What to See

London – What A Bizarre City…

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Anything that’s 2,000 years-old is bound to come gift-wrapped with fascinating stories and utterly bizarre tales of strangeness and London is no different!

This is proper water-cooler stuff but before we get to that, July’s calendar of events is about as good as it gets!

It won’t come as any surprise to visitors to this great city that the weather is notoriously unpredictable. It’s rarely cold but grey skies and rain aren’t unheard of in July (and June and August for that matter!) but it doesn’t matter one bit!

The Royal Family open their doors, the great and the good of the tennis world descend on SW19, flowers are in bloom in the biggest way possible, music takes centre stage and central London beams with pride as it transform into an awesome celebration of colour and happiness!

Pride in London: 9th June – 7th July – A wonderful, month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ diversity
All over London. Click here for more info.

 Wimbledon 2018: 2nd – 15th July – The most famous tennis tournament in the world
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London SW19. Click here for tickets.

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show: 3rd – 8th July – The world’s largest annual flower show
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey KT8. Chick here for tickets.

 BBC Proms: 13th July – 8th September – The world’s greatest festival of classical music
Royal Albert Hall, London SW7. Click here for tickets.

 The Queen’s State Rooms: 21st July – 30th September – The most famous house in the world
Buckingham Palace, London SW1. Click here for tickets.

There are also loads of gigs, food festivals, amazing exhibitions at our staggeringly fantastic collection of museums and galleries, world-famous historical sites and brilliant street performers, especially on the South Bank and in Covent Garden!

When you’ve finished with that lot, it’s time to kick back and relax at the Rathbone but we’re getting pretty packed! Booking your unforgettable trip to London starts with one click of your mouse – this one

We digress.

Getting back to the original point – and it’s one we never tire of reinforcing – London is a wonderfully fascinating city and you can read blog after blog about the city’s history and tourist sites but what we all secretly want to know is what really makes London tick. The oddities, the quirks and the strange goings-on!

That’s a lot more fun isn’t it…?

Read on to find out just how strange, quirky and brilliant London, and some fascinating Londoners, are!

If The Walls Could Talk…

As a 2,000 year-old city, London can tell a story or two. You can read about the Romans who arrived in 43AD and then all they way through the reign of William the Conqueror, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Tudor age of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and then onto the Georgians, the Victorians, two world wars and one World Cup, but what about the stuff you don’t read about in history books?

Ever heard of Theodore Hook? What about Napoleon’s bling on the streets of London or the Golden Boy of Pye Corner? As well as the Tower, St. Paul’s and Big Ben, it’s these oddities that make London great!

The Berners Street Hoax
Theodore Hook came from a very well-to-do family. He was an academic, he served briefly as a civil servant in Mauritius but he was perhaps best known as London’s most notorious practical joker.

In 1810, he made a bet with his friend Samuel Beazley that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about residence in the city within a week. He let Beazley choose the house and at random, picked 54 Berners Street.

Hook then proceeded to send out thousands of letters in the fictitious name of a Mrs Tottenham requesting deliveries, visitors, household services and plenty more besides.

Sitting quietly across the road, Hook and Beazley watched the chaos unfold. For starters, twelve chimney sweeps arrived followed by a fleet of carts laden with coal. Cakemakers delivering huge wedding cakes arrived followed by doctors, lawyers, priests and vicars who had been told someone inside the house was at death’s door.

Then came fishmongers, shoemakers, a dozen pianos (each with six men) and a church organ. The Governor of the Bank of England showed up, as did the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of London. All sorts of tradesmen and visitors continued to show up as the day went on, as did hundreds of onlookers bringing the narrow streets to a standstill.

Hook won the bet (it’s not clear what the wager was) and managed to evade capture despite everyone knowing it was him!

Napoleon’s Bling in Broad Daylight
When the British defeated Napoleon’s troops at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, true to form they started to strip the French fleet of anything of value for re-use on their own ships. The cannons however, were too big to be retrofitted but determined to flaunt their victory in any way possible, there was a plan…

The British decided to use them as street bollards and mount them around the East End. After they had all been used, replicas were made (and they are still made and installed today). Most of the cannons you see today are new(ish) but if you’re on the South Bank near the Globe Theatre, you’ll see an original French cannon from the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Golden Boy of Pye Corner
Every Londoner knows that the Great Fire of London in 1666 started at the aptly-named Pudding Lane but very few know where it eventually stopped.

Medieval London had plenty of seedy corners but one of the seediest was at the confluence of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street in the City. Cock Lane was one of the only places in London where brothels were legal and Giltspur Street was where the Lord Mayor stabbed Wat Tyler in 1381 during the Peasant’s Revolt.

On this corner stood the Fortune of War pub, a notoriously unsavoury drinking den (whose back room was used to store stolen corpses for surgeons at St Bart’s to buy and use) at it was here that the Great Fire ceased its seemingly unstoppable charge through the City.

A small memorial (gilded at some point in the 1800s), originally known as The Fat Boy was saved when the pub was demolished in 1910 and became subsequently known as The Golden Boy of Pye Corner and it remains there to this day.

It marks the end-point of the fire but also serves as a warning to locals that their gluttony was the cause of the fire in the first place…

The Best of the Rest…!

Every nook and cranny tells an amazing story…

Between Birdcage Walk and Old Queen Street is Cockpit Steps, a narrow passageway with steps leading up to the last remaining parts of the Royal Cockpit where the upper echelons of society would watch cock fighting matches. It’s also rumoured that the steps are haunted by a headless lady and as recently as 1972, a motorist driving past the exact point of the steps swerved to avoid a woman in a red dress who9m he swore stepped out in front of him…

It’s very easy to miss Pickering Place, Britain’s smallest square. On St James Street, look for a closed gate with the number ‘3’ above the entrance or find King Henry’s old barn and look directly opposite. It was home to the Embassy of the Republic of Texas (until it succeeded to the union in 1845) and famous for gambling dens, bear baiting and duels – even 18th century dandy Beau Brummel once fought here.

Close to the Globe Theatre and situated between Pizza Express and  a restaurant called The Real Greek is the last remaining Ferryman’s Seat. It’s nothing more than a chunk of flint but it’s a significant part of London’s history. Up until around 1750 when London Bridge was the only way to cross the river, ferrymen used to transport patrons back to the north side of the river after spending the night at the various brothels or bear-baiting rings and the Ferryman’s Seat (the last one) was where they used to sit and wait for punters.

So, history lesson over for now so all you need to do is experience  the quirky, odd parts of London for yourself! To book your stay at the Rathbone, please call +44 (0) 20 7636 2001 or email reservations@rathbonehotel.co.uk today.

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23 June 2024