23 December 2009
London alley that gave birth to pavements
Fancy some illegal pavement cycling? Here's the most historic place to do it. This tiny cul-de-sac off Whitehall gave birth to the pavement, and therefore the entire pavement cycling menace that threatens western civilisation. It's Craig's Court, the tiny alley first left as you go down from Trafalgar Square.
In the mid-1700s, there were no pavements. Pedestrians, horses, carriages, chirpy costermongers with carts of pig offal, all jostled each other on the dirt road surface, right up to the housefronts. There were a few calls for improvements to the road surfaces, but fighting wars was much more important. Obviously that wouldn't happen nowadays.
However, Arthur Onslow, speaker of the House of Commons, was involved in an accident while trying to get his carriage into this very alley. Starting a tradition which continues today, he decided not to blame the driver, but someone else. The problem, he decided, was caused by the lack of this new pavement technology. Soon after that Onslow was instrumental in passing a bill to introduce pavements to London's streets, resulting in the widespread slaughter of innocent civilians by cycling torpedoes that we know today.
Unfortunately, the pavements are so narrow that it's virtually impossible to cycle on them. I tried, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction (not illustrated), but was soon forced off into the road.
There's little else in the alley to detain you. Harrington House is there, whatever that is, but the pub is more promising to explore on a chilly winter's day. Cheers. Merry Christmas.