Where is London’s first flyover?

London’s oldest flyover is not some ugly crumbling concrete edifice, but a much more elegant structure built well before Britain’s first petrol driven motor car was launched onto the streets of Walthamstow in 1894.

There is an apocryphal story which every generation of Knowledge students hears. It relates to an Appearance [oral test] when a Knowledge boy tells the examiner that you could turn right into Farringdon Street from Holborn Viaduct. The salutary lesson to be learned is that if he had just gone to that location he would have discovered there was a 60ft drop onto the road below. The hapless Knowledge boy had relied on his A-Z map and had learned the hard way that maps should not be slavishly followed.

Spanning the Fleet River valley (the river now covered by Farringdon Street), Holborn Viaduct was built between 1863 and 1869 and links Holborn with Newgate Street.

The flyover was designed by City of London surveyor William Heywood. Four bronze statues featuring agriculture and commerce feature on the south side, and depictions of fine arts and science on the north side. There are statues of winged lions, dragons, globe lamps and the City of London’s coat-of-arms.

The buildings containing the stairs each feature a statue of a famous medieval Londoner on the facade: Banker Sir Thomas Gresham, Engineer Sir Hugh Myddelton and Mayors Sir William Walworth and Henry Fitz Ailwin.

Several old buildings and indeed some entire streets had to be demolished before construction could begin and thousands of bodies buried in St Andrew Holborn’s northern churchyard were relocated.

Made of cast iron, the flyover is 1,400 feet long and 80 feet wide and features three spans – the largest in the middle – supported on granite pillars.
Pavilions containing stairs allowing pedestrians to move between levels were built at either end on both sides of the roadway (the two northern buildings are both replacements, as are the globe lamps – the previous versions were demolished after being damaged during the Blitz.

The viaduct was opened by Queen Victoria on 6th November 1869. It was listed as Grade II in 1972.

Driver Shortage

Brexit, a pandemic, workers’ rights, the cost of a new electric vehicle, charging problems, congestion and ULEZ charges have all massively impacted on public hire drivers and now their prices are equal to, and sometimes, above that of a metered fare in a black cab.

Social media is awash with Uber supporters who used to wax lyrical about the ‘Wonderful Service’, and ‘Convenience’ are now complaining about the unavailability and high prices.

The irony is that it’s these same people who used to tell the world that their choice of transport was based on helping those less privileged, but now Uber’s prices have risen are all screaming, to be fair many of them are Millennials who have only ever known a time when a Prius was waiting to take them home at all hours for virtually no money, and they are struggling to comprehend why it’s changed.

Uber needs to recruit and get licensed, tens of thousands of new drivers prepared to work long hours for low pay. They also have to persuade recruits to undertake increased regulatory standards such as English language requirements, a topographical test, HMRC registration, a requirement to buy electric cars (which many PH drivers cannot home charge) and ULEZ. In short, it’s no longer cheap and easy to become a private hire driver.

It goes without saying that the last thing any of the big apps want is any more rules or requirements and are doing all they can to bring political pressure and gain support from politicians of all parties.

The Adam Smith Institute, an oh-so liberal free-market think tank, has published a report arguing for less regulation. Rather cleverly their press releases referenced ‘scrapping The Knowledge’ which secured them some great media coverage.

So if we take their hypothesis for replacing London Black Cab Drivers with numpties, we could employ long-distance lorry drivers as short-haul pilots (planes fly themselves don’t you know), and pharmacists could perform appendectomies, after all they know a thing or two about the human body.

Johnson’s London Dictionary: King Charles Statue

KING CHARLES STATUE (n.) Equine depiction of the deposed King said by cartographers and Hansom cabbies to be the centre of London and doth the centre of the known world.

Dr. Johnson’s London Dictionary for publick consumption in the twenty-first century avail yourself on Twitter @JohnsonsLondon

I’m not leaving any time soon

Groucho Marx might not be happy here when he quoted: “I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining.” But I’m staying put for the time being for many reasons.

In the early 1970s, I watched a play at The Ambassadors Theatre in West Street, at the time thinking it was pretty prosaic and unlikely to run for much longer. I’m still waiting for The Mousetrap to fold.

I still have £17.14 unused on my Dartford Crossing account, they charge enough without giving them more.

Sadiq Khan hasn’t banned my ageing Volkswagen Golf yet with his ULEZ scam for those of us who don’t want to replace our vehicles every 24 months.

I’m still waiting for Crossrail to open.

I’ve yet to take a thrilling ride on the Emirates Cable Car, it has yet to get a new £36 million sponsor when on 29th June the Emirates deal expires, then it will be renamed, after much thought, The London Cable Car.

I fancy asking a policeman on foot patrol the time. One day when the Met’s chief thinks of returning police to our streets, I can test the urban myth of asking the time, while conspicuously holding my phone.

My postcode might come up on the Postcode Lottery after I move house (I had better buy a ticket first).

I’ve yet to relinquish my license even though 1,551 London cabbies have already stopped working this year.

I have a Freedom Pass (if only we had public transport which went to where I want from near my house).

London in Quotations: Leo Hollis

London is a city that has reinvented itself upon the remains of the past.

Leo Hollis (b.1972), London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London

Taxi Talk Without Tipping

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