Esoteric London

No. 354: Gray’s Inn Road, WC1

Posted in Architectural, Eating places, Shops by esotericlondon on July 7, 2011

Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2009

London at the End of the Century: A Book of Gossip – Arthur William a Beckett, 1900:

And now we have our first taste of the treasures of the vasty deep. One of the dredges has been drawn up and its shears-like nets opened. Out tumble a number of oysters with two or three five-fingers and a few cockles. The brown bread and butter, the sauterne, and last but not least, a plate of seconds are handed round.

Delicious! I exclaim, as I devour a bivalve with gusto, delicious!

The others are eating with the same satisfaction that I am displaying myself. I am rather horrified when one of the crew, finding that there are three or four oysters over, throws them into the sea.

Oh, what waste! I exclaim.

There are plenty more where those come from, replies our host with a smile. Now, these are worth, at the sea shore, about fifteen pence a dozen. In London, however, they are half-a-crown a dozen, or (when mixed with a few natives) four-and-six.

[The photograph above shows a structure that sits on top of a building on the Grays Inn Road next to Kings Cross station. Oysters were at one time much cheaper than they are today and were consumed in great numbers by ordinary Londoners. It has been suggested that the building was once an oyster bar and that this ‘lighthouse’ was placed on top as an advertising gimmick. If the truth be known nobody is quite sure of its purpose but with the rapid gentrification of the area it is hoped that this quirky architectural folly is spared the demolition ball. R.D.]

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