This has made the rounds on social media and I thought it was worth sharing with all of you. I don’t know how accurate it is. But it’s pretty freaking cool. A Reddit user has overlaid the path of the various Tube lines in London on an aerial picture. It shows the spaghetti-like tendrils of London’s transport network as they weave their way in the geography of London. Very cool. Gives context to the straight and curvy lines of the Tube map to see how they really relate to London.
English is a forever evolving language. It changes the most on the streets of London as the various ethnicities that have settled in London co-mingle their native languages with English. Interesting things result from this. There are new words all the time, old words are brought back into fasion, some words now mean the opposite of what they used to mean. It’s all very fascinating and confusing to visitors as well!
Here are a few new words that have made their way into the current London Urban vernacular. Some of them may still have you scratching your head. And the meaning may completely change by tomorrow morning!
Peng – N – Excellent, very good, attractive. Popularised on the streets of London in the ethnic neighborhoods. “She is so Peng.” “Or that food was the Pengest munch.”
Peak – Adj – One would think this would be an adjective to describe something grand, it actually means the exact opposite. “There’s a rail strike again this weekend; it’s so peak”.
Bossman – N – Used to refer to a shopowner or someone working in the service industry. Like the person serving you chicken at the local chippie. “‘Ello Bossman, I’ll have four thighs.”
Mandem – N – A group of acquaintances that aren’t as cool as they think, slightly ropey. “Oh looks like the mandem are hanging out a the skate park again.”
Roadman – N – That intimidating, slightly sketchy looking character who knows the neighborhood better than anyone. Probably the person to ask for direction. “What? Does he think he’s some kind of roadman?”
Northerner – N – Anyone who lives outside the M25 ring road that surrounds London. “I think he’s a Northerner.”
Blower – N – The phone. “Hey mate, your dad’s on the blower.”
Lit – Adj – Something that is exciting or big bash. “Man, that party was lit!”
Dench – Adj – Someone who has bulked themselves up successfully. “You are so dench now that you have been down the gym.”
Wavey – Adj – To be drunk or high on drugs. “He was so wavey at the party last night.”
In Ends – N – Your local area. “I’ve been in ends all day, mate.”
Link – V – To meet up with friends or hang out. “Don’t forget to link up with us later.”
Chirpsing – V – Casual flirting. “He was over there chirpsing with the girls.”
Choong – N – Good looking, attractive. “Oh man, he was soooo choong.”
Tekker – N – Someone with great technical ability. “Hey, take this over to the tekkers down the street to get it fixed.”
Vex – Adj – Angry. “I heard her on the phone earlier; she was vex.”
Reh teh teh – Adj – A phrase that basically means etc.
Looking criss – Adj – Looking fresh, sharp. “I saw her coming out of the hairdressers and she was looking criss.”
Kicks – N – A pair of American style sneakers (normally called trainers in England). “Did you see his beautiful new kicks?”
One of the more affluent areas of London, Belgravia of the Middle Ages was a vastly different place known as Five Fields in which it was likely you’d find yourself poor courtesy of a thief or highwayman. The area’s reputation changed once King George III moved into what was then Buckingham House and a row of homes was constructed on Grosvenor Place. Its maintained its status as an upscale place to live ever since and in addition to the homes of wealthy British nationals, foreign businessmen, and diplomats, it has a number of great places to visit and things to do.
Ian Fleming Blue Plaque
You won’t be able to go inside, and there’s no museum here, but 22 Ebury Street has an English Heritage Blue Plaque to mark what was once the home of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The author lived here from 1934 to 1945 during his long tenure with British Naval Intelligence. The house gets a nod in Moonraker as the home of Sir Hugo Drax.
If you’re looking for a pub with some history, you need to go no further than The Grenadier. Named after the type of soldier first seen in the 17th Century, the site of this pub was once a soldiers’ barracks and the pub itself was actually the officers’ mess. As such, everything inside has a military theme to it, and it’s believed that the ghost of a soldier caught cheating at cards haunts the pub.
Walk the Embassies
Walk the streets of Belgravia and count the flags you see. You likely won’t be able to go in if you’re not a citizen of that particular country, but Belgravia is home to over a dozen embassies, consulates, and other foreign governmental buildings. Nations such as Ghana, Bahrain, Spain, Norway, Finland, Egypt, and more all have diplomatic buildings here just a stone’s throw from Whitehall.
Afternoon Tea at the Goring
Afternoon Tea is a British institution, and the Goring Hotel presents that cultural experience with award-winning flair. With prices ranging from 49 to £69, you can enjoy some the tastiest scones, sandwiches, and cakes along with Bollinger champagne. The tea selection is absolutely fantastic, so you should be able to find your favorite blend or opt for coffee instead.
Ministry of Nomads Art Gallery
London has plenty of art galleries, but Ministry of Nomads is its own unique haven for artists in the city. Self-described as a “new sustainable art system,” Ministry of Nomads travels the world to find the most creative artworks and also encourages innovative new pieces in any medium through its MON Artist Award. Whether you just want to browse or you’re looking to buy, there are plenty of one-of-a-kind paintings, sculptures, sketches, and more here.
Christmas Markets – Pimlico Rd and Elizabeth St
Christmas Markets are another wonderful feature of London, and Belgravia has two of the best in the city. Pimlico Rd and Elizabeth St become home to dozens of market stalls, street food, and Christmas festivities. Everything from Christmas carols to Father Christmas himself can be found in both markets to really help you get into the holiday spirit, and the storefront windows are also done up with Christmas displays. The markets typically run throughout December.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
A fine example of the neighborhood’s extravagance can be found at Dominique Ansel Bakery. The world-renown pastry chef from New York City’s sole London location is in Belgravia, serving up everything from Ansel’s famous Cronut to cookies, sandwiches, and even frozen s’mores. Of course, it’s a little on the pricey side, but these delicious treats are certainly worth your money.
One of London’s top concert venues, Cadogan Hall was built as a Church of Christ, Scientist worship hall in 1907 and is Grade II listed. The building was converted into the 950-seat concert hall in 2004 and is home to many varied musical performances such as a tribute to David Bowie’s discography, Carmen, and the Pinchas Zukerman Summer Concert series, among other colorful concerts. Be sure to check the schedule and plan the best time to visit.
St. Paul’s Church
Just off of Knightsbridge, St. Paul’s Church is one of the city’s excellent examples of a Victorian church. Its simpler edifice belies a beautiful interior, which includes a tribute to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in World War II, who often worked with the Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines and tiled panels displaying the life of Jesus. Be sure to check the schedule for weekly events including concerts.
Belgrave Square Garden
A centerpiece to the neighborhood, Belgrave Square Garden is two hectares of greenery surrounded by gorgeous townhomes, many belonging to the previously-mentioned embassies. The garden was designed by George Basevi and planted by Thomas Cubitt in 1826. It contains statues of famous individuals, pergolas covered in Wisteria, a tennis court, and more. The only hang-up is that the gardens aren’t open to the public, but you can get in if you can find someone with a key to accompany you.
Street names can be funny things. Most often the name originates from long ago and the original meaning behind the name was lost. People forget the person it was named for, or the trade that was located there has since moved on. Still, the names remain and their meaning often becomes something new and hilarious. Enjoy these twenty-five London streets with funny names and let us know some of your favorites.
Upper Butts is a street located in Hounslow and the origin of Butts is thought to be related to archery targets, which once upon a time were also referred to as butts. The Butts surname is thought to come from people who lived near these targets.
Man in Moon Passage
Thought to come from an inn or pub that used to be in this location. Pubs with this name often depict the moon with a face and has a bundle of sticks, a lantern, or a dog.
The origin of this street name is not as romantic as it may seem. In the Middle Ages, “Love Lane” was a place you could go if you were willing to pay for a “good time” with a lady.
Hanging Sword Alley
Possibly named after a sword fighting or fencing school that used to be here, but more than likely for the Tudor home known by its sign of the hanging sword. Its colorful nickname was “Blood Bowl Alley” as it existed in an area exempt from city laws after the Reformation, which meant it was quite the criminal hangout.
This place was anything but rotten, as its original name was “Route de Roi”, which is “The King’s Road” in French. King William III built it to travel to and from Kensington Palace and it became quite a fashionable route later on.
A “back lane” is a smaller street that ran behind the main street, much like an alleyway that runs behind homes in some neighborhoods.
This street name comes from King James I’s love of exotic birds and how he used to keep them nearby.
This street used to be the site of royal cockfights. The Royal Cockpit was there during the 1700s, but all that remains today are the steps.
This street really used to smell back in the day when it was known as “Shiteburne Lane” and was known as home to public toilets.
The first section of the street was built in 1671 and named after Thomas Swallow, a 16th Century tenant of the area.
The street was once home to a building that the monarchy used to store clothes for state visits.
This was more likely named for a fish market that operated on Fridays. Other nearby streets are also related to products such as Milk Street and Wood Street.
The street used to be home to nuns from the Church of St. Helens Bishopgate and the medieval name for nuns was “mynchen”.
Not named for the American President, like its neighbors Milk Street and Bread Street, it was related to a particular item that was sold there. In this case, that business was making Trumpets.
The street is actually the opposite of how it sounds, as it was actually a medieval dumping ground. It’s cleaned up a lot since then.
It’s said that when Edmund the Martyr’s body was brought through the city gate here in 1010, several cripples were miraculous cured, though it’s also likely that it was named after a “crepul” or a covered tunnel that was built for sentries.
This street is somewhat related to what you imagine, as it was home to quite a lot of pubs in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but its origins actually come from the fact that those taverns used to sell flasks of water from a nearby medicinal spring.
Not as sweet as you might think, “pudding” was an ancient term for animal guts, which would be pushed down the street into the Thames waste removal system from all the butchers’ shops. Interestingly enough, this is where the Great Fire of London began in 1666.
After William I became king, he invited Jews to come live in London, and many of them settled in this area in what became the city’s Jewish quarter.
A “ha-ha” is actually a sunken ditch that serves as a boundary marker for a property, which was preferred by some landowners instead of a wall that might block their view.
A “crutch” or “crouch is another name for a Latin crucifix and this street was the site of the Convent of the Courched Friars, which formed in 1298.
Not home to a lot of plants, it was actually named for a pub known as The Vine, which operated here in the 18th Century.
You might think this was named for a rooster, but it actually has some dirty connotations, as the street was home to many a brothel in olden days. It was the only place where brothels could operate legally and the Cock Lane Ghost later became a sensation for the street in the 18th Century.
French Ordinary Court
A French restaurant used to operate here in the 17th Century that served fixed price meals, which were referred to as “ordinaries”.
Not related to David Hasselhoff, this was once a much longer street that knights would take on their way to Smithfield for jousting tournaments during the 14th and 15th Centuries.
London is home to one of the best theater districts outside of Broadway. Most can be found throughout the city’s West End in Westminster and Camden. Naturally, being the center of the drama world means that the West End is also home to London’s oldest still-standing theaters, grand palaces built to house everything from Shakespeare to modern productions. We’ve managed to identify the five oldest still in operation, going back more than 350 years. While these are the oldest, they may not represent your personal favorites, so let us know what those are in the comments.
The Adelphi (1806)
Some fathers will do anything for their daughters, and in the case of merchant John Scott, that meant buying a theater for his daughter Jane, a theater manager, playwright, and actor. It opened as the Sans Pareil (“Without Compare”) in 1806, and after Jane married and retired from theater, it reopened under its current name in 1819. Its current show is Kinky Boots, based on the film of the same name about a struggling shoe factory owner who partners with a drag queen to save the family business.
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1732)
1728 saw John Gay’s The Beggars Opera had a then-record 62 performances and gave its producer, John Rich, enough money to build his own theater, known first as the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. This theater and another on this list were the only theaters at the time to have patents to do spoken-word drama, so competition between the two during summer was fierce. It was a playhouse for the first 100 years of its life and now serves as the home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Its shows vary, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
Theatre Royal, Haymarket (1720)
One thing you’ll find is that there have been a lot of playhouses bearing the title of “Theatre Royal” over the years, and the theater in Haymarket was actually the third patent theater to share that name, earning its patent in 1754. The first theater was built here by John Potter in 1720 and was known as Little Theater until it acquired its patent. This summer sees performances of Tartuffe and Broken Wing, while the theatre in the day puts on a Master Class segment for those interested in a career in theater, television, and film to learn from the experts.
Sadler’s Wells (1683)
London’s second-oldest theater opened in 1682 as the “Musick House” run by William Sadler and was the second theater to open in the city after the Restoration. The discovery of monastic springs on the property gave it its name and drew people to then-rural Islington for its “healing” waters and lively performances. Another five theaters would be built on the site, culminating in the current building which opened in 1998. Performances vary, so you will want to check the schedule first, but Sadler’s Wells is primarily a venue for touring dance and ballet companies.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1663)
With most theaters shut down during the Commonwealth Period, the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane was the first to open with letters patent from King Charles II in 1663. It survived the Great Fire in 1666 only to burn down in 1672 but was rebuilt in 1674 and has been putting on a variety of performances ever since. Most historians accept that the second theater was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and it is a Grade I listed building. This year’s performances see everything from an evening with Joanna Lumley to 42 Street and a live orchestra performing scores along with film screenings of La La Land, The Italian Job, Paddington, and Love Actually.
I hope you saw The London Annual 2018 as I had a feature in the magazine about Vote 100 marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave most men and some women the vote for the first time.
There have been events all year to celebrate this 100 year anniversary but as this is about the right to vote it’s fitting that the one you should really want to see is held at the Houses of Parliament. Voice & Vote – Women’s Place in Parliament is a free exhibition in Westminster Hall (the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament).
Voice & Vote
The (often rare and previously unseen) historic exhibits on display here tell the hidden “her-story” of the UK Parliament: the campaigning, the protests and the achievements. It also examines where we are today and how you can make change happen.
It started out quite informally and some used the space for socialising. But it soon became more organised as many wanted to be more informed and politically engaged. Some went on to campaign on issues that concerned them, such as the abolition of the slave trade.
To find out how it might have felt to watch debates from this all-female space you can put your head in the cut-outs on the side of this recreation. It has been acoustically modeled by the University of York so you can feel more ‘immersed.’
The Cage (1834–1918)
After the 1834 fire that destroyed the medieval Houses of Parliament, it was rebuilt as the Gothic structure we see today. The new House of Commons included a Ladies’ Gallery that allowed women to view the Chamber from high up above the Speaker’s Chair.
The height, together with the grilles, made it very difficult for women to see and hear what was happening. Millicent Fawcett, who went on to be the President is the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, was married to Henry Fawcett MP and she acted as secretary to her blind husband. She wrote that the Ladies’ Gallery was “a grand place for headaches”.
We now have the chance to take a seat and try to look through a replica grille for ourselves. There are recordings of debates so you can see how well you could follow from inside The Cage.
The Tomb (1918–1963)
From 1918, women could stand for Parliament for the first time. In fact, Constance Markievicz was elected in 1918, but she never took her seat as she represented left-wing Irish republican political party, Sinn Féin.
Today we may hope that our road to freedom will be a peaceful and bloodless one; I need hardly assure you that it will be an honourable one. I will never take an oath of allegiance to the power I meant to overthrow.
Nancy Astor was the first female MP to take her seat in 1919. Most male MPs didn’t have an office at the Houses of Parliament as they often used their gentlemen’s clubs for business meetings. As this wasn’t an option for Astor an office called the Lady Members’ Room was provided but it was poorly furnished and became increasingly overcrowded as more women were elected as MPs. They had to share the space, which became known as “The Tomb” despite their differing politics.
Once the few desks provided were all taken, women MPs had to sit on the floor to do their paperwork and hold meetings in corridors.
This recreation has historic furniture from the Houses of Parliament collection, so you try the “unsympathetic sofas” or sit at one of the three desks. Lift the telephone, and you can hear a reading of a 1928 description of The Tomb by Ellen Wilkinson, MP, when there were eight female MPs trying to use the small room.
The Chamber (1964–present)
The final part of the exhibition looks at the current situation. There are TV screens to listen to vox pops of female MPs discussing issues important to them and a wall with the names of all 491 female MPs to date.
You can then take a seat in ‘The Chamber’ and listen to oral history recordings from female MPs and members of the House of Lords today.
Women have now occupied the highest positions in Parliament, including Betty Boothroyd, the first, and only (so far) woman Speaker and Baroness Hayman, the first Lord Speaker in the House of Lords. And, of course, the current Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Millicent Fawcett and the Suffragists
Just to be clear, not all women’s suffrage campaigners were ‘suffragettes.’ That name was coined by the press to be derogatory towards the protesters who used militant actions.
Before things escalated to violence, there were the law-abiding suffragists that became formally organized from 1867. They wrote letters and collected petitions and always intended to use their words and intelligence to raise the awareness of the injustice.
The largest non-militant suffrage organization was the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. It was founded in 1898, and Millicent Fawcett became its President from 1907.
When we see black and white images (like the one above), we can often presume the three colors the women are wearing are the green, white and purple associated with the suffragettes. But the NUWSS’s colors were actually red, white and green.
Part of the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth, Vauxhall came about from one of King John’s loyal servants, Falkes de Breauté, who owned a house in the area that was called Falke’s Hall. As the industrial revolution took hold in England, the ward became a mixture of industrial and residential. The area’s industry led to the establishment of Vauxhall Motors, one of England’s top car manufacturers. Today, Vauxhall is a very diverse part of London with a mixture of social housing, gentrified neighborhoods, sports venues, gay clubs, and government buildings. We’ve identified ten of our favorite places to visit, and you can let us know your own in the comments.
Whistle Punks Urban Axe Throwing
An activity that’s taken off with a younger crowd all over the world is ax throwing. Essentially, it’s darts but with axes, as you try to throw the ax as close to center of the target as you can. Even if you’ve never held an ax in your hand, Whistle Punks can teach you what to do and even get you ready to join their league for fun competitions against your friends.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
It might not be for everyone, but the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the center of gay culture in the neighborhood. This Grade II listed building was once a Victorian music hall and pub that became a venue for drag and burlesque performances after World War II. It still hosts these performances today and has made the RVT quite the major venue in the area.
VauxWall Climbing Center
A great spot to be active in Vauxhall, the VauxWall Climbing Center is a dream for beginning or expert alpinists. If you’re one of the former, the VCC can help you get started with easy walls and classes hosted by trained climbers. The center also hosts events every month, so be sure to check out their calendar and join some fellow bouldering enthusiasts.
White Bear Theatre
If you’re looking for an entertainment venue and pub that’s a bit more family-friendly, the White Bear Theatre is one of the leading pub theaters in London. It’s more of a fringe theater than the others, though, participating in the Lost Classics Project to revive more obscure, underperformed, and unperformed plays. What’s more, if you present a paper or electronic ticket in the pub for your show, you get 10% off the bill. Makes for a wonderfully unique dinner and show.
Vauxhall City Farm
Perhaps surprisingly for such a large city, Vauxhall is one of the London wards with a large farm. Whether you’re a child or an adult, you can get the experience of rural life from feeding animals, petting them, and even riding horses or ponies. There are adoption options to help with the farm’s upkeep, and while you don’t get to take the animals home, you can do a prearranged meet and greet with the animal you’ve adopted and get a free bag of feed with each visit.
Vauxhall Cross – MI6
Home to the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, Vauxhall Cross isn’t a place you can tour, but it is a place you’ll want to see if you’re a fan of the James Bond films. For years after it was built in 1994, its very existence wasn’t fully disclosed to the public. It wasn’t even until The World Is Not Enough in 1999 that filmmakers even had permission to film the exterior. And while the fictional MI6 has since moved out of the building, the real agency is still there, so don’t expect that you can walk in for a visit, though there are a number of Bond-themed tours that will point it out to you.
A beautiful respite in the middle of Vauxhall, Vauxhall Park has been a part of the community for over 125 years. Besides its greenery, pergolas, and benches, there are a number of activities inside from a playground, tennis courts, chess tables, sports fields, and even a little model village to peruse. The park has won the Green Flag Award for the last seven years in a row as one of the best green spaces in the country, so you’ll definitely want to check it out.
The Kia Oval
Also known as simply The Oval, the Kia Oval is an international cricket ground and home to the Surrey County Cricket Club. The ground was built on top of the Kennington Common, which hosted its first cricket match in 1724 and the Oval as it was was built in 1845. In addition to hosting cricket matches, it tends to play home to a lot of football as well. Be sure to check the club’s schedule for tickets or see what else might be happening there.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Just a stone’s throw from Vauxhall Park are the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, which rank higher on this list for its history and number of activities. Vauxhall Gardens has been around since the 18th Century when the only way to reach the gardens was by boat until Vauxhall Bridge was built. In addition to the playground, table tennis, and sports field, the gardens touch several other places on this list including the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Vauxhall City Farm, letting you really make a day of it in one location.
Stretching from Vauxhall Bridge Road to Lambeth Bridge, the Albert Embankment is one of the Thames’s main thoroughfares and has been since it was constructed by Joseph Bazelgette between 1866 and 1869. As with Bazelgette’s other embankment projects, the river is lined with lamps that have sturgeons at the base. With a dockside restaurant and a bike share, you can grab a bite to eat then rent a Boris bike to take you anywhere you want in Vauxhall.
I was reading the Sunday Times yesterday, as one does, and came across an amusing article that then made me irritated. Apparently, there are lots of people who still don’t know that Big Ben/Elizabeth is covered in scaffolding right now and will remain so until at least 2021.
As a result, tourists are leaving negative reviews on TripAdvisor, complaining that their dream trips to London along with tourist photos have been ruined by the unsightly scaffolding. I do agree that it looks terrible. Awful. But, this has been going on for awhile now and we’ve at least tried to make this fact known.
So, this is your reminder that Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben is the big bell, not the clock or the tower), is covered in scaffolding. In fact, the hands on the clock have also been removed. The bell itself is not chiming right now. The entire tower is being renovated because all of the Palace of Westminster is in a sorry state and requires repairs. They started with Big Ben. But due to the age of the building, it’s going to take awhile to sort.
Yes, it’s a real shame that your photos are being ruined – everyone’s photos are being ruined. But fear not, there are plenty of other beautiful places in London worthy of a selfie or photograph – try Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park; the list is endless.
When your dream trip requires a specific place or attraction to fulfill that dream, always, always check in advance and make sure it’s in a state where you can visit or see before spending thousands of dollars on a trip to see that one thing. Travel disappointment sucks. Plan ahead, always. For the last few years, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire was covered in scaffolding as part of a multi-year restoration project. The mitigated it by doing one side of the house at a time, but it sucked (we visited during this period). Now, they’re done and the house looks even more incredible.
What I’m saying is, it’ll be worth it when they’re done.
When the scaffolding is removed, we will, of course, let you know. In fact, I’m sure they’ll make a big event out of it.
The 19th Century was a time of great change for Britain, and especially its capital of London. Some of London’s most iconic landmarks were constructed during this time or altered to a look that we recognize today. In the midst of the effects of the Industrial Revolution, the population exploded, and the city grew to meet it. While London’s prosperity grew, the divides between rich and poor widened, resulting in efforts to bring a better life to the lower classes. All this took place during the reign of Queen Victoria, and by the time of her death in 1901, London would become a very different place.
A couple of London’s major changes took place before Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837 and expanded thereafter. Eight years earlier, then-Prime Minister Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police. Known as “Bobbies” after their creator, Peel crafted the Met as a citizen police force, which did not carry firearms (except in extreme circumstances) and did not investigate crime, with officers merely observing and stopping crime as it occurred. The City of London created its own police force in the same year, though it has remained separate from the Met since its inception. Amongst the changes that would take place during Victoria’s reign, the first was the creation of what would become the Criminal Investigative Division would occur in 1842 in response to a grisly murder that shocked the city. The Special Branch was later created in 1883 as the “Special Irish Branch” to handle issues of Irish terrorism, but the Irish part of the name was later dropped as the SB’s directives expanded to cover wider issues of national security.
Railroads had also existed in London prior to Victoria’s reign, but also expanded greatly during this time. The railway line between London Bridge and Greenwich was constructed in 1836 and more were added over the years as the city grew, creating a network that not only reached out to connect London with other major cities in the United Kingdom but also led to the creation of the Metropolitan Railway, which would one day merge with other subterranean railways lines to form the London Underground. The rail network would also see the creation of major transport hubs and iconic buildings such as Paddington Station, Euston Station, King’s Cross Station, and St. Pancras Station, among others.
Of course, London’s explosion in population, going from roughly 1 million to 6 million by the end of the 19th Century, would create other logistical problems. To that end, London’s outdated parish and vestries governing system was replaced with the Metropolitan Board of Works to address the city’s infrastructure needs. With that in mind, London’s sanitation system wasn’t exactly top notch when Victoria became Queen. At that time, raw sewage was still pumped directly into the Thames River, which was basically a great open sewer. This led to outbreaks of disease such as the 1854 Broad Street Cholera epidemic, in which John Snow was able to identify a public water pump in Soho as the origin place, as well as the Great Stink in 1858. It wasn’t until the latter event that the city began to take the plans of Joseph Bazalgette of the MBW to construct a sanitary sewer system, which was completed in 1865. The Metropolitan Board of Works would disband in 1889 and be reformed into the London County Council, which would then become the Greater London Council, and now exists as the Greater London Authority.
Speaking of construction, several of London’s greatest buildings would be constructed during the Victorian period. Three years prior to Queen Victoria’s reign, the Palace of Westminster burned down, and construction began in 1841 of a Gothic-style building including the Victoria Tower and the Clock Tower (now called the Elizabeth Tower) which houses Big Ben. Buckingham Palace as we know it became Queen Victoria’s residence in 1837, and after her marriage to Prince Albert and their growing family, the East Front was constructed in 1850, creating the public façade of the palace that we know today. Albert’s influence spread to even more of London’s buildings with the construction of the Crystal Palace to house the Great Exhibition that he championed. After his death, his desire to encourage the arts and sciences continued as the Albertopolis was constructed throughout South Kensington, including such great buildings as the Royal Albert Hall, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Imperial College London, among others.
By the end of the Victorian Era in 1901, not only had the city’s face changed, but its entire personality was different. A quiet capital became a major urban geopolitical powerhouse, the seat of an empire that stretched around the globe. As the Edwardian Period dawned, London would resemble the modern city that we see today, ready to transform even further in the 20th Century.
People have been exchanging money for goods for centuries, and London has seen some kind of commerce since the Romans first built the city as we know it. Most companies that we know of today, however, are fairly recent inventions in the grand scheme of things. It wouldn’t be until the 17th or 18th Centuries that most shops and restaurants would even come into being. Some businesses, such as pubs, are even older, though for the purpose of this list, we’ll be limiting how many pubs are included since several of the city’s pubs are even older than other industries in London. What follows is an interesting mix of businesses that have operated since the 16th Century and are still open today.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the 2018 London Annual which is now sold out and out of print.
Ye Olde Mitre – 1546
It’s almost fitting that London’s oldest business should be a drinking establishment. Besides being one of London´s most hidden pubs, Ye Old Mitre is also one of the oldest with its history dating back to 1546. The pub was built for the servants of the Bishops of Ely who worked at nearby Ely Palace, which was featured in the works of Shakespeare. One of its oldest features is a cherry tree that Queen Elizabeth I is said to have danced around with her once-favorite Sir Christopher Hatton. Enter the tavern, and you´ll encounter a pub with lots of wooden panels and no music or screaming tvs at all. The pub doesn’t open on Saturday and Sunday, except during the Great British Beer Festival every year.
London Gazette – 1665
The London Gazette began its history in 1665 as another paper—The Oxford Gazette. At the time, most “newspapers” looked more like gossip magazines (and some would argue that they still are), so the Gazette established itself to be an authoritative information source. The reason for the name difference was that the paper started during another outbreak of the Black Death. King Charles II had moved the court to Oxford, and his courtiers wouldn’t touch a London newspaper for fear of catching the disease. The Gazette was the first official journal of record and newspaper of the Crown. When the fear of the disease dissipated and the Court of St. James returned to London, the Gazette came with it and changed its name to the London Gazette. The Gazette often relied on dispatches from overseas for its news reports, and anyone “mentioned in dispatches” was said to have been “gazetted.”
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – 1667
Another candidate in our list of oldest businesses in London is the pub known as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It was built only a year after the Great Fire, but on its site used to be a pub called the Horn which was built in 1538. A unique feature of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is its cellar which dates to a 13th-century monastery. Of course, there are a few older pubs that managed not to get burned down by the ire, but this is one of the oldest to open afterward that is still in operation today. The pub’s patrons over the years are full of literature’s greatest names, including Dr. Samuel Johnson, Voltaire, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain. Its lack of natural lighting gives it that dingy feel that appeals to tourists and locals alike.
C. Hoare & Co. – 1672
Founded in 1672, C. Hoare & Co. is the oldest bank in the United Kingdom and the fourth oldest in the world. Founder Richard Hoare had begun his career as an apprenticed goldsmith. It was the year he was granted Freedom of the Goldsmiths’ Company that he founded his business and is treated as the founding of the bank. Moving from “The Sign of the Golden Bottle” in Cheapside to Fleet Street in 1690, the banking side of Hoare’s business slowly overtook the goldsmithing until it was Hoare’s main occupation in 1702, the same year he made his son “Good Henry,” and he was knighted by Queen Anne. The bank has enjoyed its independent status since its founding and is now led by the 10th and 11th generations of the Hoare family.
Lock & Co. Hatters – 1676
Founded in 1676, James Lock & Co. is the world’s oldest hat shop. Despite the name, it was actually founded by Robert Davis, whose son Charles took on James Lock as his apprentice in 1747. James also married Robert’s daughter, further cementing his legacy with the business. The businesses passed down from fathers to sons for generations, in the meantime outfitting many famous names from Admiral Horatio Nelson to Oscar Wilde. Even to this day, Lock & Co. uses its famous conformateur to measure a person’s head to create a bespoke hat, and the shop displays many of the famous persons for which it has done work.
Toye & Co. – 1685
Known formally as Toye, Kenning, & Spencer, Toye & Co. is one of the most important jewelry firms in the United Kingdom, holding a Royal Warrant to Queen Elizabeth II. For the Crown, Toye & Co. makes gold and silver laces, insignias, and embroidery as well as supplying Honours badges and ribbons. It is also the sole supplier of the buttonhole Honours emblem. The Toye family were Huguenot refugees when they arrived in London in 1685 and once again took up their trade of weaving, lace-making, embroidery, and gold and silver wire making. Toye & Co. has served the Crown through fifteen monarchs since its founding and has branched out to everything including electioneering buttons, trophies, and even the robes and banners for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. One of the company’s proudest achievements is that many of its craftspeople are families who have been passing their skills on to their children and grandchildren.
Lloyds of London – 1688
Edward Lloyd owned a coffee house on Tower Street that he started in 1686 on Tower Street that catered mainly to sailors, merchants, and ship-owners. Soon after, Lloyd began to offer maritime insurance. By the 1730s, Lloyds had opened an office at 16 Lombard Street and established quite a name for itself in the maritime insurance industry. Wars in the late-18th Century and early 19th Century helped Lloyds prosper even more, and the firm quickly became Britain’s leading insurer of ships and sailors (which regrettably included insuring ships and slaves in the slave trade). Lloyds also shaped much of the insurance industry, publishing the first Lloyds List and instituting a policy of having a “Lead” underwriter who would set the rates for the others. Today the Lloyds Building is one of the most recognizable and intriguing pieces of architecture in the city.
Ede & Ravenscroft – 1689
In the legal profession, one needs to look professional when appearing in court, and Ede & Ravenscroft has been assisting the nation’s judges and barristers since 1689. It was founded in that year by William and Marsha Shudall but didn’t adopt its current name until 1903 when Joseph Ede inherited the business and merged with wig-maker Ravenscroft. The shop makes more than just legal attire, though, and possess a royal warrant for robes for Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales. They also supply robes for graduation ceremonies and make any number of suits and formalwear, including bespoke items. Today the company has three locations across London and is very close to famous fashion district Saville Road.
Berry Bros. & Rudd – 1698
The oldest seller of alcohol in the city, Berry Brothers & Rudd was founded by the Widow Bourne at No. 3 St. James’s Street in 1698. Mrs. Bourne had the fortune of establishing her grocer’s shop across the street from St. James’s Palace, which ended up becoming the principal residence of the monarch, King William III. Despite the popular location, Berry Bros. did not receive a royal warrant until 1903, and Queen Elizabeth II gave her own warrant to the shop in 1995. In that same year, Berry Bros. & Rudd moved itself into the future by being the first wine merchants to open an online wine shop. The shop remains the premier wine and spirits merchant for the city, celebrating over 300 years of business.
Twinings & Co. – 1706
Thomas Twining’s ambitions must have seemed impossible when he purchased a small coffee shop to sell a new beverage that was taking the country by storm. He opened the country’s first team room in the Strand in 1706, transforming it into an empire as Britain’s demand for tea grew. The location was perfect as it straddled the line between Westminster and the City of London, putting him in the perfect place to cater to the gentry. It also helped his business that, while women were discouraged from coffee houses, there was nothing keeping them from entering Twinings’ tea rooms. In a feat of trademarking, Twining’s logo was created in 1787 and remains the oldest logo in continuous use. Queen Victoria made the company an official warrant holder in 1837. Today, it remains the top name in tea all over the globe.