I'll undoubtedly regret this, but I've set myself the challenge of posting a fun London fact every day for the whole of 2023. That's 365 facts! (I know you knew that).
I'm posting them over on Twitter and Instagram each day, then every week I'll do a round up here. So here are my fun London facts for the first week.
On the 23rd October 1843, the 14 stonemasons who built Nelson’s Column had a dinner party at the top before the statue of Horatio Nelson was hoisted up.
When Sam Wanamaker was raising funds for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in the 1990s, he was reliant on private donations, with each individual or organisation rewarded with their name engraved on a paving stone around the theatre. John Cleese phoned up and said “If you spell Michael Palin’s name wrong, I’ll give you double.” And so it is, that next to John Cleese is the larger paving stone of 'Michael Pallin'.
William Fortnum was a footman for Queen Anne in the early 18th century. One of his jobs was to replenish the palace candles each evening, but the Queen apparently insisted on new candles each day. William sold on the used candles, making a tidy profit which he used to set up his grocery shop with Hugh Fortnum in 1707. This is why candles are a motif in Fortnum & Mason today.
Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson (1572 – 1637) is the only person in Westminster Abbey buried standing up. The reason? By the end of his life he’d spunked most of his money, so before he died, negotiated a deal to be buried standing up. It took up less space and was therefore much cheaper. Clever chap.
The famous bronze lions at the base of Nelson’s Column are anatomically incorrect. Lions can’t actually sit with their back legs like this. Edwin Landseer who made them was a Victorian water-colour painter and had never made a sculpture in his life. He based the back of them on his own dogs.
Rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and German born composer George Frideric Handel were nextdoor neighbours …albeit 200 years apart. Handel moved to Brook Street, Mayfair in 1723 and spent 40-years living there. In 1970, Hendrix moved in with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham to the top floor room at 23 Brook Street. When Hendrix learned of his famous old neighbour he went out and bought ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ and ‘Messiah’ which incidentally Handel wrote next door.
The two buildings have been transformed in to the rather brilliant Handel & Hendrix in London museum. It’s currently closed for refurbishment, re-opening in May 2023. Well worth a visit.
Built by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, The Monument is a monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666. Completed in 1677 it stands 202ft tall because if it were to fall eastwards (which it hasn’t yet) the top of it would touch the spot where the fire started in Thomas Farrinor’s bakery on Pudding Lane, 202 feet away.
I shall begin this by saying 'Happy New Year'. I guess I should be looking forward to the coming year (which I am of course) but will kick off 2014 by looking back at the 'Private Walks' I did in December 2013.
In case you are unaware, as well as my regular weekend 'pay want you want' walks, I also do what I call 'Private Walks' during the week (mostly), which in December included exploring all over London, a couple of pub crawls, a Christmas Party and with families and couples visiting London.
So ... starting with the top left we have Holly and her parents Geoff & Lucy in Spitalfields (east London) which had been booked by Holly for her dad's birthday. Next up we have Craig feeling right at home in the American Bar of the Stafford Hotel. This cozy bar, situated just of St James Street is positively festooned with Americana; ties, baseball caps, American football helmets, photographs and letters from various patrons that have stayed at this rather splendid hotel, ever since it became a haven for American and Canadian officers in London during WWII. Staying in the vicinity, we have Sandra & Joakim (from Sweden) in St James's Park, the oldest of London's eight Royal Parks. Finally, we have David, Lori, Steven and Karen in front of St James's church, Piccadilly, which we passed whilst exploring the area of Westminster.
Beginning top left again we have Maggie and her husband sitting next to one of Edwin Landseer's famous lion sculptures that adorn the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. One Monday evening (top right) I did a pub crawl with a group (many of whom had come on walks with me before) starting from their office in an area called More London, just south of London Bridge and then headed over the river in to the City of London. Bottom left was a work Christmas doo, organised by Keith, who had done one of my Sunday east London walks earlier in the year. They're pictured in Covent Garden, shortly before depositing them at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, where they had lunch booked. Simpson's has been serving up fine heart British fare for over 170 years and unusually for a restaurant, has a strong sporting connection. It is regarded as 'the home of chess'. Finally we have Scott and Joe in Trafalgar Square, with the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields behind them. As you can tell from the name of the church, the area has changed quite a bit over the years.
Above left, we have Dru and her family standing in front of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, which has been sent over from Norway, every year since 1947; a token of gratitude for British support during WWII. Last, but not least, we have Laurence and Salome who came on a walk around east London, just a few days ago. They were staying in Shoreditch and wanted to have a bit of an explore of the area.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.