Fun London Facts - Week #3
When Horatio Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 he was brought back to London to be given a massive send off. Normally, if sailors died at sea they were thrown over board. You didn’t carry dead people around on ships. For Nelson they made an exception and stuck him in a barrel of brandy, pickling him for the journey. Legend has it, that the crew that returned on his ship, the HMS Victory drank the brandy from the barrel whilst Nelson was in it.
The Burlington Arcade is the longest covered shopping Street in the UK. It runs alongside Burlington House, originally built as a 17th country manor. When 19th early century resident Lord George Cavendish got annoyed with his neighbours throwing stuff over the wall in to his garden, he arranged for the whole street to be covered, opening it in 1819 as a super duper luxury shopping precinct, which it remains to this day.
55% of the London underground is over ground.
In 1875 these green huts started popping up. They’re called Cabmen’s Shelters and provided the drivers of horse drawn Hackney Carriages somewhere to shelter from the wind, rain and cold. A stove inside meant they could keep warm and cook food and the bar around the edge was for tying horses two. Two decades later there were sixty-one in London, but today only thirteen survive and have been given listed building status. Some provide snacks to the public, whilst the others, cab drivers still sit in them.
Strand runs from Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street. A lot of Londoners call it ‘The Strand’, but there is no prefix. The word ‘strand’ in most northern European languages means beach, and Strand runs parallel to the Thames, which until the 1860s came much closer. It literally means the beach or bank of the Thames.
Construction on Tower Bridge began in 1887 and was completed in 1894. The now incredibly iconic design was chosen by way of competition, with the lucky winner being an architect called Horace Jones who also designed a number of London’s Victorian markets. It seems not much luck was involved as Jones was also one of the competition judges. He chose his own design.
New Zealand House was completed in 1963. It was the first tower block to be built in central London after WW2 and was in fact built on the site of the Carlton Hotel which was bombed during the war. This modernist high rise was a highly contentious building at the time and towering over its neighbours should have given those that worked in New Zealand House amazing views across London from their desks, but unfortunately not. For nearly 50 years they’ve had to close the blinds every day. I believe the building was loosing too much heat through the myriad of glass, known as ‘thermal flow’, and ordering the blinds to be closed, although drastic, solved this problem. Just one of the many building projects in London gone wrong.
The Burlington Arcade - Piccadilly
If you're wandering around Mayfair and Piccadilly, which as I've mentioned before has a reasonably high concentration of pretty swish shops and certainly quite a few that hold Royal Warrants, then you might find yourself in what is the longest covered shopping street in Britain. It's called the Burlington Arcade and has been providing the discerning and generally wealthy customer with antiques and silver, jewellery and watches, shoes, perfumes and fashion accessories since 1819.
Like a lot of places in London, there is often a story attached, and the Burlington Arcade is no exception. The Royal Academy of Arts is now next door, occupying a rather grand building called Burlington House, which gets its name from Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Burlington who bought it in the 17th century. It was a much later occupant, Lord George Cavendish, who in the early 19th century reputedly got so fed up with people throwing rubbish from the adjoining street in to his garden, that he decided to cover the entire street. He did also state that the newly covered street should also be "for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females", which strikes me as being somewhat ambiguous.
Either way I can only surmise that Lord George Cavendish was a bit of a worrier and perhaps a bit of a kill joy. My reason for thinking this (aside from the fact that he covered the whole street in the first place), is because he also employed some former members of the Cavendish family's regiment, the 10th Hussars to act as a sort of police force on his covered shopping street. In fact, you can still see them there today (different guys obviously) dressed in Edwardian frock coats and top hats, forming what is apparently the smallest private police force in existence. You can see one of them on the above photo, his back turned, looking down the arcade. They're known as Beadles and still uphold the rules and regulations of the arcade, so if you do happen to go, remember ... no whistling, no open umbrellas, no singing or playing of musical instruments, definitely don't even think about carrying a large parcel and please, please, please ... no babies' prams thank you very much. Oh yes, there's no running either.
As you walk in, you'll notice that there are a couple of rather sturdy looking bollards in the centre of both entrances. They're a reasonably new addition in the grand scheme of things, another security measure, added in 1964 after six masked men drove straight down the arcade in a Jaguar Mark 10, smashed in to a jewellery shop, stole £35,000 worth of bling and drove off again and were never caught. The funny thing about this incident is that it's mentioned in various sources and the car is always, without fail described as a 'Jaguar Mark 10'. Now I've just done it. I know nothing about cars, but evidently this piece of information seems to be of vital importance to everyone and I doubt if it had been ... I don't know ... a Fiesta, it would get mentioned quite so much. Therefore I wonder whether it's because it was a swish car (I'm assuming it was) and that in itself is unusual, or whether the car could accommodate six fully grown men that is so startling. I have no idea.
Either way, it's not particularly important, so I'll end by saying that if you are in the vicinity, then check out the Burlington Arcade and if you're feeling particularly mischievous, then why not see what happens if you whistle, or run. You could even go all out and play a musical instrument. Once you've been swiftly ejected, then head along to the Royal Academy of Arts, and there under the arched entrance you'll find a rather unusual thing ... a wooden telephone box. It's one of the original prototypes known as the K2 telephone box, made in the 1920's and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. I think three were made and placed discreetly around to see how the public got on with them after a competition had been set to find a new design for the now iconic red telephone box. Just thought I'd mention it.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.