London Trivia: Belt up

On 31 January 1983 drivers and front seat passengers were required by law to wear seatbelts. There were be some exceptions to the new law. Taxi drivers were exempt because of the possible threat to their safety from dangerous passengers, though curiously London cabbies were required to belt up if they were plying for hire, only when they had a fare could they unbuckle. Drivers of milk floats were also exempt.

On 31 January 1606 Guy Fawkes was executed after being convicted for his role in the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ against the English Parliament and King James I

Banker Henry Fauntleroy’s public hanging for defrauding the Bank of England of £250,000 attracted the largest ever crowd with 100,000 people

At 202ft The Monument is the tallest unsupported stone column in the world and is 202ft from the seat of the Great Fire of London it depicts

London’s first gas-powered traffic lights on Parliament Square in 1868 blew up killing a policeman and caused cavalry horses to stampede

Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli speaking in Parliament, referring to taxis said of them: “The Hansom cabs are the gondolas of London”

Landseer copied the forepaws of a domestic moggie for his lions at the base of Nelson’s Column, if you look carefully they are too dainty

The world’s first jigsaw was created in 1761 by London engraver John Spilsbury by cutting them out by hand and naming them ‘dissected maps’

The University Boat Race from Putney to Mortlake has taken its crews from Oxford and Cambridge since 1829 and 30 per cent have been Old Etonians

On 31 January 1915 Warwick Avenue tube station opened, prior to its opening the proposed name for the station was Warrington Crescent

The upper class bank situated on the Strand, Coutts and Co. has handled the accounts of every British monarch since King George III

A mulberry tree in Buckingham Palace gardens is said to be the last of 4 acres planted by James I attempting to start England’s silk industry

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.

Dick Whittington’s Cat

Normally at this time of year children would have been taken to the Panto, giving them an introduction to cross-dressing, crass jokes and mild peril. One of the established characters in this uniquely British tradition is Dick Whittington.

In the year that Dick will not be appearing on stage, also marks the bi-centenary of the Dick Whittington Stone, which has sitting upon it a black cat.

Traditionally Knowledge boys and girls touch the cat’s head to bring them luck at their next Appearance. Much like the tests to become London cabbies, the history of this monument is shrouded in mystery.

Everyone knows the story of Richard Whittington who having failed to make his fortune started to leave London and climbing up Highgate Hill heard the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside some 4 1/2 miles away (he must have had some pretty acute hearing) and took the peal to be giving him a message to return to the City.

The traditional rhyme goes:

Turn again, Whittington,
Once Lord Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Twice Lord Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of London!

He returned with his cat and the popular pantomime character was born.

The reality of this iconic site is more complicated but closer to actual events. The 1821 stone we see today was not the original. An engraving in Beauties of England published in 1776 reported that ‘the stone is a small pyramid mounted upon a larger pediment’, and was thought to have marked the spot of a leper hospital that stood opposite.

This stone was reported to have been sawn in half and placed on each side of Queen’s Head Lane, Lower Street, Islington (I understand that Lower Street was renamed Essex Road).

The current stone, inaugurated in 1821, is in two segments and was restored in 1935, even so, its inscription telling of medieval merchant and City dignitary Sir Richard Whittington is almost illegible:

Whittington Stone.
Sir Richard Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of London.
1397. Richard II.
1406. Henry IV.
1420. Henry V.
Sheriff in 1393.

The cat surmounting the stone arrived later, in May 1964, when Dennis Biddett unveiled the cat upon the stone. The cat was carved by Jonathan Kenworthy, in polished black Kellymount limestone, looking back at London.

This and the iron railings are the only pieces we can date with some certainty, the story of the stone(s) is far more convoluted than I’ve described and can be read at IanVisits.

Featured image: Archant

Houston, we have a problem

These might be the most memorable, if incorrect, words that were spoken during the Apollo years. Tom Hanks was the first to speak them, playing Jim Lovell in Apollo 13. But it was Lovell’s fellow astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission who’s quote has changed the world. Bill Anders, who took the famous Earthrise shot, now a pillar of today’s environmental movement, would like to say: “We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth”.

In keeping with astronauts being at the forefront of the green movement you can find them nailed to planes, London plane trees, that is.

American astronauts are commemorated along the western side of Kennington Road, some fifteen name tags could once be found up the half-mile stretch from the Imperial War Museum to Kennington Lane.

Some mystery surrounds the placement of the nameplates. The much-lamented Smoke magazine noted that the names had been present for at least 20 years, and that was 9 years ago.

Predictably conspiracy theories have speculated that the trees might have been planted with seeds brought back from the moon, completely dismissing the fact that these mighty specimens are well over 50 years old.

For the record, here are the 15 names, but alas not Lovell or Anders are commemorated on Kennington Road, maybe they once were as those nailed to trees are down from 17 at the time of the Smoke article.

Eugene A Cernan

John W Young

Neil A Armstrong

Edwin E Aldrin

Alan L Bean

Fred W Haise Jr

John L Swigert Jr

Stuart A Roosa

Alan B Shepherd

David R Scott

Edgar D Mitchell

Alfred M Worden

James B Irwin

Charles M Duke Jr

Frank Borman

London in Quotations: Count William Combe

High Lords, deep Statesmen, / Duchesses, and Whores, / All ranks and stations, Publicans and Peers, / Grooms, Lawyers, / Fiddlers, Bawds, and Auctioneers; / Prudes and Coquettes, the Ugly and the Fair, / The Pert, the Prim, the Dull, the Debonair; / The Weak, the Strong, the Humble and the Proud, / All help’d to form the motley, mingled Crowd.

Count William Combe (1741-1823)

London Trivia: A family affair

On 24 January 1907 William Whiteley was shot dead outside the office of his own store by 29-year-old Horace George Raynor, who then turned the gun on himself. Raynor, who survived, claimed to be the illegitimate son of the store’s owner by his Whiteley’s long-term mistress, former shop girl, Louie Turner. Raynor’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in 1919 on licence.

On 24 January 1965 Winston Churchill following a stroke died at his home at Hyde Park Gate aged 90, he ordered his coffin leave London from Waterloo just to annoy General de Gaulle

Acid Bath Murderer Haigh dissolved his victims in a house now occupied by the Kentucky Fried Chicken Gloucester Road

On 24 January 1956 plans were unveiled for homes in Barbican a public inquiry considered plans to build in the area left devastated by war

During the plague of 1665 Londoners lived on huge rafts floating on the Thames in an attempt to escape the pestilence

The howitzer sculpture at Hyde Park Corner is pointed at the Somme – but if it was a real, its range would mean it would hit Crystal Palace

The Travellers Club in Pall Mall is the fictional start to Jules Verne’s story Around The World In Eighty Days

Hidden under the Ministry of Defence are Cardinal Wolsey’s wine cellars from the Whitehall Palace which burned down in 1698

The Racing Driver’s Handbook on how to behave on a racetrack is called The Blue Book the same as the Knowledge book of runs for cabbies

Only five Underground stations have ‘X’ in their names: Uxbridge, Brixton, Oxford Circus, Vauxhall and Croxley

The Bowler Hat is named after Mr Bowler who made it but Locks the Hatters call it the Coke after Mr Coke who ordered it

London cabbie George King founded the Aetherius Society to prevent the annihilation of Earth by improving cooperation with alien species

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.