the london compendium guide to my week – Day 5

Time flies when you’re having fun don’t ya think?  Well this week has for me, and here we are at the weekend already.  Friday, Day 5, has thrown up a lot more places & stories from TLC and I even made it further east than the West End.  As those of you who’ve been keeping up with my movements this week, you’ll know that I started from Heathrow yesterday, and a jolly good start to the day ot was too;

Heathrow Terminal 3 to Gatwick – nothing to report, apart from the £20 tip.

Elizabeth Street, SW1 to Marney Road, SW11 – nothing to report.

A young Karl Marx. No, really.

A young Karl Marx. No, really.

Harrods to Radisson Grafton Hotel, Tottenham Court Road, W1 – ‘ London’s most prestigious, and Europe’s largest, department store, it’s motto omnia, omnibis, ubique (everything for everyone, everywhere), opened as a small grocry store, run by Henry Harrod in Stepney, in 1835, moved to Eastcheap in the City, and then to Belgravia in 1849.’  Tottenham Court is now best known for it’s ‘intense concentration of hi-fi and computer shops’,  but I prefer Ed’s anecdote’s about Karl Marx a lot more; ‘Karl Marx, walking along Tottenham Court Road one day in the 1850s, attempted to solve a row between two people after hearing a woman crying out "Murder! Murder!".  He waded through the crowd to find a drunken woman arguing noisily with her husband, but the sound of his German accent caused the protagonists to turn on him as an interfering foreigner.  Marx and a German companion later took a pub crawl along the road, visiting the Rising Sun at No 46, the Roebuck (No. 108) and the Northumberland Arms (No. 119), after which they ran down the street throwing stones and smashing a street lamp with several policemen giving chase.’  Who said socialist types are no fun?

Tottenham Court Road, W1 to Gerrard Road, N1 – hailed about 50 yards from the previous drop off (very rare these days).  When Marx wasn’t rampaging through the streets, Tottenham Court Road was originally well known for it’s links to the furniture trade.  Which explains why Heal’s is there. ‘…founded by John Harris Heal in 1810 at Rathbone Place, Heal’s moved to TCR in 1940 and through the work of Ambrose Heal, one of John’s sons, played a leading role in the development of the Arts & Crafts movement in England.  The rebuilt store, the work of Smith and Brewer in 1916, alarmed the leading modernist architect Le Corbusier who said: "The existing plan of the dwelling…is conceived as a furniture store.  This scheme of things, favourable enough to the trade of Tottenham Court Road, is of ill omen to society"’.  Blimey mate, it’s only a building.

Farringdon Street, EC4, Cannon St, EC3 – Between Fleet Lane and Ludgate Hill was Fleet Prison, ‘The first purpose built prison in London, the Fleet was opened here in c. 1170 on what was then a small island in the Fleet River that flooded when it rained and was used mostly for debtors, who were obliged to pay for the irons that shackled them.  The money raised went to the Keeper, who, according to hereditary principle, was always a member of the Leveland family, and abuse of the system was common, with some prisoners going missing for several days at a time, if bothering to return at all.’  At No. 111 is the London Stone mentioned in William Blake’s Jerusalem, but possibly the most disappointing thing to look out in the whole of London.  But I’ll let Ed talk it up a bit for you; ‘London Stone, a block of Clipsham limestone embodied in the wall of 111 Canon Street, and previously in the wall of St Swithin’s church on the same site, may have been a Roman milestone for all British distances, the sacred pagan centre of the town, or even the ancient stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur’.  Whatever it was, nothing can quite prepare you for how rubbish it looks.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kingscote Street, EC4 to LSE, Houghton Street, WC2 – ‘Henry Hunt Hutchison, a Fabian socialist who committed suicide in 1894, left instructions in his will for Sidney Webb and other trustees of his estate to establish an institution "to promote the study and advancement of Economics or Political Economy, Political Science or Political Philosophy, Statistics, Sociology, History, Geography and any subject cognate to any of these".  The college was founded later the following year at 9 John Street, south of the Strand, moving here in 1902…..’

st-pancras-ii24 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2 to St Pancras Station, N1 – ‘Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London’s largest square, was used in medieval times for sports and jousting and was where in September 1586 the fourteen Babington Plotters who had planned to murder Elizabeth I and install Mary Queen of Scots on the throne, were hanged drawn and quartered’.  When it comes to St Pancras station, let’s finally clarify one thing first.  The bit you seen at the front facing out onto the Euston Road, is not the station itself, it’s the Midland Grand Hotel, finally being refurbished and scene of THAT video by The Spice Girls.  I’ll let Ed clarify this further; ‘St Pancras’ enormous iron and glass roof, spanning 240ft, stood alone until 1873 (my note, having been built itself in 1867), when it was joined by George Gilbert Scott’s extravagant red-brick Midland Grand Hotel, a riot of catallated fringes, dormers, pointed arch windows and steeply pitched roofs, which incorporated 250 bedrooms and all the latest facilities – gaoilers, electric bells, lifts and rubber surfaces in the roadways to deaden night-time sounds’.  I was once told that Scott’s design had originally been submitted as plans the new Houses of Parliament but having failed to win that contest, was then used for the Midland Hotel.  This story may not be far from the truth, as Ed quotes Scott thus; "that it is possibly too good for it’s purpose, but having been disappointed of my ardent hope of carrying out my style in the government offices (the Foreign Office), I was glad to be able to erect one building in that style in London".

St Pancras Station to Henriques Street, E1 – I won’t push your tolerance for St Pancras Station related stories, so am moving staight on to Henriques Street, location of the 4th Jack the Ripper murder. ‘On 30 September 1888 Elizabeth Sride, a Swedish woman, was found with her throat cut and the blood still pouring out in the entrance to Duffields’s Yard by No. 40, a spot where prostitutes regularly took their clients.’  As part of the Knowledge, some of the examiners would ask you for the locations of all 5 murders and to this day I can still tell you that the other 4 were committed in the following locations; Mitre Square, Hanbury Street, Whites Row & Durward Street.  Someone will probably tell me I’m wrong and that there were more than 5 murders blah, blah, blah…..

rooooarr, I'm a tiger!

rooooarr, I'm a tiger!

Commercial Road, E1 to Smiths of Smithfield, Charterhouse Street, EC1 – ‘ In 1875 a tiger which had escaped from Jamrach’s the exotic animal shop on Ratcliffe Highway, made it’s way along Commercial Road where it picked up a small boy by the collar and made off with him, doubtless with lunch in mind.  The sight of the tiger, with attendant unwilling child, walking along the road caused much alarm, and led to one passer-by to fetch a crowbar, but in trying to prise the child from the beast’s jaws the man struck the boy a fatal blow’.  Oops.  And, I’ve just discovered, the tiger in question is the one commemerated in this statue at silly old Tobacco Dock.  Charterhouse Street is, of course, the site for Smithfield Market; ‘The market for which the area is best known has stood here since 1174 and was originally a live cattle market, slaughtering and leather tanning not being tolerated in the centre of the City.  Until 1855 trade climaxed on the Monday before Christmas when some 30,000 animals where crammed into the market prior to mass slaughtering, the ground "covered nearly ankle deep with filth and mire; a thick steam perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle", as Charles Dickens explained in Oliver Twist.’

New Bridge Street, EC4 to Paddington Station, W2 – I don’t know, those Victorians and their grand plans, first we had a Channel tunnel, now this; ‘…..originally a simple wooden building north of Bishop’s Bridge Road and was rebuilt in the 1840s by Matthew Wyatt and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Paddington was part of Brunel’s grand vision of a route from London to New York via Bristol, where people would board his liner, the Great Western, and journey across the Atlantic in fifteen days’.  You certainly can’t accuse the Victorians of having no ambition can you?

Bishop’s Bridge Road, W2 to Charing Cross Station, WC2 – Another where the front is really a hotel and masks the station proper behind. ‘At the front is the Charing Cross Hotel, built to entice travellers taking the boat train to stay in the station the night before.  Facing the hotel is A.S. Barry’s Eleanor’s Cross, often mistakenly described as Charing Cross, a replacement of the cross that Edward I erected nearby in 1293 to mark the funeral route of his queen, Elanor of Castile, which was pulled down in 1647 by the Long Parliament’.  The site of Charing Cross, the point from which all distances to and from London are measured, is a bit further west I believe.

Aldwych, WC2 – The River Cafe, Rainville Road, SW6 – ‘The street, which takes the form of a crescent at the southern end of Kingsway, dates back only as far as 1905, but the name is considerably older, Via de Aldewych being the name by which Drury Lane was known in 1398 when the surrounding area was called Aldwic, "the old settlement".  When Aldwych was built a number of small streets in what was the densely packed Clare Market area, as well as a number of theatres, including the Gaiety and the Opera Comique, the first home of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, were demolished’.

Fulham Palace Road, SW6 to Winchester Street, SW1 – nothing to report, and the end of my working week.  Light off and quickly back over Chelsea Bridge to the sanctuary of South London.

And that, London fact lovers, is that.  A hugely enjoyable exercise for me and certainly one that I may revisit in the future, but not for a whole week.  Hope it helped with your London learning……


3 thoughts on “the london compendium guide to my week – Day 5

  1. Superb work! When I no longer an Apprentice Cabbie, I think I will follow your lead inrespect to this mighty tome!


  2. As inveterate travellers, we know London’s main stations well. For Paddington, the bus drops us off in Praed Street and we enter the station down “Fag Alley”, as we call it because of the smokers who gather there. There is often a taxi parked at the top of the slope, getting in the way of people trying to cross, a real nuisance. He’s no doubt hoping to beat the others to a quick pick-up.

    We like the refurbished St Pancras, very light and airy. It’s a surprisingly good design for a modern building. As for the Midland Hotel, slowly turning into apartments, what a marvellous piece of fantasy building! A fairy-tale palace.

    Reading about the horrors of Smithfield makes me so glad I’m a vegetarian…!

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