Thursday, 16 February 2012

Streets Ahead: Seven

Streets Ahead is the occasional column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker






Seven.

That most riffable of numbers. Seven Wonders of the World; Seven Deadly Sins; The Secret Seven; The Seven Year Itch. Lucky Seven. Seven Blocks of Granite (if youʼre thinking American sports). The seven lamps of the menorah in the Temple. The Seven Dwarfs. George Carlinʼs Seven Dirty Words. The Seven Summits. The Seven Seas. The Seven Continents. The seven days of the week. Godʼs creating the world in seven days. The Seven Ages of Man. The Seven Seals in the Book of Revelations.

And so on.

So how about a “London Seven”?

And Seven Sisters doesnʼt count. Way too easy.

Hereʼs my seven. Chosen for their London Walks-ness. i.e., that jolt of recognition – the piquancy of, “oh, thatʼs fun to know – didnʼt know that.”

1. The Seven Dials. So named because seven streets converge there. Itʼs in the Covent Garden “district”. Because of its mix of old and new, of trendy and declasse, of traces of the past and foreshadowings of the future – and especially because of the “feel” of its streets (its buzz, its honest-to-goodness London brick, teensy tributaries and byways and hidden courtyards) – itʼs London at its most delightful. Thatʼs is. Was was a different story. Seven Dials was the slum of slums. Switch your radar to full-on, home in and lock on to the blip of Adamʼs Seven Dials walk (it only comes up a couple of times a year). And donʼt miss it – itʼs an eye-opener and a delight. LW at its best.

2. The Seven Stars. The old pub in the heart of Legal London. Itʼs as old and crinkly- curious as the institution whose practitioners frequent it. 400 years old, named for the seven provinces of Holland, boasts the oldest “artefact” youʼll ever see (let alone sniff at), the only pub in London that doesnʼt have a loo – whatʼs not to delight in and wonder about The Seven Stars?

3. The seven gates of London: Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate.

4. The seven City of London Bridges: Blackfriars Bridge, the Blackfriars Railway Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge, London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

5. The seven arches of Westminster Bridge. The point being itʼs the only bridge in London that has seven arches. And, inevitably, theyʼve been dubbed the Monday Arch, the Tuesday Arch, the Wednesday Arch, etc.

6. The seven hills. Yes, I know, everybody bangs on about London being built round two hills (Cornhill and Ludhill) as opposed to Romeʼs seven colline – but in fact “the London basin” has seven hills. (“Iʼll see lead with our two hills, Rome, and then see your seven”.) As the greatest London Walker of them all puts it, “From the City to Westminster and beyond, most of Central London can be seen best from the top of seven hills below which the sluggish Thames crawls into its saline estuary some fifteen miles to the east of Gallions Reach.”

7. The Regentʼs Park ensemble. Named for mad King George IIIʼs seven sons. Namely (so to speak) – and in order of precedence – the Regent himself, York Terrace, Clarence Terrace, Cumberland Terrace, Kent Terrace, Sussex Terrace and Cambridge Terrace.

And those seven – “the dregs of their dull race” as Shelley called them in a didnʼt-pull-his- punches sonnet – are another “riff” in themselves. Stay tuned...


POST UPDATED 17/5/16

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