Last Sunday (13th December) I joined a socially distanced ride in London, where the rule of six applied. The theme was tiny London. The meeting point was at the Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner and I had been looking forward to it regardless of the forecast of rain all day. Taking my Orange, Black Special Edition out, together with my rain jacket (just in case) I set off for the 09:45 start.
At Hyde Park Corner things were decidedly quiet. Cycling through Hyde Park on the way were equally so. I arrived first and took little time in opening the batting with a few photos of my Brompton. Before long Peter - on his Brompton too - Sarah, then our ride leader (and gentleman that is ) Ross with Greg arriving not too long thereafter. Setting off we headed for our first location.
This was Thurloe Square. Situated a stones throw from South Kensington tube station and all the famous bits of my beloved South Kensington, the 'Thin House' as it is known, at its narrowest, is just under 2 metres wide! From where we stood to look at it, things do border on the ridiculous until you remember where it is located. In 2016, a one bedroom flat (if you can call it that) in that part of the building was on the market for almost £900,000.
Next was the Finborough Arms in West Brompton, home to The Finborough Theatre. With only a 50 seat capacity it is one of the smallest in London. I imagine being an audience member would be an intimate affair. As someone who does not really care too much for theatre, I am certain I would hate it!
The forecast told of rain but luckily there really wasn't a great deal of it and heading south across the Thames for a while we eventually ended up near Hammersmith. We were unable to cross one of my favourite Bridges in London - Hammersmith - as there are structural issues that will require several millions and a few years to put right. So far there is no timescale or anyone lambing up the necessary folding stuff to put it right.
The Dove, Hammersmith owned by the brewery Fullers since 1796 occupies a site where a pub had stood since the seventeenth century. There it is said the poet James Thompson composed 'Rule Britannia.' Charles II wooed and dined his mistress Nell Gywnne and it was in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest bar room in the world!
Back in SW7 we stopped at one of the few taxi huts dotted around London. There taxi drivers can get a bite to eat, cup of tea and have a break for a while. The only other one I know about it in Cavendish Square. I can recall as a child heading up to this one overlooking Hyde Park, getting a bacon roll and mug of tea with my dad before heading to Portobello Road to stock up on fruit.
10 Hyde Park Place is a rather strange building, sitting in a prime location overlooking Hyde Park. Only a little wider than its front door, it is part of Tyburn Convent. It has been said that it was built between two mansion blocks to deter possible grave robbers, who had in the past used the passage to reach St George's graveyard to the rear. Inside there is little more than a passage and a small room. If it were ever sold I am sure it could command an eye watering price. Location, location, location!
At Pickering Place, a walk down a narrow alley leads to a small courtyard that is definitely a walk into the past. Home to Berry Brothers wine merchants, it is one of the smallest public courtyards in London.
It was also home to the Embassy of the Republic of Texas before it joined the USA in 1845.
Being quiet, out of the way and private it was said to be a favourite location for duels. Yes the glove in the face, pistols and swords at dawn!
Looping back round to Trafalgar Square we came across London's smallest police station. Almost to be missed if not looking for it, at the south east corner stands what has been billed for several years as the smallest in London.
Used as a lookout post the light on top was said to flash - like a lighthouse - when the alert was raised!
Brydges Place is an alleyway between St. Martin's Lane and Bebfordbury, running alongside the Coliseum Theatre. It really is narrow, being only 38cm at one point which why it lays claim to be the narrowest street in London.
Arriving at the traffic lights in-front of the The Old Vic theatre made me think of night rides to the coast. My route to Brighton takes me right at these lights. Hopefully early into 2021 we will do this again.
Clennan Street, SE1 until it was restricted to pedestrians only, was London's shortest street. It is also home to The Lord Clyde pub which for a couple of years was the starting point of Brompton Christmas rides.
Philpot Lane in view of the Walkie Talkie building is the site of London's smallest public statue. It is said that it commemorates the death of two workmen who fell from scaffold in 1862 when the building was being built. Apparently they were arguing over the theft of a cheese sandwich of all things, which was later put down to have been taken by mice.
In Bishopsgate, St Ethelburga's founded in 1250 is London's smallest church and one of the few medieval buildings to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666. It also managed to get through WWII and the Blitz but in 1993 and IRA bomb all but destroyed it. It was eventually rebuilt.
Our last stop before we arrived back at the end location of Russell Square and food and hot drinks was Keystone Crescent. This contains some lovely little town houses and the crescent has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe. Close to Kings Cross station - despite being rather small - houses on Keystone Crescent command seven figure sums.
This was a brilliant ride. I have lived in London all my life and yet there are always locations that are new with a history and story to them that were previously unknown. This ride certainly had more than a few of these. Many thanks to Ross for leading the ride and to my fellow participants for their company.
In all I cycled 27 miles and the rain wasn't really a huge issue. I don't know when my next ride will be as it is getting rather close to Christmas but I am sure I will be out and about on one of my Brompton bikes somewhere.
Until next time, stay safe out there people!!