London

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 […]

The Foofication Of London

Jacob’s Island was the roughest part of London. It’s where Dickens chose to send Bill Sykes to his death, a rookery of mud and sewage that was virtually in the river Thames itself. The filthy waters in the creeks that bisected it rose and fell, leaving silt and animal corpses, so the surrounding hovels were […]

Where Next For Bryant & May?

  In their new novel ‘The Lonely Hour’ Bryant & May spend some time in Hampstead, specifically at this house, which has unusual historical significance, here splendidly rendered by artist Keith Page. ‘All your detectives’ adventures occur in North London,’ said a lady at my launch. ‘When are they going to come south of the […]

Is London History All Fake News?

Listening to the nonsense that our city tour guides come out with. one starts to wonder just how much London history is made up. The Victorians certainly didn’t help, forever embroidering facts with simpering tales of medieval romance. Is it true that Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth was once due to hold an equestrian statue […]

Let’s All Go Down The Strand

The Twinings Tea Museum is actually a shop built on Tom’s Coffee House in the Strand, and has been around since 1706. It is the world’s oldest tea shop, a narrow canister-lined hall with a tiny ‘tea museum’ (actually a few cupboards) at the end. The exhibits include a wooden box with the gold-painted initials ‘T.I.P’ […]