10 Curious Things To Look Out For While Wandering Around London

In his ebook, London: A Information for Curious Wanderers, Londonphile and social media sensation Jack Chesher goes in quest of London’s biggest curiosities — from ornate items of Victorian avenue furnishings, to unique animals hidden in plain sight. Listed below are 10 curiosities from the ebook to maintain ’em peeled for everytime you’re subsequent on the town.

1. A Miniature Winery within the Metropolis

A small vineyard growing on a brick pergola

What: Cleary Backyard The place: Queen Victoria Avenue

One of many Metropolis of London’s many pocket parks is the stunning, terraced haven that’s Cleary Backyard. The location, beforehand occupied by homes, was left as a bombsite after the Blitz. In 1949 Joseph Brandis, a Metropolis employee and eager gardener, turned the house right into a backyard.The gardens have been then considerably re-landscaped within the Nineteen Eighties to create what we’ve got in the present day. They have been named after Fred Cleary, chairman of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Affiliation, in any other case generally known as ‘Flowering Fred’ for his work in creating public gardens within the Metropolis. In 2007 a sequence of grape vines have been planted alongside the higher terraces: a present from the winemakers of the Loire valley.This fittingly harks again to the time when this space was a hub for London’s wine retailers. The perfect time to see the vines is in September or October when the grapes are ripening.

2. A Watchful Eye

A small white building

What: Watchhouses The place: St Mary Rotherhithe; St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey

A relatively ominous characteristic that sometimes accompanied cemeteries within the 18th and nineteenth centuries have been watchhouses. Within the late 18th century, a development within the medical career led to a rise within the demand for human our bodies for anatomical examine. Previous to the Anatomy Act of 1832, solely the our bodies of these executed for crimes could possibly be used for such functions. The variety of executions was, nonetheless, falling, creating a niche between provide and demand. As ever with London, an enterprising character was keen to fill that hole. Physique snatchers, or ‘resurrectionists’,engaged within the grisly enterprise of covertly digging up recent corpses from graveyards to promote to anatomists. Various measures have been applied to discourage them; for instance, iron coffins that have been tougher to be damaged into (you possibly can see one within the crypt of St Bride’s Church) and ‘mortsafes’, basically cages for coffins. One other characteristic have been watchhouses: often small, easy one- or two-storey buildings by the doorway to the cemetery, for wardens to maintain a watch from. Yow will discover surviving examples at St Mary Rotherhithe and one other in Bermondsey subsequent to the St Mary Magdalen churchyard, each courting from across the 1820s.

3. It is Not That Simple Being Inexperienced

A green ornate postbox

What: A inexperienced postbox The place: St Martin’s Le Grand

On St Martin’s Le Grand within the Metropolis of London, you’ll find an uncommon inexperienced, hexagonal postbox. It’s a reproduction inexperienced Penfold postbox erected in 2016 to mark the five hundredth anniversary of the founding of the primary submit workplace below King Henry VIII. Penfold postboxes, named after their designer John Penfold, have been put in from 1866–1879. The primary postboxes have been erected on Jersey in 1852 and have been painted pink. Inexperienced then got here into vogue, however from 1874 onwards, postboxes have been painted pink once more as individuals had apparently been struggling to identify the inexperienced ones.

4. Step to It

The thin black step in question

What: The Duke of Wellington’s mounting block The place: The Athenaeum Membership, Pall Mall

Constructed 1827–30, the Athenaeum Membership in St James’s is a gloriously cream-hued, neo-classical constructing. It was designed by the eminent Regency architect Decimus Burton and is an actual feast for the eyes with its ornamental frieze and sculptures. Flip away from that, nonetheless, and have a look at the pavement exterior. You will notice a protracted granite block with a shorter one on prime. They kind a mounting block for getting on and off a horse. It was positioned there on the request of one of many membership’s members, none apart from the Iron Duke himself, the Duke of Wellington. He was prime minister from 1828–1830 and once more in 1834 and, being in his 60s and travelling to the membership on horseback, he wished to have the ability to mount and dismount with grace and ease.

5. Monitoring Down Trunks

Terracotta coloured building with an elephant design over the door

What: Elephant symbols The place: Elephant’s Head, Camden and Elephant Home, Kentish City Highway

Do you know Camden has a shocking hyperlink to elephants? Enable me to clarify. Camden City was established within the late 1700s by Sir Charles Pratt, the first Earl of Camden. When a brand new coat of arms for the household was created, it integrated the image of an elephant and chateau, a well-liked heraldic emblem symbolising energy. So, when the borough of Camden was created in 1965, it integrated the elephant image into its coat of arms. On Camden Excessive Avenue you’ll find the Elephant’s Head pub, established in 1869. The title is assumed to come back from the Pratt household coat of arms. The hyperlink nonetheless doesn’t cease there. On Kentish City Highway, you’ll find the Elephant Home. The pink brick Grade II listed constructing opened in 1901 and was as soon as the bottle retailer for the Camden Brewery. The corporate operated in Camden from 1859–1926 and the elephant head turned their trademark after certainly one of their hottest merchandise known as Elephant Pale Ale. As you method the constructing, you’ll discover a terracotta elephant head ornament over the principle doorway and that every of the black railingsis topped by a bit elephant head.

6. Cannon Cradling

Statue of a woman cradling a cannon

What: Imperial Edwardian structure The place: Admiralty Arch

At the start of the twentieth century, London was the world’s largest metropolis and the center of the world’s largest empire. European powers have been scrabbling for extra territory world wide and build up their militaries. Out of this atmosphere got here the neo-Baroque structure of the Edwardian interval, aiming to point out off Britain’s imperial may. The model evokes the classical empires with options resembling columns, pediments and pyramidal sculpture teams, whereas additionally reminiscent of the monumental Baroque works of Sir Christopher Wren. Examples embody Australia Home and the Battle Workplace constructing on Whitehall, however probably the most placing examples is Admiralty Arch by Trafalgar Sq.. It was designed as an workplace house for the admiralty but additionally as a strong piece of assertion structure. Opened in 1912, it was designed by Aston Webb, additionally answerable for the jap facade of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial. The intention was for this to be part of an imperial, processional route from Buckingham Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral. Spot the 2 sculptural figures on the western aspect by Thomas Brock, depicting Navigation and Gunnery. You will discover that the woman depicted within the Gunnery statue is lovingly cradling a cannon.

7. Camels by the Thames

Decorative bench with a camel on the side

What: Camel benches The place: Victoria Embankment; Albert Embankment

Within the 1860s and 1870s, civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette masterminded a brand new sewage system for London that will take the sewage away from the town. To run main new sewers, nonetheless in use in the present day, he reclaimed roughly 90,000 sq. metres (22 acres) price of land from the river and constructed the Victoria, Albert and, later, Chelsea embankments. Naturally the brand new riverside promenades wanted a little bit of ornament and design submissions have been taken for the road furnishings. In true Victorian model, they have been brilliantly elaborate. Sit on a bench on one of many embankments and also you could be resting your arm on the pinnacle of a sphinx or swan. You’ll even discover camel-style benches in the direction of Blackfriars Bridge on the Victoria Embankment.They have been designed by George Vulliamy, superintending architect of the Metropolitan Board of Works ,to enhance the traditional Egyptian Cleopatra’s Needle. He additionally designed the 2 enormous sphinxes flanking the Needle.

8. A Misplaced London Island

What: Thorney Island The place: Lambeth Bridge

The now buried River Tyburn is assumed to have cut up into a number of legs and fashioned what was basically a river delta earlier than it met the Thames in Pimlico and Westminster. Two of those streams fashioned a raised space of land, surrounded by low-lying marshland, generally known as Thorney Island. This was the place Edward the Confessor established the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey after his coronation in 1042. In the event you look to the Westminster fringe of the river from the northern aspect of Lambeth Bridge at low tide, you will notice a storm aid outlet down on the foreshore. After heavy rains, one leg of the Tyburn nonetheless flows into the Thames right here.

9. Pumps of Loss of life

An ornate water pump

What: Water pumps The place: 30 Cornhill; 65–68 Leadenhall Avenue; 44 Broadwick Avenue

Earlier than a widespread plumbing system to offer clear water was launched, wells after which, later, water pumps have been usually a key method for Londoners to entry water, significantly the poorest. Look out for outdated, now defunct water pumps, largely courting from the early-mid nineteenth century. Yow will discover one on Cornhill within the Metropolis, on Queen’s Sq. in Holborn and on the nook of Fenchurch Avenue and Leadenhall Avenue. The one on Leadenhall Avenue is named the Aldgate Pump, or the ‘Pump of Loss of life’, as it’s infamous for having brought on the deaths of tons of of unsuspecting Londoners from the 1860s onwards. The water provide had been operating by way of a sequence of close by graveyards and ‘natural matter’ was seeping into the pipes. Tons of began dying within the ‘Aldgate Pump epidemic’. The provision was finally modified and the pump’s place altered barely in 1876, fortunately fixing the issue.

10. Regent’s Park’s Prehistoric Secret

A fossilised tree trunk

What: Fossilised tree trunks The place: Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens

Hiding in plain sight on the assembly of two paths in Regent’s Park is a prehistoric shock: a bunch of fossilised tree trunk stumps considered 20–100 million years outdated. Queen Mary’s Gardens, the place the tree trunks could be discovered, have been established in 1932 however, previous to that, because the 1840s, the house was leased by the Royal Botanic Society. The Society grew an enormous number of specimens right here, held horticultural exhibits and ran a museum on the location. It was on this interval that the prehistoric trunks have been acquired and appear to have been left after the Society vacated the house in 1932. The stumps are considered from coniferous bushes laid down in Decrease Purbeck in Dorset.

London: A Information for Curious Wanderers by Jack Chesher, revealed by Frances Lincoln, RRP £14.99

Photographs © Katharine Fraser

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