The shank’s pony part of my trip to town yesterday was essentially the route between Dr Johnson’s House, EC4 and the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, as covered previous. Most of this took me along High Holborn. Incidentally, Johnson’s house, strictly speaking, wasn’t his: he rented it. But directly in front of the building is an exceptionally pleasing statue of his cat, Hodge. Hodge was not his favourite, but in old age it could only survive on a diet of oysters, hence the shells. People leave coins on it, I’m not sure why.
I was pleased early on to find myself in front of the streetsign Gunpowder Square. Nothing to do with the Plot, presumably, but most appropriate given the date.
Just beyond Holborn Circus on the left, is a large Elizabethan building, nestling incongruously among the modern shops and offices. It is Staple Inn, dating from 1585. It survived the Great Fire but not the Luftwaffe. Luckily the bomb damage was not severe enough to prevent restoration.
At street level, Staple Inn is taken up with shops. It was very sad to see an old tobacconists – Shervingtons – had closed for business exactly one week earlier! I have failed to find any useful information on this shop, apart from listings portals. Perhaps they were stuck in their olde worlde ways (there appears to be no domain attached to this business) and this may have contributed to their demise. The ironic No Smoking stickers near the entrance perhaps give a further clue to the extinction to what seems to have been a noble institution. These are dark days.
Directly in front of Staple Inn, on a traffic island in the middle of High Holborn is a striking memorial statue to the Royal Fusiliers, also known as the City of London Regiment. Their pedigree stretches back to 1685. The statue is by Albert Toft (1862 – 1949).
On my return from the Cartoon Museum on the way to Holborn tube station, on the right, I find myself in front of my favourite London pub: The Princess Louise, deserved recipient of many an award. I could not pass without stopping for a pint. Sam Smith’s bitter, £2.05, not bad. Benefitting from a quite recent, sympathetic, restoration, the Victorian decor of this hostelry is simply stunning. Polished wood panelling by the acre, polished brass, stained glass, cut glass windows, mosaics, yellow light. In a word, ambience. And that’s only the gentlemen’s lavatory. Just kidding, but the Gents is impressive too. Huge porcelain urinals with polished brass fittings, decorative windows.