7 IDEAL HISTORICAL HIDDEN SITES IN LONDON

There’s never a shortage of things to do and see in London. After all, the city has a history that dates back to over 2000 years ago – and a whole lot has happened during this time.  One way to take in some of the history is with a sightseeing ticket like London Pass. It gives you free entry to all the top attractions and includes a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus tour – find out more about the London Pass here

While the more obvious attractions are well worth seeing, the city is full of historical sites that are easily overlooked and often hidden in plain sight. So if you’ve already toured the tower, witnessed westminster and paraded around the palace, then it’s time to go beyond the tourist filled sites. Here’s 7 IDEAL historical hidden sites in London you’ve got to see.

TINY POLICE STATION

Every day hordes of tourists and commuters pass by this blink and you’ll miss it station – but next time you find yourself in Trafalgar Square, head to the south-east corner to find this hidden treasure. This tiny police station has been around since 1926 and was built from a hollowed-out lamp post to help policemen keep an eye on protests, once upon a time a favourite pastime in Trafalgar Square.

With a direct line to Scotland Yard, this police station can surprisingly hold two prisoners at one time. Although today it’s used as a broom cupboard for the Westminster Council, Britain’s smallest police station is the ideal size and location for a selfie.  

THE CAT & MUTTON PUB

This now gastro pub was once a popular haunt for pig breeders bringing their stock down to Smithfield for slaughter. These guys and the locals use to like engaging in a game of swinging swine – and no, we’re not talking about some lewd act. This game involved grabbing a pig by its tail and hurling it as far as you can. Every week an unfortunate pig that was being herded through London Fields to the meat market would be seized and taken to the pub. Here it would have its tail greased or lathered in soap and then the locals would grab the pig by the tail, swing it round their head and throw it into the fields. Whoever succeeded in swinging it around their head for the longest would win a prize. This popular game was played for over 300 years. Today The Cat & Mutton no longer condones pig swinging games, but you can grab a beer and throw some pork scratchings down your throat instead.

Cat & Mutton Pub | © Ewan Munro/Wikicommons

SOUTHWARK GATEWAY NEEDLE

There’s a lot of debate on the actual origin of this spike. Some believe it to be a giant sundial, others say that its tilt of 19.5 degrees points to The City Church of St Magnus the Martyr. However, we prefer telling people a more gory story. According to urban legend, it has come to represent the point on the old bridge where the heads of traitors were once impaled on long wooden spears, warning anyone entering London looking to cause trouble, not to. Not for the squeamish, the heads were specially treated; parboiled and sautéed to ensure longevity. A poor sod was also employed as ‘keeper of the heads’ whose job was to make sure no relatives tried to take back their family members head – one of the strangest jobs in the city. 

*Speaking of The Church of St Magnus The Martyr, it’s well worth a visit in its own right. This largely forgotten and overlooked church contains a detailed model of Old London Bridge.

HIGHGATE CEMETERY

Opened in the 19th Century, Highgate Cemetery is the burial site for some of the most culturally significant people of our time, including Karl Marx, George Eliot and other prominent novelists, artists and political activists. It’s still a functioning burial site and alongside the gothic gravestones and catacombs lies some postmodern tombstones worth keeping an eye out for. Especially the headstone of Artist Patrick Caufield (1936-2005) which has the word ‘dead’ laser-cut into a six-foot slab of granite.

Patrick Caulfields Grave| © Nicholas Jackson/Wikicommons

MR JAMRACH’S TIGER

A tiger loose in London? It sounds like a made up children’s tale, to warn the city’s youngsters to be good little boys and girls. However in 1857 it actually happened. Back in the day, trading exotic animals was a lucrative business and Charles Jamrach was a well known dealer. Unfortunately, a large bengal tiger escaped from his emporium and ended up wandering down Betts Street near Tabacco Dock. The tiger came across a nine-year old boy (who tried to stroke the animal) and clamped him between his jaws. The story goes that Mr Jamrach came to the boys rescue and wrestled the boy free. There is now a statue commemorating the event at the entrance of Tobacco Dock – which is now a popular events space with all sorts of foodie events happening throughout the year.   

THE SEVEN NOSES OF SOHO

Walking through the streets of London and Soho is never dull, but for some extra intrigue, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Seven Noses of Soho. Found protruding from the walls in incongruous and unexpected places, these are plaster of Paris reproductions of artist Rick Buckley’s nose. In a protest against the appearance of CCTV cameras and the Big Brother State, Buckley placed these casts under the noses of the cameras. The event was not publicised, so urban myths grew to explain the appearance of the noses. One story tells of the Seven Noses of Soho, which would give great fortune to those who found them all.

Arch Nose| © Colonel Warden/Wikicommons

 

41 CLOTH FAIR

Down a small street in Farringdon lies the city of London’s oldest house. Built between 1597 and 1614, it’s hard to believe this remarkable house is still standing – it survived both the Great Fire of London and The Blitz. It’s full of interesting glimpses into the past and etched with a diamond, in a set of the houses leaded windows, are the signatures of some of the houses most famous visitors including Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother. Check out this post on inews.co.uk by the current owner to learn more about the fascinating history of this building.

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