London's Fear Of The Number 13

A red double decker with the number 13 on the destination blind - driving through Piccadilly

Are you so superstitious that you just would not board a quantity 13 bus? Picture: Can Pac Swire through inventive commons

London is scared to loss of life of the quantity 13. Throughout our triskaidekaphobic metropolis, superstitious measures are in impact to chase away this ‘unluckiest’ of figures. Right here, we check out London’s nervous relationship with the quantity. For further enjoyable, we have peppered the piece with some ‘unfortunate’ newspaper tales we discovered within the good British Newspaper Archives.

Why unfortunate?

A stained glass window of a knight, in a phone box

Since this picture was taken, the Knights Templar stained glass has been broken which appears relatively… UNLUCKY. Picture: Londonist

The explanations for 13 being various in poor health omen are many and various. Some hyperlink it again to the Final Supper (with Judas enjoying the function of the dinner visitor nobody actually desires to ask). One other principle suggests 13’s wretched origins relate to Friday 13 October 1307: the day King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar. Though this came about in France, the arrests quickly unfold throughout a lot of Europe, and ultimately London’s personal Knights Templar had been chucked out of their precinct (now often called Temple) by a reluctant Edward II. The knights had been tortured, then both imprisoned or killed. No less than their legacy is now marked in London with a Wetherspoon. Replace: No less than it was. Mentioned Wetherspoon has now been closed down, which appears fairly… UNLUCKY (we’ll cease doing that now).

Coincidence? Absolutely not. Derby Every day Telegraph, 7 Could 1927. Picture © Native World Restricted. Picture created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Issues in London that do not have the quantity 13

Look, London’s not TOTALLY triskaidekaphobic. There is a quantity 13 bus route, in any case. However the metropolis generally is a little squeamish with regards to utilizing The Quantity That Should Not Be Talked about (13). In his ebook London The Biography, Peter Ackroyd talks of town’s superstitious thoroughfares which haven’t got a 13; Fleet Road, Oxford Road, Park Lane, Praed Road, St James’s Road, Haymarket and Grosvenor Road all eschew the dreaded quantity. Some buildings are superstitious: One Canada Sq. has no thirteenth ground. Then there’s the London Eye, which has 32 capsules… numbered as much as 33. Why’s that? No capsule quantity 13, after all.

A newspaper cutting about 13 unlucky publishers who passed on the rights to Tarzan

I relaxation my case. Picture © Nationwide World Publishing Ltd. Picture created courtesy of the British Library Board.

The 13 Membership

Newspaper cutting of various men doing wacky things like holding toy elephants and clutching umbrellas

Picture © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Picture created courtesy of the British Library Board.

The 13 Membership laughed within the face of the dreaded digits. A spin-off of an American membership of the identical identify/outlook, London’s 13 Membership was based in 1890, and used to fulfill each 13 February at ’13 o’clock’, flagrantly disregarding the perils of dabbling with the quantity 13, and dubbing themselves ‘the antidote to superstition’. In keeping with The Nice Wen:

“There have been 13 dinner tables every with 13 settings and diners wore inexperienced ties with toy skeletons of their buttonholes. Meals had been served by two cross-eyed waiters, who introduced dinner was to begin by smashing two mirrors.”

The membership additionally had a particular meet up on All Fools’ Day (1 April), and in 1930, members appeared on the entrance of Scotland’s Night Telegraph, standing outdoors London’s Connaught Rooms, laughing within the face of superstition, by clutching white elephants, and opening their umbrellas, which they then took inside with them.

Just one member of the membership had an premature loss of life. And he hadn’t paid his charges. Cling on a second…

Newspaper clipping explaining an unlucky day for London Airport, with stuff going wrong all over the place

Could not make it up. Picture: Picture © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Picture created courtesy of the British Library Board.

The baker’s dozen

A loaf of bread next to two murky glasses of liquid which may or may not be ale

Picture: iStock/yashina.tanya90

We have all of the heard the phrase ‘baker’s dozen’, and that it equates to 13, however do you know it has its roots in medieval London? With the introduction of the Assize of Ale and Bread within the mid-thirteenth century, the Worshipful Firm of Bakers had the ability to impose extreme punishments on bakers whose measures didn’t dwell as much as exacting requirements like this:

By the consent of the entire realm of England, the measure of the king was made; that’s to say: that an English penny, known as a sterling spherical, and with none clipping, shall weigh thirty-two wheat corns within the midst of the ear, and twenty-pence do make an oz., and twelve ounces one pound, and eight kilos do make a gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine do make a London bushel, which is the eighth a part of 1 / 4.

Relatively than threat draconian punishments equivalent to shedding a hand, bakers gave away 13 loaves for each 12 offered. (That is one principle anyway — as with most of these items, a number of are floating round.) So simply as for the 13 Membership, the ‘unfortunate’ quantity was really relatively the alternative.

Superstitious dinner events

An elegant sculpture of a black cat

Kaspar, the Savoy’s fortunate cat. Picture: Matt Brown

In a nod to The Final Supper, let’s end on this.

For those who’re ever fortunate sufficient to be invited to dinner on the Savoy — however unfortunate sufficient to be joined by 12 different friends — there is a system in place. A 14th visitor, by the identify of Kaspar, will probably be given a seat on the desk too. However don’t fret, you will not must foot his invoice; Kaspar is a century-old artwork deco sculpture carved from a London airplane tree, who often lives within the Savoy’s lobby. The custom of calling on Kaspar to make up the numbers stems from 1898, when a visitor dropped out last-minute from a cocktail party for 14, hosted by diamond magnate Woolf Joel. When one of many friends prompt tragedy would befall the primary particular person to go away the desk, Joel brushed such superstition apart, and acquired up from his seat. A number of weeks later, he was shot lifeless by a blackmailer. Following the episode, the Savoy had a member of workers be a part of tables of 13, however that was frankly a bit bizarre. Then, in 1927, the architect Basil Ionides created Kaspar, and the issue/probably not an issue was solved. The fortunate black cat will get served the identical food and drinks as all the opposite friends.

One for the highway. Hartlepool Mail, 22 October 1937. © Johnston Press plc. Picture created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Know of any London superstitions or oddities involving the quantity 13? Inform us within the feedback.

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