Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Famous #London Monopoly Board

It's the last day of The Daily Constitutional's 50 Greatest Hits Posts…


DC Editor Adam writes…


In December 2016 I posted the The Daily Constitutional's blog post number 5,000.


To mark the occasion I've been digging in the archive and over February and March 2017 I'll be reblogging The DC's "Greatest Hits" – my 50 favourite posts. 


In addition I'll be sharing my 50 favourite London photos to have appeared here since October 2008. 

I hope you enjoy them

A.S-G
London 
March 2017

This post comprises three Daily Constitutional posts all on the topic on Monopoly.

The first is from 2010 and was posted as part of my It's A London Thing series. The second is from 2015 and ruminates on the changing pieces of the classic Monopoly board. The third is from 2016 and is a photoblog of some of the sights that can be seen on a walk from Old Kent Road to Whitechapel…





It’s a London Thing, Monopoly. Sure, there are different city editions these days. But for anyone living in the UK or the countries of the Commonwealth (excluding Canada) over the age of 25, the Monopoly board was often a first introduction to the legendary names of London.

And I should, I suppose, concede… it’s a little bit of a Yorkshire thing, too. The game was first produced in the UK by John Waddington Ltd of Leeds. In 1935 Waddingtons wanted to branch out into other areas such as playing cards and when Parker Bros of the U.S sent them a set of the original Monopoly board game, the timing was perfect. Norman Watson (Head of Waddingtons Card Game Division) and his secretary Marjorie Philips made a trip to London to research locations, and the rest is history: a history that is revealed memorably in the comic travelogue Do Not Pass Go by Tim Moore.




The names on the board still conjure up vivid images even for those yet to visit us here in London. Such people would surely baulk at a night out down the Old Kent Road, for example. Not that there’s anything wrong with a night out in that neck of the woods, of course: but such is the legend of the London Monopoly board that estate agents have had to work hard down in that neck of the woods for more than 80 years now. No bad thing, estate agents working hard.

Similarly Mayfair still speaks of glamour and riches untold – so much so that purveyors of such nefarious goods as cheap cigarettes and top shelf magazines have appended (ahem) the name of that Holy Grail of the Monopoly board to their products in the hope of making them seem glamorous.

The London board is also studded with delicious anomaly and eccentricity: coming from outside London one would expect Fenchurch Street Station to be something far grander than the modest, almost hidden city terminus-cum-Burger King branch that it is in “real life”. And why are Vine, Marlborough and Bow Streets adjacent to one another on the board yet so far apart on the map?* And why isn’t Marlborough Street given its full name of Great Marlborough Street? And what’s this about Free Parking? Free parking in London?!

The ins-and-outs of the game itself are, of course, a global phenomena. But the traditional British board is up there with the Underground map as an iconic design classic. From Old Kent Road to Mayfair. No doubt about it. It’s a London Thing.

* Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street were linked in 1935 by the theme of law and order: Vine Street Police Station and the Magistrates’ Courts at Bow and Great Marlborough Streets. In the 21st century the police station and both magistrates’ courts no longer exist.


***


I have just returned from holiday in the great country of Greece where I reacquainted myself with the board game Monopoly.

(I realise, gentle reader, that this may seem a tad insensitive, gauche even – playing the great capitalist board game in the middle of such a fiscal calamity, in Greece of all places. Oops.)

The set upon which I rediscovered the pleasures of greed and familial bad feeling was a travel set picked up at the airport called Grab & Go Monopoly. And an economical (no pun intended) little thing it is, too. The board folds out and doubles as a box for the tiny money and title deeds.

 

One complaint, however. There was no top hat.

When playing Monopoly I ALWAYS go the top hat.

 

If someone should beat me to the top hat I will go to my threefold Plan B – the first part of which is never to speak again, for as long as I live, to the person who has taken MY top hat.

Part two of Plan B is to go the thimble – it is at least associated with style and the rag trade and therefore second-best to the top hat.


If someone has taken the thimble, I take a deep breath, make a mental alteration to my Christmas card list, and plump for Plan B Part three: the iron. Once again, it is a faintly clobber-related piece.


(What, you might ask, if the iron has been taken? Well I would imagine that things would take a bit of a Cleudo turn at this point, only with no mystery: the murderer would be me, the location the bank with the murder weapon being the pointy end of a toy plastic hotel. What a way to go.)

But I digress.

Not only was the top hat absent from the playing pieces… But there was no thimble… Nor was there an iron.

And so it was with a heavy heart that I went on to dominate the game (with the Scottie Dog as my playing piece), winning with my trademark bad grace, thus besmirching much of the holiday with Monopoly-bred resentment and bad feeling.

I had a thoroughly wonderful time.

But despite this upside, my heart remained heavy. Is it emblematic of the 21st century’s slipping standards of style that the top hat or indeed anything related to fine tailoring no longer plays a part in the game of Monopoly?

Dear Mr Waddington or Mr Hasbro (or Mr Parker in the U.S) if you are reading this, please can we have the top hat reinstated to the Grab & Go edition of your wonderful board game? I believe the stylish future of the nation – if not the world – depends on it.



***


DC Editor Adam writes…

As regular Daily Constitutional readers and some London Walkers will know, on my days off I like to stride out and walk London. I'm a big fan of the Capital Ring orbital walking route and I love to walk the Thames. Many of the pictures and ideas that end up on this blog are born out of my rambles.

On Wednesdays here on The Daily Constitutional, I'll be sharing some snaps, random observations and the odd bit of trivia picked up along the routes of my wanders. Starting with this one…


 Old Kent Road to Whitechapel



Late last year I set out on a series of walks around the London Monopoly board.

The things that can be seen AT the squares on the famous board are, of course, well-documented.

What I was looking for is what lies BETWEEN the squares. If a trip around the Monopoly board is a trip around London, then what might one see while travelling from square-to-square?



Walk: Old Kent Road to Whitechapel

Nearest tube to start: Elephant & Castle

Nearest tube to end: Whitechapel/Aldgate East


Here's my route…



Once the Roman road Watling Street, now forming part of the much less romantic-sounding A2, Old Kent Road is famously the first square on the British Monopoly board…



And it looks like Romans are still here, although they’ve branched out into the legal profession…



Driscoll House, with its endearingly lopsided sign (top right of pic, below) is nearby…


… is a famed south London institution opened in 1913 as a women's hotel and was taken over by Terence Driscoll in 1965. A basic, hostel-like hotel, the interiors remained largely unchanged (i.e. pretty spartan) until Driscoll's death, at the age of 95, in 2007. A colourful-sounding character, one legend has it that he claimed there had been a vision of the Virgin Mary on the premises and used the tale to discourage "immoral" behaviour in the rooms! He gave weekly addresses to the guests on a Sunday and manned the front desk and small gift shop (where one could buy postcards featuring Driscoll himself) right up to the end. The building is now occupied by the Rest Up London hostel.


Our visitors on London Walks often ask why our pubs are disappearing. The answer is, like the assassins of the above-mentioned Julius Caesar, manifold.

We pay astronomical amounts for our living spaces in London and, as a consequence, we seem keen, or are compelled, to spend more time in those expensive flats and houses. That we are living more healthily must be a factor, too. I chatted with a publican on one of my tours recently and he simply said, "It's all about the food these days, innit."

The George at 40 Tower Bridge Road in Bermondsey is a great example of an ever-more-rare traditional pub – or "Old Man Pub" as they are sometimes referred (cheek!)…



(The Truman livery above the pub refers to the famous old Brick Lane-based brewer whose premises can be found near the end of this wander. The old brewery building itself hosts events, club nights and all sorts but the beer is back too! After years in mothballs, the famous name has been revived and it's great to see! Find out more here: www.trumansbeer.co.uk)


The obligatory Shard pops up – is there a single London borough from which it can't be seen?


Along this route plaques are few and far between – unlike at the other end of the Monopoly board in Mayfair. But when Mayfair was merely open fields, Bermondsey was already thriving and home to a monastery…




When we do come across plaques in this neck of the woods, they are vivid ones indeed…


This Southwark plaque at Druid Street Arch marks the spot where 77 Londoners lost their lives on the night of 20th October 1940 in an air raid.


Nearby this playground is named for Alfred Salter…




… local doctor, Labour M.P and campaigner who improved living conditions for working folk in Bermondsey.


Bermondsey Square is often a hub of activity, the very soul of "gentrification", with the weekly antiques market taking place every Friday from 6:00a.m to 2:00p.m (website here: bermondseysquare.net)



Given my walking habits (both amateur and professional) I really am compelled to nod toward the Society of Chiropodists…



Keep up the grand work, guys. (Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is their patron, dontcha know.)


The River Neckinger flows through South London from near the site of present day St George's Cathedral, joining the Thames at St Saviour Dock…


Russ Willey's indispensible Dictionary of London Phrase & Fable nods to the legend that the Neckinger's name comes from the practise of hanging pirates from a gibbet at the dock, the noose being the Devil's Neckercher (neckerchief). Colourful stuff. He goes on to suggest the slightly less lurid-sounding explanation that the course of the river resembles the shape of a noose, hence the name.

Great views along the Thames soon loom up…



… and with paraphernalia from maritime history "gentrifying" the place…



… and blending with touristy tat…



… we cross the Thames, with a warning: the following bridge may contain nuts…






St Katherine's Dock is all tiddly-posh these days…



… but was once a hard-working (if small) part of London's Docklands. It closed in 1968.


Our first plaque north of the river on this particular amble marks the Battle of Cable Street…


…  in 1936 when the march of Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists in to the largely Jewish East End was met with the cry of "They Shall Not Pass!"


A little further along the way we come across a relic of the Jewish East End - the recently closed Fieldgate Street Synagogue…



A few years ago The English Defence League were made as welcome as Mosley's black shirts…


Nearby, in Henriques Street, a spray-painted tribute to one of Jack the Ripper's victims can be found…


Elizabeth Stride was murdered on the night of the 30th September 1888.

My ramble ended in Whitechapel Road…



… the second brown square on the Monopoly board, where it meets Vallance Road…



… forever associated with the story of the Kray twins. But that will have to keep for another post.



I hope you have enjoyed these 50 Greatest Hits Posts - next week, I'll begin compiling my 50 favourite photographs from the nine year, 5,000+ posts run of The Daily Constitutional.





A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.



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