Water pumps in the city of London were used to provide citizens with fresh water, and could by siphoned off into troughs for animals to drink from. They could also be used by fire brigades to put out fires in the area – fire brigades were for a long time nothing more than a group of men with a horse and cart.
Here’s a picture of the Cornhill water pump in 1948.
But the pump is much, much older than that. An inscription on one side reads:
On this spot a well was first made and a house of correction built thereon. By Henry Wallis Mayor of London. In the year 1282.
The house of correction didn’t last and the well was lost. But this wasn’t the end of it, oh no. The opposite side reads:
The well was discovered. Much enlarged. And this pump erected. In the year 1799. By the contributions of the Bank Of England. The East India Company. The neighbouring fire offices. Together with the bankers & traders of the ward of Cornhill.
Big Ben has been accurately keeping time in London since 1859, except for a couple of instances.
In 1949, a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand, but there were so many of the them that they actually slowed down the clock by 5 minutes. Then in 1962, a particularly heavy pile of snow on the minute hand slowed it down by 10 minutes.
The beauty of London is you can walk down a street and immediately be surrounded by history. Sometimes it’s obvious – a plaque on the wall, a date inscribed in stone, a famous building. And sometimes it isn’t – an unassuming blue door behind which a significant event in British history played out.
I have put together a walking tour of the City of London to hit some pretty impressive historical hot-spots.
Hammersmith Bridge is one of the weakest bridges in London, but it is also one of the strongest in its ability to stand up to the many people who have – accidentally and purposefully – almost destroyed it since it was first built in 1827.
London’s Chinatown is home to a fantastic array of Asian restaurants serving delicious food. The way they hang cooked poultry in the windows is reminiscent of what restaurants actually do in Hong Kong and China. Having lived in Hong Kong for 6 years, I love to check out the corner shops to snag some old favourite snacks.
“People often refer to Big Ben when they’re talking about the clock tower attached to the Palace of Westminster.
Big Ben is the name of the largest bell, and even that’s a nickname and not an official one. The tower is named the Elizabeth Tower (formerly the Clock Tower), a name it was officially given in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
“In 1898 [Harrods] installs the first escalator in England, with attendants dispensing brandy and Epsom salts to customers traumatised after trying it out for the first time.”
– David Long, Bizarre London
Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Cooke designed the Monument to the Great Fire of London which was built 1671-77. “Wren wanted to crown it with a statue of Charles II, but the king declined, pointing out, ‘I didn’t start the fire’.”
– Christopher Winn, I Never Knew That About London