It always amazes me how often one misses the obvious when wandering around London. A few days ago, my friend, the author Roy Moxham, took us to a delightful pub, The Angel, near to Tottenham Court Road Station in central London.
Just before we entered the pub, Roy pointed at a stretch of pavement outside it. The usual paving stones had been replaced by granite slabs surrounded by granite cobble stones (see illustration above).
The reason for these harder stones is that they are less likely than paving stones to be damaged when heavy barrels are dropped on to them by the men delivering beer to the pub.
Since having been shown this localised special surface outside The Angel, I have checked outside other pubs and seen the same thing. For over 25 years (maybe over 7000 times) I have walked past the Churchill Arms in Kensington and NEVER noticed that it also has this arrangement, an area of tough stones close to the pavement entrance of its cellar. And, I consider myself to be more observant than average! It pays to keep your eyes open and to be curious – you never know what you might discover!
The City of London, the traditional business district of London that stands on the site of the old walled London of Roman and mediaeval times, is full of delightful surprises. Although much of the area was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666 and the aerial bombing in the 1940s, what has persisted to a remarkable through the ages is the mediaeval street layout.
Another charming feature are the narrow alleyways that pass between or even through buildings. Step through some of these, and suddenly you find yourself stepping back into history.
Recently, we ‘discovered’ Ball Court, which leads south from Cornhill just a few yards west of the Church of St Michaels Cornhill. A narrow alley leads beneath a building to a wider courtyard open to the sky. Two sides of this rectangular space are occupied by Simpsons Tavern, a pub (and chop house) established in 1757. Ball Court itself is even older than the tavern, appearing on a map dated 1746.
I can not tell you why Ball Court has that name, but I feel sure that there must have been a good reason, but it had no name on the 1746 map. In any case, when in London, leave the main streets, explore, and enjoy!