Weird & Wonderful London 5

This was taken in 1933 but feels a century older. The villagers are receiving their Maundy peas – 20 bushels of peas and 2 bushels of wheat were given to the poor of the parish every Maundy Thursday, in a ritual dating back to 1572. Maundy money is still handed out today at a service, […]

London Quiz 1

This doesn’t exist. The immense Doric Arch that used to herald the entrance to Euston Station was torn down in 1961 against the wishes of the public and architectural experts, and was dumped to save money, but its pediments still exist and have been turned – inevitably – into pubs. The buildings that replaced it […]

Weird & Wonderful London 4

Ploughing through far too many books on London and trying to work out which ones to take with me to Barcelona, where I’ll be working in seclusion next week, I can’t help but stare at photographs that touch me in some way. A lot of people complain that we have an idealised view of London […]

Weird & Wonderful London 3

A friend of mine recently moved into Petticoat Lane without realising it. It’s not her fault; the lane doesn’t technically exist. Petticoat Lane Market was started over 400 years ago by the French Huguenots who sold petticoats and lace from the stalls (there are still lace sellers there). The prudish Victorians changed the name of […]

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 […]

Weird & Wonderful London 1

While I was researching today I came across some peculiar photographs of Londoners worth sharing. In East London in 1934 there was concern that babies weren’t getting enough fresh air and sunshine, so south-facing ‘baby balconies’ were installed until the London County Council (LCC) stopped them on safety grounds. The UK has a long, strong […]

Finding Mr Merrick

An author who has written a biography of Joseph Merrick, the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, has tracked down his final resting place. Jo Vigor-Mungovin consulted cemetery records around the time of Joseph Merrick’s death and found he had been interred at the City of London Cemetery & Crematorium, near Epping Forest. The problem had always been that although […]

Arthur Bryant, Tour Guide

In ‘Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour’ I’ve punctuated the chapters with chunks of the speeches Arthur Bryant gives as a London tour guide, and it made me wonder if I should write a ‘Bryant & May Guide to London’ at some point. It would have to include lots of pointless, peculiar and abstruse information […]

Jack The Lad

It’s a disreputable name, is Jack, a scallywag nomenclature from Ripper to Spring-Heeled, but Jack Sheppard (b.1702) is the best one. He’s buried in St Martin-in-the-Fields now, a lad who never stood a chance, but went down in London history. Raised in a workhouse and promisingly apprenticed to a carpenter, he switched to robbery and […]

Transforming London’s Stations

After I had major eye surgery I was supposed to be collected from the hospital but my ride fell through and it was raining so hard that there were no cabs, so I did a dumb thing. I went by tube. In the rush hour. With only 20% sight. And to make matters worse, I […]