Piccolo Bar Cafes

Pierro Marazzi first came to london as a fifteen year old boy from Piacenzo ,Italy not from a large family his he left them back home and came to london to find work.
He originally had his heart set on becoming a priest and was to join the seminary but this was not to be, on arriving in london he settled in the Clerkenwell area which had a large Italian community he got his first job as a kitchen hand in a small restaurant in Grays Inn Road.
He worked in several restaurants over the years building up his extensive knowledge of the catering trade .
His first real taste of running a a cafe for himself was for an Italian couple in Queen Victoria Street, in the city just by Blackfriars Station he ran this on his own for a year or so and eventually took over the lease from the couple who retired from the cafe.
Pierro started work in his first Piccolo Bar in 1969-70 he took the name “Piccolo” from a small flute literally meaning “little one” soon after this in 1974 he opened Piccolo Bar number two at no7 Gresham street in the city the self taught chef from Piacenza opened another two cafes Buckingham Gate now sold , and the splendid Piccolo,Mayfair run by good friend Louise and team.
Having worked with the cab trade for over 30years providing good tasty food for hungry London cabbies he was recently recognised by The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers for his outstanding service to the trade you can see his certificate hanging pride of place in Piccolo,Mayfair right next to Lennox Lewis.
At 67 years of age (young) he still has a hand in the overall running of the cafes helped by his handsome son “Fabio” he told me to put that in or no interview.
We at Taxi Guides of London would like to thank for letting us hold our meetings in the upstairs dining area while getting this venture off the ground supplied with coffee an goodies.
We wish you all the best in the future keep up the good work from all of us cabbies out there.

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Old London Police Phone Box.

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Where on Earth Is This?

What on earth could this bee… and where is it located ?

What on earth could this be? Where is it located?

What on earth could this be? Where is it located?

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History Of the River Police

I don’t know haw many of you watched the ‘Flotilla’ or river pageant for the Jubilee celebrations in London, but if you did then you will have almost certainly seen the Thames River Police at work. I myself was sitting opposite here in Rotherhithe at the Angel Pub and saw a pleasure boat try to turn back upstream right in front of this building. Needless to say the boats of the Thames River Police swarmed around it and persuaded it to carry on downstream.

In 1799 Parliament passed an act allowing work to commence on the building of docks in the area that we now calldocklands. The reason for this was that trade in Georgian Britain had expanded so much that facilities, and crucially protection, was needed for ships when they docked loaded with goods from all over the world. Around a half a million pounds worth of goods were being stolen, an enormous amount in today’s money although low pay meant that many of the 33,000 dock workers felt this was part of their pay. Much of it was being lost by the West India Merchant’s Company.

river police station

River Police Station

You can visit various parts of the river on our Classic Tours of London

Even before this act, Ex master and JP John Harriot and Magistrate Patrick Colquhoun proposed a police force of fifty men with premises right here paid for by the company. It cost about £4,200 to set up and was judged a success when it prevented £122,000 worth of pilfering.The force they created prefigured the Metropolitan Police by thirty years so it is interesting to note the police as we know it was created to prevent commercial crime. Not surprisingly it was unpopular and in the first year a mob of 2000 dockers attacked the station here and tried to burn it down. The officers fought back bravely and saved the station but Gabriel Franks was shot and killed, thus becoming the first British police casualty.
In 1839 they were subsumed into the new Met Police Force and re-names Thames Division.

Todays ‘Marine Police Unit’ covers not only the Thames but also small rivers, canals, lakes, docks and reservoirs which as well as having safety issues attract criminal activity. Some of the boats used bear the names John Harriot and Patrick Colquhoun. The old building here has a morgue as bodies are often recovered and a museum that can be visited by appointment.
If you want to get a feel for the operations and life of the modern Marine Police Unit as it is snow called you can read William Boyd’s excellent 2009 novel Ordinary Thunderstorms which features a Marine Policewoman working the Thames.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Want to find out more on what we know, why not book a tour with us, email us here or call 0800 955 0688

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Eton Boys Club – Part 2

In 1907 Gerald Wellesley, 22 years old, arrived in Hackney Wick and quickly realised that there was a problem with the “Missions scope” for the young boys and men were all dealt with but, not those in between.
So in 1909 he took twenty 18 years olds who had attended the mission to form the “Old boys club” which opened in near by Daintry Street. The Etonians who came to work with the boys became more involved in the members lives, more than just organising sports and tuition, they would appear in court if say the boys were caught playing football in the streets on a Sunday so Gerald Wellesley asked for pitches to open in parks and open spaces on a Sunday but, in doing so fell out with the clergy of the Eton Mission. Introductions into the City and letters of recommendation were normal as were start up capitol for small business and loans were all common practises to members.

There were many clubs that came into being from the Eton Mission. “The Otters swimming club”, a boxing club, The Harriers, a running club on Victoria Park road, Eton Manor rugby club, and Eton Manor athletics club are all still in existence.

In July 1913 the Eton Manor boys club moved into Riseholme Street which now housed three clubs – the boys club 14-18, the young boys club 18-25 and the old boys club 25+. The new club house was located next to Victorian Park Station north of Wick road on the site of the old manor house and manor farm now formed the Eton Manor club. Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg, Edward Cadogan and Arthur Villiers all old Etonians setup the Manor Charitable Trust to finance and manage the Eton Manor clubs. Through old Etonians and friends in the highest areas of society donated to the trust. The list of donors was described as the finest of Edwardian society.

The club house and gym were the finest of the time, and the boys were encouraged to excel and well known public people and sportsmen were invited to meet and inspire the boys.

In 1923 thirty acres was bought across the river lea in Leyton know as the Wilderness which became a vast sporting Eden. After the 1948 London Olympics Arthur Villiers a director of Barings Bank bought the Olympic running track from Wembley stadium for the Wilderness. Arthur had no artistic pleasures but took to driving around the continent after World War 2 and was seen gazing at the “Campo Santo” and the leaning tower in Pisa Italy and more importantly the lights that illuminated them at night. Once the running track was installed at the Wilderness this was quickly followed by floodlights and became the first track in England to be floodlit.

Eton Manor closed in 1967 due to many issues but, mainly due to a compulsory purchase order for the building of the A12. The Wilderness however, 45 years later, will form part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the Paralympic tennis will take place. You can see this on one of our taxi tours in London The Olympic legacy will see the Wilderness continue its long tradition with sport and will become the National Hockey Centre.

In 2007 £50,000 was awarded by the Heritage trust to create a permanent oral history of Eton Manor through its existing members accounts and pictures which can be seen at the Bishopsgate Institute.

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Eton College Boys Club – Part 1

The Eton college mission arrived in Hackney Wick in 1880. At the time is was widely reported that “The boy problem” where each year the youth were sent out without aid, sympathy or help from the state, with only the church or private help available.

The “boy problem” was widely recognised on both sides of the Atlantic. London and New York was a hotbed of “gangy tendencies” which was regarded as a natural tendency of childhood to adolescence. So the issue was how to manage this “Tendency” and the solution was to change the anarchic clandestine gang into a well organised and highly visible club. To this day we constantly hear of the same issues that gang members require mentors, people to look up to and a place to belong.In 1880s New York philanthropists failed to manage the gangs, however here in London churches, colleges and schools began to set up clubs and the Eton college mission arrived in Hackney Wick in 1880. Eton college undertook to staff and pay for the Eton Mission before the more famous Oxford and Cambridge universities arrived in the mid 1880s.

Toynbee Hall in Commercial Street was started by Balliol College Oxford in 1884 where Pierre de Coubertain the founder of the modern day Olympics visited on several occasions in the 1880s as part of his research to improve educational practises.

“The moral force of a gentleman’s company did as much if not more than practical and financial help”.

The Eton Mission was the size of the Eton college playing fields and was located in between Hackney Marsh and the North London railway. The area at this time was described as being of “the very poorest class”.The Eton mission boys club was located in Mallard Street and was described as a “rough boys club” so in 1883 a more gentler club was formed from the mission Sunday school and setup in nearby Selwyn Street and both clubs eventually merged to form the Eton Mission boys club.

Old Etonian EMS Pilkington wrote “I have searched Moggs guide to London and have set of for Victoria Park station”.
Many of the Etonian students who came to Hackney Wick lived in nearby Polver street accommodation….part to coming shortly.

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St Katherines Dock tour information

St Katherine’s Docks lying between London docks and the Tower of London built on 23 acres The architect was Philip Hardwick he collaborated with Telford on the designing of the warehouse and other buildings. The waters consisted of a large basin of 1.5 acres leading to 2 docks of irregular shape of 4 acres each These were surrounded by sturdy warehouses of yellow brickwork 6 floors high supported by heavy Tuscan columns of iron and providing 116.000 sq metres of storage area to house such commodities as tea rubber wool marble sugar tallow matches and live turtles. The warehouses were unusual in being built close to the water having little unloading area for transit sheds in front of them so that goods could be immediately stored when they were unloaded. The lock to the river was somewhat narrow so was unable to admit large ships, and this probably led to the fact that the docks were never used to their full capacity. In 1864 the St Katherine Company merged with that of the London Docks. The Docks closed in 1968 and sold to the GLC for £1.5 million which was less than the original cost. Taylor Woodrow built the ugly and obtrusive Tower Thistle Hotel. The magnificent warehouses have been converted into shops restaurants cafes and pubs with offices above or replaced by modern residential and commercial developments which the waters have become a marina for luxury yachts.

Why not take a tour of London and take in St Katherines dock and the surrounding areas like tower bridge and the tower of london

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Ivory House Tour information

Ivory House is the last warehouse of the original project. It was completed by George Aitchinson clerk of the works to St Katherine’s Docks Company. The original fire resistant construction has brick arches and wrought iron beams, circular cast iron columns and brick outer walls and wrought iron roof trusses. It also has an Italianate tower stone string courses at the top of the walls. But the building has a dark tainted past in that it was the storage area for ivory on its way from elephant to the piano trinkets and boxes that have always been so collectable. A photograph dating from the 1890s has a caption that reads that to fill these rooms it would have required the slaughter of 30,000 elephants.

Preserved on the Quay to the South is one half of the unique double leaf footbridge of 1828 by Thomas Telford one of the earliest moveable iron bridges remaining in Britain. Its structure is reminiscent of the bridge in Ironbridge, Shropshire. The present footbridge was built to replace this one and is also retractable.

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Dickens Inn, St Katherines Dock

The Dickens Inn, has nothing to do with Dickens except that his grandson also called Charles opened it in 1976. The original building which probably dated from the 1790s stood on the Thames side site just east of its current location. It is not known what it was originally used for, perhaps for brewing or as a spice warehouse. In the 1820’s its timber frame was encased in a more modern brick shell to make the warehouse conform to the architectural style of St Katherine’s by Thomas Telford. The building survived the war only to be condemned for demolition for redevelopment in the 1970’s.

The Dickens Inn at St.Katherines Dock

The Dickens Inn at St.Katherines Dock

It was reprieved when they discovered the interesting timbers concealed inside the exterior skin of brick
It could not stay on its original site as this had been earmarked for housing under the St Katherine dockland development scheme. The 120 ton timber shell was moved some 70 yards and erected on this present site. The original timbers tailboards and ironwork were used in the restoration and the building reconstructed in the style of a three storey balconied inn of the 18 century.
The top room is the Dickens Room, the 1st floor is the Pickwick room and the ground floor is the Tavern. Real ales and the in house brewed Dickens own bitter is drawn from casks as are the Spirits and Sherrys which are drawn from wood, and it has sawdust on the floor.Pevsner says rather pithily the pubs present beguiling weatherboarded and galleried exterior by Renton Howard Wood Levin Partnership 1975-6 is a fantasy, fantasy or not it is an attractive and obviously successful pub.

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New Website

We have just launched our new website for Taxi Guides of London. Updates to our new site and blog will be appearing very soon. Please check back.

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