London as a city probably has more landmarks and features instantly recognisable world wide than any other city in the world. While some of these are major buildings and monuments some are items of a rather more mundane nature. Everyone knows about London’s red buses, its black taxis and the Tube.
Anyone who has visited London, or the UK generally, will also be familiar with the countries famous red telephone boxes and letter boxes. Indeed both items have been exported worldwide and can still be seen in active service in most of the few remaining outposts of Empire. I must say my recent sighting of the red letter letter box at Georgetown’s Post Office on Ascension Island rekindled nostalgic memories as I journeyed towards the UK.
I digress, not unusual for me.
Here I want to tell you a little about the British telephone box or more specifically about the red ones commissioned by the General Post Office (GPO) which managed telecommunications prior to its split into British Telecom and the Post Office in 1981 and the privatisation of British Telecom in 1984.
The first thing to note is that while they all look the same they are not.
In 1921 Britain's first standard kiosk (phone box), the imaginatively named Kiosk No 1 (abbreviated to K1) was designed by the GPO itself. While there were over time a few K1 models it was not especially well liked and a competition was held to find a replacement.
A number of designs were received and the then recently established Royal Fine Art Commission was summoned into action. The Commission was formed in May 1924 by an Act of Parliament with the purpose of examining questions of "public amenity or artistic importance referred to it by government departments and other...bodies".
A design by Giles Gilbert Scott was selected by the Commission and K2 came into being. Over 10,000 K2’s were installed mainly in London and of these just over 200 remain today. The remaining K2’s are Grade 2 heritage listed structures. My main photograph is of a K2. K2s were costly to produce and not rolled out beyond London. The prototype K2 box can be found in the entrance arch of the Royal Academy at Piccadilly. It is made of wood. Is it real? I don’t know.
Various other largely unsuccessful models ( again imaginatively named - K3, K4 and K5) followed the K2.
In 1935 King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee and to commemorate this the GPO commissioned the now Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to design a new kiosk - K6 eventuated. Approximately 60,000 of these were installed across the UK and around 10,000 exist and it is this K6 which has come to represent the famous red telephone box. Picture 2 attached shows two K6s outside the British Museum. Just over 2,000 K6s are heritage listed, of which more than 90%, are actually K6 variants.
The last K6s were installed in 1968. Prior to the breakup of the GPO in 1981 K7 came out (only a handful installed) as did the rather plain K8 (around 11,000). British Telecom produced a rather pedestrian offering in 1985 and installed around 100,000 up to 1996 by which stage the advent of mobile phones and increased vandalism had sounded the death knell for further public phones of the street variety, at least. What remains now seem to be more there for street decoration than making telephone calls.
It is possible that you will come across a black telephone box when you visit London (picture three). These are in fact painted K6s. In the 1980s British Telecom sold a number of kiosks to the private sector but retained its monopoly on the red colour and thus had them painted black.
Should this review have excited an interest in Britain’s red telephone boxes you should start your further research here - http://www.the-telephone-box.co.uk/. Additionally this site includes detailed pictures pointing out the distinguishing features of various boxes for any prospective phone box hunters among you.
There are two indoor markets on Tooting High Street down in Tooting Broadway in South-London.
One of them is Tooting Market, which has been in operation for over 80 years, or since 1930. Here one can find all kinds of shops and restaurants. The inhabitants in Tooting Broadway are mainly immigrants and here is the centre of the Muslim Indian community in South-London.
Tooting Market is a bit smaller than Broadway Market, which is next door to it, but it has a good selection of restaurants and clothes stores. It is a bit on the steep side though, I have bought cheeper clothes in Notting Hill than I have in Tooting Market. When I first visited the market I thought it would be a bit cheeper than the markets in central London, seeing that it is a bit far away from the center of London - in SW17. I especially liked one store in here, but the clothes were just too expensive...
I talked to the owner of the store while I was trying on the clothes, and she told me that the owner of the market didn´t put enough heating in the market and that they were freezing. This was in December. She said that she had got pneumonia from standing there in this cold all day long - and had to spend some time in hospital. I felt so sorry for her, as it was really cold in there. In other parts of the markets I had seen some heaters, but they were only by the entrance.
There are Chinese, Thai, Portugues and international food stalls by both entrances. And a Caribbean food store.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday: 09:30-18:30, Wednesday: 09:30-17:30. Sunday: closed. These are the opening hours for the next door Broadway Market, but I think they are the same for Tooting Market as well.
Well worth a visit - Tooting Broadway is ever so vibrant. I went there every day for a month and three weeks while staying in Colliers Wood, which is next stop to Tooting Broadway.
It s not everyday fun in the world of street entertainers. This one looked like he really had enough that day. Who can blame him??? It must have been one of the hottest day of the year in London and imagine how we would feel with all that paint and clothing in these temperatures!
Located in front of the National Film Theatre, Riverside Walk Market gets bigger as the weather gets better. It’s at its busiest at weekends. Rows of trestle tables are stacked with books, maps and old hand-coloured lithographs and wood engravings (from £10) from all over Britain. There’s plenty to browse through, from hardback picture volumes, first editions and weighty academic tomes to hundreds of Penguin paperbacks, sci-fi thrillers and trashy romances. Find that book on vampires, medieval needlepoint or Marxist economic theory. There’s usually plenty on offer for art, film and theatre buffs, including plays, scripts and cut-price glossy art books.
Open noon-7pm daily.
Experiencing 'market culture' is one of the joys of London.
One of the best times to do this is Sunday morning in the East End.
You can begin at Spitalfields, near Liverpool Street Station to ease yourself into it.
Presently the stuff available here is very much 'arty-farty' / middle class-heaven gear - similar to what you would find at Borough Market every day. There are plans afoot to re-develop (a euphenism meaning to destoy a perfectly decent place) - so see it while you can.
From there it is a short trip to other markets in the old east-end that almost interconnect with each other.
Columbia Road with its flowers is easily the most photogenic, but the Brick lane / Petticoat lane area will provide plenty of 'character' to explore. The stuff here is often only tat, fakes and rip-offs, but that is all part of the atmosphere. You also see some rather strange people selling off what can only be described as 'complete rubbish' from the darkest recesses of their garages.
The website i've listed will give more info and provide a useful map.
There are numerous street entertainers in London, and as the title of the tip suggests, they vary greatly in skill. The chap in the picture was actually remarkably good. As well as looking pretty striking, he was also playing some very accomplished jazz guitar.
If you see one you like, you can throw them a few coins in the box or hat, although there is no compulsion to do so.
The two best areas to find entertainers of this type (although ordinary buskers are everywhere) are Covent Garden and the Southbank. I know for a fact that the Covent Garden ones are all licensed and have to through an audition process so they are pretty talented.
Naturally enough, summer is better than winter to see them, and they seem more numerous at the weekend.
Good hunting, hope you find one you like.
Yes also in Soho area you can find a street market although quite small relatively to the others and mostly food. If you happend to be there in the weekend just have a short walk by the market. other wise dont bother especially.. there are better and much more lively markets then this one.
Visiting Borough market on a Saturday.
Best approached from London Bridge tube station (NOT Borough station). This is middle-class London in its' element. The market is similar to a farmers market (I use the term very loosely here). Plenty of high quality cheeses, meats , veg ,fish, flowers, and plants etc. Also lots of great snacks.
Then for a real change of atmosphere jump on the tube and head for Brixton. The market is not really in one place but just wander around the outside of the rail station and you will find most of it. It's the atmosphere that makes it - West Indian meets Del-boy. Very lively and colourful - you will find alot of rubbish but inbetween the tat there is rastafarian wear / music, exotic food and even live crabs.
Also a seemingly enormous number of wig shops and one of the smallest barbers shops I've ever seen right under the station.
Just avoid those wide-boys in their souped-up BMW's on the way home with their takings !
A real contrast.
This is the centre of London. The square where many great rallies and many marches take place, where the New Year is ushered in by tens of thousands of revellers, and where locals congregate to celebrate anything from a football victory.
Borough market sprawls underneath the railway viaducts at Southwark and best visited 2 am to 8 am on weekdays if you want to see the wholesalers but the retail market is only open Thurs-Sat at different times. It is basically a wholesale and retail food market, but you will find that it is a real treat to visit on Sundays when there are gourmet food stalls selling cheeses, breads, cakes and other products from distant countries. On Sundays most of the market is closed except for 70 stalls mainly catering to visitors (10 am - 5 pm). When i visited last Sunday there were performers in medieval costumes dancing from that era. I believe that it only opened recently on Sundays but judging by the number of tourists in attendance it will be a permanent feature.
nearest station London Bridge, mainline trains and Jubilee and Northern underground lines
London is huge...so large that is you try to see vereything you'll almost surely end up seeing nothing but your feet walking around and standing in the tube.
Instead...take a deep breath, lift your eyes and look around you and enjoy! For example I found this street entertainer in the corner outside the swiss bank. I and a whole lot more as you can see...