This day in London’s History
1801: World’s first public railway is sanctioned by parliament, opening (almost) exactly two years later. The Surrey Iron Railway ran from Wandsworth to Croydon, and later on to Merstham. It wasn’t exactly the Orient Express. Indeed, the rolling stock could muster up just a few horsepower, on account of it being pulled by a small team of mules. The route was closed in 1838 and eventually part-converted for steam trains. Little of the original line remains today, though large stretches of the Croydon Tramlink follow its route.
London fact of the week
The first proper train (i.e., one carrying passengers that moves under its own power) in London was displayed just a few years later in Torrington Square (see picture). In 1808, Richard Trevithick constructed a circular track to support a simple steam engine. For one shilling, members of the public could take a spin in the passenger car of the ‘Catch-me-who-can’. Breakneck speeds of up to 12 mph were achieved, but the engine eventually derailed and the novel diversion was closed.
London person of the week
It just has to be SpongeBob the monkey, stolen from Chessington World of Adventures, only to be found playing with some local children in Clapham.
One thing you must do in London this week
Visit the V&A’s reworking of the traditional village fete, on Friday evening from 6.30.
Eat fish n chips with Alexandre Bettler, do a farm dance with Rob Ryan, play ping pong with People Will Always Need Plates, etch-a-sketch with Simon Kinnear, make a freaky vegetable at Peepshow's greengrocer's stall, do a body painting with Thomas Matthews, and tuck into Turnbull Grey's tuck shop.