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Why You Ought to All the time Look *Down* In London: Pavement Oddities

Why You Ought to All the time Look *Down* In London: Pavement Oddities

2023-01-14 03:29:40

Looking along a road. A surface layer of tar has eroded, revealing stone sets beneath.

They are saying it is best to “all the time search for in London”, otherwise you’ll miss half its charms. However we must also bear in mind to look down when exploring the town — not at our telephones, however on the innumerable options at our toes. Listed here are 15 pavement oddities we have noticed on our walks across the capital.

1. Hidden rivers

A pavement roundel showing the location of the River Effra

London’s supposedly “misplaced” rivers are actually fairly well-known, due to an infinite provide of articles, books, movies and exhibitions. Most of those vanished waterways, just like the Fleet and Tyburn, nonetheless movement beneath the bottom as a part of the sewer community. Just a few are even indicated by pavement plaques, such because the one above in Herne Hill, the place the River Effra’s course is marked. A associated instance is the Regent’s Canal’s progress beneath Islington, which is tracked by a collection of small, blue plaques. After which there’s this intriguing message we as soon as found in Uxbridge…

A manhole cover surrounded by white spray paint suggesting a secret underground canal

2. Foundling tokens in Bloomsbury

A silver token in the form of an anchor embedded in the pavement

When strolling alongside Marchmont Avenue, look rigorously on the pavement alongside the Brunswick Centre, and also you would possibly spy silver units just like the one proven above. They’re replicas of tokens left on the Foundling Hospital within the 18th and nineteenth century. Their story is heartbreaking. Confronted with abject poverty, many moms left their youngsters to the care of the Hospital, the place they may develop up below higher circumstances. The infants have been usually accompanied by small trinkets, such because the one proven above, to assist establish a baby if their household later got here to reclaim them. Examples can now be seen on the Foundling Museum, whereas the small artwork path on Marchmont Avenue was created by artist John Aldus.

3. A Roman footprint

An aerial view of Guildhall Yard with an oval marking the footprint of a roman amphitheatre
Picture: Google

The Guildhall complicated within the Sq. Mile is historical, with some elements courting again to medieval instances. A clue to nonetheless older buildings might be discovered within the flagstones. Look out for the black oval form which arcs throughout virtually the complete size of the yard. This means the footprint of a Roman amphitheatre that when stood on the positioning, and whose stays have been solely found in 1988. Pop into the basement of Guildhall Art Gallery (free) to see these stays. The same, although smaller, circle marks an old Templar church in St John’s Sq., Clerkenwell.

4. Avenue nipples!

A collection of metal studs in the pavement.
Pictures by Chris Clarke

Ever noticed these curious brass “nipples” embedded within the pavement? As soon as you’ve got obtained an eye fixed for them, you will discover them all over the place. They appear to serve a wide range of capabilities, from marking boundaries, to aiding surveyors, to earthing utility pipes, as we explored in this previous feature.  

5. The world of coal gap covers

A coal hole decorated with beer mugs

Coal gap covers might be noticed within the pavements of London’s older streets. Again when everybody had a coal hearth, these small holes have been utilized by supply males, who may tip the black stuff straight right into a cellar with out having to hold it via the home. Hundreds of coal gap covers survive round London, they usually are available in dozens of geometric designs. The one proven above is a part of an art trail around Spitalfields, devised by Keith Bowler. Each reveals a commerce or exercise related to the world.

6. Musical Walks of Fame

A record-shaped plaque in the pavement remembering the band Madness

Do you know that London has its very personal rock and roll corridor of fame? The Camden City path continues to be in its early days at time of writing, with plaques to simply 4 acts: Insanity, David Bowie, The Who and Amy Winehouse. Discover the vinyl-style roundels within the pavements round Camden City tube station.

Wembley Park has its personal “Sq. of Fame”, which commemorates acts who’ve performed on the close by stadium and enviornment. Look out for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Bryan Adams, The Police and, erm, Michael Flatley’s toes…

A pair of footprints in a pavement roundel commemorating Michael Flatley

7. Information from the final millennium

A pavement plaque revealing that Tate Modern will open soon

Earlier than Londonist existed, Londoners may solely study new cultural experiences by searching for posters, notices and pavement adverts. This still-surviving message on Southwark Avenue informs us that Tate gallery of recent artwork will open in 2000. We’re positive it’s going to be an enormous success.

8. HP supply

An hydraulic power point

Noticed in Clerkenwell: an previous pavement cowl containing the mysterious initials “LHP”. Decrease Holborn Pipeline? Lenny Henry’s Pantry? A magical portkey to the London of Harry Potter?

Nope. It stands for London Hydraulic Energy. The plate is a uncommon survivor of this now principally forgotten utility, which noticed high-pressure water pumped round London as a method for powering equipment. The community was constructed within the late nineteenth century and, extremely, survived into the Nineteen Seventies. Lots of the previous pipes are nonetheless used as we speak for telecommunications.

9. Random quotes and heritage

A hose-like message inscribed on the pavement

This serpentine inscription marks the positioning of Marshalsea Jail in Southwark. Stones like this are a fairly widespread characteristic of heritage websites. They immediate us to cease, learn, and ponder our environment. This one is especially haunting, conjuring the ghosts of the infamous debtors’ jail during which Charles Dickens’ personal father was incarcerated.

10. A plaque to Mr Benn

A plaque to Mr Benn and his creator

And this is a heritage plaque of a really totally different tone. Festing Street in Putney was house to youngsters’s creator David McKee. Below a minor identify change to Festive Street, it was additionally house to one in every of his most well-known creations, Mr Benn. The pair are commemorated with the sort of easy pavement memorial we might prefer to see on extra suburban streets, celebrating different native heroes.

11. Wooden-block paving

Wooden block paving shines after rainfall

As youngsters, we realized that London’s streets have been paved with gold. Actually, they have been as soon as paved with wooden. Wooden-block paving was a standard sight in Victorian instances, however has now virtually fully vanished from our streets. This tiny stretch on Chequer Avenue (simply south of Outdated Avenue) is likely one of the best-surviving examples. But you can see other bits here and there.

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12. An historic fatberg

A metal manhole cover commemorating a fatberg

“The Whitechapel fatberg was defeated right here in 2017.” So reads this enigmatic plaque-cum-drain-cover on Whitechapel Street. For the uninitiated, a fatberg is the stable mass that varieties when an excessive amount of cooking fats results in the drains. It agglomerates with waste tissue, excrement and different detritus to type a sewer-blocking impediment that have to be chiselled away by hand. The 2017 monster was significantly infamous, weighing in at 130 tonnes. A part of the fatberg was collected and exhibited at the Museum of London.

13. Freaky double-yellows

Freaky double yellow lines bending back on themselves

Few issues in life are as sober and wise as street markings. Which makes it all of the extra hilarious once you spot one thing just a little out of the extraordinary. These well-known double-double-yellows might be present in Crawford Passage, Clerkenwell. At first, they seem non-sensical, till you realise that their function is to discourage bike parking. They don’t seem to be the one intriguing yella’s on the town, although. Get your head round these wavy interventions in Harrow.

Wavy double-yellow lines

14. You had one job

A sign saying look right, but with a left-pointing arrow

Talking of doubtful street markings. This probably harmful instruction might be discovered exterior Baker Avenue station. We have additionally discovered the alternative error, a right-pointing arrow on a Look Left signal, over on Old Street.

15. Stonemasons’ marks

A kerb with letters and an arrow inscribed

Any common pavement gazers shall be accustomed to the curious indicators and symbols generally inscribed into the kerb, such because the arrow proven right here. Their interpretation is disputed, although most commentators agree that they’re the marks of stonemasons, both indicating which stones a selected particular person lower from the quarry, or else laid on the street. The mark proven above has the added element of the letters SPB, which we take to be the St Pancras borough boundary (the kerb is in Regent’s Park).

16. Spot the typo

Michael Pallin commemorated with a mis-spelled name on a flagstone

And eventually… this mis-spelling of Michael Palin’s identify was reportedly deliberate — a mischievous joke by his fellow Python John Cleese. Discover the duo among the many record of donors at Shakespeare’s Globe.

All photos by the creator until in any other case indicated.

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