10 Curious Things To Look Out For While Wandering Around London

In his e-book, London: A Information for Curious Wanderers, Londonphile and social media sensation Jack Chesher goes seeking London’s biggest curiosities — from ornate items of Victorian road furnishings, to unique animals hidden in plain sight. Listed here are 10 curiosities from the e-book 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 positioning, beforehand occupied by homes, was left as a bombsite after the Blitz. In 1949 Joseph Brandis, a Metropolis employee and eager gardener, turned the area right into a backyard.The gardens had been then considerably re-landscaped within the Nineteen Eighties to create what we’ve got right now. They had been named after Fred Cleary, chairman of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Affiliation, in any other case often called ‘Flowering Fred’ for his work in creating public gardens within the Metropolis. In 2007 a collection of grape vines had 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 very best 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 somewhat ominous function that sometimes accompanied cemeteries within the 18th and nineteenth centuries had been watchhouses. Within the late 18th century, a progress within the medical career led to a rise within the demand for human our bodies for anatomical research. Previous to the Anatomy Act of 1832, solely the our bodies of these executed for crimes may very well 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 contemporary corpses from graveyards to promote to anatomists. Plenty of measures had been carried out to discourage them; for instance, iron coffins that had been more durable to be damaged into (you possibly can see one within the crypt of St Bride’s Church) and ‘mortsafes’, primarily cages for coffins. One other function had been watchhouses: often small, easy one- or two-storey buildings by the doorway to the cemetery, for wardens to maintain an eye fixed from. You 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 Straightforward 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, had been put in from 1866–1879. The primary postboxes had been erected on Jersey in 1852 and had been painted crimson. Inexperienced then got here into vogue, however from 1874 onwards, postboxes had been painted crimson once more as folks 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 take a look at the pavement exterior. You will note an extended granite block with a shorter one on prime. They type 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 needed 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 elucidate. 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 preferred heraldic emblem symbolising power. 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 identify 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 crimson 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 grew to become their trademark after certainly one of their hottest merchandise referred to as Elephant Pale Ale. As you strategy 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

Initially of the twentieth century, London was the world’s largest metropolis and the guts of the world’s largest empire. European powers had been scrabbling for extra territory around the globe and increase their militaries. Out of this setting got here the neo-Baroque structure of the Edwardian interval, aiming to point out off Britain’s imperial would possibly. The type evokes the classical empires with options similar to columns, pediments and pyramidal sculpture teams, whereas additionally paying homage to the monumental Baroque works of Sir Christopher Wren. Examples embrace Australia Home and the Conflict Workplace constructing on Whitehall, however one of the vital putting examples is Admiralty Arch by Trafalgar Sq.. It was designed as an workplace area for the admiralty but in addition as a robust piece of assertion structure. Opened in 1912, it was designed by Aston Webb, additionally liable for the jap facade of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial. The purpose 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 facet 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 town. To run main new sewers, nonetheless in use right now, 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 had been taken for the road furnishings. In true Victorian type, they had 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 had been designed by George Vulliamy, superintending architect of the Metropolitan Board of Works ,to enrich 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 break up into a number of legs and shaped what was primarily a river delta earlier than it met the Thames in Pimlico and Westminster. Two of those streams shaped a raised space of land, surrounded by low-lying marshland, often called Thorney Island. This was the place Edward the Confessor established the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey after his coronation in 1042. In case you look to the Westminster fringe of the river from the northern facet 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 Demise

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 had been typically a key approach for Londoners to entry water, notably the poorest. Look out for previous, now defunct water pumps, largely courting from the early-mid nineteenth century. You 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 called the Aldgate Pump, or the ‘Pump of Demise’, as it’s infamous for having brought about the deaths of tons of of unsuspecting Londoners from the 1860s onwards. The water provide had been working via a collection of close by graveyards and ‘natural matter’ was seeping into the pipes. A whole lot began dying within the ‘Aldgate Pump epidemic’. The availability was ultimately 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 gaggle of fossilised tree trunk stumps regarded as 20–100 million years previous. Queen Mary’s Gardens, the place the tree trunks might be discovered, had been established in 1932 however, previous to that, for the reason that 1840s, the area was leased by the Royal Botanic Society. The Society grew an enormous number of specimens right here, held horticultural reveals and ran a museum on the location. It was on this interval that the prehistoric trunks had been acquired and appear to have been left after the Society vacated the area in 1932. The stumps are regarded as 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

Photos © Katharine Fraser

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