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A Licensed Black London Cab Driver I share my London with you . . . The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

London Trivia: Not so innocent

On 16 February 1978 after a long campaign in which ‘G. Davis Is Innocent, OK’ was daubed on every available wall in East London, mini-cab driver George Davis was cleared in the Crown Court after his wrongful conviction for an armed £47,000 robbery at the London Electricity Board offices in Ilford, for which he had been sent to prison. Two years later he was convicted of a £50,000 London bank raid at the Bank of Cyprus, Tottenham.

On 16 February 1824 John Wilson Croker established a ‘club for scientific and literary men and artists’ – the Athenaeum, he is also credited with coining the word Conservative for a political description

Cab drivers who drive too slowly can be charged with ‘loitering’, but are exempt from compulsorily wearing seat belts whilst working at whatever speed they are travelling

The circumference at the Gherkin’s widest point is 178 metres, which is only two metres less than its height of 180 metres

There were three assassination attempts on Queen Victoria at Constitution Hill a road under half a mile long and Princess Anne was shot at there

Josef Jakobs a German spy captured in World War II was the last person executed at the Tower of London, he was shot by firing squad

Sherlock Holmes fictional home 221b Baker Street is the Santander Building Society which has an office dealing with the detective’s fan mail

Museum of London tracing the capital’s history from Prehistoric times to the present day is the largest urban history museum in the world

Sudbury Hill’s Wood End Estate has 11 streets named after sports people: Mary Peters Drive; Lilian Board Way; Brasher Close; Bannister Close

The word ‘taxi’ originates from the name of the inventor of the taximeter in 1907, a German called Baron Von Thurn und Taxis

Vauxhall Cars take their name from its first factory on the site of Fawke’s Hall, beside the river near where Vauxhall Bridge now stands

Dr Johnson’s Memorial House in Gough Square contains a brick from the Great Wall of China donated to the museum in 1822

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.

Underground alphabet

Here are six almost random Underground stations and their related trivia.

Belsize Park
Don’t believe the signs telling you how many steps there are, a lot of them are wrong: the biggest discrepancy being at Belsize Park, it has a sign claiming that the stairs have 219 steps, but there are actually 189. It’s not clear why they lie about it.

Chalk Farm
Chalk Farm is not named after some old chalk farm, but rather a more boring corruption of ‘Chalcot Farm’, called ‘Chaldecot(e) in 1253 the name probably derives from ‘cold bleak cottages’ that dotted the slopes of a hill here.

On Comic Relief Day 2014, supporting the charity, staff at Oval station put up a special Underground roundel in the shape of an oval, it was also the first railway station to employ electrified tracks on the London Underground.

Named Queen’s Road originally because Queen Victoria was born nearby, but people thought that ‘lacked distinctiveness’, so was changed. Its entrance is in Bayswater and Bayswater’s entrance is it Queensway.

St John’s Wood
Is the only station on the London Underground which does not contain any of the letters in the word ‘mackerel’, though that is only because Saint always appears as St, and because Hoxton is on the London Overground but not the Underground.

Uxbridge used to have three railway stations – Uxbridge Vine Street (originally just called Uxbridge Station), Uxbridge High Street, and Uxbridge Belmont Road, all these have now closed, replaced by the Underground. Being the final or first station on the line, depending on your direction of travel. It has a tunnel designed to mirror the one at Cockfosters at the opposing end of the line.

If you haven’t already guessed these six tube station names include every letter of the alphabet.

CHalk FarM
ST. John’s WOoD

Use your grey matter

Just when you think you have seen it all and been asked every motoring question imaginable along comes one out of the blue. Filling up at the end of the day a young man asks “how do I fill up my car”. I then have to show him how to select the fuel; unhook the nozzle; insert the said nozzle into the car; pull the trigger; and what to say to the cashier. Oh! And “Don’t forget to lock your doors if you want to come back to your vehicle”.

Mary Ward House in Euston

Running parallel to Euston Road, Tavistock Place is used by cabbies heading west towards Euston Station or Tottenham Court Road. Camden Council in an effort to protect the many cyclists using the route has constructed dedicated cycle lanes. The result of which has been to narrow the road producing a perpetual traffic jam, soon to get worse with the advent of HS2.

While sitting stationary you get to notice on the north side of Tavistock Place the stunning Grade I listed 1898 building – Mary Ward House. But who was Mary Ward, and what was her ‘House’ for?

Mary Ward was known in her lifetime as Mrs Humphry Ward, a prolific Victorian novelist, who died in March 1920, at the age of 68. Her novels are not much read now but were successful in their time and tackled the social subjects and issues of faith and doubt that were beloved of the Victorians.

She was also a noted philanthropist and socialist, she helped open up university education to women. She promoted the education of the working classes through the ‘settlement’ movement (which settled students in working-class areas where they worked among the poor). Curiously, she also became a leader of the anti-suffragist movement, campaigning against giving women the vote.

One of her most inspired initiatives was founding Passmore Edwards House in Tavistock Place. This building, funded by publisher and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards, was part of the University Hall Settlement.

Passmore Edwards House had the first properly equipped classrooms for children with disabilities and was also home to a centre where children could come to play in a safe, warm, bully-free environment. A hall, gym, library, and other communal rooms were provided, and there were also residential rooms for those living in the settlement.

Gustav Holst was for a while the settlement’s director of music.

Mary Ward doorThe building’s young architects, Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, themselves lived in the settlement, so knew the background to the settlement movement and grasped the building’s purpose and potential.

They would go on to design the Welsh National Museum in Cardiff, they proved a good choice. The style the adopted for the building was that fruitful blend of Arts and Crafts with Art Nouveau that proved successful in London buildings for education and the arts at around this time. They brought together segmental arches, a variety of window shapes, fine stone detailing, and other features to make an arresting façade. The lettering over the entrances is also delightful.

In 1921, a year after Mary Ward died; the house was renamed in her honour. There is more information about this building and its current use here.

Picture of Mary Ward House by Mike Quinn

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 1st February 2013