Weird & Wonderful London 2
Still poking about in old London photographs, I’ve a few more choice shots from the city’s past. Alfred Gilbert’s statue of Anteros (god of requited love) has been moved about a lot since it arrived on top of the fountain in Piccadilly Circus in 1893. Eros is Anteros’s twin brother, and that’s the name chosen for him by the public, who generally decide what all buildings and statues are called. Critics called it a financially disastrous, ugly, pretentious, unsuitable nuisance. Here it is on its way to the Embankment while the Circus is enlarged in 1925. There were four identical statues cast; the ones in Liverpool and Blackpool were vandalised and lost.
Tower Beach, here seen in 1955, was a foreshore of Essex sand dumped by Traitors’ Gate, intended so that poor Eastenders could go to the ‘seaside’. King George V said that the children of London should have ‘access forever’ to the spot where so many swam and sunbathed, but it was closed in 1971 after pollution fears grew. It’s about to crop up again in ‘Bryant & May’s Day Off’, in the next B&M book, ‘England’s Finest’, out this October.
I say, I’m a chap in a suit, so could I listen to one of the new ‘records’ you have? In 1955 at HMV you could go into a soundproofed booth with your own personal gramophone and try the song out first. This was clearly in the days before anything not tied down in a shop would be nicked. Often girls demonstrated ‘record your own voice’ devices, allowing you to make a record in-store. In the 1980s you could do something similar with T-shirts by taking in any drawing or photo of your choosing and having it instantly hot-inked onto the fabric.
It’s the Ladies Who Do! Seen here in 1952, the Fluffers of the London Underground popped on their turbans and used brushes and brooms to defluff the tube lines at night. This is no lost occupation, though – it still goes on throughout the system, just with better equipment.
While Londoners were busy supporting the Spanish in their fight against Franco they weren’t so happy about the Italians. There were anti-Italian riots throughout the city in 1940. Delis, restaurants and ice cream parlours were smashed up, and the capital’s waiters were hounded out or quickly changed their names. Not all were Nazis; many had fled Mussolini for our ‘safer’ shores, only to find themselves interned for the duration of the war. This was a time when the political leanings counted more than racial differences.