This the third blog for the five cartoon strips I designed for Jones Wood Foundry the British food-driven pub restaurant at 401 East 76th Street, New York City. They are currently being reproduced by local artist Adeline Jadot onto mirrors behind the main bar.
Londoners and London landmarks.
One of JWF’s most popular dishes is steak & kidney pie, a real favourite over here in the U K. So it inspired me to start the cartoon with London’s famous Beefeaters who guard the Tower of London, although these days their duties are mainly showing visitors around and telling stories of intrigue, treason, torture, executions and imprisonment…nothing too heavy you understand!
Their correct title is Yeomen Warders and they were first put in charge of guarding prisoners and the Crown Jewels by King Henry VIII when he moved his Royal residence away from The Tower. They are recruited from Commonwealth armed forces and have to have served a minimum of 22 years as well as holding a ‘Long Service and Good Conduct’ medal.
There are a number of conflicting stories as to why they should be called beefeaters, the most popular being that they were fed top quality beef everyday by the Royal household.
You’ll see in my cartoon I’ve dressed them in the flamboyant red and gold used for state occasions, and in dark blue with red trimming for everyday wear. One amongst them holds the title ‘Ravenmaster’. Ravens have been resident at the Tower since before King Charles II. Legend has it that if they ever leave, the White Tower will fall and disaster will befall the kingdom. Just to be on the safe side the raven’s wings are clipped, but they roam freely around the Tower grounds.
Jones Wood Foundry invite you to roam freely around their menu, there’s plenty to choose from and the mouth-watering steak and kidney pie wouldn’t be a bad start.
In the late 19th century an advertisement in the East End of London led to the design and building of a new Thames crossing downstream of London Bridge. A traditional fixed bridge was not suitable as tall sailing ships had to access the port facilities and so in 1894 the iconic Gothic style Tower Bridge was opened spanning the Thames in central London close to the Tower of London.
A combined bascule and suspension design, the bascule sections open to a width clearance of 200feet (65metres) and a height of 135 feet (41metres). It was modernised in 1974 with the original mechanism being replaced by an electro-hydraulic drive…they also gave it a fresh lick of paint.
In 1982 the Tower Bridge Exhibition was opened, mainly within the two towers, but also re- opening the high level walkways which had been closed since Victorian/Edwardian times having become the haunt of prostitutes and pickpockets. There’s an admission charge (for the exhibition, not for the prostitutes…they’ve been moved on!). Over 40,000 people (cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians) cross the bridge every day.
Here’s a New York connection for you. Leo Villarreal, an artist who lives and works in NYC, has been commissioned to light up all the bridges between Tower Bridge and Albert Bridge. His most famous work, amongst many, are the ‘Bay Lights’ on the San Francisco-Oakland bridge. The lights in London are due to be switched on in 2018.
There’s often a mix up between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. London Bridge is a fixed bridge and the original construction goes back to 50 AD.
It’s interesting to note that after a succession of medieval wooden bridges fell into disrepair (perhaps as in the nursery song ‘London Bridge is falling down’?) a stone bridge was built in 1209. After 600 years this was replaced with a second stone bridge in1831 and then a third in1968. This ‘not so old’ bridge was bought by a Missouri oil tycoon name of Robert P. McCulloch, was meticulously dismantled and numbered brick by brick, shipped through the Panama Canal to California, trucked from Long Beach to Arizona and finally reconstructed at Lake Havasu City. Rumours were rife that Robert P thought he had bought Tower Bridge, but these were strenuously denied.
The clue to Tower Bridge lies in the name…’Tower’… It’s got two, London Bridge has none.
Your country singer Roger Miller had a sixties hit entitled ‘England Swings’ in which he referred to “Bobbies on bicycles two by two”. Yes, back in the day our Bobbies, (police), did ride around our villages and towns on bicycles, making sure little scrotes like me weren’t getting into mischief.
We have very tight gun control in the UK, even today most of our police are armed with only truncheons. Sadly, times have changed and in the last few years if you visit England it’s still swinging (Scotland, Wales and Ireland too) but you’ll see armed police at all airports, state occasions and now, even more sad, music and sporting events.
I’ve included in my cartoon two other icons of London, the red bus and the London hackney carriage (taxi cab to you) with its unique turning circle of 25 ft (8m). By the way, if you visit us, don’t believe the hackneyed old cliché (forgive the pun!) about London taxi drivers not wanting to take you “south of the river”. (This stems from the fact that most of the commercial, recreational and night-life activity … and therefore pick-ups… are on the north side). They have to. So if you’re leaving JuJu’s at 3 am and want to get back to your B&B in Tooting, ignore that look of disinterest in the taxi driver’s eye, just tell him it’s part of his licence!
“They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace,
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guards,
A soldier’s life is terrible hard,
… so wrote A A Milne and so sung by generations of children, about one of the most traditional and colourful ceremonies in London’s calendar. It happens all year round, weather permitting, indeed every day during the summer. The ‘old guard’ assemble and are inspected, awaiting the arrival of the ‘new guard’. The new guard march from nearby Wellington barracks, the regimental band playing whilst they are inspected and await the arrival of their regimental colours. The Colour (flag) has various historical campaigns emblazoned on it and was traditionally the rallying point of the regiment during battle. After saluting the Colour the new guard then enters the Palace forecourt whilst the regimental band plays the ‘slow march’. The captains of the old guard and the new guard ‘present arms’ which is the symbolic handing over of the Palace keys. The new guard go about their duties, whilst the old guard, march back to Wellington barracks to put their feet up, maybe have a pint of Old Speckled Hen and watch Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion on the screens…much as they would if they were in Manhatten at Jones Wood Foundry.
Fish’n’chips are quintessentially British. The staple diet of post war families; relatively cheap and nutritional. Friday night is fish and chip night, but fish and chip shops throughout the UK make a good living any night of the week …and at Britain’ls seaside resorts too. I can remember growing up like most kids of my era eating a ‘six of chips’ straight out of the newspaper they were wrapped in. (‘Six of chips’ is six old pennies worth of chips, wrapped up in an old page of newspaper, in a sheet a greaseproof paper first, of course. Health and safety wouldn’t allow that these days!)
I’m sure they won’t serve them like that at Jones Wood Foundry.
Big Ben is probably the UK’s most prominent symbol. Any film or TV programme set in London will surely show a shot of Big Ben. This is actually a misnomer; Big Ben is the large bell housed within Elizabeth Tower in the Palace of Westminster. (The Clock Tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee).
Here are a few facts you can toss around amongst each other at JWF as you tuck in to your fish’n’chips.
😤There are 334 steps to take you up to the belfry…’cos there ain’t no lift!
😲The large bell (Big Ben) has a crack in it and has had since 1858.
😜Each of the four dials bears an inscription ‘DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM’ I don’t need to tell those of you who are fluent in Latin, that means
‘O Lord keep safe our Queen Victoria the first’
😂A stack of old pennies on the pendulum keeps the time correct. Adding or removing one penny changes the clock’s speed by 0.04 seconds.
😌The clock faces were not illuminated during the two world wars because of German Zeppelins (WW1) and Luftwaffe bombers(WWII) targeting central London in the dark, but the bells kept chiming throughout the blitz.r