All posts by Gibson Square

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

London Trivia: Guy Fawkes comes early

On 12 July 1856 five died and 300 people were injured when fireworks exploded at Mr Bennett’s factory in Westminster Road. Bennett was charged that his business was making fireworks contrary to the law, and he kept combustibles at his house for that purpose. During his absence, a fire broke out through the negligence of his employees. The court found that the deaths were caused by the negligence of his employees.

On 12 July 1962 the Rolling Stones gave their first performance at The Marquee Club on Charing Cross Road

It is illegal for anyone to possess a pack of cards ‘who lives within a mile of any arsenal or explosives store’

The theatre ticket booth in Leicester Square conceals, 3-stories below, a electricity sub-station capable of supplying the entire West End

King Charles II took so long to pass away after having a stroke he apologised to his courtiers for “being an unconscionable time a-dying”

In 1902 after an “indignation campaign” the Richmond, Ham and Petersham Open Spaces Act became the first law to protect a view

A rather dubious attraction of the 1908 Franco-British exhibition at White City was a butter sculpture of King Edward VII

The Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel for many years the largest public room in Europe was a skating rink before becoming ballroom

Rugby netball was dreamt up by soldiers in 1907 and has been played on Clapham Common ever since. Games take place also on Tuesday evenings, but only during the summer

Dogs travel free on London’s buses but only at the discretion of the driver and must sit upstairs, TfL don’t specify which is the doggy seat

In 1748 Yorkshireman Thomas Chippendale set up his famous furniture business at 60-62 St Martin’s Lane employing just 40 men

The oldest door in the country dating from the Anglo-Saxon period is at Westminster Abbey using dendrochronology dates it at 950 years old

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.

Streets with the same name

Whilst on The Knowledge you are expected to memorise every road within a 6-mile radius from the Charles I Statue in Trafalgar Square, clearly an impossible task.

To compound the problem, some roads with dissimilar spellings (Britten Street, SW3 and Britton Street, EC1) are similarly pronounced, others are pronounced differently from their spelling (Beauchamp Place, SW3).

But, by far the hardest to learn is the roads with identical names. The famous Abbey Road has a little brother in West Ham. The delightfully named Water Lane is to be found in four locations: E15, EC3, NW1, SE14, while unsurprisingly Gasholder Place, SE11 is uniquely named.

Royal male chauvinism abounds with four King Streets: E13, EC2, SW1, WC2, the latter two a stone’s throw apart, while Queen Street has only two examples: EC4, W1.

A scan of my Geographers’ A-Z gives me many other examples of identically named thoroughfares, these are just the ‘As’:

Abbey Gardens: SE16, W6
Abbey Street: E13, SE1
Abbotsbury Close: E15, W14
Adamson Road: E16, NW3
Addington Road: E3, E16
Albany Mews: N1, SE5
Albert Road: E16, NW6
Albion Mews: N1, NW6, W2
Albion Street: SE16, W2
Alexandra Street: E16, SE14
Alma Street: E15, NW5
Alpha Place: NW6, SW3
Angel Court: EC2, SW1
Angel Mews: E1, N1
Appleby Road: E8, E16
Atlas Mews: E8, N7
The Avenue: NW6, SE10
Avenue Road: NW3, NW8

The Ugly, The Bad and The Good!

This little anecdote starts at the Hilton Metropole. A family come out and demand Westfield, I take them to Wood Lane, “No this is not the entrance”. Then it’s off to the second entrance in Wood Lane, “No take us to the cab rank”, next it’s on to Shepherds Bush Station cab rank, “No this not this entrance we want – take us back to the hotel”. If they though with £16 on the meter I was going to retrace my steps they were sorely disappointed. I ask them to get out, suspecting it was a ruse used before leaving them – without paying – having to waddle all of 150 yards into the shopping emporium. Driving on to the Hilton Kensington a Swedish woman gets in “Please take me to Hilton Olympia” (there are a lot of Hiltons in London). She has apparently been taken to the wrong Hilton by the private hire driver. “You cabbies are marvellous”, she intones. I drop here off and receive a generous tip. One hundred yards later a hand goes out and two ladies ask for Gibson Square, it’s the first ‘run’ of The Knowledge. You could say it was: The Ugly, The Bad and The Good!

The last post

Have you noticed the preponderance of pubs named the Blue Posts? A simple tally shows at least five plus, as is inevitable in London nowadays, there are others which have closed to allow yet more ’executive apartments’ to be built.

For many years it was thought that while barber/surgeons sported a red and white striped pole outside their premises, a pair of blue posts denoted that this was a sedan rank.

So how many blue posts pubs are, or were, in London?

Cowcross Street (now called Jacomo’s); Berwick Street; Rupert Street; Kingly Street (now a gastropub); Hanway Street (closed); Old Bond Street (called Two Blue Posts, now closed); Cork Street (called Old Blue Posts, a famous dining room, closed in 1911); Newman Street and Shoe Lane. The Blue Posts in Bennet Street has the following sign hanging above this St James hostelry featuring a sedan chair and two brilliant-blue bollards:

Although the existing ’Blue Posts‘ replaces the one which was destroyed during World War II, a pub of this name, on this site, was mentioned by the Restoration dramatist George Etheredge as early as 1667. The poet Lord Byron lived next door in 1813. The ‘Blue Posts’ (two azure painted poles) once stood in the tavern’s forecourt and served as an advertisement for a fleet of sedan chairs which used to ply for hire in Bennet Street.

In 1634 the first rank for horse-drawn cabs was the brainchild of Captain John Baily, situated on the Strand near Somerset House. Unlike the old sedan ranks with their tiny blue posts this nascent rank was next to a 100ft maypole, no wonder they usurped the sedan chairs.

Horse-drawn vehicles for private hire had been around in one form or another since medieval times. But no one had attempted to operate from a designated waiting place, or rank, until the 17th century, pioneer Captain John Baily, was a veteran of one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions.

He managed a rank of four horse-drawn carriages, Baily’s cabmen wore a distinctive livery and charged customers a fixed tariff depending on the distance. The rank was positioned close to the Strand maypole, a prominent medieval landmark. This towered 100ft high, making it one of the tallest structures in London at the time. It must have made the cab rank very easy to find.

Baily’s cab rank scheme appears to have worked well, and others soon appeared. The cab profession was given official approval in 1654 when one of the first Acts of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell set up the Fellowship of Master Hackney Carriages, under the control of a court of aldermen in the City of London, and initially restricted to 200 cabbies.

Featured image: The Blue Posts on Eastcastle Street by Ian S (CC BY-SA 2.0)(CC BY-SA 2.0)