Category Archives: London trivia

London Trivia: A naturalist’s nightmare

On 5 March 1879 a coal porter found a wooden box in the Thames near Barnes Bridge. Inside was the remains of Miss Julia Thomas, murdered by her servant, Kate Webster who then disposed of the body by dismembering it, boiling the flesh off the bones, and throwing most of the remains into the Thames. Found guilty and hanged at Wandsworth Prison. In a twist of fate naturalist David Attenborough during building work found the missing skull of the victim.

On 5 March 1969 the Old Bailey’s most expensive hearing ended after 39-days when Ronnie and Reggie Kray were given 30 years’ for murder

During the Jack the Ripper investigation the police paid £100 for 2 tracker bloodhounds but they got lost and needed the Police to find them

The last wolf in the City of London is commemorated at the spot it was killed, where a wolf’s head forms the waterspout of the Aldgate pump

Fragrance Madeleine was trialled at Piccadilly station in 2001 to make the Tube more pleasant. Stopped after days people said they felt ill

The last male Prime Minister to wear a wedding ring in public was Harold Wilson, in 1976, in fact the last occupant of No 10 to regularly sport a wedding ring was Lady Thatcher

Starting in 1908 with a Perrier sign, it now costs £2 million a year to advertise your firm on a Piccadilly Circus neon sign

The Lamb in Lamb’s Conduit Street had etched glass partitions preventing wealthy drinkers having to watch common men drinking in next bar

On 5 March 1870 the first ever International Football match was England vs Scotland held at The Oval, the first of many England draws 1-1

In 1750 the first umbrella used by Jonas Hanway brought back from Persia. Cabbies fearful they’d lose their wet weather called him a Frenchman

Jack Dee once worked in the Ritz’s kitchen. One night he cooked a doorman dinner, got a 50p tip. Made him realise his life was in a mess

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub off Fleet Street, built in 1667, has a famous resident – a dead parrot named Polly who swore in many languages

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.

London Trivia: A safe bet?

On 26 February 1995 Barings Bank, Britain’s oldest investment banking firm, and the world’s second oldest merchant bank (after Berenberg Bank), founded in 1762 was forced into bankruptcy after an employee in Singapore, 28 year old Nicholas William Leeson, speculated in derivatives on Tokyo stock prices that resulted in losses exceeding $1.4 billion. A trading jacket thought to have been worn by Leeson while trading was subsequently sold for £21,000.

On 26 February 1797 the Bank of England issued the first £1 banknote it remained in circulation until 1983 when the £1 coin was introduced

Pentonville Prison held a week long training course for trainee executioners who learned how carry out an execution with speed and efficiency

The first Palladian building built in Britain was Queen’s House, Greenwich commissioned by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I

The name ‘Bunhill Fields’ as in the Burial Ground is thought to be derived from ‘Bone Hill’ an area used as a burial ground for centuries

Henry VIII’s Chelsea Manor, which he gifted to Catherine Parr as a wedding present, stood where 19-26 Cheyne Walk now stand

William Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progress was inspired by the life history of the infamous Sally Salisbury who worked Covent Garden’s brothels

French Ordinary Court EC3 takes its name from a fixed price menu or as Samuel Pepys called it a French Ordinary

Arsenal tube station was originally Gillespie Road renamed when the club moved North. It is the only station named after a football team

In 1860 Sir Edward Watkins, Chairman of the East London Railway developed plans to build a ‘channel tunnel’ linking Britain with Europe

From his Wapping soap factory John Knight produced the famous Knight’s Castile soap, which won a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851

On 26 February 2010 The Barbican hosted an ongoing concert given by 40 zebra finches with guitars as perches and cymbals as feeders

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.

London Trivia: Hidden in plain sight

On 19 February 1982 it was reported Brixton police had adopted a rather novel way of conducting identity parades. Suspects would mingle freely with crowds at the foot of escalators, the witness could then look down from the top and hopefully from some considerable distance identify the culprit. It was said to assuage ethnic minority’s reluctance in coming forward to formal identity parades. It possibly gave the suspects a chance to disappear.

On 19 February 1401 William Sawtrey thought to be the first English religious martyr was burned at the stake at Smithfields

In 2005 drug-crazed squirrels eagerly dug up and ate the secreted stash of crack cocaine buried in garden flower beds by a dealer to avoid being caught by police in Brixton

One of the first houses in England to be lit by electricity was that of scientist Sir William Crookes at 7 Kensington Park Gardens

Seven people have died by falling off the Monument to the Great Fire of London before the safety rail was built, curiously the majority were bakers

In February 1820 in a stable in Cato Street the Bow Street Runners captured radical revolutionaries who planned to murder the Prime Minister

On 19 February 1965 in just two takes The Beatles recorded You’re Going To Lose That Girl at Abbey Road Studios, site of the famous pedestrian crossing

Brixton Market was the first market in London to have electric lighting and stands, as a result, Electric Avenue

In the 16th century Elizabeth I decreed that, ‘no foteballe (football) play to be used or suffered within the City of London’

On 19 February 2015 The Tube Challenge, for visiting all 270 stations on the Underground was beaten by Ronan McDonald and Clive Burgess in 16 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds

As well as ferrying passengers from A to B, Watermen would pull bodies from the Thames, landing them at Southwark

The Queen has nine Royal thrones – One at the House of Lords, two at Westminster Abbey, and six in the throne room at Buckingham Palace

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.

London Trivia: Miscarriage of justice

On 12 February 1682 Thomas Thynne predecessor of the current incumbent at Longleat House and the Marquesses of Bath was shot dead in his coach on Pall Mall where now stands the Institute of Directors. Capt. Vratz, Lt. Stern and a pole called Boroski had been hired by Count Königsmarck who fancied Thynne’s wife. The killers were executed, but not so the Swedish count, Königsmark however was acquitted of the charge of being an accessory.

On 12 February 1554 Lady Jane Grey who claimed England’s throne for nine days was beheaded at the Tower after being charged with treason

Composer Ivor Novello spent time in Wormwood Scrubs Prison after being jailed for altering documents relating to his Rolls Royce car

Shoreditch probably takes its name from the ditch of Scorre or Sceorf as it was knowns as Scoredich in 1148

From a first floor room at St Mary’s Hospital on Praed Street, Paddington, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin

Sir Thomas More, executed by Henry VIII in 1535, was born in Milk Street. There is a statute on the Chelsea Embankment marking the place of the last home

Music hall great Marie Lloyd was born in Plumber Street, Shoreditch in 1870, she was showcased by her father at the Eagle Tavern in Hoxton and in 1884 making her professional début as Bella Delmere

Before Nelson’s statute was hoisted aloft in 1843 fourteen men dined on the platform at the top of the world’s tallest Corinthian column

In London 9 distinct football codes are played: Harrow, Eton (2), Association, Rugby Union and League, Gaelic, Gridiron and Australian rules

The London Hackney Carriages Act 1843 forbids a cabbie whose ‘For Hire’ light is on to seek trade whilst the vehicle is moving – fine £200

William Perkin, inventor of the first synthetic dye – mauve, lived at St David’s Lane Shadwell and was christened at St Paul’s Church Shadwell

On 12 February 1852 at 51 Bedford Street, Strand, plumber George Jennings opened London’s first female public toilets

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.

London Trivia: Blocked drains

On 5 February 1983 DynoRod were called out to a blocked drain near 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill. To the engineer the blockage looked suspiciously like human remains. When the police popped round the following day Dennis Nilsen confessed that 15 or 16 others had met the same fate since 1978. Nilsen became known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 November 1983, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years.

On 5 February 1924 the BBC broadcast the time check ‘pips’, a series of six short tones broadcast at one-second intervals, from Greenwich Observatory for the first time

During World War II HMP Wormwood Scrubs was used to store 26 drums of heavy water, which were to be used to make a nuclear bomb

Leadenhall Market stands on the site of a Roman Basilica, a building used for public administration. It first opened in the 14th century

Christopher Wren in a black marble sarcophagus that was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are all buried in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Fitzrovia is named after landowner Henry Fitzroy illegitimate son of King Charles II. The name comes from French ‘fils du roi’/son of the king

The only true home shared by all four Beatles was a flat at 57 Green Street near Hyde Park where they lived in the autumn of 1963

Thomas Carlyle lived at 5 Cheyne Row (now no. 24) Chelsea in 1834 where he entertained Browning, Dickens and Tennyson. He died there in 1881

An embankment behind Arsenal’s east stand gave the expression ‘spion kop’ (lookout in Afrikaan) from where 243 British troops had died so kop for terrace entered football’s lexicon

The eastbound and westbound lines on the Central Line are built above and below each other for much of the line

The Observer newspaper was founded in 1791 at 396 Strand by WS Bourne on the premise that “the establishment of a Sunday newspaper would obtain him a rapid fortune” is the world’s oldest Sunday

In 1610 Dame Alice Owen founded almshouses and a school on the Islington site where she narrowly missed being killed by an arrow

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.