Category Archives: Puppydog tails

Essex Man halts ice advance

With climate change at the top of the news agenda, it’s a question on everyone’s lips: Just where did the last ice age stop its advance?

Now thanks to Diamond Geezer we have the definite answer – Hornchurch or more precisely Maywin Drive, just north of St. Andrews Church.

In 1892 the Romford to Upminster branch line was constructed which involved digging the 25ft deep Hornchurch Cutting, in so doing an unexpected seam of boulder clay overlaid by sand and gravel was exposed.

The Essex Field Club investigated the excavations (presumably trains weren’t yet in operation) and discovered several Jurassic fossils that could only have been carried from the Midlands by an ice sheet.

Since then, with all of the construction taking place in London, no such glacial deposition has been found further south than Hornchurch, which has led geologists to conclude that Maywin Drive was the ultimate limit of advancing ice during the last 2 million years.

It wasn’t so much the glacial deposits as the gravel on top of them, because normally that’s found underneath. This was evidence that the Thames was younger than the fossils, confirming that the Thames was diverted to its present course after the arrival of the ice sheet. Hornchurch is the only place this layering of Thames gravel and boulder clay has been seen, hence the only location that confirms precisely when the big shift took place.

Confirming the ice sheet hypothesis, in the 1970s a new electricity sub-station was built in a former gravel pit behind St. Andrew’s Church and quarter-of-a-mile to the south of the Hornchurch railway cutting.

Here more boulder clay was found but no further glacial deposits could be found confirming that the sub-station was further south than the ice sheet had advanced.

St. Andrew’s has a further claim to scientific fame, Rev. William Derham was rector of Upminster from 1689-1735 and a friend of Sir Isac Newton (he of gravity fame) and Dr Edmund Hailey (his meteor). The Rev. concluded death-watch beetles, apart from infesting his church, could eat their way out of a wooden box.

But his greatest achievement was calculating the speed of sound. Standing on St. Andrew’s Church tower he observed the difference in time the flash from a gun fired in Aveley and the sound reaching him. Repeating the experiment from several locations he calculated the speed of sound at 768mph, only 8mph out from the actual speed of 760mph, not bad for 1705.

Featured image: St Andrew’s Church Hornchurch, London, location of just south of the furthest that any ice sheet in Britain reached during the Anglian glaciation 450,000 years ago by Dudley Miles (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Test Your Knowledge: June

Today’s quiz is about cabs and cabbies. If you have been diligent when reading CabbieBlog’s regular missives most shouldn’t present a problem. As before the correct answer will turn green when it’s clicked upon and expanded to give more information. The incorrect answers will turn red giving the correct explanation.

1. All licensed taxi drivers in London need to pass a comprehensive test before they can ply for hire. What is the test called?
The Knowledge
CORRECT It can take between 3 and 5 years to complete The Knowledge, to gain the coveted Green Badge that allows cabbies to work anywhere in Greater London, all cabbies must learn 320 routes and everything in between.
The Knack
WRONG It can take between 3 and 5 years to complete The Knowledge, to gain the coveted Green Badge that allows cabbies to work anywhere in Greater London, all cabbies must learn 320 routes and everything in between.
The Opinionated
WRONG It can take between 3 and 5 years to complete The Knowledge, to gain the coveted Green Badge that allows cabbies to work anywhere in Greater London, all cabbies must learn 320 routes and everything in between.
2. Where was London’s first cab rank??
In Piccadilly
WRONG In 1635 Charles Bailey, a retired mariner, placed four hackney coaches for hire at the Maypole in the Strand where St. Mary’s Church now stands. Later, blue posts denoted cab ranks, hence several pubs by that name.
In the Strand
CORRECT In 1635 Charles Bailey, a retired mariner, placed four hackney coaches for hire at the Maypole in the Strand where St. Mary’s Church now stands. Later, blue posts denoted cab ranks, hence several pubs by that name.
In Oxford Street
WRONG In 1635 Charles Bailey, a retired mariner, placed four hackney coaches for hire at the Maypole in the Strand where St. Mary’s Church now stands. Later, blue posts denoted cab ranks, hence several pubs by that name.
3. When a cabbie is awarded a licence, he is given a Bill and Badge. His badge is then displayed whenever he is working, but what is his Bill?
His licence
CORRECT Who would guess that a cab driver’s licence, referred to as his ‘bill’, it is short for ‘bill of health’? This is ironic considering that most Victorian cabbies worked until they died, or ended in the workhouse if they couldn’t continue working, despite the efforts of the Cabmen’s Benevolent Association.
An invoice detailing his expenses up to that date
WRONG Who would guess that a cab driver’s licence, referred to as his ‘bill’, it is short for ‘bill of health’? This is ironic considering that most Victorian cabbies worked until they died, or ended in the workhouse if they couldn’t continue working, despite the efforts of the Cabmen’s Benevolent Association.
A police mentor, as in the nickname ‘old bill’
WRONG Who would guess that a cab driver’s licence, referred to as his ‘bill’, it is short for ‘bill of health’? This is ironic considering that most Victorian cabbies worked until they died, or ended in the workhouse if they couldn’t continue working, despite the efforts of the Cabmen’s Benevolent Association.
4. Frederick Hitch was once London’s most famous cabbie, but for what?
He was also King George V’s chauffeur
WRONG Most would not know of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 if it wasn’t for the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, and its popularisation by Michael Caine’s first major film, where 155 British soldiers repulsed 4,000 Zulus warriors, resulting in 32 British killed or wounded against nearly 900 Zulus. After the conflict medals which everybody would have heard of – the Victoria Cross – were awarded to 11 men one of which was Frederick Hitch. It was the largest number of gallantry medals ever given to a single regiment, for actions on a single day.
He was a music hall entertainer
WRONG Most would not know of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 if it wasn’t for the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, and its popularisation by Michael Caine’s first major film, where 155 British soldiers repulsed 4,000 Zulus warriors, resulting in 32 British killed or wounded against nearly 900 Zulus. After the conflict medals which everybody would have heard of – the Victoria Cross – were awarded to 11 men one of which was Frederick Hitch. It was the largest number of gallantry medals ever given to a single regiment, for actions on a single day.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross
CORRECT Most would not know of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 if it wasn’t for the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, and its popularisation by Michael Caine’s first major film, where 155 British soldiers repulsed 4,000 Zulus warriors, resulting in 32 British killed or wounded against nearly 900 Zulus. After the conflict medals which everybody would have heard of – the Victoria Cross – were awarded to 11 men one of which was Frederick Hitch. It was the largest number of gallantry medals ever given to a single regiment, for actions on a single day.
5. Who or what was The Resistance?
Harley Street
CORRECT The Resistance was a derogatory nickname given to Harley Street as it was populated by doctors opposed the formation of the NHS after the War.
Cabbies who once fought alongside the Partisans in German-occupied France
WRONG The Resistance was a derogatory nickname given to Harley Street as it was populated by doctors opposed the formation of the NHS after the War.
Spoken ironically about poor brakes on early cabs
WRONG The Resistance was a derogatory nickname given to Harley Street as it was populated by doctors opposed the formation of the NHS after the War.
6. When were licences first issued to London cabbies?
1754
WRONG In 1654 Oliver Cromwell ordered the Court of Aldermen of the City of London to grant licences to 200 hackney coachmen. A 6-mile limit was imposed as London’s chain of defences, that had been erected during the Civil War in 1642, only extended to that perimeter and beyond it was considered unsafe.
1654
CORRECT In 1654 Oliver Cromwell ordered the Court of Aldermen of the City of London to grant licences to 200 hackney coachmen. A 6-mile limit was imposed as London’s chain of defences, that had been erected during the Civil War in 1642, only extended to that perimeter and beyond it was considered unsafe.
1854
WRONG In 1654 Oliver Cromwell ordered the Court of Aldermen of the City of London to grant licences to 200 hackney coachmen. A 6-mile limit was imposed as London’s chain of defences, that had been erected during the Civil War in 1642, only extended to that perimeter and beyond it was considered unsafe.
7. The passenger compartment is jolly spacious, but what are the origins of the roof height?
With any lower head height, passengers would hit their heads on the roof when the vehicle hit potholes
WRONG By law, taxicabs had to be tall enough for a passenger to sit comfortably while wearing a top hat, especially important during Ascot. Additionally, at one time, hackney carriages were required to carry a bale of hay for the horse. This law was held over for a time even after motorised cabs began to operate.
So that up to three hay bales could be stacked inside to feed horses
WRONG By law, taxicabs had to be tall enough for a passenger to sit comfortably while wearing a top hat, especially important during Ascot. Additionally, at one time, hackney carriages were required to carry a bale of hay for the horse. This law was held over for a time even after motorised cabs began to operate.
A gentleman didn’t have the inconvenience of removing his top hat when boarding
CORRECT By law, taxicabs had to be tall enough for a passenger to sit comfortably while wearing a top hat, especially important during Ascot. Additionally, at one time, hackney carriages were required to carry a bale of hay for the horse. This law was held over for a time even after motorised cabs began to operate.
8. How, or where should you not hire a cab?
Poking your head into the nearside window of a stationary cab at traffic lights
WRONG Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them, and if you’re not drunk he will stop.
Outside one of those cabbies’ green shelters
WRONG Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them, and if you’re not drunk he will stop.
Emulating a scene from your favourite black and white film by shouting “TAXI” while simultaneously waving in a frantic fashion
CORRECT Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them, and if you’re not drunk he will stop.
9. What is the entomology of the word taxi?
It comes from the taximeter now found on all legal cabs
CORRECT The term ‘taxi’ comes from taximeter, the counter used to measure miles travelled and fare. ‘Cab’ was short for ‘cabriolet’, a French verb for ‘to leap’, which was a type of taxi and what one did to exit them.
The word comes from the penal rates once charged to the proprietors of vehicles
WRONG The term ‘taxi’ comes from taximeter, the counter used to measure miles travelled and fare. ‘Cab’ was short for ‘cabriolet’, a French verb for ‘to leap’, which was a type of taxi and what one did to exit them.
Queen Victoria didn’t like Joseph Hansom the inventor of the famous Hansom cab and always referred the classic horse-drawn vehicles as ‘taxites’, her term for unaccountable
WRONG The term ‘taxi’ comes from taximeter, the counter used to measure miles travelled and fare. ‘Cab’ was short for ‘cabriolet’, a French verb for ‘to leap’, which was a type of taxi and what one did to exit them.
10. When boarding a licensed London cab, apart from your destination, what must you tell the driver?
If you are registered disabled
WRONG It was also once supposedly illegal for people to hail a cab while suffering from the bubonic plague. This is still partly true, as the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984 requires a person suffering from a notifiable disease to inform the cab driver, who may then decide whether to ferry the passenger. If he does so, he is then required to notify the authorities and disinfect the cab before taking another fare.
If you have the bubonic plague
CORRECT It was also once supposedly illegal for people to hail a cab while suffering from the bubonic plague. This is still partly true, as the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984 requires a person suffering from a notifiable disease to inform the cab driver, who may then decide whether to ferry the passenger. If he does so, he is then required to notify the authorities and disinfect the cab before taking another fare.
That you might change your mind as to the destination
WRONG It was also once supposedly illegal for people to hail a cab while suffering from the bubonic plague. This is still partly true, as the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984 requires a person suffering from a notifiable disease to inform the cab driver, who may then decide whether to ferry the passenger. If he does so, he is then required to notify the authorities and disinfect the cab before taking another fare.

He has been here and fired a gun

For years we had a very large print on our living room wall by London’s greatest artist, and arguably Britain’s too.

But let’s go back nearly 200 years to 1832 and Somerset House, the former home of the Royal Academy. There John Constable who a decade ago had painted an image, later to adorn every biscuit tin at Christmas, with an idiot getting his waggon stuck in a pond as a boy and dog look on incredulously.

The previous year Constable had had a row with a fellow Academician over him replacing Caligula’s Palace and Bridge with his own chocolate boxy view of a large grey church.

Now, in the gallery of the Royal Academy, before the exhibition commencement, Constable was putting the finishing touches to Opening of Waterloo Bridge, a painting he had worked on for a decade.

I know little about painting, but a few rules I understand. There comes a time when a piece of work becomes overworked, the secret is knowing when to stop. Also, every painting needs a ‘hero’, a point of light, colour or interest to which the eye is drawn before examining the rest of the canvas. This hero should be positioned along the ‘golden ratio’ a point where the eye naturally alights. Numerous mathematical formulae calculate where this falls, but unless you are a master draftsman like Tracy Emin, it’s two-thirds down and one-third across to you and me.

Opening of Waterloo Bridge by John Constable

So here at the Royal Academy is Constable fiddling around with his masterpiece in the last days before public viewing when in shambles the very painter he had argued with this time last year, and whose painting now hung next to his own.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was the antithesis of John Constable. At 56 and only a year older, not that you’d know it, his personal hygiene needed attention, wearing a battered stovepipe hat, an old shiny black coat, and holding a umbrella-cum-swordstick. A large nose, protruding chin and remarkably short, this irascible old man, born in Covent Garden had lost none of his Cockney accent, but he was so confident of his genius he had proclaimed: “I am the great lion of the day”, modesty certainly wasn’t his forte.

Turner stood behind Constable for a time, walked away and returned with his palette and brushes. Walking up to his simple grey seascape, without hesitation added a daub of red, slightly bigger than a coin in the middle of the grey sea, and then left.


Helvoetsluys by JMW Turner

Fellow Academician, C. R. Leslie entered the room and observed how ‘the intensity of the red lead, was made more vivid by the coolness of Turner’s picture…causing Constable’s to look weak’.

Constable exclaimed, “He has been here, and fired a gun”.

Turner didn’t bother to come back for nearly two days, and then, in the last moments that were allowed for painting, shaped the red blob into a buoy.

That simple blob of paint was a bullet across his rival’s bows, showing that less is more. It also goes to explain why every year we have the Turner Prize awarded to the most innovative artists of the day, and not the Constable Prize.

Featured image: Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835 by Joseph Mallord William Turner

 

Created in London

London was where the nascent insurance industry started, the place that television flickered into life and the first place you could ‘spend a penny’ without an attendant demanding payment. London also has its share of first foodies, even if they have come from an expected quarter.

Pimm’s was invented to flog oysters

>Pimm’s is unofficially the beverage of Wimbledon. Over a quarter-of-a-million glasses of the stuff is drunk in those two weeks, but it was born as a clever marketing ploy to aid digestion. In the 1820s James Pimm ran a struggling oyster bar in the City. Trying to drum up custom, he came up with a refreshing, gin-based drink to wash the shellfish down. He called it ‘Pimm’s No. 1 cup’.

Scotch eggs from err…Piccadilly>

Though those north of the border might argue otherwise, but this strange combination was born in the Big Smoke. Fortnum & Masons claim it invented Scotch eggs as a portable snack for aristocratic clients who were about to rumble off in carriages to their country estates which in all probability was north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Bourbon biscuits not consumed by French aristocrats>

In the late 19th century, Bermondsey was known as ‘Biscuit Town’ due to its huge Peek Freans biscuit factory. They seemed to give their products interesting monikers: the Garibaldi, named after Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi; the Marie, an Anglicised version of the galletas marias, and the bourbon.

Arnold Bennett’s omelette>

If you should be invited to an aristo country retreat, you are likely to be offered for breakfast, alongside the eggs Benedict and kedgeree, a rich and smoky fish omelette invented at the Savoy Hotel in 1929. Created for the writer Arnold Bennett, who was staying at the hotel while he finished a novel, loving it so much, he insisted Omelette Arnold Bennett was made for him wherever he went.

Champagne from London>

Don’t mention this to our Gallic cousins but in 1662 Christopher Merrett having moved from Oxford to London demonstrated at The Royal Society how to make champagne, a full 30 years before Dom Perignon started his famed tipple.

Peach Melba for a soprano>

The Savoy’s famous chef Auguste Escoffier was credited as creating this dessert for opera diva Dame Nellie Melba. The combination of peaches, raspberries, redcurrant jelly and vanilla ice cream were combined to protect her precious vocal cords before her appearances at Covent Garden.

Eastenders’ smoked salmon>

Once again, don’t be fooled by those Scots. Though most smoked salmon today comes from the bonnie hills of Scotland, the delicacy as we know it today was first made by immigrant Jewish families in the old East End of London. They used to ship the prized fish from Eastern Europe, smoking it, not because they loved the flavour, but simply because it preserved the fish in the days before refrigeration. The last surviving London smokehouse is Forman’s near Stratford, which you can still visit today.

Golden syrup from leftovers>

In the 1880s Abram Lyle owned a sugar factory on the Thames in East London. Lyle noticed that the refining process produced a syrup as a by-product. He started to sell it in wooden casks under the brand name ‘Goldie’, and before long he was supplying a tonne a week to grocers across London. The original factory still stands proudly on the banks of the Thames today, you can’t miss it there’s a giant version of the famous green-and-gold tin mounted on the wall.

Tea dispute in London and not Boston>

Twinings Teas at the point where Strand becomes Fleet Street claims to be London’s oldest shop, you enter this tiny shop, through a white portico guarded by two Chinese figures, one blue, the other yellow. Twinings and Jacksons produced a beverage that floated the British Empire – Earl Grey – a fragrant tea blend thought to have been created for Charles Grey, prime minister in the 1830s, who made it the most fashionable drink in London society. Both Twinings and Jacksons of Picadilly lay claim to have invented Earl Grey, but since Jacksons are now owned by Twinings, it could be said their disagreement is no more now than a storm in a teacup.

Killed in a cab

The newspaper archives are riddled with stories of murders and perversely suicides in cabs. In the second half of Victorian London, no fewer than 12 people are recorded as taking their lives in the back of a cab. The most famous being The Earl of Shaftesbury who shot himself in April 1886, probably in desperation after listening to the cabbie droning on about something.


Flo Dudley

Murders were also commonplace in cabs. Music hall artist Florence Dudley was shot dead in the back of a cab near Fenchurch Station by Edward G. Hopwood, but it was in post-war London that saw a bizarre and grim pattern of cabbies being murdered. These included the so-called ‘Cleft Chin’ murder of cabbie Edward Heath, by an American paratrooper and a female dancer in January 1945.

That same year in October Frank Everett was murdered in his cab, and the next month on 1st November ‘Russian Robert’ Ruben Martirossof was shot dead in his cab.

‘Jolly Cabbie’, Joseph Desmond, again was shot dead in his cab on 6th October 1947 and oddly, three of the post-war murders either took place in or were linked to, Notting Hill.