Category Archives: Previously Posted

Previously Posted: Flying dead cats

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Flying dead cats (26.06.22)

Just off Piccadilly is a row of tiny Georgian shops virtually unchanged since 1819. Burlington Arcade was built to cover a narrow alley that ran alongside the London home of Lord Cavendish. As he sat in the garden of Burlington House he was constantly being hit by items thrown over the wall from an alley alongside his home. Having grown tired of oyster shells, apple cores, old bottles and the occasional dead cat landing on his head he decided that a row of shops would put paid to this nuisance. The shops remain almost unaltered to this day with the famous beadles on hand to stop you running, whistling or carrying an open umbrella.

Previously Posted: Exporting Churches

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Exporting Churches (021.06.09)

The early churches of New England are based almost entirely on the design of St. Martin in the Fields. Completed in 1724 its revolutionary design of having its steeple at the east end of the church, not the west end was the brainchild of architect James Gibbs who decided to turn convention on its head and build the steeple where we see it today. He also built it above an imposing portico that looks like the grand entrance to a Greek temple. Critics marvelled at the audaciousness of the new church and despite the innate conservatism of churchgoers and the church authorities, the new design soon became very popular, so much so that several members of Gibbs’ architectural practice were enticed to American by the offer of large sums of money. With the design of St. Martin’s packed in their bags they moved west as the American settlers moved west, building identical or near-identical copies of St. Martins as they went.

Previously Posted: Happy Birthday Gordon

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Happy Birthday Gordon (19.06.09)

On Monday 15 March 1909 Selfridges Department Store celebrated its centenary. Here is the story of its founder taken from CabbieBlog’s Hidden London.

Gordon Selfridge the American department store magnet was an interesting fellow who provides a salutary moral lesson for us all. He devoted his productive years to building Selfridges into Europe’s finest shopping emporium. During that time he led a life of stern rectitude, early bedtimes and tireless work. But in 1918 his wife died and the sudden release from marital bounds rather went to his head. He took up with a pair of Hungarian-American cuties known in music-hall circles as the Dolly Sisters, and he fell into rakish ways. With a Dolly on each arm, he dined out every night, invested foolish sums on racehorses, cars, the casinos and even bought a castle in Dorset. In ten years he had spent $8 million, lost control of his department store, his racehorses, Rolls Royces and his castle. He ended up living in a small flat in Putney and travelling everywhere by bus. He died penniless and forgotten in 1947, with a smile on his face thinking of the time he had shagged the twin sisters.

Previously Posted: Want to buy a bus, going cheap

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Want to buy a bus, going cheap (16.06.09)

Arthur Daily would have managed to move them. But it seems that the London mayor’s first attempt to sell off the capital’s bendy buses has not met with success. A batch of thirty-one of these 58ft-long monsters from Mercedes Benz advertised in a trade magazine has failed to attract a buyer after six weeks.

Those with the £80,000 spare can buy one of the 350 which ultimately will be sold.

But buyers may have been put off by their chequered history. Introduced by then-mayor of London Ken Livingstone in 2001, bendy buses were temporarily taken out of service in 2005 when three suddenly caught fire. A year later, the evidence presented to the London Assembly showed that they are more likely to be involved in an accident than other buses in the fleet. Critics also said fare-dodgers were sneaking on the buses using the back doors, instead of the front ones next to the driver.

Go on, give a bus a home it would look great on the drive.

Previously Posted: Time Gentlemen, Please!

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Time Gentlemen, Please! (12.06.09)

Pubs are quintessentially English as scones, cricket, Marmite or Stephen Fry. In Ireland or America most bars have mundane names, Murphy’s or Clancy’s, while English pubs have historic and often funny names; Cat and Fiddle, Hare and Hounds, The Red Lion, The Cricketers, The Battle of Trafalgar, The Rose and Crown, The Royal Oak (commemorating the time Charles II as a boy hid from Cromwellian troops after the Battle of Worcester), The Lamb and Flag and The King’s Head.

These names are centuries old, from the time when most of their customers were unable to read and pictorial signs could be readily recognised and even now English pubs have beautifully painted signs above their doors.

Over the centuries, the English Public House has been a place to drink with friends; magistrates would hold court in pubs; people have been hanged in them.

In the eighteenth century the Tyburn Road what has become Oxford Street was the route prisoners would be taken to be hanged. At The Mason’s Arms, a pub in Seymour Place its cellars still have the manacles on the walls, which show that prisoners enjoyed their last pint in very unusual conditions. As they left the pub and were loaded back onto the cart, prisoners would shout to customers “I’ll buy you a pint on the way back!”

The “Ye Olde Man and Scythe” in Bolton, Lancashire is the third oldest pub in England, dating back to the 1200s. In 1651, the Earl of Derby had a last drink and meal inside the pub before being beheaded in the street right outside the pub for his part in the Bolton Massacre. His head supposedly missed the basket and rolled along the street. To this day, the wooden chair which he sat on during his last meal and the axe used to behead him and on display inside the pub. On the chair is an inscription which reads: “15th October 1651 In this chair James 7th Earl of Derby sat at the Man and Scythe Inn, Churchgate, Bolton immediately prior to his execution”.

But, unfortunately, the Great British Pub is in danger of becoming a dying breed. Each week in the past six months, an average of 39 of the nation’s 57,000 pubs have closed.

Most pubs have become restaurants or television rooms, after centuries in which they were the social focus of British life. “There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves as well as at a capital tavern,” Dr Johnson in the late 18th century. “At a tavern, there is general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome; and the more noise you make, the more things you call for, the welcomer you are.”

Urban pub numbers are declining even more steeply because the city- dwellers enjoy such a choice of restaurants and coffee shops.

A survey of 227 out of 936 North London pubs that have closed since 2002 shows that 84 have been turned into flats, while 143 have become businesses or voluntary projects.