Twinings Tea Shop

Twinings Tea Shop

By in A day in the life of a London cabbie

You can be forgiven for passing by one of London’s oldest and most famous shops without even noticing it. Twinings Tea Shop, located at 216 The Strand, is sandwiched between two modern buildings and is a throwback to an age when tea making and drinking was an art to be savoured! Although now justifiably famous for its tea, Twinings originally started life as Tom’s Coffee House, one of the many coffee shops that populated the City of London in the 17th century. Coffee houses in those days were almost exclusively for city gents, who would discuss business affairs and conduct their business. Merchants from the same trades would congregate in certain coffee shops and competition was fierce. Thomas Twining,  having originally come to London from Gloucestershire to carry on the family business of weaving,  saw that an opportunity existed in importing exotic products from the new world that included tea. He saw his opportunity and in 1706 purchased Tom’s Coffee house and began to sell tea as well as coffee. Tea was becoming fashionable with the upper classes and wealthy people flocked to his shop in the Strand. Soon he began to establish a reputation and selling as much dry tea as wet tea, and to local coffee shops. Tea in those days was heavily taxed and only the wealthy could afford it. High class ladies, denied by convention of entering the man’s world of a coffee shop, would wait outside Twinings while a man servant would go in and buy the increasingly fashionable to drink tea. High Tea taxes were eventually dropped and in 1837 when Queen Victoria granted Twinings a Royal Warrant as supplier of teas to the Royal Household, the name of Twinings became famous the world over. Twinings carries the distinction of having the oldest Company logo in the world in continuous use and being the City’s longest paying ratepayer, having occupied the same premises on the Strand since 1706. For tea lovers a visit to Twinings is a must. They only sell dry tea to take away but they do offer tea tastings on request and have a small museum at the back of the shop which charts the story of this famous business, still owned today...

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Samuel Johnson – London’s greatest cheerleader

Samuel Johnson – London’s greatest cheerleader

By in Famous Londoners

No self respecting blog about London can fail to include Dr Johnson, who was responsible for the most quoted ‘quote’ of all about our great city…. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford” Samuel Johnson was an English writer and critic, and one of the most famous literary figures of the 18th century. Next to William Shakespeare, he is probably the most quoted of all English writers.                 His best-known work is his ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ which took him 9 years to write, finally published in 1755. Some of the definitions used by Johnson in the dictionary give a clue to the man’s forthright and controversial personality. DULL:  To make dictionaries is dull work OATS:  A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people. Johnson had moved to London in 1737 and it’s fair to say, promptly fell in love with the city. He was a regular at many of the drinking establishments in the area, including the well known Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street. An evening there  must have been entertaining! “By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can shew.”   Samuel Johnson lived in a house just off Fleet Street, between 1748-1759, where he wrote his famous Dictionary. Though the success of the dictionary bought Johnson fame, he was always in trouble for money. At one time he was arrested for an outstanding debt of £5.16  In 1763, he met James Boswell, a young Scottish lawyer, who wrote the  ‘Life of Johnson’ (published in 1791) which did much to spread Johnson’s name. “If you are idle, be not solitary. If you are solitary, be not idle”               Who would be the equivalent of Samuel Johnson today? He was a Satirist & Diarist, quick witted and famous for his pithy quotes. Today he would probably be an author, broadcaster and blogger. His tweets would have been memorable!   “One of the disadvantages of wine, is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts!”...

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THE TREMBLING LADY – ALBERT BRIDGE

THE TREMBLING LADY – ALBERT BRIDGE

By in London's history

Albert Bridge, which links Chelsea on the north side of the Thames with Battersea on the south side, acquired the nickname ‘the trembling lady’, because it tended to vibrate when troops from the nearby Chelsea barracks marched over it. So much so, that a sign was put up on the bridge asking soldiers to ‘break step’ in order to help reduce the ‘bridge’s tremble’ . The bridge was originally built at the suggestion of Prince Albert, who thought a toll bridge would ease the congestion on the newly built Chelsea bridge (then called Victoria bridge) and the old wooden Battersea bridge which was in bad condition. The new Albert bridge was completed in 1873 by Rowland Ordish but the toll booths (which are the only surviving bridge toll booths in London) were not commercially successful. Albert Bridge, along with all the other bridges between Hammersmith and Waterloo, were purchased by the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works in 1879. With a road width only 8 meters wide, the bridge was ill suited to the introduction of the motor car and has always had weight restrictions. More than once it was planned to replace the bridge or convert it to a pedestrian bridge, but lack of funds and campaigns by pressure groups meant that the original bridge survived and is the only bridge in London, along with Tower Bridge, not to have been replaced. In addition to the bridge’s weight and width problems, its timbers were also in a bad way due to dog urine from the many dogs on their way to the Battersea Park! Used by approx 19,000 cars a day, it is second only to Southwark Bridge as the least used bridge in London. In 1992 and again in 2010 the bridge was closed for significant maintenance work and now is painted in bright colours to warn boats of its presence and lit by 4000 LED bulbs at night, making it a wonderful sight from miles...

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