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10 London Oddities
London is one of those places that even when you think you know an area well there's always going to be a time when someone points out something you've never seen before and you wonder how you've missed it for so long. That's what this list is all about. Enjoy!Continue to 2 of 11 below.
02 of 11
Sharks on Trafalgar Square Fountains
While most people have noticed the dolphins in the Trafalgar Square fountains, have you seen the sharks?
The current fountains were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1937-39 to replace the earlier fountains by Sir Charles Barry (which have been relocated to Canada). These fountains commemorate World War One naval heroes, Earl Jellicoe and Earl Beatty. World War Two got in the way and the fountains were officially unveiled in 1948.
Look at the eastern fountain, sculpted by Sir Charles Thomas Wheeler, and you'll find a mermaid (the other fountain, sculpted by William McMillan, has Tritons - male figures with tails like fish) dolphins and sharks.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
03 of 11
Crying Lamp Post in Trafalgar Square
Another overlooked sight in Trafalgar Square is this lamp post on a traffic island at the top of Northumberland Avenue. (There's another just like it across Trafalgar Square on a traffic island at the top of The Mall, by Admiralty Arch). When it has been repainted a paint drip now looks like a cherub's tear.
Hat tip to secret-cities.com.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
04 of 11
Dance On A Grave
This may seem incredibly disrespectful of the dead but this grave is for a man with an impressive sense of humor. Joseph Grimaldi is considered to be the founding father of modern day clowns and many clowns make the pilgrimage to see his grave, near King's Cross. While his actual grave is more traditional with a headstone, flowers, and decorative railings, in the same park - because this is a public park run by the local council - an art installation was added in 2010. The artwork is two coffin-shaped sets of bronze tiles that make sounds when you step/hop/jump/dance on them. Find out more…
In February there is an annual clown's church service in Hackney where Grimaldi is remembered and many costumed clowns attend.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11
Metropolitan Police Coat Hook
A short walk from Trafalgar Square, near Leicester Square tube station, is this coat hook labeled Metropolitan Police. It's on the outside of a building so why is it there?
It's on Great Newport Street, WC2, on the edge of the Covent Garden area, next to the Verve Bar. This is near a busy junction where six roads meet and, apparently, a policeman was regularly posted here to help with the traffic flow.
There was a simple nail in the wall for a policeman to hang his cape on - used for wet weather - but it's reported that this hook was added in the 1930s by a builder who was working on the property and wanted to add something more elegant for the local constabulary.
What most Londoners find more fascinating about this coat hook is knowing that the policeman could hang his cape here all day and there was such respect for the police force than no-one would touch it.
This coat hook features in the What You Don't Always See gallery.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
06 of 11
Tower Bridge Chimney
At first glance, Tower Bridge looks to be symmetrical but on the northern approach one of the lamp posts is not actually a lamp post at all.
This is a chimney connected to a room below that was once used by Royal Fusiliers protecting the Tower of London. So they could stay warm there was a fire in the guard's room and what we can see on Tower Bridge Approach is the chimney/flue for the fire.
Staff told me when the London Clean Air Act came into force on 1956, and smokeless fuel had to be used instead of coal in urban areas, the fire in the room was no longer used.
The Tower Bridge chimney features in the What You Don't Always See gallery.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
07 of 11
Pilgrim Rock at Union Chapel
Union Chapel in Islington is a nonconformist church and a popular music venue. Its Victorian Gothic architecture is of interest too and the building has been Grade I listed (must be preserved). You can take a guided tour of the Union Chapel on the first Sunday of each month which is how I got to see this oddity.
The text with the rock fragment is:
"A fragment of the rock upon which the Pilgrims of "The Mayflower" set foot when they landed at Plymouth New England December 21st 1620."
"Ay, call it Holy ground,
The soil where first they trode.
They have left unstained what they found -
Freedom to worship GOD."Continue to 8 of 11 below.
08 of 11
Piece of the Tyburn Gallows
The Tyburn gallows, also known as the Tyburn Tree, were used for public executions from 1196 to 1783. The site was located near Marble Arch and you can see a circular plaque on the ground on a traffic island to mark the site where 50,000 'criminals' were hung.
For some though, their only crime was being Catholic and the nearby Tyburn Convent has a shrine to the 105 Catholic martyrs who were executed at the Tyburn gallows during the Reformation.
On a visit to the Tyburn Convent, there are many interesting displays on the walls including these two small splinters that are believed to be from the actual Tyburn gallows.
You can also see the River Tyburn nearby, inside an antique shopping center.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11
Kingston Falling Over Phone Boxes
On the outskirts of southwest London, Kingston doesn't really attract many tourists. But it does have a fantastic public art installation in David Mach's Out of Order. Twelve tumbling K6 red telephone phones look like oversized dominoes. This artwork was commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in 1988 and is one of this Royal Academician's earliest works.
Out of Order was unveiled in 1989 and was renovated in 2001. It can be seen at the gateway to Old London Road.
While in the area, do pop into Kingston Antiques Centre which is always worth looking around and has a cafe too.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
10 of 11
Break Step on Albert Bridge
Albert Bridge connects Chelsea and Battersea in west London. It was designed by Rowland Mason Ordish and first opened in 1873. It was modified in 1887, while Chelsea Embankment was being built, and again in 1973 to strengthen it to withstand modern traffic.
There are toll booths at either end but tolls were only collected in the first few years after opening so you can cross for free now. These octagonal tollbooths are the last surviving bridge toll booths in London and each has a sign stating:
All troops must break step when marching over this bridge
This means troops must stop marching in rhythmic unison before walking over to avoid the bridge oscillating and being damaged.Continue to 11 of 11 below.
11 of 11
"Giro the Nazi Dog"
Due to a fantastic misunderstanding that suggests all Germans were Nazis, this pet grave is known as the only Nazi grave in London. It can be found in central London, not far from Trafalgar Square.
Giro was the pet dog of Dr. Leopold von Hoesch who was the German Ambassador in London from 1932 to 1936. He was a diplomat and well-liked as he did much to improve relations between Britain and Germany.
Giro died from accidental electrocution and the grave can be seen by a large tree at the top of Duke of York Steps at Waterloo Place, near to the Duke of York Column.