Category Archives: Puppydog tails

Far from The Madding Crowd

London life is often pursued at a frenetic pace, so where can one go to avoid all this human activity?

Least populated

Havering is one of London’s largest boroughs, and being on the capital’s most north-east peripheral is one of the least populated. Much of it also has an Essex postcode, and due to the TV diet of vain wannabes, has ensured that the borough isn’t the first choice for many to set up home.

East London grime

For desolation look no further than Aveley Marshes an area alongside the Thames separated from the rest of Havering by acres if squelchy bog. Head for Coldharbour Point, an isolated promontory whose name is probably referenced to the bleakness of its location which curiously has a postcode – RM13 9BJ. But the nearest place to find a postman making a delivery is Erith on the opposite bank of the Thames.

While in this forgotten piece of London, walk Section 24 of the London Loop between Rainham and Purfleet. Depart from Rainham Station and follow the waymarked track parallel to Ferry Lane. After admiring the industrial units located in an area liberally coated with industrial grime and pass under the A13, leaving the Loop route and take off across the marshes to admire The Diver. Make sure the tide is out otherwise this fine piece of sculpture is submerged.

Concrete barges

Check out the nearby World War II concrete barges before taking in the polluted landfill hillocks, lorries covered in concrete dust and the odd gravel dredger rippling past on the grey water.


Should you need solace without talking exercise, I can recommend the Overground shuttle between Romford and Upminster. During the day the train is almost empty, but to be sure, choose the rear of the train because this is never adjacent to a platform entrance. As a bonus, you have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic view of the back of houses and fox-infested cuttings.

Topdeck solitude

Another way to discover East London enjoying your own company is upon the upper deck of the D8 bus. Due to the over-optimistic contract specifications, you should be able to travel between Stratford Station and the Isle of Dogs Asda rarely troubled by fellow passengers. While in Docklands let me direct you to the Emirates Air Line.

Experience magnificent desolation

Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon could be a metaphor for the Emirate Air Line, that Boris vanity project offering overpriced cable car trips from one deserted East London location to another wasteland.

With only one regular commuter, with luck, you’ll miss the queues before alighting this solitary experience.

No excessive footfall

After all the solo travel a little shopping therapy might be felt necessary. But one place human contact is never a problem is the new outlet mall at the nearby former Millennium Dome, whose branded units are rarely bothered by excessive footfall. Ride the escalator to the upper floor where empty floors gleam and numerous shop assistants can be seen readjusting the merchandise on the off chance that a potential purchaser might wander by. Hundreds of handbags, designer jackets and deluxe saucepans lie untouched on the shelves because the backside of the Greenwich peninsula is not yet on the capital’s retail radar.

Featured image: RSPB Rainham Marshes.
River Thames: Abandoned ferro-concrete barges. There are 16 of these ferro-concrete barges beached and abandoned on the muddy foreshore next to Rainham Marshes on the Erith Reach of the River Thames. The general consensus of opinion is that they were built to assist in the Normandy D-Day landings of June 1944, and were constructed of concrete reinforced with steel because of the wartime shortage of steel plate. By Nigel Cox (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Emirates Cable Car. One of the gondolas of the Emirates Cable Car, looking towards Stratford by Christine Matthews (CC BY-SA 2.0)

London Firsts Quiz

The coronavirus has given Londoners their first experience of self-isolation and distancing. Corid-19 is, of course, not London’s first pandemic, these seem to arrive every 100 years.

So today’s quiz is all about London’s ‘firsts’.

Questions

1. What was invented in a workshop in Hatton Garden in the 1880s?

(a) The world’s first machine gun
(b) The world’s first tank
(c) The world’s first flame thrower


2. What was invented which was greeted by the Admiralty as: “. . . of any kind are now wholly unnecessary”.

(a) A self-righting ship
(b) An electric telegraph
(c) A non-fraying flag


3. Coram’s Fields commemorates a London first that revolutionised the world. But what?

(a) Charity
(b) Vaccine
(c) Statistics


4. On 10th January 1946, the first meeting took place of what international organisation?

(a) World Health Organisation
(b) Oxfam
(c) United Nations


5. Five years before the last public hanging at Newgate, what was the world’s first when completed?

(a) The first urban underground
(b) The first tramline
(c) The first scheduled bus service


6. Nearly every country now has one, but Croydon saw the world’s first. But what was it that is now commonplace?

(a) A radio station
(b) An international airport
(c) A department store


7. Today we take it for granted, but what world’s first was constructed near Holborn Viaduct?

(a) The world’s first public electricity generating station
(b) The world’s first sewage treatment works
(c) The world’s first water pumping station


8. What invention was first demonstrated in a room above what is now the Bar Italia coffee lounge in Frith Street, Soho?

(a) The espresso coffee machine
(b) The television
(c) The vacuum cleaner


9. What did Joseph Merlin demonstrate for the first time at a masquerade party in Soho in 1760?

(a) The kaleidoscope
(b) The penny-farthing bicycle
(c) Roller skates


10. 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


As a bonus: What ‘first’ did Colonel Pierpoint admire before he died?

Answers

1. What was invented in a workshop in Hatton Garden in 1880?

(a) Hiram Maxim was an American who moved to London, opened a workshop in Hatton Garden, near the junction with Clerkenwell Road and eventually became a naturalised Briton and a knight of the realm. His Maxim Gun invented in 1881 was the first fully automatic machine gun. At Shangari River in 1893 Cecil Rhodes’ troops, armed with a Maxim Gun, only lost four men and killed 1,500 natives. Not content with killing native Africans he went on to invent the first auto-resetting mousetrap.


2. What was invented which was greeted by the Admiralty as: “. . . of any kind are now wholly unnecessary”.

(b) In 1816 Francis Ronalds, at 26 Upper Mall, built a telegraph using electrostatic and clockwork principles, rejected by the Admiralty he was knighted in 1870, a belated recognition of his pioneering vision.


3. Coram’s Fields commemorates a London first that revolutionised the world. But what?

(a) In 1739 Captain Thomas Coram, a London merchant was appalled by the number of abandoned babies he saw, he set up the Foundling Hospital, the world’s first charity, Handel and Hogarth were among the benefactors of the world’s first incorporated charity. Coram’s Fields are unique in only allowing adults if accompanied by a child.


4. On 10th January 1946, the first meeting took place of what international organisation?

(c) The First General Assembly of the United Nations, with 51 nations represented, was held in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, a successor to the League of Nations, which was thought to have been ineffective in preventing World War II.


5. Five years before the last public hanging at Newgate, what was the world’s first when completed?

(a) Opening in 1863, the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington (then called Bishop’s Road) and Farringdon was the world’s first urban underground passenger-carrying railway. Confusingly, the original platform now serves the Hammersmith & City Line.


6. Nearly every country now has one, but Croydon saw the world’s first. But what was it that is now commonplace?

(b) In 1920 the world’s first international airport opened in Croydon, offering flights to Europe. A remodelling 8 years saw the world’s first purpose-built airport terminal and airport hotel.


7. Today we take it for granted, but what world’s first was constructed near Holborn Viaduct?

(a) The world’s first public electricity generating station was opened in 1882 to light the lamps on the bridge. Designed by Thomas Edison, it was steam-powered and supplied DC current, and predated New York’s power station by some months.


8. What invention was first demonstrated in a room above what is now the Bar Italia coffee lounge in Frith Street, Soho?

(b) John Logie Baird began his research into the transmission of visual images in Hastings in the early 1920s, but in 1924 rented an attic room at 22 Frith Street to use as a workshop. On 26th January 1926 members of the Royal Institution made up the first television audience. A blue plaque is displayed above Bar Italia commemorating that day.


9. What did Joseph Merlin demonstrate for the first time at a masquerade party in Soho in 1760?

(c) Roller skates were first demonstrated at famous society hostess’ Mrs Cornelys Soho Square house by clock and instrument maker John Joseph Merlin. Making an appearance at the party gliding across the floor on boots that he had adapted by fitting them with wheels, unfortunately, he had failed to devise a method of stopping himself and he crashed into a large mirror.


10. 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 murder conviction and one of the first in the world to use the methodology still in use today.


As a bonus: What ‘first’ did Colonel Pierpoint admire before he died?

At his 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.

All Change

Gillespie Road, Post Office, Great Central and Sandy Lodge are not very inspiring in conjuring up travel around a great city, but these, amongst others, were once names of Underground stations.

Dozens of stations have changed their name, for instance, Great Central became the more romantically named Marylebone, and take Embankment, if you will, located on, well The Embankment. It would seem a perfectly reasonable name, and so it was when it opened in 1906, eight years later it was renamed Charing Cross (Embankment), then presumably as it was a bit of a mouthful with that parentheses nonsense they dropped the brackets and it became Charing Cross. Two generations of commuters later, in a nod to nostalgia, in 1974 it was renamed Charing Cross Embankment. Then two years later was given the title we know today (well, at least at the time of writing) of Embankment.

Other stations have changed due to their near neighbours. Famously Gillespie Road became Arsenal in 1932 but with the suffix Highbury Hill, which was later gradually dropped. Curiously Arsenal Station is closer to the Emirates Stadium than Arsenal’s former ground. So could it be renamed again?

Harry Gordon Selfridge was not so successful when he opened his eponymous Oxford Street store. He wanted Bond Street Station to be renamed Selfridges Station and drew up proposals for a direct subway connecting the station to his store. The proposals were declined. Take that to its logical conclusion Oxford Circus should become TopShop or Marble Arch, Primark.

Bank despite one of its entrances accessed via the Bank of England’s building was first called City Station.

In the days before we lost our high street post offices, rather confusingly there was an Underground station given that very name. The possible confusion ended in 1937 and the station renamed St. Paul’s just in time for Germany to try and bomb the cathedral out of existence.

The first ‘run’ on The Knowledge starts at Manor House Station, so named, not after a baronial manor house, its bucolic grounds gently sweeping down to the nearby River Lea, but some long-forgotten public house. This boozer had a chequered history, first opening its doors in 1820 then closed only to be resurrected before demolition. Over the years its name transmogrified into the Manor House fortuitously in time for the 1931 opening of the tube station that takes its name, much to the relief of residents setting them apart from downmarket Finsbury Park.

Likewise, Sandy Lodge conjures up a small building at the entrance to a baronial estate near the sea. In reality, it’s near Moor Park (and its current name), one of the most prestigious golf clubs in Britain, so should Moor Park be renamed Tiger Woods Station, or would that sound like a forested area inhabited by large cats?

Sometimes they realise their nomenclature mistake soon after opening. Eastcheap Station opened in 1884, only three weeks passed before it was renamed The Monument, and like many stations losing the definite article over time.

For some locations just don’t inspire a memorable name. Kennington Road Station was changed to Westminster Bridge Road, finally, it was settled with the prosaic title of Lambeth North Station.

The street of Charing Cross is just a few yards long, but it was decided to change the inspirationally named Trafalgar Square Station after this small unprepossessing street.

For London’s, most confusing stations look no further than Queensway and Bayswater stations which make for curious companions. Located just north of Hyde Park and barely yards apart, Bayswater Station is located in Queensway and has been called variously Bayswater; Bayswater (Queen’s Road) & Westbourne Grove; Bayswater (Queen’s Road); and Bayswater (Queensway). While one of Queensway Station entrances are in Bayswater and has been called Queen’s Road Station. Confused? You should be as there is no Queen’s Road in Kensington. It has taken over 46 years to stop this renaming malarky.