There are many categories listed within the London Shoes website, all of which accommodate the many different aspects of the more ‘unusual’ stuff that London Shoes blogs.
One such ‘Shoes’ category is entitled ‘Quirky’ and contains all the ‘off-the-wall’ and away from the ‘norm’ topics, published.
The subject matter for this week’s venture down to the ‘Smoke’, most definitely fits within the ‘Quirky’ category – and yet again, like so many other lesser known landmarks scattered across the metropolis, it is something that I have seen and walked past so many times throughout my life, and not even noticed it or given it a second-glance – and I’m guessing that many others wouldn’t have either……until now, that is !!!
So – the topic for this week’s London Shoes publication is the little known and most certainly unusual “Thames Tide Recorder” situated next to Westminster Bridge.
On the north side of the River Thames, right next to Westminster Bridge, down the steps leading from Victoria Embankment to Westminster Pier – there stands a strange green turret/mini-tower type circular ‘hut’ – which is the said ‘Thames Tide Recorder’.
This very odd and totally out of character landmark, actually has done and still does, play a significant part in the operation of River activities in and around Westminster Pier.
The purpose of the ‘Thames Tide Recorder’ is to record and measure the depth of, and the tidal flow of the River Thames at that particular spot – which is one of the busiest sections of the Thames for riverboat and other Thames excursions.
Now – the trouble is, no one seems to know when this ‘Thames Tide Recorder’ was actually built and erected. There is certainly very little info about it on the Internet – but from the limited research I was able to do on this topic, I am of the opinion that it is probably a pre-WW2 fixture.
Although today, the exterior of this strange little obelisk is completely neglected, filthy and covered head to foot in ‘stickers’ (some advertising certain ‘dubious’ services) – it apparently still fulfills its purpose.
On its exterior are a few iron ladder rungs that lead up to two small windows – and if you climb them and take a look inside, you will see various items of electrical and computerised equipment, plus a screen displaying a reading, which presumably represents the current depth of the Thames at that point.
Now – I didn’t actually get to climb these few steps and look inside, because when I went to, there were loads of tourists hanging around next to the ‘Recorder’, and it was quite evident that my attempt to climb the steps were causing some concern amongst them, as I think they must have thought that I was about to ‘end-it-all’ by jumping into the murky waters of the River Thames directly below – so I took the view that it probably wasn’t worth all the potential hassle and drama.
However, to provide an idea of what the inside of this ‘Thames Time Recorder’ looks like, I have downloaded a photo that was taken and published by ‘Jennie’s Jaunts’ another London Blogger – far better than me at all this blogging malarkey – who did actually scale the ladder rungs to peep inside, when publishing her blog material.
So – there you have it – the next time you exit Westminster tube station, or happen to be walking across Westminster Bridge, then take a look around to see if you spot the weird little historic landmark that is the ‘Thames Tide Recorder’.
Anyway – the second part of this particular blog (the mandatory ‘pub’ bit) was another very interesting one, as I discovered a lovely little boozer tucked away in a side street just off of Birdcage Walk – and not only was this pub an unknown treasure for me, it sort of has a tenuous link to a blog I conducted some while back, that was all about London’s ‘Lost Cockfighting Pits‘!!!
The pub in question is “The Two Chairmen” located in Dartmouth Street-Westminster, and its the oldest pub in the Westminster district – and as a result, it has a fascinating history behind it.
The origins of this pub can be traced right back to 1729 and its ‘The Two Chairmen’ name has absolutely nothing to do with any stuffy, boring corporate reference – it actually relates to the blokes who used to carry wealthy passengers around the streets of London in ‘Sedan Chairs’.
Back in the 1600’s & 1700’s Sedan Chairs were the main form of public transport in London especially for the well to do and wealthy – because by being ‘carried’ about in a ‘Chair’ from place to place, meant that they didn’t get wet, and their shoes didn’t get dirty.
Sedan Chairs were the black cabs of their time. Carriage Company’s sprung up all over London, and they employed strong ‘Chairmen’ to lift and carry these ‘chairs’ all over the ‘smoke’ – and it is believed that the common saying of ‘Cheerio’ derives from when Sedan Chairs were hailed and bid farewell with a cry of ‘Chair Ho’.
‘Chairmen’ had to hold a licence and be officially registered in order to operate a ‘chair’.
However, unlike cabbies of today, these Chairmen didn’t have to pass the ‘Knowledge’ – they relied totally on ‘Link Boys’ with their flaming torches, to lead them through the darkened streets of London (in fact ‘Link Boys & Snuffers’ is another of my past blogs published on the London Shoes website)
Sedan Chair ‘ranks’ were situated all across London, mainly outside the most popular hotels, streets, houses and pubs.
‘The Two Chairmen’ pub was one of London’s popular and busiest ‘pick-up’ points, as it was situated directly opposite the ‘Royal Cockfighting Pit’ just off Birdcage Walk – and so the ‘Chairmen’ would congregate in the pub whilst waiting to pick-up punters going to, or coming from the famous Cock Fighting venue.
It really is a charming little pub – and the 18th Century mural across its back wall, that depicts references to Sedan Chairs and their Chairman – really gives the place a lovely little vibe – well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Westminster area.
So – what started off as being just a short trek out to view a quirky little topic – ended up being a really interesting days adventure, which I hope you enjoyed reading about.
See below for a more detailed summary of the photos relating to this blog