Tag Archives: London trivia

London Trivia: Shock and awe

On 19 January 1917 at 6.62 in the evening an explosion at the Brunner-Mond munitions factory manufacturing explosives for Britain’s World War I military effort in Silvertown, West Ham killed 73 people and injured over 400. Much of the area was flattened by 50 tonnes of TNT exploding causing a shock wave felt throughout London and Essex. The largest explosion in London’s history was heard as far away as Southampton.

On 19 January 1937 The Underground Murder Mystery, a play by J. Bissell Thomas, was the first play to be broadcast by the BBC, it was set in Tottenham Court Road station

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

Bromley Hall, Brunswick Road, Bow is believed to be the oldest brick house in London, and dates back to 1490

It was in Room 507 at the Hotel Samarkand, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill that Jimi Hendrix died of a drugs overdose in September 1970

Had Hitler won World War II he planned to transport Nelson’s Column to Berlin as he believed it was a symbol of British naval supremacy

Sir John Goss who composed the hymn “Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven” was once organist of St Paul’s Cathedral and St Luke’s Church Chelsea

One of the performers at the 1831 opening of London Bridge played tunes by hitting himself on the chin with his fists

In September 2009 London and the River Thames hosted the world’s largest ever plastic duck race with 205, 000 ducks participating

On 19 January 2009 Pawel Modzelewski travelled the 19 bus for 6 hours unnoticed after dying the previous day and left in the garage overnight

In the 1880s workers at the Bryant and May match factory were forced to contribute one shilling to a statue of former PM William Gladstone

The keys to the vaults of the Bank of England which presumably are kept under lock and key – the real ones, not ceremonial ones – are 3 feet long

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: Frozen out

On 12 January 1789 with the Thames frozen due in part to the river being both broader and shallower than today, a frost fair was in full swing. The ‘Little Ice Age’ lasting from 17th to 19th-century ice fairs were regularly held, the first being in 1608. Frost fairs were often brief as rapid thaws swiftly followed as it did on that day when melting ice dragged a ship anchored to a riverside public house pulling the down and crushing five people to death.

On 12 January 1828 whilst under construction Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel flooded and 6 men died. Brunel himself was fortunate to escape

John Bishop and Thomas Williams who lived at 3 Nova Scotia Gardens, Spitalfields were notorious 19th century body snatchers

The Monument stands on the site of St Margaret’s, the first church to burn down during the Great Fire of 1666

In 1926, suicide pits were installed beneath tracks due to a rise in the numbers of passengers throwing themselves in front of trains

In 1536 in consideration to his wife Henry VIII converted Anne Boleyn’s sentence of death by burning to that of beheading at Tower Hill

A young David Robert Jones went to Burnt Ash Junior School, Bromley in the mid fifties, he is better known today as David Bowie

In 1830 Michael Boai, aka the ‘chin chopper’, gave a concert at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly playing tunes by tapping his chin

Arsenal (originally opened on 15 December 1906 as Gillespie Road) on Piccadilly line is the only station named after a football team

On 12 January 1866 The Royal Aeronautical Society was formed in London, the society’s objectives were “for the advancement of Aerial Navigation and for Observations in Aerology connected therewith”

19th Century Spitalfields was world famous for silk weaving, so much so that Pope Pius IX ordered a seamless silk garment from there

Nineteenth century parish records show Fanny Funk (1859) and Eleazer Bed (1871) as being born In Whitechapel

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: Duke of York

On 5 January 1827 Frederick, second son of George III, died at Rutland House in Arlington Street. The Duke of York’s Column in Waterloo Place commemorating his life and paid for by British troops, each forced to donate a day’s pay was said to be so high to escape his creditors for his £2 million debts. After an ineffectual campaign against the Dutch Frederick was mocked producing the rhyme: “The Grand Old Duke of York”.

On 5 January 1944, the Daily Mail became the first ‘transoceanic newspaper’ launching the Transatlantic Daily Mail a digest of London’s paper

In January 1965 Freddie Foreman abducted Ginger Marks outside Repton Boxing Club, Cheshire Street, Bethnal Green, he then murdered him

Etched into the frosted windows of the Albert Tavern in Victoria Street is an image of Prince Albert’s penis. Grade II listed it was built in 1862 and is the only remaining building from the original phase

The tomb of Lord Nelson stands in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral directly below the centre of the dome. His sarcophagus had been commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey in around 1524 before he fell from favour

Immediately before and two months into World War II Bank of England Governor, Montagu Norman supported transfers of Czech gold to Hitler’s Germany

The cover for Oasis’ second studio album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory was shot in Berwick Street, Soho

Fortnum and Mason was the first store in England to sell Heinz’s tinned foods in 1886. In 1901 Heinz Baked Beans were first sold at in their food hall

Whilst a pupil at Rugby School, William Webb Ellis is thought to have invented rugby football. He became the rector of St Clement Danes church in Strand

On 5 January 1964 Stamford Brook was the first tube station on the network to have an automatic ticket barrier installed

Before Anthony Trollope started work at the General Post Office, St Martin’s-Le-Grand each morning he would rise at 5:30am and pen 1,000 words

In his time, founder of Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse Square, Sir Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) was the richest commoner in England

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’s Cornucopia of Curiosities

This contribution to CabbieBlog has a rather fruity flavour to it; with its artificially high climate, London can support a wide variety of soft fruit varieties.

Hanged by silk

There stands in the south-west corner of Buckingham Palace’s gardens a testament to hope over adversity, evidence of when King James I decided that England would benefit from an indigenous silk industry and to that end planted four acres of mulberry trees. Alas, the Mulberry Garden as it became known came to nothing and just one tree was left producing nothing more valuable than its fruit. Silk is useful for if one is granted the freedom of the City of London and if you are then sentenced to hang for a crime, the execution can only be carried out using a silken rope.

Olive tree in Chelsea Psysic garden

Chelsea’s spiff crop

Established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, Chelsea Physic Garden is home to Britain’s tallest outdoor olive tree; at over 30ft high it was capable in 1970 of producing 7lb of its delicious fruit. The garden is also home to the world’s northern-most outdoor grapefruit tree. Hidden behind towering its brick walls, protected from the city’s sounds and harsh breezes, the most idyllic collection of plants flourish in a unique, carefully created microclimate. The garden at one time was home to London’s only legitimate cannabis plants and predictably scrumpers bunked over the wall and ‘harvested’ the crop.

Great Vine Hampton Court

The Gantsville Grape

With a girth of 12ft round, its base the Great Vine in Hampton Court Palace garden is the oldest and largest known vine in the world. Planted by the famous garden designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown around 1768 its rods measure an incredible 120ft. The vine produces an average of 600 bunches of grapes a year which can still be bought from the Palace’s shops. In 1933 proceeds of its crop were given to soldiers blinded in World War I. The vine originated from a small cutting taken from a vine in Valentine’s Park at Gants Hill in Essex. Gants Hill is an area now so favoured by London’s cabbies to live in they are known as Gantsville Cowboys.

Nellie Melba

Life’s a peach

When Dame Nellie Melba visited London in 1893 the Savoy’s chef Auguste Escoffier created a dish in her name containing the diva’s favourites – peaches, raspberries, redcurrant jelly and vanilla ice-cream – combining the ingredients in such a way as to reduce the impact of cold ice cream on her vocal cords. The hotel once boasted an orchestra led by Johann Strauss, a dishwasher by the name of Guccio Gucci who went on to start the famous fashion brand and its first manager was César Ritz. Now after a complete refurbishment which has cost the equivalent of over £1 million per guest room, will it raise the standard of cuisine again?

Featured image: The threatened Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree; photograph by Bob Philpots read about its fate on Spitalfields Life.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 14th May 2010

London Trivia: St. Paul’s survives

On 29 December 1940, the largest area of continuous Blitz destruction anywhere in Briain took place. The Luftwaffe dropped over 24,000 high-explosive bombs, times to coincide with a very low tide, making it difficult for firefighters to get water. The famous picture of the church surrounded by smoke and fire was taken by photographer Herbert Mason from the roof of Northcliffe House, the Daily Mail building on Tudor Street.

On 29 December 1860 HMS Warrior an armour-plated warship, the biggest in the Navy was launched and froze on the slipway, six tugs were need to pull her off into the Thames

The term ‘clink’ is derived from the Clink Prison in Southwark a private lock-up owned by the Bishops of Winchester

Under Cleopatra’s Needle, a Victorian time capsule contains railway timetables, bibles, newspapers and photos of beauties of the day

Great Ormond Street was the first hospital in England exclusively for children when it opened in 1851 42 per cent of deaths were children under 10

Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring was jammed on to the wrong finger by the Archbishop of Canterbury and as a result got stuck

Carving Handel’s statue for Westminster Abbey the artist objected to the size of the maestro’s own ears and modelled them on a young lady’s

Opened in 1881 the Savoy Theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit throughout by electricity, fitted out with 1,200 incandescent light bulbs

To make balls more visible early tennis courts were painted red using lampblack and oxblood the animal being slaughtered on the floor itself

Daimler made the first petrol-driven cab in 1887 but it was 17 years before the vehicle was licensed to ply for hire in London

When escalators were first installed at Earls Court Bumper Harris a one-legged man was employed to demonstrate their safety and ease of use

When weddings take place at Bevis Marks, London’s oldest synagogue, the building is lit by candlelight as it would have been in 1701

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.