Tag Archives: London trivia

London Trivia: Father of modern philanthropy

On 26 March 1862 to repay the ’courtesy, kindness and confidence’ he had received from the British public American banker George Peabody announced the creation of a fund that carries his name. Designed to ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of London, from the first estate in Spitalfields opening in 1864 Peabody Estates now houses more than 70,000 Londoners. Born poor in Massachusetts he is today regarded as the ‘father of modern philanthropy’.

On 26 March 1973 women were finally allowed on the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange for the first time in the institution’s 200 year history

HMP Wormwood Scrubs was built by its inmates, nine inmates built 50 cells, then more inmates joined and built more cells to house even more etc, etc

Tins of Old Holborn rolling tobacco once featured a drawing of the front of Staple Inn, Holborn one of the last timber framed building left in London

Poet Shelly met second wife Mary, author of Frankenstein, in St Pancras Old Church graveyard where she visited her parents’ tomb

Margaret Thatcher used to stand on a chair in her Commons room to check the top of the door. “It’s the way you know if a room’s really been cleaned.”

Wyndham’s theatre programme 1940: ‘In the interests of public health this theatre is disinfected with Jeyes Fluid’

Hamley’s toy store was founded by Cornishman William Hamley in 1760, first named Noah’s Ark and sited in Holborn

Harold Abrahams (Chariots of Fire) from Golders Green won gold at the 1924 Paris Olympics, the first European to win an Olympic sprint title

Gordon Selfridge wanted Bond Street tube renamed Selfridges Station but he couldn’t persuade the Underground’s managing director to agree

Constantia Philips, a retired courtesan, opened London’s first sex shop in 1732. Her “preservatives” – condoms – were hugely popular

On 26 March 2014 Sesame Street star Kermit the Frog was made Honorary Bridge Master of Tower Bridge by the City of London

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.

London Trivia: The sky at night

On 19 March 1958 the United Kingdom’s first planetarium opened adjacent to Madam Tussaud’s waxwork museum. Built on the site of an old cinema destroyed by a World War II bomb the new planetarium seated 330 beneath a horizontal dome, the opto-mechanical star projector gave a view of the night sky as seen from earth. Due to falling numbers it was closed in 2006. To say ‘farewell’ to the planetarium the public were allowed free entry to the show in its penultimate week.

On 19 March 1702 upon the death of William III of Orange, Anne Stuart, the sister of Mary, succeeded to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland

Acid Bath Murderer John George Haigh was driven to murder 6 people by lust to drink his victim’s blood. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison

The Princess Louise pub at 208 High Holborn was built in 1872 and named after Queen Victoria’s 4th daughter

The viewing plinth at the top of The Monument was caged in 1842 due to a high number of suicides many having a connection to bakers

The Soviet Union ran a spy ring from 49 Moorgate. Special Branch raided the place in 1927 finding ¼ million documents and crates of rifles

Jeffrey Archer’s London phone number ends 007 – he bought the old flat of Bond composer John Barry, who’d chosen the number

Rackstrow’s Museum of Anatomy on Fleet Street was popular in the 1700s because he was a skilled modeller in replicas of reproductive system

When The Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club, was built in 1845 over 10,000 pieces of turf from Tooting Common were used

The first London buses were so slow that operators provided free reading matter, the omnibuses could carry 22 people and were pulled by three horses, the service ran four return journeys every day.

The Wellcome Library on 183 Euston Road is home to the world’s largest collection of cards put in phone boxes by sex workers

Rumours of a woman with the head of a pig in Manchester Square who inherited a fortune communicating only in grunts – men advertised to meet her

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.

London Trivia: Much ado about nothing

On 12 March London seems to have held its collective breath and done nothing. To liven up the date in 1969 Paul McCartney, then aged 27, married Linda Eastman at Marylebone Register Office with Miss Eastman’s six-year-old daughter in attendance. Hundreds of distraught fans gathered outside seeing their chance of marrying their idol slip away. The ceremony was delayed because the best man, McCartney’s brother Mike McGear of the Scaffold pop group, arrived late.

On 12 March 1836 pioneering cookery writer Mrs Beeton was born in Cheapside, her Book of Household Management is still in print

Wife selling in Smithfield didn’t become illegal until the early 20th century. One of the last reported instances, a woman in 1913 claimed that she had been sold to one of her husband’s workmates for £1

London’s smallest statue can be found on Philpot Lane – a mouse – a memorial to two builders who were killed working on the Monument

In 1985 eight people were killed in a gas explosion at Manor Fields Estate Putney Police found bags stuffed with £20 notes in the debris

Edward VI punished Westminster Abbey (St Peter’s) by diverting their funding to St Paul’s hence the phrase robbing Peter to pay Paul’

When the Coliseum Theatre opened in 1904 it featured a private elevator to transport the King to the royal box. It broke down!

The Hoope and Grapes, Aldgate has a listening tube which runs from the bar to the cellar so the landlord can listen for treasonable gossip

When Billy (the police horse who controlled spectators at the 1923 FA Cup final) died, his rider was given one of his hooves as an inkwell

The Jubilee Line was initially named the Fleet Line after the River Fleet; however it was changed to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee

When Odham’s publisher Julius Elias died in 1946 his successor claimed Elias continued to run the Long Acre firm through him as a medium

We know six ravens are kept at the Tower to keep London safe from invasion, but in 1981 one escaped and flew into a pub in East London

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.

London Trivia: A naturalist’s nightmare

On 5 March 1879 a coal porter found a wooden box in the Thames near Barnes Bridge. Inside was the remains of Miss Julia Thomas, murdered by her servant, Kate Webster who then disposed of the body by dismembering it, boiling the flesh off the bones, and throwing most of the remains into the Thames. Found guilty and hanged at Wandsworth Prison. In a twist of fate naturalist David Attenborough during building work found the missing skull of the victim.

On 5 March 1969 the Old Bailey’s most expensive hearing ended after 39-days when Ronnie and Reggie Kray were given 30 years’ for murder

During the Jack the Ripper investigation the police paid £100 for 2 tracker bloodhounds but they got lost and needed the Police to find them

The last wolf in the City of London is commemorated at the spot it was killed, where a wolf’s head forms the waterspout of the Aldgate pump

Fragrance Madeleine was trialled at Piccadilly station in 2001 to make the Tube more pleasant. Stopped after days people said they felt ill

The last male Prime Minister to wear a wedding ring in public was Harold Wilson, in 1976, in fact the last occupant of No 10 to regularly sport a wedding ring was Lady Thatcher

Starting in 1908 with a Perrier sign, it now costs £2 million a year to advertise your firm on a Piccadilly Circus neon sign

The Lamb in Lamb’s Conduit Street had etched glass partitions preventing wealthy drinkers having to watch common men drinking in next bar

On 5 March 1870 the first ever International Football match was England vs Scotland held at The Oval, the first of many England draws 1-1

In 1750 the first umbrella used by Jonas Hanway brought back from Persia. Cabbies fearful they’d lose their wet weather called him a Frenchman

Jack Dee once worked in the Ritz’s kitchen. One night he cooked a doorman dinner, got a 50p tip. Made him realise his life was in a mess

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub off Fleet Street, built in 1667, has a famous resident – a dead parrot named Polly who swore in many languages

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.

London Trivia: A safe bet?

On 26 February 1995 Barings Bank, Britain’s oldest investment banking firm, and the world’s second oldest merchant bank (after Berenberg Bank), founded in 1762 was forced into bankruptcy after an employee in Singapore, 28 year old Nicholas William Leeson, speculated in derivatives on Tokyo stock prices that resulted in losses exceeding $1.4 billion. A trading jacket thought to have been worn by Leeson while trading was subsequently sold for £21,000.

On 26 February 1797 the Bank of England issued the first £1 banknote it remained in circulation until 1983 when the £1 coin was introduced

Pentonville Prison held a week long training course for trainee executioners who learned how carry out an execution with speed and efficiency

The first Palladian building built in Britain was Queen’s House, Greenwich commissioned by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I

The name ‘Bunhill Fields’ as in the Burial Ground is thought to be derived from ‘Bone Hill’ an area used as a burial ground for centuries

Henry VIII’s Chelsea Manor, which he gifted to Catherine Parr as a wedding present, stood where 19-26 Cheyne Walk now stand

William Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progress was inspired by the life history of the infamous Sally Salisbury who worked Covent Garden’s brothels

French Ordinary Court EC3 takes its name from a fixed price menu or as Samuel Pepys called it a French Ordinary

Arsenal tube station was originally Gillespie Road renamed when the club moved North. It is the only station named after a football team

In 1860 Sir Edward Watkins, Chairman of the East London Railway developed plans to build a ‘channel tunnel’ linking Britain with Europe

From his Wapping soap factory John Knight produced the famous Knight’s Castile soap, which won a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851

On 26 February 2010 The Barbican hosted an ongoing concert given by 40 zebra finches with guitars as perches and cymbals as feeders

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.