Oddities of London

Jot 101 Oddities of London Golden Boy picAbstracted from The Good Time Guide to London(1951)


The statue of George IV in Trafalgar Square shows the king, without boots or spurs, riding a horse without saddle or stirrups.


True. Incidentally,  Sir Francis Chantrey’s bronze of 1829 was originally made for Marble Arch.


On the floor of the entrance hall of the National Gallery is a mosaic of Great Garbo.


True .The Bloomsbury set mosaic artist Boris Anrep was commissioned to provide a number of art works for the Gallery based on specific themes and featuring a number of contemporary figures. On the half-way landing the actress Great Garbo appears as Melpomeme in ‘ The Awakening of the Muses ‘. 


On October 23rd, 1843, a few days before the statue of Nelson was erected, 14 persons ate a rump steak dinner on the top of Nelson’s column


True .Doubtless Punch ( founded 1841) would have had something witty to say about this matter.


Confusingly, the inn sign of “ The Civet Cat “ which hangs at the corner of Kensington High Street and Church Street, hangs over a bank. When the bank replaced the inn, the sign was retained at the request of the local council.


The public house known as the Civet Cat existed in 1805. In 1899 it was still there, but due to a road widening scheme in 1903-4 it was demolished. A new pub sporting a metal sign that featured a civet cat was opened in 1904. This eventually became a bank, but by 2013 a pizza parlour had replaced it.


When the tower of St Mary Abbot’s, Kensington, was built, no aperture was made for the clock, so it remains hidden from view, though it can still be heard striking the quarters.


The new church by Gilbert Scott that replaced the medieval one in mid-Victorian times has the tallest spire in London. It also has no aperture for the clock and it doesn’t look as if this omission will be remedied any time soon.


The portico of St Paul’s , Covent Garden, is only a sham and the impressive can never be used. Inigo Jones designed it as the feature on the western side of a proposed square, regardless of the fact that the altar would have to be on the eastern side of the church.




The clerical staff of Coutt’s Bank in the Strand are not allowed to wear moustaches.


This doesn’t sound likely, and certainly is not true today.


Savoy Court, Strand, is the only two-way street in London where it is legal to drive on the right.


Yes, and the unusual practice persists to this day. It is because the Savoy Theatre is situated on the right and provision has to be made for taxis to drop passengers off here without blocking the entrance to the Savoy Hotel.


In Cowcross Street, just off Farringdon Road, you will find the “ Castle”, the only pub in the country which is also a pawnbroker’s shop.


Not true today. Legend has it that some time in ‘ the early nineteenth century ‘ a stranger who had incurred debts at the notorious gambling dens in nearby Hockley-the Hole walked into the saloon of the Castle asking the landlord if he was willing to advance him a sum of money in return for a gold watch which he would redeem when he had funds to do so. A few days later a Royal Messenger arrived with the money. This messenger also handed the landlord a Warrant which enabled him to advance money on pledges. Later, it came to light that the well-heeled stranger was no less a person that George IV. A painting still hanging in the pub depicts the king dangling the gold watch. Although the Castle probably served as an ad hoc pawnbroker’s from this period to the 1950s, by 2021 this facility had fallen into desuetude.     


The Monument was intended by Wren to be a vast vertical telescope. However, because the height ( 202 feet) was insufficient for focal length, the idea was abandoned.


Dr Wren and Dr Boyle had visions of erecting a huge zenith telescope within the Monument, and even created a tiny laboratory beneath the structure.


In Wood Street, Cheapside, stands a plane tree that is worth its weight in gold. The ground on which it stands cannot be built upon until it dies.


The tree, probably planted post-Fire of London, is still there and was originally part of a cemetery, which can still be seen.


In Creechurch Lane is the shop of Davison and Newman, who are the oldest tea-merchants in the world. It was this firm which exported the tea to America which was dumped into Boston Harbour at the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773—the prelude to the War of Independence.


All true, but the shop no longer exists on this site.


At the corner of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street, near Smithfield, is the figure of a fat boy put there to mark the spot where the Great Fire finished. He represents the sin of gluttony which was supposed to have caused the fire because it started in Pudding Lane and ended at Pie Corner.


The gold coloured sculpture (pictured at  top) was originally built into the “ Fortune of War “ inn which occupied the site until 1910.


The pillars of St Mary, Rotherhithe, are four complete trees, plastered to resemble stone.


They are still there in this early eighteenth century church.


You may take as many photographs as you like in Hyde Park, but you must not use a tripod.


No information on this regulation can be found, which suggests that it has been rescinded




2 thoughts on “Oddities of London

  1. wilma

    “Savoy Court, Strand, is the only two-way street in London where it is legal to drive on the right.” Not exactly a street but point taken. A similar thing happens leaving the Royal National Hote lcar par, not quite as classy but possibly the biggest hotel in London…


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