Hi folks! Back in 2015 I put together a tour around London taking in the famed properties of the Monopoly board. It took all day and was mostly on foot, although a couple of bus rides make it quicker to travel between some of the far-flung places.
It was great fun, and I learnt a lot about the places we visited. I thought I’d share it with everyone. It’d be great if someone else wanted to give it a go! Here’s all the information, and maps, plus bonus points of interest along the way, marked with an asterisk.
LONDON MONOPOLY TOUR
Meeting point: Elephant & Castle tube station (morning).
Opened in 1906. The first baby born on the underground was born here in 1924. Press reports claimed she had been named Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor (so her initials would read T.U.B.E) but this was false. She was actually named Marie Cordery.
Said to be a corruption of ‘Infanta of Castile’ after a Spanish princess once engaged to Charles I, but in fact named for the emblem of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, one of the ancient City of London livery companies, given royal charter by Henry V in 1416. The cutlers made swords and knives, as well as razors and scissors. The emblem shows an elephant with a castle on its back, which seems to be a European derivation of the Hindi ‘howdah’, which was a seat or a carriage carried by an elephant or a camel. For the cutlers, the elephant represents the ivory used for handles in their high-end products, and carrying a castle is a symbol of strength.
Here, the name comes from a coaching inn. The earliest record of the name is from 1765, but the site had previously been occupied by a blacksmith and cutler. And in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, in Act 3 Antonio says, “In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge.” 250 years later, in March this year (2015) the current pub had its licence revoked after a drinker was stabbed in the head with a pen, which had to be removed in hospital.
Charlie Chaplin and Michael Caine both grew up in the area.
– Go to bus stop E, catch no. 63, 363, 453, 168, 53, or 172 to 3rd stop, Dunton Rd / Tesco
- Old Kent Rd – £60 – equal cheapest
One of the oldest roads in England, part of the Roman road from London to Dover via Canterbury – ‘Watling Street’ during Saxon times. Pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales travelled along the road. A little further down was the bridge crossing called St Thomas-a-Watering over the River Neckinger and in 1550 was considered the limit of the City of London’s authority. Nearby is the Thomas a Becket pub, marking the first resting point for pilgrims en route to Canterbury. It was also where criminals were executed, then their bodies left on display.
– Walk back to a northbound bus stop, catch no. 42 to Tower Bridge
* Bricklayers’ Arms roundabout: coaching inns on the site for over 600 years. A stopping point where coaches to or from the City of London would set down or pick up passengers to and from the West End.
* Tower Bridge: opened in 1894. There’s a cast iron chimney (on the Tower side) painted to resemble a lamp-post. It’s a flue for a former guardhouse, now a café.
The upper span of Tower Bridge was originally a walkway but it was closed in 1910 as it had become a haunt of prostitutes.
- Jail option 1: The Tower
Established by William the Conqueror in 1066 – he was known as William the Bastard before he conquered England. Used as a prison from 1100 to 1952 – the Kray twins (Ronnie and Reggie) were among the last. During World War II, it was used to hold POWs. The last person executed at the Tower was a German spy, Josef Jakobs, killed by firing squad in 1941.
The royal menagerie was founded by King John in the early 1200s. There were all sorts of animals, including lions. There was also a polar bear, said to be the luckiest animal there, because it got the chance to hunt for fish in the Thames, on a long lead.
*Crosswall: crossed the Roman wall. Previously John St, after King John, but renamed after wall was discovered after bombing in 1940.
- Fenchurch St Station – £200
The first station built in the City of London, opened in 1841. Fenchurch in Douglas Adams’ So Long And Thanks for All the Fish was named after it – conceived in the ticket queue.
* Crutched Friars: Catholic religious order, named for the staff they carry, topped with a crucifix. First came to England in 1244, and settled in this part of London in 1249.
* Houndsditch: name first recorded in 1275, and was actually a trench outside the wall where dead dogs were buried. In 1989 several dog skeletons were unearthed, possibly Roman.
- Whitechapel Rd – £60
Being outside the city walls and official controls, over the centuries Whitechapel became increasingly overcrowded, and the poverty in the 1880s described as worse than Russia or New York. The police estimated that there were 1,200 prostitutes and about 62 brothels. But the juxtaposition of extreme poverty with great wealth attracted reformers and revolutionaries including George Bernard Shaw and Lenin.
Once part of the Roman road from Aldgate to Colchester, and like Old Kent Rd had numerous coaching inns. In the 14th century a chapel-of-ease was established here – an additional church built in part of a parish where residents can’t easily reach the main parish church. It was whitewashed, and known as the ‘white chapel’. The Victorian church of St Mary built on the site was destroyed during the Blitz, eventually demolished, and the site became St Mary’s Gardens in 1966. In memory of victims of racist attacks, it was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1998 in memory of Altab Ali, a 25-yr-old Bangladeshi clothing worker who was murdered by 3 teenage boys while walking home from work.
Just up the road is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, established in 1570, but they can trace their founders back to 1420. In 1752 they cast the Libery Bell, and Big Ben in 1858. Parliament had burned down in 1834, and it was decided that the new building should have a clock tower. At 13.5 tons, it took 20 days to solidify and cool. When it was taken to Westminster, the streets were decorated and people cheered as it passed, on a trolley pulled by 16 horses. After 2 months of use, it cracked, due to being hit with a hammer more than twice the recommended weight. Out of service for 3 years, it had a piece cut out and a lighter hammer fitted. The crack gives the bell its distinctive tone.
* Wash House, Old Castle St: now part of the London Metropolitan University and holds the Women’s Library. Built in response to the 1846 Baths and Washhouses Act, for local people to wash themselves and laundry.
* Bishopsgate: named after one of the original 8 gates in the London Wall. In the Domesday Book, it was called ‘Porta Episcopi’, supposedly after St Erkenwald, bishop of London for 11 years in the late 7th century. Anglicised by the 12th century.
- Liverpool St Station – £200
Built in 1874 on the site of the old Bethlem Hospital, which treated the mentally ill and became known as ‘Bedlam’. In the Crossrail building site, a burial pit has been uncovered with a headstone marked 1665 and thought to be a plague pit. Roman skulls have also been unearthed here. The Walbrook river, paved over in the 15th century, is thought to have washed bones out of a Roman cemetery that then got caught at a bend in the river.
From 1938-1940 the Kindertransport brought around 10,000 mostly Jewish children to the UK. Those who arrived at English ports with pre-arranged billets came here by train.
– Cross the road and TURN LEFT for bus stop F, catch no.205
(Note: the bus travels from SE to NW)
(Note: the bus travels from east to west. Alight at The Angel Islington and continue on foot.)
- Angel Islington – £100
The first public house known at this spot was the Sheepcote in 1614, and the first confirmed use of The Angel name was when it was rebuilt in 1638, taking the name from the Angel of Annunciation on the sign. It was a coaching house that offered entertainment by groups of travelling actors. Demolished in 1819 and rebuilt, then rebuilt again near the turn of the 20th century. The only Monopoly space named for a building, included because a man from the manufacturing company and his wife decided to include it while having tea there.
- Pentonville Rd – £120
Britain’s first ring road, built in 1756 and called New Road and intended as a new drovers’ road for herding sheep and cattle to Smithfield Market. Captain Henry Penton, MP for Winchester, began to lay out London’s first planned suburb.
- King’s Cross Station – £200
Named for a statue of King George IV that stood at the junction of Euston, Pentonville and Gray’s Inn roads from 1830. It was removed after 15 years because it was unpopular with the locals, but the name stuck and was given to the station when it opened in 1852.
Believed to be the site of the battle between Boadicea and the Romans, and her final resting place – supposedly under platform 9. The battle took place at Broad Ford, the place to cross the River Fleet in the valley between King’s Cross and St Pancras, and became known as Battle Bridge (there’s a little street back between the stations with that name).
* St Pancras: in 597, Roman monks brought relics of the martyr St Pancras, and built a church where St Pancras Old Church now is (behind the station).
- Euston Rd – £100
Also part of the original ring road, it formed the outer edge of the city, like the M25 of the 18th century. Named after local landowner the 2nd Duke of Grafton’s country seat of Euston Hall in Suffolk.
Catch bus no.205 or 18 to Marylebone Station
(Note: bus travels from east to west)
- Marylebone Station – £200
Opened in 1899, the youngest and smallest of London’s mainline stations. Also diesel-only, having no electric lines. And the cheapest major London station for filming: some scenes from The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night were filmed here. George Harrison went on to marry one of the schoolgirls who appeared in the film.
- Oxford St – £300
Europe’s busiest shopping street. Originally called Tyburn Rd, as the Tyburn River had run along here. The road connected Newgate Prison and Tyburn, and condemned prisoners were taken along it to be hanged from the Tyburn tree at Marble Arch. In 1962, Beatles manager Brian Epstein visited the HMV to discuss turning their demos. The disc cutter was so impressed that he called a publisher from the top floor, who in turn called George Martin at Parlophone Records, and got them a contract. In the ’80s and earlier, several people claimed that there’s a cobbled street beneath it, with abandoned Victorian shops, that’s accessible from some of the modern shop basements.
- Park Lane – £350
Hyde Park used to have a high wall along it. After it was replaced with a railing in the 1820s, and the entrances were refurbished, it began to become a fashionable place to live. Fred and Adele Astaire lived in a penthouse at no.41 in 1923 while performing in the West End. Several buildings were damaged by bombing during WW2.
- Mayfair – £400 – the only space named for a suburb
Named after the May Fair that took place in the open fields of Shepherd’s Market at the east edge of Hyde Park. At its peak it lasted for 16 days, before being moved to Haymarket in 1764 after apparently “falling into disrepute” and attracting “undesirables”.
- Electric Company – £150
Brown Hart Gardens, off Duke St. Originally a communal garden, in 1902 the Westminster Electricity Supply Corp. suggested building a chamber for transformers and covering it with a garden. The Grosvenor Estate board weren’t impressed, but continuing complaints against “disorderly boys”, “verminous women” and “tramps” in the garden helped convince them. Designed by C. Stanley Peach, it opened in 1906 and it might be the only place in London where quarrelling is forbidden by law.
* Berkeley Square: famous for the song A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. The plane trees were planted in 1789. 50 Berkeley Sq (down the west side) is supposedly the most haunted house in London, and it’s said that every person who has witnessed the apparitions has died of shock. And a psychic will apparently feel the equivalent of an electric shock just by touching the brickwork. The Queen was born in a house in Bruton St.)
- Bond St – £320
Developed in 1700 by Sir Thomas Bond, and has always been a popular shopping street. The ‘old’ part, at the southern end, was developed first, with the ‘new’ northern part added 14 years later. The two parts have always had a separate names, and a council plan in the 1920s to just have the one name was rejected by locals. Look out for the spot where you can find both streets signs together: Old Bond St, and New Bond St.
* Burlington Arcade: from 1819, the oldest covered shopping precinct in the world. It is officially forbidden to run or whistle inside. Prostitutes once used rooms on the first floor, and would whistle to alert the pickpockets down below of police. But Paul McCartney was given an exemption.
* Savile Row: tailors starting working in the area in the late 18th century, and house frontages were altered to add more glass to give more light to the tailors’ working areas. The term ‘bespoke’ is said to have originated in Savile Row. To be part of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, tailors need to put in at least 50 hours of hand sewing for every 2-piece suit.
- Marlborough St – £180
In Soho, which is said to be an old hunting cry.
Liberty’s Tudor-revival store was built in 1924, from the timbers of two ships.
- Regent St – £300
The world’s first shopping street, created in 1825 to link the Regent’s Park area with Charing Cross. It’s a protected conservation area, as every building is listed, although they were all rebuilt (except the church) with strict conditions after 1895 as they were small and increasingly unsuitable.
- Vine St – £200
It used to be longer! The name seems to come from the Vine public house, which existed in the 18th century if not earlier. From 1829 it became best known for its police station, said to be the busiest in the world. In 1895 the Marquess of Queensberry (famous for the boxing rules) was brought here for libel against Oscar Wilde, that ended with Wilde being imprisoned for gross indecency.
- Piccadilly – £280
In the middle ages, known as ‘the road to Reading’. Around 1611, Robert Baker bought land in the area and became successful by making and selling piccadills, stiff lace collars like those worn by Elizabeth I, and locals derisively called his house ‘Pickadill Hall’. It was previously known at Portugal St after Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II.
- Coventry St – £260
Designed for commercial and entertainment purposes rather than residences, in 1681. Named after Henry Coventry, politician and secretary of state to Charles II. Between 1890-1900 Charles Hirsch, a French bookseller, sold French literature as well as expensive pornography. The street suffered significant bomb damage.
- Leicester Square – £260
One of the earliest maps of the area, created between 1570-1605 shows the site as a drying-ground for clothes, with cattle grazing nearby. Laid out in 1670 as a residential area, and named after the 2nd Earl of Leicester. At the end of the 17th century it was a famous duelling spot.
- Pall Mall – £140
Pall Mall runs parallel to The Mall, and both are named after a fashionable ball game played there in the 17th century. Pall-mall or pell-mell comes from the Italian pallamaglio (‘mallet ball’). A round ball is hit with a mallet through a high iron arch, and whoever has the least number of hits wins. Like a cross between croquet and golf… When Henry VIII laid out St James’s Park in the 16th century, a wall was built along its north side, along the road from Charing Cross to St James’s Palace. In 1630 the area’s first pall-mall court was laid out north of the road. In 1660 a new one was made in the park, just south of the wall, but suffered from dust blown over from coaches on the road. So they moved the road north, and called it Catherine Street, but it was commonly known as Pall Mall Street.
- Income Tax (HMRC)
Walk south down the eastern edge of St James’s Park. Turn left (east) onto Great George St, then left (north) onto Whitehall to see the HQ of the UK tax office on the left. You’ll see the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey on the way.
* Big Ben: in 1995 a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand of Big Ben and put the time back by five minutes.
- Whitehall – £140
Named after the Palace of Whitehall that was destroyed by fire in 1698, it was originally a wide road leading to the front of the palace.
Look out for the Monument to the Women of WW2, from 2005.
- Northumberland Ave – £160
Built on the home of the Dukes of Northumberland in the 1870s, designed for luxury accommodation.
- Trafalgar Square – £240
Completed in 1845 as a redevelopment for former royal mews. Nelson’s Column is 170 feet tall, but was originally designed to be more than 200 feet. Hitler had a plan to dismantle it and display it in Berlin.
The lions were cast in bronze melted down from the cannons of French and Spanish ships in the battle of Trafalgar.
The fountains were installed in 1841 to counteract the reflected heat from asphalt paving, and also to reduce the available space for public gathering and potential rioting! They were replaced in the 1930s, with the originals now in Canada.
Set into the steps are the standard Imperial measures of length in brass plaques. Centuries ago, the Exchequer used ‘tally sticks’ in 2 parts to document its accounting, so recordings could only be done when both parties came together. As the clerks became literate, the sticks became outdated, so they were abolished. On the 16th October 1834 the Clerk of Works at the Palace of Westminster decided they should be burned, in the furnace that heated the House of Lords. It set fire to the panelling, and destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster, including the standards of the Imperial units of measurement. New standards were created in triplicate to prevent losing them again, with copies in the Guildhall, the Greenwich Observatory, and here.
Smallest police station – a light fitting hollowed out in 1926 to keep an eye on demonstrators, with a phone link to Scotland Yard. If the phone was picked up, the light on top would flash to alert any nearby officers. Look closely at a windowed pillar at the eastern side of the square.
- Strand – £220
The word ‘strand’ in Old English means shore, and referred to the shallow river bank. The street’s name was first recorded in 1002 as Strondway, and by 1220 La Stranda. It was used by the Romans, and in the Middle Ages became the main road between London and the Palace of Westminster
* The Savoy: the magnificent Savoy Palace was the residence of John of Gaunt, Richard II’s uncle, but was destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. In 1512 it was rebuilt as the Savoy Hospital, but was demolished in the 19th century.
* Twining’s: London’s oldest rate-payer, operating continuously from the same site since 1706. They also have the world’s oldest company logo, above the door since 1787. It’s very tiny, and opposite the very large Royal Courts of Justice, so look closely!
* Covent Garden: actually a spelling mistake. It was used by Westminster Abbey and was known as the ‘garden of the abbey and convent’.
- Bow St – £180
Developed in 1633 and named ‘Bow’ because of the shape of the road. Oliver Cromwell lived here for a time, as did woodcarver Grinling Gibbons. In the early 18th century it developed a reputation for pornography. By 1740 there were 8 pubs, that hid several brothels.
Marlborough, Vine and Bow street all have a connection to the law.
- Fleet St – £220
Named for the bridge over the River Fleet at its east end.
Famous for the newspapers that used to be based here, and still used as a term for the British press. Publishing began here around 1500, mainly supplying the legal trade in the area.
* Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese: a pub, and was the first new building to open after the Great Fire. It once housed a parrot known far and wide for its extensive vocabulary of swear-words. When it died in 1926, obituaries appeared in newspapers around the world.
Phew! It was a very long day, but it was actually really enjoyable, and we finished up with dinner at a pub. I highly recommend the Cheshire Cheese mentioned above for its old and meandering interior. There are a couple of other pubs on the Strand (plus a McDonald’s), and also some nice ones along Whitehall.
~ L.Q. ~