Ben le Vay's Eccentric London

by Benedict le Vay

Ben le Vay's Eccentric London

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About this book

...meet a man who listens to tube trains from the road above with a large hearing-trumpet, the inventor who made giant ships out of ice, a chap who rides down the river in an Edwardian bath chair, the guy with the world's biggest collection of pillar boxes...

These are just a few of the colourful characters to be found in Eccentric London. This is an insider's guide to the city by someone who has lived, loved, eaten, drank and worked in London for five decades. He takes you to the best and most eccentric pubs and restaurants, specialist shops (26,000 stores selling £62billion worth of stuff a year), bizarre bookshops, weird museums, least-known secret neighbourhoods where you won't find tourists, but will find the utterly odd and amazing.

Marvel at the petrified pile of century-old hot cross buns at the Widow's Son pub; discover what the 'Royal Ravenmaster' does for a living; and pay a visit to Pierre Vivant's curious tree, formed from 75 sets of blinking traffic lights. Ben le Vay's Eccentric London will help you dig beneath the capital's barmy surface to reveal the barmier world beneath.

About the author

When he is not researching the underworld of British eccentricity, Benedict le Vay works as a sub-editor on the features section of a daily national newspaper. He is author of several Bradt guides: Ben le Vey's Eccentric Britain and Britain from the Rails.


Reviews Contents

Reviews

Press reviews

'Those who read it are unlikely ever to look at London, or Londoners the same way again.'
Britain Calling

'One of the best (guides to London).'
The Mayfair Times

'Beautifully illustrated with lavish colour photography and black and white drawings. Worth buying for the front cover alone.'
Essex Courier

'An endlessly fascinating book, written with huge charm, that explores the eclectic curiosities of London past and present.'
The Good Book Guide
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Contents

Introduction viii
PART ONE ECCENTRIC LONDONERS
AND THEIR ODD PURSUITS 1
Chapter 1 !e Eccentric Year 3
Chapter 2 Eccentric Londoners 22
Eccentric clubs and collectors 22, North
Londoners: seriously weird and wired 24,
Tales of the underground 27
Chapter 3 Murderous and Battle"eld London 29
Sites of the capital's most macabre killings 29,
Ghastly crime and capital punishment 38,
Welcome to Wormwood Scrubs 45
Chapter 4 Career Eccentrics 49
London's oddest and oldest jobs 49
Chapter 5 Dead Eccentric London 56
London, more dead than alive 56, Where to
find some dead great people 60, !e London
resurrection men and grave crimes 71
Chapter 6 Eccentric Pastimes 72
London's oddest museums 72, !e London lidos:
Art Deco oases? 82, !eatre: a better Mousetrap and
other quirks 85
Chapter 7 Eccentric Shopping 88
!e shops that time forgot 88, A shock in
store at Whiteley's 93
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v
PART TWO THE ECCENTRIC CITY 95
Chapter 8 Immortalised London 96
London addresses immortalised 96, Rhyme
and reason 99
Chapter 9 London's Road to Eccentricity 106
London's eccentric road and place names 106,
Chimps and babies on buses 113, London's earliest
accidents 114, Alternative transportation 114
Chapter 10 Beneath the Eccentric City 120
Difficult-to-believe Tube experiences 120,
Ten fascinating bits of underground London 122,
!e lost rivers of London and their legends 129
Chapter 11 Eccentric Churches 136
Secret churches and hidden puns 136, Cockneys
with bells on 137, !rashed choir boys and pillaging
Danes 138, Fascinating features and marvellous
marbles 139, Weird names that tell great stories 140,
Actors, a highwayman and the handsomest barn 141,
Classic ding-dongs and a Gothic horror show 143,
!e peculiar Abbey habit 144, St Martin-in-the-
Fields, a highwayman and royal whores 145, Lost
and wandering towers, a crypt ascending to heaven
146, London's most exotic places of worship 148
Chapter 12 London: Home of Eccentrics 151
Plaque to the future 151, Cheyne Walk - London's
most brilliant road 155
Chapter 13 Eccentric Buildings 166
Westminster Palace and the perils of keeping tally
166, 11 Eccentric London buildings 168, Art
Deco, dream palaces and recognising a sucker 175,
Towering eccentricities around London 176, !e
mystery locations 178, From phew to view 178
Chapter 14 Monumentally Eccentric 180
!e historic stones of old London 180, 12 rather
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vi
strange London sculptures 184, London's lost
American connections 189, !e origins of Down
Under 196
Chapter 15 Eccentric Boozers, Beasts and Bogs 197
Peculiar pubs and their strange stories 197,
London's most unlikely beasts 206, !e strangest
loos of London 211
PART THREE BIZARRE BITS OF INNER LONDON 215
Chapter 16 Earl's Court 216
Irish giants and sparrow's kneecaps 216, Earl's Court
today 219, !e dead centre of Earl's Court 221,
Making a complete exhibition of itself 227
Chapter 17 Fleet Street 229
Fleet Street and Smithfield walk 229
Chapter 18 Soho 251
Fitzrovia to Soho walk 251
Chapter 19 Southwark 262
Borough to Blackfriars - Dickensian suffering and
horrid history 262
Chapter 20 Whitechapel 275
A short walk about Whitechapel 275
PART FOUR VILLAGE LONDON 289
Chapter 21 Dulwich 290
A crazy mixed-up place 290, A walk around
picturesque Dulwich 294
Chapter 22 Greenwich 306
A walk around the best and oddest bits 306
Chapter 23 Hammersmith 325
A jewel within a toad 325, A walk around
Hammersmith 325
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Chapter 24 Kensington 341
Strange secrets behind all the bollards 341, Dark
satanic mills and the mouth of Hell 341, Complex
Diana and the unpalatable truth 356
Index 361

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