The London Explorer No.2



More from Peter Jackson’s books of London oddities, in which we try to find out whether there’s anything left of the things he mentions that could once be found in and around the London streets. The books were written over half a century ago, and I thought the chances of locating them were pretty slim until the first post in this series yielded results. So let’s try again…

In the Haymarket, the double-fronted shop of Fribourg & Treyer sold snuff to the gentry from 1720 onwards. They sold to Beau Brummel, Napoleon and George III. Jackson says the shop can still be seen. Yes, it’s there, but now it’s selling tourist tat and has not been restored – just badly painted over.

The London Watergate was built in 1626 for boats to land at Charing Cross. ‘The stairs are still there, buried under the gardens, and the Water Gate itself has not changed its appearance to date’. Has it?

George VI was a gambler, and having lost a fortune at a cockfight, pawned his watch at the Castle Pub in Farringdon. In gratitude, he allowed the pub a licence to also be a pawnbroker’s shop – the only one in the country. But the original three brass balls can still be seen in the pub. Well, the pub’s still there but the interior has that ubiquitous stripped-back look of a thousand other venues. Does it have the balls?

‘The Intrepid Fox’ has just vanished for the second time. The pub started out in Wardour Street, then got shunted to the back of Centrepoint, and has now fallen victim to Crossrail. But the original pub owes its name to Charles James Fox, and there was a mural in the pub depicting his mistress, who won him votes by downing a yard of ale and smashing it in the fireplace, before giving every man a drink for a vote. The pub’s gone, but is the mural still there?

And the question: Where in London can you see a mosaic of Greta Garbo in the floor?

8 comments on “The London Explorer No.2”

  1. Brian says:

    Wasn’t young Greta used as a model for one of the muses in the floor mosaic at the National Gallery? Thought it was her but I may be confusing her with someone else. Quite some time since I’ve been there.

  2. Jo W says:

    You’re right, Brian.she’s in th entrance hall, labelled as Melpomena,Muse of Tragedy. Quite apt! There is also Augustus John as Neptune,T. S.Eliot depicting leisure and Bertrand Russell,I think. Be careful where you put your feet!

  3. Vivienne says:

    I think there were two Intrepid Fox pubs: the picture is the one that was in Wardour Street, now a Byrons – it is still tiled as originally, I think, so maybe the mural is there. The other one, behind Centrepoint, seems to be a goth venue, so black attire would be a good idea before visiting that one.

  4. pheeny says:

    Ah the Intrepid Fox in Soho – happy memories! Sad to see it all boarded up,

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I recall a description of the Watergate appearing here with photos some time ago. Wasn’t the gate itself moved and wasn’t it at the bottom of a garden?
    I don’t believe the gambling George has been correctly numbered. Would it not have been the IVth of that ilk? I recall a mention of that one here, too, and the three balls, but perhaps the “stripped back look” is a recent effect.

  6. admin says:

    The original Intrepid Fox became a Goth pub while it was in Wardour Street, and then it moved to behind Centrepoint, which is the one now coming down…

  7. jan says:

    Yes i remember the Intrepid Fox it was a corner pub wasn’t it not 2 far from Madame Jojos i didn’t realise it had been shifted to behind Centrepoint i am so out of date now with pubs and stuff i take it when it shifted over it took its Goth clientele with it such rounded characters i always felt………

    Re Helens entry above the Watergate is there not 2 far from Embankment station marooned in a sea of green grass at the rear of the M.O.D buildings on the north side of the Thames. Course everybody knows that it was Bazalgettes Embankment and the subsequent narrowing of the Thames which resulted in the Watergate’s lacking well water…..
    Sorry not been up to date with the blog scribbling and dribbling have been on me hols short ski break. You should see me blisters bloody snowshoes wot made me try them i should’ve known better.

    I’m still trying to get me head round T.S. Eliot representing leisure theres something profoundly wrong about that there really is. I live not 2 far from the Coker villages – u know from 4 Quartets. Well these villages East Coker in particular are on the point of getting caught up in a rapidly expanding Yeovil and the objections to expansion are part based on Eliot’s work hes still causing bother.

  8. jan says:

    You know what with the Intrepid Fox Goth pub being torn down due to the Cross rail development well remember that strange film starring Donald Pleasance which was based on the story of the people digging out the underground system becoming trapped and forming a “lost tribe” living in the tube tunnels? the Goths from the Intrepid Fox could provide an excellent sequel to that story you can imagine all of them roaming round the tunnels and cropping up on CCTV after a lock in to celebrate the pub closure went wrong and they exitted the pub from the cellars…….when they got tracked down and traced by TFL officers who asked “How long have u been down here?” expecting cave men grunts in return the goths would reply “Oh about a week guvnor”

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