These two shelters, located on London squares, are at each end of one of London’s worst shopping streets, so to avoid those seeking fake perfumes, trashy souvenirs or the queues outside McDonald’s a short bus ride is to be recommended.
The most impressive building here is St. George’s Church whose best-known parishioner was George Frideric Handel who to nearby Brook Street just as the church was nearing completion. His opinion was sought on the suitability of the organ, and when candidates for the post of organist were being tested. He remained a regular worshipper until his death.
St. George’s Church has for many years given out small amounts of money to the homeless who sleep under the church’s portico at night. The Cabmen’s’ shelter close by has had difficulties of late obscured as it is by the hoarding for never-ending construction work for Crossrail. The solution has been that the Vestry issues ‘refreshment coupons’ valued at £2 each, which may be exchanged for food and drink at the shelter.
Very little remains of the original 18th-century buildings, although at its northern perimeter are the editorial offices of Vogue, if fashion is your thing.
A 73 bus (no cab for a change), alighting just after turning into Tottenham Court Road, walking down Great Russell Street opposite and skirting the British Museum takes me to Russell Square with the green shelter at the top of the square.
This shelter was originally outside the Haymarket Theatre, the theatre that the shelter’s donor, Sir Squire Bancroft was then managing. It was later moved to Leicester Square where it spent some considerable time.
During this time, when the green hut was located in Leicester Square during the war, the siren was sounded and the diners made their way down to the underground air-raid shelter. After the all-clear, the cabbies made their way back to the shelter to finish what was left of their dinner. To their surprise, all their cabs had been destroyed by a German bomb. Amazingly, the shelter survived with just some superficial damage.
It vanished in the late 1980s when pedestrianisation arrived at Leicester Square and the shelter became obsolete.
The decision was later taken to move the shelter to Russell Square. The shelter was restored in 1987 and again before the London 2012 Olympics when it was re-sited in the north-west corner of Russell Square, making it the most re-located shelter in London.
Before going I have to check out London’s most pointless plaque, for just behind the shelter there fixed to a wall is this statement:
“THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON HEREBY RECORDS ITS SINCERE APOLOGIES THAT THE PLAN FOR THIS BUILDING WERE SETTLED WITHOUT DUE CONSULTATION WITH THE RUSSELL FAMILY AND THEIR TRUSTEES AND THEREFORE WITHOUT THEIR APPROVAL OF ITS DESIGN”