5 Unusual London Objects No.5


key1. The Key In The Pavement

On London’s Marchmont Street there are a number of odd objects embedded in concrete paving stones, including a pineapple, a fish and this key. In 2007 an artist created them to symbolise the tokens left behind by impoverished mothers who needed to identify their babies. The children were left in the Foundling Hospital at Coram Fields, to await collection when their mothers were better-off.

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2. The Bolan Swans 

Forget Freddie Mercury; the real hero of the glam-rock movement was Marc Bolan, born Mark Field, whose band T Rex strode like a colossus over the early seventies. He had a lifelong fear of cars and so never learned to drive, and was killed in a car driven by his  girlfriend (she was charged with being unfit to drive but never turned up for the trial). Fellow band member Steve Currie was killed in a car crash four years later.

The swans are not official epitaphs, but in Golders Green Crematorium a number of them are regularly placed by fans to mark his death, after his signature song ‘Ride A White Swan’. At at his memorial statue in Barnes, where the accident happened, swan feather wreaths and china swans are left by fans.


3. The Cable Street Mural

‘They Shall Not Pass! was the war-cry; The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936 in East London’s Cable Street, a clash between the police and protestors. The cops were overseeing a march by the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley, who were faced down by local people including Jewish, Socialist and Communist groups. Mosley planned to send thousands of marchers dressed in uniforms styled on Blackshirts through the East End, which had a large Jewish population. The mural has long been controversial but has been restored and survives as a symbol of freedom.


4. The Euston Road Torture Chair

This razor-sharp Chinese torture chair is in the Wellcome Trust’s museum in Euston Road. It could never have actually been used for torture, as it would have killed its sitter instantly, but was probably used to frighten prisoners into talking. Probably not something the Chinese authorities would like to be reminded about.


5. The Led Zeppelin Tower

It’s hard to believe this tower is in central London, but it’s at 29 Melbury Road, Kensington, and looks like something from a horror film. It’s supposed to contain an astrology hall, reflecting the interests of its owner, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, and surreal filmmaker Kenneth Anger once lived in its basement. Fans make pilgrimages there, which must be annoying when Page is looking out of the window doing the washing up. No lift, but there’s a stairway to heaven.

5 comments on “5 Unusual London Objects No.5”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    That chair just makes my day. I often feel as if I’d been sitting in it, if I stay too long in my typing chair. All very interesting again.

  2. Ford says:

    Myself and the Memsab wen to an exhibition at the Foundling Hospital, a few years back. It was an exhibition of the tokens left by the mothers. Much of it was pieces of cloth – though there was also buttons, handwritten notes, ribbon. They’re still there, because the mothers hadn’t gone back. Very sad. The “Hospital” now has one on the best collections of examples of everyday 18/19th century cloth.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    I guess it is now actually 6 Unusual Things in London, isn’t it? Today’s major windstorm with rain added roaring through the city certainly tore up parts of London and then Europe.
    Honestly sorry for that happening, but I have had a foreboding that something ugly might happen… ever since you lost that prize late last week.
    Shades of ‘Carrie’, non?

  4. Terenzio says:

    The Tower House was built between 1875 and 1881 by the architect and designer William Burges for himself in the French gothic revival style. Apparently Page is a fan of Burgess and the Pre-Raphs. It is a pity its not open to the public, if only just a few times a year. Judging by the photographs the interior looks quite beautiful.

    I shall retire to the boudoir with a before dinner kir and ponder the architecture of Burgess and perhaps leaf through a book on Knightshayes Court in Devon, another delightful house by Burgess and one open to the public. The 1983 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles with Ian Richardson as Holmes was filmed there.

    À bientôt…the one in the gorgeous purple dressing gown and lovely velvet slippers.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I heard the storm was coming and wondered how bad it would be. The photos at the Monument should give a good view of the City at least.

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