Esoteric London

No. 559: Pall Mall, SW1

Posted in Graffiti, Lettering, Royal London, The Thames by esotericlondon on April 19, 2012

Pall Mall, London, SW1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

Saunterings in and about London – Max Schlesinger, 1853:

Life in the Thames Tunnel is a very strange sort of life. As we descend, stray bits and snatches of music greet our ears. Arrived at the bottom of the shaft, there is the double pathway opening before us, and looking altogether dry, comfortable, and civilised, for there are plenty of gaslights; and the passages which communicate between the two roadways, are tenanted by a numerous race of small shopkeepers, offering views of the tunnel, and other penny wares for sale. These poor people never see the sun except on Sundays. The strangers in London are their best, and indeed I may almost say, they are their only customers.
As we proceed, the music becomes more clear and distinct, and here it is: a miniature exhibition of English industrial skill. It is an Italian organ, played by a perfect doll of a Lilliputian steam engine. That engine grinds the organ from morning till night; it gives us various pieces without any compunction or political scruples. The Marseillaise, German waltzes, the Hungarian Rakowzy march, Rule Britannia, Yankee Doodle, etc., does this marvellous engine grind out of the organ. Those London organs are the most tolerant of musical instruments that I know of; they appeal to all nations and purses…. In the present instance, the organ and the engine are mere decoy-birds. You stop, and are invited to look at ‘the panorama’—at the expense of ‘only one penny.’ You see Queen Victoria at that interesting moment in which she vows to ‘love, honour, and obey’ Prince Albert.

[Begun in 1825 and completed in 1843 by engineer Marc Isambard Brunel assisted by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the Thames Tunnel was, upon its opening, declared the Eighth Wonder of the World. 50,000 people walked through the tunnel on its opening day alone each paying a penny to do so. It connects Wapping on the north bank of the Thames with Rotherhithe on the south. Although designed for use by horse drawn traffic it only accommodated pedestrians until it was purchased by the East London Railway Company in 1865. They ran the first train through it in 1869.In 2010 the tunnel was re-openned as part of  London Overground’s East London Line. R.D.]