Tag Archives: London streets

The demise of Fleet Street

It seems ironic that today, the spiritual home of home of journalism has only one editorial office and that is for a publication whose favourite son is Dennis the Menace.

The world’s first newspaper was started at the bottom of Ludgate Hill in 1702 (now a Leon restaurant on Ludgate Circus). A single sheet with two columns, it claimed to provide the facts, letting the reader make up their own mind.

[R]ecently on this website we have explored some of the lanes and alleys running off Fleet Street as this area still possesses much of the evidence from its industrial past, something that Katie Wignall explores on her Look Up London tours.

By the 20th century this street barely a mile in length produced most of the reading public’s newspaper consumption. Three evening newspapers: Star, News Stann’d! The mighty Daily Express when in those halcyon days it actually gave you news was produced at the ‘Black Lubyanta’, the striking Art Deco building on the north side of Fleet Street.

Reuters the news agency who gave us news of the Titanic has left its Lutyens designed headquarters at 85 Fleet Street and removed to Canary Wharf. The Daily Telegraph was produced at No. 135, the Sun and its predecessor the Daily Herald even the Jewish Chronicle was here, now moved to Golders Green.

The evenings on Fleet Street would see dozens of low loaders arriving carrying giant reels of newsprint for the morning editions.

Now physical newspapers are changing, the Independent being the first major paper to turn its output into a digital publication. Soon many to embrace the move from ‘hot metal’ and moving away from ‘The ‘Street’ to print their editions in Docklands will lose their jobs as information now is consumed online. The Daily Mail’s online sister Daily Mail Online is one of the most read sites in the world. Others have followed either free or subscription based.

Soon the only journalistic conversation in Fleet Street’s watering holes will not be the shenanigans of politicians but a larks perpetuated by a boy in a red and black striped jumper called Dennis.

A load of old bollards

Like many I love an urban myth: pigeons knowingly travelling on the tube; Jimi Hendrix was responsible for releasing the original breeding pair of parakeets; or cabbies have to keep a bale of straw in their boot ’to feed their horse’; and best of all, London’s bollards are French cannons from captured ships taken at Trafalgar.

The tale of the recycled cannon could almost be true.

[A]fter all the four bronze relief panels on the pedestal of Nelson’s Column are cast from captured French guns. When you look at many bollards they do have a striking resemblance to an upturned gun with a cannon ball jammed into its muzzle. Many except the City of London’s bollards, the City, after all, like to do its own thing.

First the navy didn’t actually own its guns, The Office of Ordnance was responsible for the testing and supply of the Nation’s guns. There is no doubt that redundant cannon were put to further use they had value. Two types were produced: bronze cannon barrels composed of 90 per cent copper, 9 per cent tin, with zinc and lead thrown in for good measure. These were used by the army being lighter. While the navy was supplied with a cast iron equivalent.

Bronze cannons had high scrap value and were melted down. Cast iron on the other hand had no value and was put to use as purpose-made road posts or bollards, usually in the vicinity of the dockyard.

Gun Wharf at Wapping derives its name from once being an ordnance depot supplying the navy, but alas has no cannon bollards nearby. In fact some sources disclaim it ever was used to military purposes.

The urban myth goes along the lines that after Nelson’s victory over the French at Trafalgar, eager to flaunt their power; the English stripped the captured vessels and reused anything of value. When it came to the French cannon they found they were too large to be retrofitted into the English fleet’s ships. Determined to show just who was victorious in the fight against their long-term adversary the obsolete weapons were put to use adorning the roads around the dockyards and East London.


One authentic piece of ordnance probably of English origin can be found close to Shakespeare’s Globe beneath Southwark Bridge. There is no doubt that obsolete ordnance was used for this purpose, but as Dr. Martin Evans’ research has discovered, the East End bollards are unlikely to be from captured French ships at Trafalgar. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo (its bi-centenary recently commemorated) much of the French bronze field artillery would be valuable and have been recycled. At Trafalgar the spoils of war were much less. At the end of the encounter on 21st October 1805 Nelson’s fleet had captured 17 French and Spanish warships. The next day a violent storm lasting nearly a week plus a counter-attack made it necessary to stop towing the captured ’prizes’ and turn them loose only to flounder on the Spanish coast.

In the end only 2 prizes remained in British hands, plus the re-captured English vessel Swiftsure, and both the prize ships were Spanish, thus no French-built warship captured at Trafalgar was ever brought back to England. In addition the guns of the prize vessels were probably thrown overboard to help survive the ravages of the storm.

Other skirmishes with the French have led to French guns reaching England’s shores to be recycled to not Trafalgar.

An excellent blog about bollards – Bollards of London – was started by London cabbie John Kennedy. It has since been taken over and not updated of late. But it does contain a plethora of pictures on these forgotten pieces of street furniture.

Main picture: Bollards ©Jane’s London
Single bollard ©Radio Taxi Group

Tin Pan Alley

It is barely 100 yards long and lies in the shadow of one of Europe’s biggest engineering projects.

Tin Pan Alley or Denmark Street as we would have to call it whilst on The Knowledge is under threat according to Peter Watts who writes a polemical piece in The Great Wen.

Historically it is London’s most important street for the music industry.

[R]unning between St. Giles High Street and Charing Cross Road, it started life as a line of residential buildings, by the 19th century it had become the centre for metalwork. For reasons no entirely understood by 1950 it was the hub for selling sheet music.

The nickname Tin Pan Alley is taken from a name given to a district in Manhattan where music publishers set up shop. The derivation of the term is unclear.

By the 1960s other associated strands of the music industry had moved in: publishers, managers, songwriters, musical instrument retailers, and more importantly recording studios Regent Sound and Central Sound. Both The New Musical Express and Melody Maker started newspaper publishing in this little street.

Tourists may flock to the crossing (and get run over) in Abbey Road; their destination should be this little uncelebrated backwater where London’s popular music began.

The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and more recently, The Sex Pistols have all at some point in their careers used the facilities to be found in the little forgotten street.

Now we are on the cusp of losing this little piece of history. As the area around St. Giles is redeveloped the remnants of the large Victorian rookery, the location of Hogarth’s Gin Lane cartoons, is being swept away.

Only fools would have tread these pavements during the 1960s but now a new breed of architects is making their mark on this beleaguered area.

Centre Point is being redeveloped into luxury flats and Renzo Pianos hideous Central St. Giles clad in primary colours is now finished but seemingly not completely let.

They are building OuterNet which – you’ve heard this before – promises to revolutionise the way we shop. This development has seen the destruction of some of the buildings backing unto Denmark Street and the remaining properties are being refurbished, or sanitised, in line with the ’improvements’ to the area with the arrival of CrossRail at Tottenham Court Road Station.

The campaigners fear this will spell the end of Tin Pan Alley with rising rents forcing out traditional retailers and heralding in another bog standard retail venue.

The small and enthusiastic group trying to save this historic street have a petition which currently (early December) has over 16,500 signatures https://www.change.org/p/head-of-democratic-services-don-t-bin-tin-pan-alley they can be emailed at savetinpanalley@gmail.com or or contacted at http://savetpa.tk/

Photo: Just Great Guitars information and anecdotes from this little street.

Chiswick Mall

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing.

Should you be travelling down the A4 approaching the Hogarth Roundabout from the east you probably will be unaware that just yards from the racetrack that this stretch of road becomes during the evening rush hour, and that you reluctantly find yourself driving along, is an oasis of calm.

[T]his small backwater (I use the word advisedly) has been the enclave of choice for artists to reside for over 200 years. If I find myself in the area I’ll sometimes stop to eat my lunch there. With stratospheric house prices it’s the nearest I’m likely to get to reside in this little gem of a road.

One property, Walpole House was once a school which William Thackeray was a boarder. It provided the setting for Miss Pinkerton’s Seminary for Young Ladies, where Becky Sharp fatefully made the acquaintance of Amelia Sedley in Vanity Fair.

Walpole House takes its name from the Hon Thomas Walpole (nephew of Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime Minister) who lived there from 1798 till 1803. It could be argued that it was the most covetable terrace house in London, when it sold in August 2006 for £7,250,000.

The road lies just behind Fuller’s Brewery, London’s largest and oldest brewery. Red Lion House, once Red Lion Inn was home to actor/manager Sir Nigel Playfair and Sir Herbert Beerhohm Tree another actor/manager lived nearby in 1904–5.

Many houses at the western end date from the middle of the 17th century and have subsequently been refaced. College House, demolished in 1875 was leased to Westminster School in 1570 as a retreat from London in time of plague.

Thames-floodsBeing so close to the river Thames Chiswick Mall gets flooded. This happens so frequently those residents have sea defences with high front walls topped with Perspex sheets and sluice gates at the entrances to keep the Thames at bay.

Main picture: House on Chiswick MallThere were plans to make a restaurant out of Heron House, which stands quaintly at the junction with Chiswick Lane South, but so far they have come to nothing. © Copyright Derek Harper (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Smutty Streets

It is reputedly the talk around the table of every Islington dinner party – house prices.

That might be so but the residents of one N1 street are probably less willing to discuss their good fortune.

According to NeedaProperty.com Cumming Street flats sell for £66,000 less than nearby Britannia Street, and according to a recent survey the reason is the name.

[T]he English are apparently still a reserved lot when it comes to – how can I put it? – smutty street names. A survey of 2,000 found the embarrassing truth that 31 per cent would be put off buying a house when they would have to tell strangers they lived in Minge Lane, Upton-upon-Severn.


Cock Lane near Smithfield fared little better with 6 per cent being adverse to living there. Once known as Cokkes Lane’, it made its name as a hotbed of legal brothels. Today its popularity probably not helped by having a naked boy at one end marking the spot where the Great Fire of London was finally halted. The statue is supposed to depict the sin if gluttony (apparently one of the causes of the conflagration), but to modern Londoner’s he is using his appendage to direct the flow dousing the flames.

Other London streets shy buyers might like to avoid are:

Nuding Close SE13

Balls Pond Road N1

Slagrove Place SE13

Clitterhouse Road NW2

Beaver Close SE20

Bottom Lane WD3

Hookers Road, E17

Bonar Road SE15

Laycock Street N1

Back Passage EC1

While these might produce a smirk, some of London’s most embarrassing streets have been renamed. Pity the poor medieval estate agent trying to sell a property in Grope C**t Lane. It was after all a haunt of prostitutes. Now its been renamed to the more prosaic Milton Street EC2.

With compacted shit, entrails and rotting food what better name can you give to a street than Shiteburn Lane? This what mediaeval locals called modern Sherborne Lane EC4.

Picture: Street sign NeedaProperty.com