Category Archives: Puppydog tails

London’s Number One Cabbie

James ‘Jimmy’ Michael Howe entered his profession in 1884, driving horse-drawn vehicles, better known as Hansom Cabs, around London. He had the distinction of being the regular driver for Leopold Rothschild, whose home in west London is now the Gunnersbury Park Museum.

He was been very successful, this could have resulted from his association with Lord Rothschild. Howe had been one of the first proprietors (someone who owned a vehicle and not just rented) to engage with petrol vehicles, in addition at one time he owned a fleet of 13 Hansom cabs and 33 horses.

In 1904, the Metropolitan Police licensed the first motor cab, a French-built Prunel, this vehicle was driven by 34-year-old James Howe. In 1933, now in failing health, in recognition of becoming London’s first motor cab driver, he was given badge number 1, presented to him by police commissioner Lord Trenchard at the end of his illustrious career.

Following his death on Christmas Day at his home in Hammersmith, aged 64 his obituary in the Daily Mirror erroneously stated that he was London’s first taxicab driver, but as his Prunel had no taximeter installed, this clearly was not the case. The taximeter, installed today in all of London’s legal cabs, had been successful in Berlin. It would be a recession, caused in part by the Boer War, and the advent of the petrol-driven vehicle, that it was felt, could give customers greater confidence in using a vehicle that had the fare metered.

Although electric cabs had been trialled a few years earlier, these proved impractical. Howe’s cab was the first to be powered by petrol, and the only one in London for several months. Soon the London Cab Driver’s Trade Union were embracing the new technology and running classes for horse cabmen and teaching them the basics of motor car driving from their premises in Gerrard Street. Two years later Jimmy had been joined by 18 others.

Today, all 24,000 licensed cab drivers carry a green badge with a unique number.

Apart from his success, Jimmy Howe seems to have led an eventful life. His wife left him in 1913, taking all the furniture, after falling for a man who had placed a ‘wife wanted’ advert in the local newspaper. Jimmy did not see his wife again until 1920 when Mrs Howe appeared in court on bigamy charges.

Three years later, Howe was sued for damages after his taxi cab plummeted into a hole on the Uxbridge Road.

Dozens of fellow cabbies drove to the funeral to pay their respects. “We called him ‘Up-Hendon’,” one of them told the press, “because if you asked him where he was off to, he’d answer ‘just going up Hendon-way'”.

Taken from London’s First Taxi Driver published by the Londonist with additional information from Abstracts of Black Cab Lore by Sean Farrell.

Christmas Quiz 2019

The presents have been unwrapped; you’ve had more than your fill of turkey, and the kids are ensconced in their bedrooms playing with their latest gadgets. To while away your free time CabbieBlog gives you 20 questions about London, no prizes, just the satisfaction of being as knowledgeable as a London cabbie.

If you have been paying interest to the daily trivia posted @cabbieblog you should know most of the answers. But don’t worry you can find the answers lower down beneath the mistletoe.

Good Luck!

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1. Which toilets in one Victorian pub are of such historical interest they have a protection order slapped upon them?

  • (a) The Princes Louise, High Holborn
  • (b) The Red Lion, St. James’s
  • (c) The Flask, Hampstead

 

2. In Waterloo Place there stands the 124-foot tall Duke of York’s Column. Standing majestically on top is a statute of Prince Frederick, the 2nd son of George III. When it was built, why did wits say the column was so high?

  • (a) So onlookers would not notice his large nose
  • (b) So that he could escape his creditors
  • (c) It gave him a sense of superiority, looking down upon common folk

 

3. Kasper the Cat joins diners at certain times. Where can this wooden feline be found?

  • (a) The Savoy Hotel
  • (b) The Guildhall
  • (c) The Tower of London

 

4. The Museum of London has many exhibits worthy of your perusal, but which type of World War II gas mask is on display?

  • (a) One suitable to protect a horse from breathing noxious gases
  • (b) A walking stick with a mask hidden within its ferrule
  • (c) A Mickey Mouse gas mask for a child

 

5. Attending a service at St. Dunstan-in-the-West Samuel Pepys would record in his famous diary that on the 18th August 1667 he was not as attentive to the sermon as he should have been. What distracted him?

  • (a) He eat some oysters
  • (b) He was distracted by a comely woman
  • (c) He decided to write up his diary for the day

 

6. Bar Italia coffee shop in Soho is popular with local and tourists alike, but what invention was first demonstrated in a room above?

  • (a) The television
  • (b) The world’s first espresso machine
  • (c) A vacuum cleaner which blew instead of sucked

 

7. Colonel Pierpoint is celebrated for inventing what life-saving device in the 19th century?

  • (a) The first traffic island
  • (b) The first parachute
  • (c) The world’s first hard helmet

 

8. Brown’s Hotel in Dover Street bore witness to a London first which took place in a ground-floor room in 1876. What ground breaking event happened?

  • (a) Roller skates were first demonstrated by its inventor
  • (b) HP Brown Sauce was invented
  • (c) The first telephone call

 

9. In 1905 two brothers named Stratton were convicted of robbery and murder at a paint shop in Deptford High Street. What methodology was used to secure convictions?

  • (a) The first identikit portrait from a witness, the local milkman
  • (b) The first case in which fingerprints were successfully used to convict
  • (c) Their getaway car, which had an early number plate was identified leading to the police tracking them down

 

10. In the 19th century Radcliffe Highway – now just The Highway – was a dangerous part of London. Nevertheless Charles Jamrach made a living selling what from his store?

  • (a) Exotic animals
  • (b) Opium supplied by Chinese seamen
  • (c) Sex aids

 

11. What did Sir Richard Whittington (Dick of Lord Mayor fame) in the 15th century pay to have built by the Thames near to modern day Southwark Bridge?

  • (a) A church
  • (b) A memorial celebrating his benevolence
  • (c) A public lavatory seating dozens at a time

 

12. Playwright and poet Ben Jonson as one might expect is interned in Westminster Abbey’s poets’ corner. But what was unusual about his burial?

  • (a) He was buried standing up
  • (b) He was buried at 6pm on 6th June 1666 – all the sixes
  • (c) His burial was attended by all members of the Royal family

 

13. By Victoria Gate in Kensington Gardens away from preying eyes is a cemetery. But what lies entombed there in the unconsecrated ground?

  • (a) Suicide victims
  • (b) Dogs
  • (c) Slaves

 

14. On 17th October 1814 eight people met an untimely and unusual end, but what was the cause of their demise?

  • (a) The Great London Earthquake
  • (b) The Great London Fireworks Display
  • (c) The Great Beer Flood

 

15. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 1952 had to be abandoned, but what was the reason?

  • (a) Smog drifting into the theatre obscured the stage from the audience
  • (b) The tenor in mid-aria collapsed with a heart attack
  • (c) Sadler’s Well overflowed flooding the auditorium

 

16. At the junction of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road is known by cabbies as ‘Hot and Cold Corner’. Why?

  • (a) Either you are inundated with work or there’s nothing
  • (b) The statutes of David Livingstone, explorer of Africa and Ernest Shackleton hero of the Antarctic is to be found there
  • (c) Cold air rolls off Hyde Park, while the Albert Hall shelters you from the icy blast

 

17. You probably see it every day, but what is Johnston Sans?

  • (a) The design of a street waste paper bin
  • (b) The typeface used on London Underground
  • (c) French for an Oyster card

 

18. In a little courtyard off St. James’s Street lays Pickering Place, it once housed an embassy, but which short lived nation-state was represented?

  • (a) Texas
  • (b) The Republic of Crimea
  • (c) The State of Somaliland

 

19. The Russian word for a railway station is also a main line terminal in London, which one?

  • (a) Waterloo
  • (b) Marylebone
  • (c) Vauxhall

 

20. London has experienced many ‘Great Storms’, but one in 1703 dislodged a well-known icon, what was it?

  • (a) The lantern on the roof of St. Paul’s just recently completed
  • (b) Oliver Cromwell’s head
  • (c) The plaque commemorating the beheading of King Charles on Whitehall Palace

 

1. Which toilets in one Victorian pub are of such historical interest they have a protection order slapped upon them?

  • (a) The Princes Louise, High Holborn. Once the inebriated would be surprised to find the sight of live goldfish swimming majestically around the glass cisterns in the gent’s toilets. Built-in 1872, named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter it boasts original interior decorative tile work by the firm of W. B. Simpson of Clapham. The building (including the loos) are Grade II listed.

 

2. In Waterloo Place there stands the 124-foot tall Duke of York’s Column. Standing majestically on top is a statute of Prince Frederick, the 2nd son of George III. When it was built, why did wits say the column was so high?

  • (b) Remembered as the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ he of marching them up the hill and down again, was the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Not only upon his death was he in debt to the tune of £2 million, but every soldier also had 1/- (5p) deducted from his pay to pay for the monument.

 

3. Kasper the Cat joins diners at certain times. Where can this wooden feline be found?

  • (a) Superstition has it that 13 diners are unlucky. If your companions make up that unlucky number a 1920s three-foot-high black wooden cat is introduced to a 14th chair, a napkin is placed around his neck and he is served with each course by a diligent waiter.

 

4. The Museum of London has many exhibits worthy of your perusal, but which type of World War II gas mask is on display?

  • (c) Micky Mouse gas masks were manufactured in bright primary colours intended to be less distressing to wear for young children.

 

5. Attending a service at St. Dunstan-in-the-West Samuel Pepys would record in his famous diary that on the 18th August 1667 he was not as attentive to the sermon as he should have been. What distracted him?

  • (b) The young woman responded to his advances by taking several pins out of her pocket and threatened to jab the old reprobate.

 

6. Bar Italia coffee shop in Soho is popular with local and tourists alike, but what invention was first demonstrated in a room above?

  • (a) In 1924 John Logie Baird rented an attic room at 22 Frith Street using it as a workshop, it was there on 26th January 1926 members of the Royal Institution made up the first television audience.

 

7. Colonel Pierpoint is celebrated for inventing what life-saving device in the 19th century?

  • (a) At his personal expense in 1864 Colonel Pierpoint had London’s first traffic island constructed in St. James’s Street opposite his club in Pall Mall. On its completion, his excitement (and possible inebriation) encouraged him to dash across the road to admire his contribution to society. Alas he was knocked down and killed by a passing cab.

 

8. Brown’s Hotel in Dover Street bore witness to a London first which took place in a ground-floor room in 1876. What ground breaking event happened?

  • (c) Alexander Graham Bell visited London in 1876 to tell the Government about his latest invention. He chose to stay at Brown’s during his trip — and made the first-ever telephone call from the hotel to the family home of the hotel’s owner in Ravenscourt Park.

 

9. In 1905 two brothers named Stratton were convicted of robbery and murder at a paint shop in Deptford High Street. What methodology was used to secure convictions?

  • (b) On 27th March 1905 Chapman’s Oil and Paint Shop was raided and the shopkeeper murdered. A thumb mark was left on the emptied cash box. Using a method of identification that had been in use for a couple of years, it was the first time the Crown achieved a conviction.

 

10. In the 19th century Radcliffe Highway – now just The Highway – was a dangerous part of London. Nevertheless Charles Jamrach made a living selling what from his store?

  • (a) At Tobacco Dock there is a statue of a small boy in front of a tiger. It commemorates the incident when a fully grown Bengal tiger escaped from Charles Jamrach’s shop which supplied exotic creatures for the circus. Seizing a small boy in its mouth the tiger was persuaded by the shop’s proprietor himself to release the boy unharmed.

 

11. What did Sir Richard Whittington (Dick of Lord Mayor fame) in the 15th century pay to have built by the Thames near to modern day Southwark Bridge?

  • (c) ‘Whittington’s Longhouse’ used the outgoing tide to flush away the effluent discharged by the toilets users.

 

12. Playwright and poet Ben Jonson as one might expect is interned in Westminster Abbey’s poets’ corner. But what was unusual about his burial?

  • (a) He told the Dean of Westminster that ‘six feet long by two feet wide is too much for me: two feet by two feet will do for all I want’. The small grave also, of course, reduced the cost of internment.

 

13. By Victoria Gate in Kensington Gardens away from preying eyes is a cemetery. But what lies entombed there in the unconsecrated ground?

  • (b) The Dogs’ Cemetery was started in 1881 by the gatekeeper at Victoria Lodge, a Mr Winbridge, who started burying dogs in the lodge’s garden. The first dog to be buried was called Cherry, a Maltese Terrier, who died of old age. Cherry’s owners used to visit the park regularly and were friends of Mr Winbridge, so when Cherry died they thought it would be a fitting tribute to be buried in Hyde Park. By the time the cemetery closed in 1903, three-hundred tiny burials dotted the grounds.

 

14. On 17th October 1814 eight people met an untimely and unusual end, but what was the cause of their demise?

  • (c) Beer was the drink of choice as the water was often unsafe. The demand led to brewers constructing huge vats as an economical way of producing the beverage. One such vat burst its hoops which in turn ruptured nearby vats. Eventually, more than 323,000 gallons became a tsunami drowning 8 people. The Dominion Theatre stands on the site of the ill-fated Horseshoe Brewery.

 

15. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 1952 had to be abandoned, but what was the reason?

  • (a) It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.

 

16. At the junction of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road is known by cabbies as ‘Hot and Cold Corner’. Why?

  • (b) The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.

 

17. You probably see it every day, but what is Johnston Sans?

  • (b) Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.

 

18. In a little courtyard off St. James’s Street lays Pickering Place, it once housed an embassy, but which short lived nation-state was represented?

  • (a) Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.

 

19. The Russian word for a railway station is also a main line terminal in London, which one?

  • (c) One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.

 

20. London has experienced many ‘Great Storms’, but one in 1703 dislodged a well-known icon, what was it?

  • (b) Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.

 

 

CabbieBlog-cabDid you manage to answer all twenty questions? Every Sunday CabbieBlog posts 11 pieces of trivia about London. They might help you in answering next year’s Christmas Quiz which will be published on 25th December.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 27th December 2016, so you should have known the answers.

A cracker of an idea for Christmas

It’s the question soon to be asked at every table in Britain “Shall we pull the crackers before, or after dinner?”

This curious tradition of pulling on a roll of coloured paper was invented in London 165 years ago by Tom Smith.

Starting work at an ornamental confectioner’s Tom would experiment on producing more sophisticated designs of wedding cake decorations than was being sold by his employers. It wasn’t long before he branched out on his own setting up a business in Goswell Road producing confectionery products. Travelling widely in 1840 on a trip to Paris he discovered the ‘’Bon Bon’, a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. This simple confection which proved popular in London at Christmas would evolve into the cracker we know today.

His next improvement to the French ‘Bon Bon’ was to wrap a small love motto inside the tissue paper as a means to extend the sale of the sweet beyond Christmas.

It was the crackle of a wood fire that gave Tom the idea of turning, what was essentially a love token, into something which would appeal to a wider buying public.

After much experimentation, he perfected a means to produce a bang when opening the ‘Bon Bon’. Orders flooded in and the shape was refined to the one we would recognise today, renamed a ‘’cosaque’ the sweet was replaced with a surprise gift.

To fight overseas competition eight designs of cracker were produced and orders flooded in necessitating a move from Goswell Road to larger premises in Finsbury Square, where incredibly the factory remained until 1953.

Finsbury SquareIt was in Finsbury Square that Tom’s son Walter had a drinking fountain erected in memory of his mother – Mary. Although in need of a good clean the fountain can still be seen today in the square.

Crackers were produced for specific occasions: Tutankhamen, war heroes, Charlie Chaplin, the Coronation.

Today they manufacture Christmas crackers in Norwich, and the simple almond sweet had been replaced by corny jokes and puns, metal puzzles and a paper hat that only your Dad would want to wear at the Festive dinner table.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 18th December 2012