged from his House of Ease awarded Butler a position in court as his physician.

Unfortunately, the powerful laxative didn’t work on King James’s son Henry dying from typhoid.

Old Doctor Butler The success with the King’s bad back encouraged Butler to branch out offering clients the benefit of his expertise. Epilepsy was cured by firing a brace of pistols near the unsuspecting patients face – thus scaring the malady enough to leave its host.

The current incumbents practising in Harley Street might be pleased to discover that should plague return to London, plunging one’s patient into
ice-cold water effects a cure.

Dropped into the Thames

But should that prove unsuccessful an alternative treatment is to drop the infected patient through a trapdoor on London Bridge allowing them to fall
into the Thames.

Doctor Butler’s Medicinal Ale was sold across London from taverns displaying Doctor Butler’s Head on their signs. Remarkably it was available long after his death – he presumably declined the ale’s medicinal benefits upon his own death bed.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 22nd July 2014

Bradshaw’s London Guide

CaptureBy the beginning of Victoria’s reign such was the fervour to build railways over 150 companies operated the thousands of miles of track that criss-crossed Britain. Greenwich Mean Time had established a uniform time across the rail network (before each town ran to its own version of time), but travelling across Britain trying to connect with different trains operated by separate companies had become well neigh impossible.

One publication, Bradshaw’s would become the indispensable companion for the traveller, giving timetables for every operator, to the extent that a ‘Bradshaw’ entered into common usage as the name for a reliable timetable.

As late as between the two world wars, the verb ‘to Bradshaw’ was a derogatory term used in the Royal Air Force to refer to pilots who could not navigate well, perhaps related to a perceived lack of ability shown by those who navigated by following railway lines.

[R]ecently Michael Portillo in his television series ‘Great Rail Journeys’ has revived this one-time handy companion and reproductions of this book back on to booksellers’ shelves.

So it was recently that I picked up a copy of the original Bradshaw’s Illustrated Hand-Book to London and its Environs 1862 published by Conway.

The original volume was produced for visitors coming to the capital for the Great International Exhibition of 1862 and is written as a series of walking tours.

It gives an insight into a London unrecognisable to us today:

Newgate Market, which is productive of considerable inconvenience to the public, from its ill-chosen situation. On market-days, it frequently happens that the streets in the vicinity are completely blocked up by the butchers’ carts. In thirteen slaughterhouses here, there are as many as 600 sheep, and from 50 to 110 bullocks slaughtered every day. It will, certainly, be a great public convenience, of Old Smithfield, which is close at hand, as suggested, be converted into a dead meat market.

Bridewell a City house of correction . . . the prison affords accommodation for seventy male and thirty female prisoners, who are incarcerated in single cells. The sentences vary from three days to three months. The treadmill is kept in active operation.

Regent Street . . . A new building called the London Crystal Palace, to form a Bazaar, is just completed . . . there is a conservatory, aquarium, and aviary attached.

Soho Square . . . is chiefly tenanted by music publishers and those connected with the music profession. In the centre is a stable of Charles II, in whose reign the ground was principally built upon.

There is also advice for tourists on coping with London smog, avoiding pickpockets, dealing with London’s muddy streets and ferocious din, and many other topics including advice on the hiring of cabs.

Speed and Distance – When hired by distance the driver is bound to drive at a proper speed, not less than six miles an hour, except requested by the hirer to drive at a slower pace, or in cases of unavoidable delay. When hired by time to drive at the rate of four miles an hour, or if desired to drive at a greater speed, the driver shall be entitled to an additional fare of sixpence per mile over and above the four miles per hour.

But the biggest revelation is the table of cab fares:

Leicester Square to the Tower of London – 1s 6d

St. Paul’s Church to the Strand – 6d

Paddington Station (Great Western) to the Lyceum Theatre -2s 6d

This meticulously detailed and comprehensive book makes a fascinating read for anyone interested in London’s rich history.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 14th December 2012

London Trivia: Adjoining rooms

On 22 September 1735 Sir Robert Walpole moved into 10 Downing Street. Before taking up residence as Prime Minister, he commissioned William Kent to join the adjacent house at the rear to form a property more suited for a Minister of the Crown. Walpole persuaded Mr Chicken, to move to another house in Downing Street, this small house and the mansion at the back were then incorporated into Number Ten.

On 22 September 1848 John Harold, London’s first case of cholera died at 8 New Lane, Gainsford Street, Horsleydown, Southwark

The smallest prison in London is a single room in the base of the St Stephens Tower in the Houses of Parliament, although never used these days, it is still classed as a state prison

The Ritz was one of the first steel-frame buildings to be erected in Europe. The restaurant has so many chandeliers that its ceiling has had to be specially reinforced

Playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan died at 14 Savile Row. Whilst laid out in his coffin an overzealous bailiff arrested him for his debts

Christ Church, Lambeth, has a spire decorated with stars and stripes, half the cost of the church was borne by Americans, and the tower commemorates President Lincoln’s abolition of slavery

In the film The Da Vinci Code – The ‘Parisian’ lecture hall, where Tom Hanks gives a lecture is actually Fairfield Halls, Croydon

The Roundhouse in Camden was originally built as a turntable engine shed for the London & Birmingham Railway in 1846, within 10 years the engines were too big for the building to continue to serve its purpose

The 1908 Olympics were heading for Rome until Mount Vesuvius erupted on 5 April 1906 and the Italians suddenly had other priorities, with just two years’ notice, London came to the rescue

Cabbies face a daily £1 fine should he take two consecutive days off ‘without just cause’ according to section 33 of The London Hackney Carriages Act 1843

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, was formed by a Royal Charter in 1631 and remains the world’s oldest horological institution

There are now 25 Sherlock Holmes Societies around the world, in countries as diverse as Japan, Israel, India, Australia and Venezuela

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.

Is this London’s first nimby?

How devious have you to be when an American banker describes your actions as “the greatest rascality and conspiracy ever heard of”? This was directed at Charles Tyson Yerkes by the founder of the bank J. P. Morgan.

[Y]ERKES (serendipitously pronounced like ‘turkeys’) had served time in his native Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary for larceny and embezzlement before he left the United States, leaving behind his creditors to pick up the pieces from his many failed ventures. One of which was the control of Chicago’s rail network for which he had been nicknamed ’The streetcar Czar of Chicago’.

On seeing the rapid expansion of London’s Tube network he resolved to turn his hand to the same complex and questionable deals he had practised in America. Astoundingly before long, he found himself in control of the failing Metropolitan District Railway, the half-built Bakerloo, and the as-yet unbuilt Piccadilly Lines.

But it was the extension of the Northern Line – the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead – that Yerkes was to meet his nemesis in the shape of a middle-class social reformer – Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett.

Dubious proposals

Despite fierce local opposition to the proposal, Yerkes won the Parliamentary permission he needed for his ambitious, if not dubious scheme, he had after all in the past had his 33-month sentence in the slammer reduced to 7 after threatening to blackmail a number of powerful, influential Pennsylvanian political bigwigs.

Having raised the necessary funds Yerks started tunnelling, with the intention of constructing a station close to the Bull and Bush pub in North End Road the station was to be named North End.

His plan was to use investor’s money to build the railway line and the station and then develop the surrounding farmland around his station into the street after street of gleaming new houses – all built by him of course – the residents using his station on their commute to work.

Charles Tyson Yerkes Yerks had seriously underestimated the English middle class. Henrietta who a few years ago had acquired Evergreen Hill as a weekend home at Spaniard’s End really didn’t want Yerkes’s ghastly new homes on her patch. She wasn’t short of a bob or two either and while Yerkes was busying himself with underground excavations, she established a trust which bought 243 acres of prime real estate around ‘North End’ and incorporated it into Hampstead Heath.

A white elephant

It was a strategic fait accompli, Yerkes could continue to tunnel until he was blue in the face but without permission to develop above ground, his grand scheme suddenly became a white elephant and in 1906 work on the new station stopped.

By the time the line was opened North End had already been bricked up to spare everybody’s blushes. The new trains rattled past, oblivious to the abandoned platforms.

Much of the land which Yerkes was denied developing became the Hampstead Garden Suburb, a model garden city which no doubt attracted the sort of people that Henrietta did approve of to be her neighbours.

While there are 43 other ‘ghost’ or disused stations on the Underground network North End holds the dubious distinction of being the only one built that never actually saw active service. Or a single passenger.

The Tube’s deepest station

It does, however, boast one tenuous claim to fame, at 221 feet below ground, North End would have been the Tube’s deepest station but for Barnett’s intervention, rather than a vast underground void.

The renamed ‘Bull and Bush’ ghost station remains in its pristine unused state. Unfortunately, it is closed to the general public. But one lucky person Hywel Williams on his excellent site Underground History gives an account of his visit.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 27th December 2013