This week's blogger is Caroline of Caroline's Miscellany who delves into some of London's historical details and the fascinating and human stories behind them.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
Assorted bits of London history, with a bias towards Deptford, plus other random stuff.
Why did you start blogging?
As an excuse to buy more books and take more photos! More seriously, it seemed a good way of recording different things which interested me, connecting with other people who share those interests, and doing some writing which isn’t full of the jargon I use at work. I’d been reading local blogs like The Deptford Dame, Transpontine and The Greenwich Phantom, as well as history ones including Ghost Signs, Faded London and Unmitigated England, and was inspired to give it a go myself.
What about London inspires your blog?
The amazing variety of the city - London has everything from temporary art installations to 2,000-year-old remains. There are overlapping layers of past and present everywhere, often in the most unexpected places. It’s a rare street that hasn’t got something of interest in it, even if it’s just a tiny architectural detail.
What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written
Oh, impossible question! I change my mind all the time about this, and favour different posts for different reasons: a particularly unexpected story, or a little-known building which illustrates a huge piece of social history, or a mystery solved by my readers. I do have a particular fondness for posts which start in one place and end up somewhere very different, such as one early story which began with a statue on Britannia House, Moorgate and ended with face masks for World War I soldiers.
What's your favourite London find to date?
Another difficult one, so I’ll limit myself to two local finds. The first was hard to miss: a huge Brymay ghost sign on a nearby road; the second, a tobacco roll shop sign, is much more inconspicuous - I managed to walk by without noticing it for several years.
Tell us about the Postman’s Park posts?
I was fascinated by this tiny park near St Paul’s Cathedral: it looks fairly unremarkable, but against one wall is the Watts Memorial commemorating ‘ordinary heroes’. There’s something very Victorian about the way the heroic stories are told in a sentence - two men who ‘on a desperate venture to save two girls from a quicksand in Lincolnshire were themselves engulfed’, Joseph Andrew Ford who ‘saved six persons from fire in Gray’s Inn Road but in his last heroic act he was scorched to death’ - which just caught my interest. I wanted to know more about these people, started researching, and a series of posts was born. Unfortunately, there are no happy endings: everyone recorded there died trying to save others.
What’s the most underrated thing about London?
Probably its buses. I love travelling by bus, which amazes so many people because they think of it as a slow and laborious way of getting around. However, many journeys are quicker than you’d expect, they take you along roads you might not otherwise visit, and the view from the top deck is unbeatable. If only they’d keep the windows cleaner for those of us with cameras...
What would be your dream forgotten detail to discover?
Something unexpected, so I won’t know exactly what it is until I find it. I can name my most frustrating not-quite-discovery, though: the hoardings at the end of my road were changed last year while I was away for a few days, briefly exposing an old ghost sign. By the time I got back, the top board had been replaced so I could only see the bottom half and one edge. It’s for ‘the finest the world produces’, but finest what? I’ve no idea!
Would you have missed out on things without your blog?
Definitely: I used to notice details, think ‘I wonder what that is?’ and never take it any further. Now, I’ll actually make the effort to do some research and write a post about it. Then the desire to find new ideas for posts means I’m much more conscientious about looking around me.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
In all sorts of ways: it’s brought me in touch with fellow Lewisham bloggers, as well as people with similar interests elsewhere in Britain and in other parts of the world. Sometimes the connections are obvious: a shared part of London or interest in social history. Others are pleasingly random: I’ve happened to write about something they’ve googled for their college work, or someone from their family history. Then there are the London Bloggers meet-ups, where I’ve met a wide range of fascinating people and come across some great blogs I might not otherwise have seen: wine blogs, for example.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like
Ornamental Passions picks up on all sorts of London details, and finds the most varied facts and anecdotes to go with them. For example, one of my favourite ghost signs turns out to be linked to a court case about the egg content of custard powder! A few days ago, I also came across Another Nickel in the Machine which has all sorts of stories about twentieth-century London, complete with suggested sound tracks.
And for some general London chat
Where do you live and why do you love it?
Deptford, which is a sort of miniature of my favourite London things: the rich history, the constant change and creativity, the diverse shopping, pubs and restaurants - there’s no Starbucks but there is a train carriage cafe. It’s one stop from London Bridge but still has a down-to-earth, community feel. And a brilliant market.
What's your favourite place in London?
Again, it’s impossible to choose just one favourite. If I could cheat a bit and choose a very large place, it would be the Thames. There’s always something fascinating on the river, its bridges and its banks: I sometimes take the Clipper from the centre to Greenwich and walk home along the Thames Path just for the joy of sightseeing on the water.
What do you know about London that noone else does
One thing I’ve learned from the blog is that however arcane a London fact may be, someone else out there will know something about it! So I’m sure there’s nothing I know that no one else does, but I love the way that no plea for information on my blog seems to go unanswered.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Not yet, thankfully!