Tag Archives: London streets

Three card trick

Running errands as an apprentice I would be amazed to see how many would try their hand at winning the Three Card Trick.

For those who don’t know, this is where three wide boys con people out of their money in a rigged card game, a scam also known as Find The Lady.

One person has three cards set up on a table or box (something they can fold up and run with should the need arise), you are invited to guess which one is the Queen of Hearts – The Lady.

The second wide boy poses as a punter, naturally, he is doing well at the game and winning lots of money, while a third accomplice will befriend people who stop to watch, pointing out how easy it is to find the Queen and win the pot, suggesting they might like to give it a go.

The card dealer expertly uses sleight of hand ensuring the punter loses as much of their money as possible. With the slightest accusation of the ‘game’ being fixed, the card dealer claims the police are coming and ups and runs.

It would seem human instinct was on the con man’s side, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London asked 60 people to pick a card from four options and found 66 per cent of right-handed people (representing 9 out of 10 in Britain) chose the third card from the left.

Their conclusion is we have an aversion to ‘edges’ – such as taking items from the centre of the supermarket shelf. Also, we are just plain lazy, choosing the ‘path of least resistance’, being closest to our right hand.

Featured image: An early version of Find the Lady can be found at Tate Britain in part of William Powell Frith’s 1858 painting Derby Day where a version using thimbles is depicted. The man with the smart black boots and riding crop looks like the con man’s accomplice, while to his left, in the green coat the next victim is getting his money ready. The man to the left pointing is the other accomplice – showing how easy it is to make money. He looks like he has convinced the man in the brown bowler and the farmworkers smock, he looks like an out-of-towner who will shortly be losing all his money if he ignores the pleadings of his wife on the far left, the only person with any sense it seems! On the far right, a sheepish-looking victim realises he is now penniless! The Illustrated London news complained of tricksters at the Derby in 1860, who set up their stall at the edge of a wood, so they could melt into the trees at the first sign of trouble.

Are there any more Jubilees left?

Crossrail, sorry Elizabeth Line is part of a flurry of openings and renamings commemorating regal anniversaries – Big Ben’s tower, streets, schools, hospitals, new housing estates – all finding themselves getting a moniker to mark the Queen’s important day, it is her 70th year as our Monarch after all.

To mark this important point in our history, and as someone who has had to study road names obsessively, CabbieBlog gives you a tour of London ‘Jubilees’.

Jubilee Hall, The Piazza, Covent Garden, built-in 1904, with its Jubilee Market, is probably the most famous of them all.

Jubilee Avenue E4, near Highams Park Underground Station, is handy if you have a need for the North Circular Road very close by.

Jubilee Close NW10 & NW9 off Nicoll Road, Harlesden, is more a street than a close and so long it has two postcodes.

Jubilee Crescent N9, backing Henry Barrass Recreation Ground, Edmonton this thoroughfare at least lives up to its name, being a perfect crescent.

Jubilee Place SW3, running off King’s Road is probably the most expensive ‘Jubilee’ as it is a short walk from Sloane Square.

Jubilee Street E1, off Commercial Road, runs parallel to Sidney Street, made famous when Winston Churchill directed police in the famous siege of 1911.

Jubilee Terrace, Burlington Road SW6, handy if you are a Fulham supporter, Craven Cottage is a two-minute walk away.

Jubilee Way SW19, those living South of the River must be Republicans as this ‘Jubilee’ near South Wimbledon is the only one in London not located in London’s northern environs. It looks quite long on the map, but being down Sarf, I haven’t checked it out.


Two hundred and fifteen years ago, on 28th January 1807, London’s Pall Mall was the first street lit by gaslight.

Pall Mall was laid out in its present location in 1661, replacing a much older highway slightly to the south that ran from Charing Cross to St James’s Palace – then the residence of the King of England.

The name of the street is derived from ‘pall-mall’, a ball game that was played there during the 17th century.

The Pall Mall brand of cigarettes was introduced in 1899 by the Black Butler Company (UK) in an attempt to cater to the upper class with the first ‘premium’ cigarette. It is named after Pall Mall.

The gaslight was developed in the 1790s. The credit usually goes to Scottish engineer William Murdoch, but it was Friedrich Albert Winzer (sometimes anglicized to Frederick Winsor), a German entrepreneur living in London, who lit Pall Mall.

In 1804, the same year he patented coal-gas lighting, Winzer demonstrated the technology during a lecture at the Lyceum Theatre. By 1807, he had moved into a house on Pall Mall, one of the city’s most fashionable streets.

He followed the illumination of Pall Mall with a special exhibition on 4th June 1807, in honour of the birthday of King George III, using gaslight to superimpose images against the walls of the buildings along his street.

There are still 1,500 gas lamps in London. They don’t need lighting every night, but the timer that lights them automatically needs adjusting every fortnight to keep pace with shorter or longer days. Before timers, lamps were lit with an 8ft long brass pole with a pilot light – last used around Temple 1976.

Europe’s smallest crescent

Keystone Crescent, just a few minutes walk from King’s Cross, reputedly has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe, and is unique in having a matching inner and outer circle.

This tiny street consisting of only 24 houses is to be found at the southernmost end of Caledonian Road. Robert James Stuckey, whose father was a bricklayer, built the crescent in 1846 and imaginatively called it Caledonian Crescent, its shape was probably chosen to make the most of an unusually shaped site.

The houses would have initially been those of lower/middle class, working families. According to London Living History, in 1851 there were 240 people, of 76 families, living in 22 houses, with many properties rented out by the Stuckey family, with 2A acting as the estate office.

Up until recently, the area has had a reputation for deprivation and prostitution, and in the early 1900’s Algerton Stuckey, Robert’s grandson wanted to redevelop his investment. The plans fell through, however, he did change the name to Keystone Crescent, presumably to make it sound more appealing. Ninety years later, when the Channel Tunnel was being proposed, a new station was planned next to King’s Cross, this would have involved half of Keystone Crescent being demolished to dig the hole required to build the station.

Researching the history of Keystone Crescent, Jack Chesher from Living London History came across a dramatic story about the Stuckey family:

A stash of letters and personal items belonging to Robert Stuckey was discovered by his descendants under the bed at number 2A. They are generally about everyday occurrences, however also reveal a shocking secret: he had a second family!
Robert first married Hannah Bennewith, with whom he had 7 children. He then married Sarah Culver in 1864, with whom he also had 7 children, this time using the surname ‘James’ (his middle name). Hannah died in 1857 but the letters reveal that the two relationships ran alongside each other. Indeed, Robert’s first child with Sarah (the 2nd wife) had arrived in 1841. Whether Hannah knew she was sharing his affections with another woman is unclear but this was all certainly news to Robert’s descendants.

Bob Stuckey has had the letters transcribed and you can buy them here.

Keystone Crescent, King’s Cross, mid 19th century terraced houses in a crescent just off the Caledonian Road. Grade II listed by Jim Osley (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of a kind

You know how it is, ordering something online and when ready to enter your address you are invited by the algorithm to start typing.

Now if you live in High Street or Park Road you will have to type much of your address before being able to ‘click’ on your order’s correct destination. For you it’s better to give your postcode, that way there’s only a couple of dozen sharing that six- or seven-digit number.

But here’s a little window on my world, my street has a unique name commemorating if anyone needed reminding, that the second queen to Henry IV died here in 1437. So within five keystrokes, my address pops up. With 360 miles comprising 60,000 streets, surely London must have many similarly uniquely named thoroughfares.

First I tried London’s shortest named street – Hide. Yes! That was unique, nowhere in the UK is there a Hide; Hide Street, Hide Road even the definite article – The Hide.

At the other end of the road-naming scale is St. Martin-in-the-Field Church Path. No prizes for guessing how many of those are to be found in Britain.

What about London’s shortest street – Kirk Street at 50ft long? Here 28 are to be found of various lengths in the UK. London’s longest road at 7.45 miles is Green Lanes, curiously only 8 are to be found, despite its rather seemingly common name. Next, I tried London’s longest street, which is Rotherhithe Street at 1.5 miles in a wide arc just south of the Thames, that one was satisfyingly unique.

The oldest house to found in the City is medieval, having survived the Great Fire of London, and situated in the wonderfully named Cloth Fair, surely fairs of all kinds have taken place in Britain. Nope, just one.

As streets go, at 15 inches wide you have to give it to Brydges Place for the title of London’s narrowest, and the only one of any width, to be found in the UK.

Other unusually named unique streets are:

Crutched Friars, EC3; Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1; Shoulder of Mutton Alley, E14; Hanging Sword Alley, EC4; Trump Street, EC2; St. Mary Axe, EC3; French Ordinary Court, EC3; Wardrobe Place, EC4

And obviously Maggie Blake’s Cause, a short alley near Tower Bridge, is unique.