Sunday 18 March 2007

London Pavements


Books by foreign visitors often are the best reports of London life, as they tend to remark on things native Londoners would have taken for granted. Take this from W. O'Daniel, an American unimpressed by 1850s London streets (whose book I recently acquired ... more excerpts may follow):- "Judge then my disappointment on entering London to see no signs of that opulence so much talked of abroad; wherever I turn I am presented with a gloomy solemnity in the houses, streets and the inhabitants; none of that beautiful gilding which makes a principal ornament in Chinese architecture. The streets of Nankin are sometimes strewed with goldleaf: very different are those of London; in the midst of their pavements a great lazy puddle moves muddily along; heavy laden machines with wheels of unwieldy thickness crowd up every passage; so that a stranger instead of finding time for observation is often happy if he has time to escape from being crushed to pieces. The side-walks are exceedingly low and very narrow. Oxford, Regent, Cannon and a few other streets are the only exceptions. I have frequently seen brewers' teams and others come within one foot of the store windows, and have been obliged to jump into a store door to escape being struck. To walk two or three abreast in the city is perfectly impossible. In very few streets is there any protection to the curb and consequently the hubs of the wheels, especially when passing other teams, extends several inches over the side-walk. "

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