Frequent visitors to London – and even first-timers – may well be on the look-out for the little gems that are off the beaten track. If this applies to you, take a look at these five – quite literally…
The nose on Admiralty Arch (The Mall SW1A 2WH)
On the wall of the northern-most arch of the iconic Admiralty Arch building (whose arches you passthrough from Trafalgar Square to The Mall) is a life-size, stone nose. One of several schnozzes to be spotted throughout Central London, eventually in 1997 it was discovered theywere the work of artist Rick Buckley, erected to protest against the growth of anti-crime CCTV cameras sprouting up throughout the city.
Ferryman’s Seat (Bear Gardens, Bank-side SE1)
On the south bank of the Thames in Central London, not far from the Shakespeare-era-esque Globe Theatre, you’ll find this stone chair set into a wall. Why? It’s what was once a called a ‘ferryman’s seat’ (the only extant example in the capital); if you like, a medieval taxi stand or, in other words, where watermen would wait to receive fares before they took patrons across the river.
The Beadles of Burlington Arcade (51 Piccadilly W1J 0QJ)
Instead of security guards you’ll find marvellously clobbered ‘Beadles’ in the beautifully built Burlington Arcade shopping precinct off Piccadilly (which dates back to Georgian times). In keeping with the decorum and delicacy of the arcade’s origins, should you run, whistle, shout or act in an unruly manner, expect one of them politely to ask you to remove yourself to the uncouthly streets outside. Yes, really. The Beadles – and their arcade – are ideal unusual London attractions if you’re staying in hotels near Hyde Park London.
The fake house-fronts of Bayswater (Leinster Terrace, W2)
Blending in seamlessly among the terraced houses on this street just north of Bayswater Road, are fake house-fronts (numbers 23-24) constructed in the 1860s to smartly hide the fact that, in this particularly elegant part of town, a line of the burgeoning London Underground (Tube) was being built directly behind them.
London’s first water fountain
(St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate church, Holborn Viaduct/ Giltspur Street EC1)
Slowly during the Victorian era, public health improved in London as wealthy philanthropists engaged on a shared moral crusade. A significant slice of their work was giving the populace access to clean drinking water, an example of this being the city’s first ever public fountain, which was carved into the side of this ancient churchin the 1860s. It was joined by 84 other such fountains, all of them drawing water from springs as opposed to the then polluted Thames.
And you must check out…
Wilton’s Music Hall near Tower Hill holds Victorian/ Edwardian-like live shows and quirky events… Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields allows you to check out a genuine 18th Century London dwelling… the Old Operating Theatre in Southwark is gruesome but fascinating… and then there’s Hyde Park’s pet cemetery, a moving experience for animal lovers (note: this can only be seen through appointment with local police).