Around London In 10 Foxes

M@
By M@
Around London In 10 Foxes
The fox in Hanwell
The Fox, Hanwell

Foxes are a familiar part of the urban landscape, often glimpsed on a morning walk. They're regularly maligned for upending bins, menacing small pets, leaving smelly poos, and engaging in loud nocturnal gekkering. Yet there's something magical about spotting a fox in an unexpected location.

Here, then, is a skulk of London foxes we've encountered on our wanderings.

See also: Around London in 12 elephants - Around London in 12 dragons - Around London in 13 tigers - Around London in 11 swans - Around London in 11 horses - Around London in 12 rabbits and hares - Around London in 13 pigeons - Around London in 14 lions and lionesses - Around London in 11 fish.

1. The urban fox

A fox on an underground platform
Image: Matt Brown

They get everywhere, don't they? Here's a plucky Reynard padding around the platforms at New Eltham. Not sure if it ever touched out. And, below, a nonchalant fox sniffing around the doorsteps of Ladbroke Grove.

A fox on a doorstep
Image: Matt Brown

2. Romeo the Shard Fox

Shard fox
Image: Matt Brown

Champ of all the urban foxes, though, is Romeo. The plucky creature was discovered on the 72nd floor of the building in 2011, during the last months of construction. The skyscraper later made something of a mascot out of old Romeo, and you can buy plushy toys from the View From the Shard shop. The mural shown above is on the nearby Hilton, which is dotted with fox references — it too had vulpine visitations during construction, perhaps Romeo himself.

3. Nunhead's fence-bending fox

a fox sculpture passing through railings
Image: Matt Brown

One of London's quirkier bits of public art, this leaping beast decorates the railings around Nunhead Green. Made of wood and associated with the nearby playground, the iron-bending fox is the work of Arthur de Mowbray. It's quite remarkable that, in this safety conscious age, such a trip hazard is allowed on an unlit bit of path — but bravo for some creative placemaking.

4. George Fox

George Fox gravestone
Image: Matt Brown

London has spawned many a famous Fox, from James, Edward and the rest of the acting clan, to 80s pin-up Samantha. The most influential is this chap, George Fox. George was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. His new movement was greatly persecuted in its early years, with many Friends imprisoned (including George). He lived just long enough to see the laws relaxed, after which the movement blossomed. Today, some 400,000 people identify as quakers. The founder was laid to rest in the Quaker burial ground just west of Bunhill Fields, though his gravestone is a 20th century replacement.

5. Smokin' fox

Inside JJ Fox cigars
Image: Matt Brown

Another famous fox about town is JJ Fox of St James's Street. A tobacconist has puffed away on this spot since 1787 (originally as Robert Lewis, later acquired by Fox). The shop is remarkable for two other reasons. First, it's one of the very few places in London where smoking indoors is permitted (other than private residences, of course). A sampling lounge upstairs lets customers try before they buy. Second, the shop also maintains a small basement museum, which includes a set of cigars owned by Winston Churchill. Worth a visit, then, even if you don't partake yourself.

6. London's largest fox?

Large street art fox
Image: Matt Brown

... is probably this one, painted on a wall in Hoe Street, Walthamstow by Irony & Boe. The duo are perhaps best known for another work of monumental canine portraiture — the giant chihuahua on Chrisp Street in Poplar — but they've contributed many other animal-themed murals to the London streetscape.

7. Foxy pubs

Fox and Anchor mosaic floor
Image: Matt Brown

Foxes are regular dedicatees on the pub sign, particularly in the outer areas of London where fox hunting was once rife (this includes London's most southerly pub, the Fox in Coulsdon). Our favourite is Hanwell's rustic The Fox, close to the locks of the Grand Union.

But foxes are urban beasts too, and you'll find them hanging around at a number of central pubs. The most notable is Smithfield's gorgeous Fox and Anchor, famous for its dark wooden interior, ceramic tile exterior and its 7am opening time to serve 'City boy breakfasts' (veggie version available, and delicious). The Snooty Fox by Canonbury station is a very different beast, with its ultra-modern interior and much-loved jukebox. You have to wonder if it has one eye on the Hen and Chickens, one stop west on the Overground.

8. Bob, a much loved fox

a fox grave
Image: Matt Brown

I have no information on this late, lamented fox, other than to say I stumbled across his grave in Trent Park, Cockfosters. May he rest in peace.

9. Another lost fox

Large model of a fox
Image: Matt Brown

We should also pay tribute to this multi-storey vulpine who guarded the South Bank Centre back in 2011. The seven-metre-high fox was created by artist Cathy Mager as part of the celebrations marking 60 years since the Festival of Britain. And it was made out of straw. A thatched fox! As Cathy relates on her website, the fox was originally heading to landfill after the festival, but she managed to rehome it to a Cambridgeshire field (where I later photographed it during Secret Garden Party in 2012).

10. 20th Century Fox

20th century fox
Image: Matt Brown

And finally... another fox that was saved from destruction. The 20th Century Fox building in the south-west corner of Soho Square was built in 1937 and served the film industry for decades. After its successor tenants Disney moved out in 2017 the building's owners brought forward plans for demolition. Needless to say, there was a big outcry and a campaign to save the building led by the Soho Society. Happily, the developer withdrew its plans in 2023, though the long-term fate of the building remains unknown.

Last Updated 10 April 2024

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