I have a Reader’s Pass for the British Library, something I’m jolly proud of (see picture below). Anyone can get one, you just have to navigate your way through the BL’s arcane rules & regulations and within an hour or so you have your pass. I got mine for reasons to do with getting access to their Business & IP Centre, but thought it would be rude not to have a search through the archives for some Taxi trade related stuff. And in amongst the database I found a few items that I’ll be boring you with over the next few weeks, possibly months if I find anything else. So brace yourselves, here we go…..
Today, my iPhone is invaluable to me when working, I get updates through Tweetalondoncab’s Cabup system, I can look up places & roads in Google Maps and when I’m really struggling out of town a bit, even get some directions from Messrs Google. But back in the day, and this little gem of a book was published in 1926, cabbies (or other London Drivers) had to rely on the written word. And the Lightning Indicator for London Drivers must have been a great help for cabbies back then, it’s 60 pages packed full of useful “points”, from Clubs & Restaurants to Hotels & Sports Grounds. Due to BL rules, I’m not allowed to copy all of the book so I’ve extracted the bits that interested me most, the “Principal Hotels” & the introduction. It must have been a nightmare to keep even such a small volume up to date, hence the offer of “a cheque for 2 guineas will be forwarded to the sender of the best suggestion for the improvement of the next edition”. I wonder if anyone claimed that 2 guineas?
If you click on any of the photos above you’ll be able to read the pages yourself, you might even find them interesting. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the list of Hotels fascinating, all the big names are there of course; Claridges, Savoy, Ritz etc.. but there are many others that appear to have made it intact through the intervening 75 years, more than I would have thought. Bailey’s Hotel is there (wonder if it was stitched up by cabbies even back then?), the Bonnington, Imperial & Russell all in and around Russell Square still exist today, as does the newly refurbished Connaught. Even what might be considered lesser know hotels like the Rembrant on Thurloe Place and the Rubens on Buckingham Palace Road are on the 1926 list and appear to have made it through to today with the same name & in the same location. But perhaps more intriguing are the names that have disappeared since 1926. The marvellously named British Empire Hotel could have been found in De Vere Gardens, the Hummmums in Covent Garden (next to what is now the Transport Museum). And there are at least 3 Hotels that used to be in Euston Square that must have been demolished at the same time that the Square itself all but disappeared. Also note how many Hotels are listed for Northumberland Ave (click the link for photo, with added Hansom Cab), when it was first built pretty much all the buildings were purpose built hotels, now only a couple remain that way. But the most interesting name, I don’t know why it’s name stuck out, is Haxell’s which was on the Strand and was absorbed into the Strand Palace Hotel not that long after the Lightning Indicator was published. After a quick bit of research I soon found that it was owned & managed by Edward Nelson Haxell, who become embroiled in a cross dressing scandal, which others have covered much better than I could. There must be hundred’s, if not thousands of equally intruiging stories linked to these forgotten Hotel’s, I’m going to do my best to try and uncover a few more of them. Or if you have any yourselves, please feel free to let me know.