Put up yer own plaque

It’s been snowing. I have enjoyed the cycle of news fed to me by social media that began with the pitter patter of excitement “IT’S SNOWING!!” and pictures of snowmen; turned into the slippery annoyance of cancelled trains and “It’s only a bit of snow” before being trampled into a dirty slushy mess of “CANADA NEVER HAS THIS PROBLEM!” Obviously all this weather has curtailed some of the walks we’d normally enjoy. But in another of our London Tales series, P and I found this on one of our regular jaunts to Leather Lane market. It’s just by the bike shop where the couriers hang out.

Leather Lane self-erected plaque

Leather Lane self-erected plaque

William FELTON’s carriage works was close to this spot. In 1803 he built a carriage powered by a steam engine designed and supplied by Richard TREVITHICK, the great Cornish engineer. The carriage made several trips from here with up to about 8 passengers. In July of that year, one trip was made via Greys Inn Lane, Dorset Square and Tottenham Court Road to Paddington, returning the same day via Islington. This was the first self-powered vehicle to run in the streets of London and the world’s first self-powered road people carrier. The London Steam Carriage heralded the age of the car. This plaque was unveiled by Francis Trevithick Okuno, descendent of Richard Trevithick, on July 6th 2003.

So if you have any relatives who have done anything of note on London’s streets, please either raise your own plaque or email us to let us know. W

All the pubs are being closed down

retreating pubsA couple of posts ago W mentioned the “Secret London” book and it reminded me of a great birthday present I received some years ago (cheers Sophie!) It’s a publication from 1973 by Timothy M. Richards and James Stevens Curl called “City of London Pubs” (David and Charles). It’s an exhaustive list of the City’s pubs, even though many of them are no more as the old man’s boozer is fast disappearing in London.

city of london pubsMy copy has additional biro marks from a previous owner with the likes of “now demolished”, “semi-clean toilets” and “large dartboard” that adds to the fun. There’s mad pub names mentioned like The Clanger in Houndsditch EC3 (an “All Bar One” now shamefully stands in it’s place ), Ye Olde Crutched Friars in Crosswall, EC3, and The Dandy Roll in Bread Street, EC4. Great eh?

Love that pubI doubt in forty years time they’ll have a book about today’s coffee houses (Coffee Mates, The Ministry of Nescafe etc), the ones with the same bare-bricked interior, overpriced cakes from the Nigella Lawson cookbook and Shoreditch-type baristas with stubble. Bring back those old man’s pubs! P

That was the week, that was

haunted tunnel1. A stroll through the underground road that is Lower Robert Street and feeling very subterranean (and lonely!)
2. Walking through the warren of streets between St Paul’s and the Thames – very dickensian we must say.

museum_london_3. Getting turned away from a free talk at the Museum of London because it was packed. The shame!
4. Frequenting “George’s” the market stall at the top of Leather Lane, Holborn where cheap crisps, never-heard-of brands of chocolate and unrefridgerated ham are the order of the day. His (male) assistant who puts the produce into a bag for you has a lovely line in high pitched thanks you’s.
5. Watching the librarians playing “where’s that loud snoring coming from?” in Holborn Library.

This chart is produced by the lunchtime appreciation society that is W and P.

Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and BT

In sherlock we trustAfter bidding W a farewell after a cold lunchtime stroll today I came across this odd phone box festooned with hand made signs outside St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfields. On first glance I thought it was cards of the “come up and see me sometime” variety when on further inspection they were all full of Sherlock Holmes references. I had no idea what it was all about until back at work I tapped in “Sherlock Holmes, St Barts Hospital” into google where I was informed that St Barts was the place where Holmes first met Dr Watson. My favourite card is “Finland believes in Sherlock. Moriarty was real”. Brilliant! P

A bit of a stroll – East of St. Paul’s Part I

I’ve been trying to do a bit of a New Year’s clear out, which has been rather unsuccessful but has meant I’ve unearthed some stuff I thought was lost forever. The most pertinent being some books on London which had been jammed behind some books on sewing and clouds. On flicking through Andrew Duncan’s Secret London, I found a walk that I thought I could have a crack at in my lunchtime.

Secret London - Andrew DuncanThis one was going to take me East of St. Paul’s to an area that I don’t normally frequent – the financial heartland of London. Now I don’t want to take you on a step by step guide through the walk, one because it may become a little tedious and two because I’m sure it forms some sort of plagiarism.

As I started the walk, the first thing that struck me was that, even though I had a fairly new 2006 edition, London’s ceaseless construction had meant that I had to read between the lines for a few bits. Intrepid walker that I am, I soldiered on and was rewarded with the first jewel on the walk – the old churchyard of St. Pancras Church, Pancras Lane, destroyed in the great fire of London 1666. The book I have states that it’s “a small, scruffy garden, often used as a bicycle park” which must have stung someone into action because it is now a small, scruffy garden complete with wonky pews.

Wonky pewsSome of the carving is quite amazing.

W says: Amazing carving

W says: Amazing carving!

After taking me through some lovely covered alleyways with thick set city boys getting fitted for their suits, I was spat out by New Court on St Swithin’s lane. It fair warmed my heart to see a road that houses the Rothschild’s merchant bank sitting almost side by side with this fantastic barbers.

It looks like summin' about dandruff on the price list

It looks like summin’ about dandruff on the price list

I want my hair cut like this.



I was then led on a magical mystery tour through the back alleys and side streets by the Royal Exchange, where old coffee houses turned into financial institutions and restaurants seem to serve the same fayre they have since the 40s. One of these is the George and Vulture.

Oldie but goodie

Oldie but goodie

I read the menu and was transported back to the Angus Steakhouse ’88 – prawn marie rose, lemon dover sole, steak (obviously). Peering through the windows, I noticed all the staff wore starched, white shirts and black aprons (which was nothing like the Angus Steakhouse). I definitely want to go.

Further down and off the designated walk, I noticed another little inn that appeared to have a story

plus Jamaica Wine House further on

plus Jamaica Wine House further on

And I was rewarded with the Jamaica Wine House – An old coffee house which is now a pub.

well I never

well I never

Pasqua Rosée, (according to a crumpled bit of paper in one of the windows and Wikipedia) was the servant of one Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods who imported the coffee and Rosée to make it. He assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment.

Because of some nefarious building work around the alleys, which meant quite a lot of doubling back, this was the end of my little jaunt but, please join me again for part 2 which I’m hoping to complete within the next few weeks.

Andrew Duncan’s book is available in all good bookshops, as well as Amazon. It’s highly informative and easy to use. Andrew Duncan is not a sponsor of this blog, but we are always open to offers of biscuits. W

In a lunchtime recital style

In a recital styleCrown Court Church of Scotland, Russell Street,
Covent Garden, London WC2B 5EZ (next door to The Fortune Theatre)
I pass this out of the way church (home to the world’s oldest Gaelic choir I’ve been told) while walking to work and recently noticed a sign outside advertising their weekly lunchtime recitals. I know it’s a bit previous and I’m not even a recital man myself but they’ll be starting in late spring/early summer on a Wednesday afternoon from 1.10-1.40pm. It sounds great if you’re into that kind of thing and it’s all for a mere contribution to a “retiring collection”! As the church’s website informs us: “The concerts are always of an excellent standard, frequently featuring undiscovered but highly talented performers, and are well worth hearing”. There you go, something to stick in the diary!

On Tuesday morning at just gone 8am I walked past the church and heard someone belting out an operatic version of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” with loud piano accompaniment out of a rehearsal room around the back. Bizarre! P

This one’s fresh, this one’s a brand new


Well we’re back after Christmas and very nice it was too. As P and I return to work, our thoughts inevitably find their way to what we’re going to do to get some more material for this blog. A strange, neither fish nor flesh week in London at the moment, no doubt due to people extending their Christmas holidays, so we’ve both ruminated and researched the upcoming weeks to see what’s on offer.
The Gresham college lectures have been released (just turn up on the day for most of them), as have the new batch of talks at the RSA (where you have to reserve a place) – get ’em while they’re hot. January also sees the release of the dates for the Winter Concert season organised by the City of London. Most of the events are free and fall within a lunchtime. There’s even one on at St. Andrew’s Holborn, which brings me neatly onto the next paragraph.

If you need something to warm the cockles of your heart in this mild and breezy January, consider the first in another one of our series entitled “London tales” – stories writ large on London’s landscape.



“Erected by the worshipful company of Cordwainers to commemorate Edward Marsden, MD Surgeon 1796 – 1867 who as a result of finding a young woman dying on the steps of St Andrew Holborn on a winter’s night in 1827, founded the Royal Free Hospital, established for many years in Gray’s Inn Road before its removal to Hampstead in 1974.”