Green Shelters – Embankment Place

Walking down Northumberland Avenue today there isn’t any evidence of the substantial London home owned by the Dukes of Northumberland which had stood overlooking the Thames for over 200 years. In 1866 after a fire had substantially damaged the property the Duke must have snatched at the offer by the Metropolitan Board of Works of £500,000 (equivalent to nearly £50 million today).

Contemporary planning permissions forbade hotels to be taller than the width of the road they stood on. As they planned to build some of London’s finest (and largest) hotels here, this short road is very wide.

One such hotel was the Metropole Hotel, once the gathering point for the London-Brighton Run, now the Corinthia.

The Embankment Place cab stand predates the hotel by four years, and it is possible that it stood just out of shot at the bottom of the picture.

Today drinking a coffee here, the twin Golden Jubilee Foot Bridges are almost deserted, the thousands who streamed across to the Southbank and Waterloo Station now absent, with the pigeons scratching around for food where once here were rich pickings under Charing Cross railway bridge.

Green Shelters – Temple Place

Further downstream a 10-minute walk takes me to the Temple Place Cabmen’s Shelter erected in 1880.

In the 1960s developers knocked down four ancient streets running down to Temple Place to allow for a hotel to be built presumably so American tourists could see just the sort of roads they had destroyed. When the hotel reached completion the architects were amazed to find that just at the spot they’d planned to put their grand hotel entrance there was a green cabbie’s shelter.

With typical corporate stupidity, they tried to use their financial might to have the shelter removed by the authorities, but they were told that the shelter had been there since 1880 and was staying put. With the image of their rich American visitors being greeted by a ramshackle old shelter, they were forced to beg for its removal. For a price, the shelter was duly moved a few yards down the hill away from the hotel’s lobby.

The green shelter is still there, but the hotel has since closed – the site being redeveloped into, yes, another hotel.

Taken the wrong way?

I once had my favourite punter in the cab, close to completing a 25-minute journey, while thrusting his i-phone at me, proclaim that I’ve “taken the wrong way”. I patiently point out that he is holding the map upside down and if I had taken his route we would be drowning in the Serpentine by now. The conversation ended at that point.

I’ve lost my Trust

Returning from a break in Dorset, surely the most quintessential of English counties, on the doormat was my annual subscription to the National Trust. I have been a member for at least 40 years and this year is the only time not one of the Trust’s properties has been visited by us.

The letter magnanimously informed me that due to COVID-19 the subscription had remained at last year’s rates (£126), but valued members were essential to ‘keep on caring for the places, collections and nature that unite and sustain us all’.

Over the years a trip to an NT property, with a scone for lunch, has been a regular day out. London alone has dozens worth a visit from the beautifully restored Ightham Mote to Churchill’s Chartwell.

But I’m seriously considering leaving my favourite charity, as far from being run, as in the past, by the Women’s Institue Countryside Diaspora, it is now been overtaken by the urban elite – all but one of its council members live in towns.

First, they spent our subscriptions on encouraging ‘ethnic minorities’ to visit the countryside owned by them. Patronising in the extreme. Not content they persued what historian Sir Roy Strong described as “being obsessed with ticking the boxes of the disabled, the aged, LGBT and ethnic communities”.

Now the Trust has inaugurated what they call ‘Re-Set’, a programme to offset the £200 million loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have made what they describe as a ‘Curation and Experience’. This has entailed the removal of all senior curatorial posts and their lead curators in the regions, thus dropping the Trust’s excellence in scholarship and conservation at a stroke. In total 1,200 staff are being made redundant, and how many volunteers have been told their services are no longer required has not been disclosed.

However, the Trust has found the resources to have a year-long audit on all its 300-odd properties to find which were built using the proceeds of slavery or colonialism. Incredibly they are also to examine the source of each of the Trust’s 1.5 million antiques, artworks and artefacts, a daunting and pointless exercise at the best of times.

They have form for moving away from the original motive of their founding fathers and the National Trust Act of 1937, which gave the explicit aims of ‘preservation of buildings of national interest along with their furniture and pictures, and the preservation of beautiful landscapes’. This Act has, in the past, given the Trust special privileges which now seem to be abandoned in favour of a ‘woke’ ethos.

Guides at Felbrigg Hall staged a revolt after being ordered to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legalization of homosexuality, in fact, I met with NT volunteers when holidaying in Jersey, who had resigned after a lifetime of service to the Trust due to a similar edict.

Avebury Manor decided that Christianity might be offensive to their ‘target’ audience and dropped the abbreviations BC and AD from their signage.

Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt has now been downplayed to become just an egg hunt, should the most important date on the Christian calendar be mentioned.

All this is what they call a repurposing to remove the outdated mansion experience and being British. It’s just a pity none of this relates to their core members, be they white middle-class or ethnic minorities wanting a pleasant day out with their children.

One of its senior curators announced that it should stop emphasizing the role of families in the history of stately homes because this: ‘privileges heterosexual lives’. So will many families now be discouraged from entering their sacred portals, whatever their religion, gender, sexuality or ethnicity?

Featured image: Detail of the South front of Southwell Workhouse owned by the National Trust by Richard Croft (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Built in 1824 as a union workhouse for the villages around Southwell, it was originally known as the Thurgarton Incorporation Workhouse. Southwell had its own smaller workhouse at that time (now the Baptist Chapel), but joined in 1834 when it became the Southwell Union Workhouse.

The design was based on the ideas of the Rv. J.T.Becher, a local man, with segregation of the various classes of inmates, and it became the model for the hundreds of workhouses erected as a result of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

In the latter part of the 19th century, many workhouses developed into Hospitals. At Southwell, a new infirmary wing was built in 1871 to house the sick and infirm, with the original building continuing to provide residential accommodation for the poor. This function continued in the modified form right up until the 1980s, and as a result, the interior remained remarkably little altered. As such it provides a remarkable example of an early 19th-century workhouse. It is currently run by the National Trust.

The main building is Listed Grade II*, and the range of outbuildings on the northern side is Listed Grade II. The gardens to the front of the building have been partly restored to their original use as a vegetable garden and are also Listed Grade II*.

London in Quotations: Jean Rhys

London is like a cold dark dream sometimes.

Jean Rhys (1890-1979), Wide Sargasso Sea

London Trivia: Please stand on the right

On 4 October 1911, Earls Court opened to the public the first underground escalator. To reassure passengers ‘Bumper’ Harris, a clerk of works, was assigned to assuage passenger’s anxiety by demonstrating the escalator’s convenience and its safety. He had, unfortunately, a wooden leg leading to the speculation of having lost it in a previous escalator journey, the leg had been crushed between two carriages carrying rubble.

On 4 October 1936 The Battle of Cable Street took place as Eastenders battled with Oswald Mosley’s marching fascists the Blackshirts

Sumptuary law prescribed precisely what different echelons of London society were permitted to wear only aristocrats could wear pointy boots

The 6,000-year-old timber piles visible at low tide in front of MI6’s building are remnants of a Mesolithic structure beside the River Effra

Below Greenwich Park at Croom Hill Gate is a Bronze Age cemetery, excavations in the 18th century found glass beads, wool and hair, as well as shields and swords

More than 1 million bees were evacuated from London during World War II, as their hives were disrupted by the shocks of the Blitz

Whitechapel’s Marcus Samuel sold painted seashells, which is why he called his later oil industry concern Shell

The Thames has frozen completely 24 times the last Frost Fair in February 1814 an elephant was led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge

Richmond Golf Club’s 1940 rules: ‘During gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play . . .

On 4 October 1911, the Public Carriage Department, assigned to regulate cabs, took possession of the new police offices in Great Scotland Yard

Gentleman’s Magazine was the world’s first magazine, it was printed at St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, it ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922, and was the first to use the term ‘magazine’

London’s oldest shrub is the 200-year-old wisteria at Fuller’s Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, planted in 1816, its twin at Kew Gardens died

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Taxi talk without tipping

%d bloggers like this: