South London Phonebox Mystery – Update

I’ve written earlier about the strange notes about hurricane-watching being left in South London phoneboxes. Commenter James Morton points out that there are quite a few of these on Flickr, and a discussion here. No one seems to have worked it out yet, but I’m inclined to agree with the comment ‘Bloody art students’ – especially since one of the notes shown here has a phone number on it – to be rung only between Sat and Mon. Well, it’s Thursday, so I’m not ringing it – especially since I’d be disappointed to hear tour dates for the Hurricanes or something. But if anyone does, please let me know…

The Bear of Hackney Marshes

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A visit to Beasts of London leads me to the mysterious tale of the sighting by four terrified boys of a bear on Hackney Marshes in the 1980s. Don’t remember hearing about this growing up in Hackney – not even the gory detail that two decapitated bear corpses had been found earlier, floating in a nearby river. These bodies are talked about in various forums as the corpse of a giant, or as skinned bears, the result of feuding local circuses. This writer seems to know the real explanation: one of those ‘pointless traditions’ which judging by the number of urban wild beast sightings on the internet is still going strong. Weirdly, it looks like the Hackney bear was immortalised in an episode of Jasper Carrott’s The Detectives.

Summer in the Cemetery

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Brompton Cemetery – the most peaceful place in London?
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Brian Glover, Emmeline Pankhurst and inventor of self-help Samuel Smiles are buried there, as was Sioux Indian chief Long Wolf, who was involved in the defeat of Custer, until his remains were finally taken home in 1997.
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Not to mention many other less famous inhabitants with such splendid names as W. Ornigsby Kettle. Collecting names is a good reason to go looking at graves: I seem to remember all the original EastEnders characters were named from Hackney tombstones, and Beatrix Potter reputedly took the names of her animal characters from those on the gravestones in Brompton – including a Peter Rabbett.
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V & A: Spectacular Craft

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If you’re in London and you’d like to see some lungs made out of glass (Annie Cattrell, below) or a table full of lace jellyfish (Anne Wilson), you should go and look at the V & A’s Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft exhibition.
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Don’t walk straight past Susan Collis’s more mundane-looking display: if you go up close you’ll see the paint-spattered table is not what it seems, and neither are the rawl plugs.

If you’re quick, you could walk from there up to the Serpentine Gallery, to see children being driven crazy by Anthony McCall.

South London Phonebox Mystery


This intriguing handwritten note was found in a Clapham phonebox – apparently a similar one was sighted in another part of South London a year ago. Being in a hurricane is no joke, it’s true, but who was the hurricane recorder? And why are they sharing their story with the users of a phonebox? My first assumption was that it’s a band promotion or an art thing, but there are no contact details. Anyone know any more about it?

Unexpected London Sight No. 3: The Agapemonite Church


Visiting a friend in Hackney a few years ago, we came across this magnificent church half-hidden away among some trees. What caught my eye initially was the unusual imagery of the statues above the door:

and the surprising nature of the services listed on the board:

A passing taxi driver screeched to a halt and hurried up to explain to us that he was a member of the Ancient Catholic Church who now use the building, and to recommend the great accuracy of the clairvoyants who do readings there on a Thursday night.
Further investigation revealed that the Church of the Good Shepherd had even stranger origins.

Continue Reading →

Unexpected London Sight No. 2: Floating Gardens


Walking by the river near Tower Bridge, I noticed a cluster of these surprising gardens on barges floating on the Thames – complete with fruit trees, shrubs, the works.

They turn out to be yet another London anomaly in need of saving – find out more about the Downings Road Moorings and the campaign to save them from eviction by Southwark council here. One of the council’s reasons is apparently that they are ‘visually detrimental’. How quince trees and lavender could be considered a blot on the landscape, while most of the Thames is being buried under swathes of repellent ‘luxury development’, it’s hard to say.

Unexpected London Sight No. 1: Brixton Windmill


The occasionally tough and extremely urban bit of South London where I live has one incongruous pastoral feature tucked away up a hill, where many people don’t even know it’s there – a windmill, complete with sails.

Although now mostly famous for its clubs and drug dealers, Brixton once looked like this:

Those days are long gone, but an army of Friends is dedicated to restoring the windmill to full working order.
Anyone got a more surreal feature than this in their vicinity?