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?