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Many of you coming to London to study on an English course will not have to buy the famous “London A-Z”.  It was created in 1934 by Phyllis Pearson, a lady of a certain age who walked 17000 streets in London to map the city.  I often see students at the Islington Centre of English check their smart phones to find the street they need. Recently a student in my class checked with me that the Moument in Monument Street at the North end of London Bridge was where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. In fact the 62m tall Monument, which you can climb inside to the top for a wonderful view, is…
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When you come to England to study English in London you must try the legendary full English breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes and Heinz baked beans. It was 130 years ago that the, now ubiquitous, baked beans were introduced by London’s most famous grocers, Fortnum and Mason. Charles Fortnum was a footman for George III, the King featured in the film 'The Madness of King George'. When Charles retired he used his knowledge of the Royal household to setup a grocery shop at 181 Piccadilly, W1 in the 1770s. His partner John Mason set up Mason’s Stables to house the horses u…
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If you come to the Islington Centre for English next year and have an interest in political history than no doubt Great Windmill Street in Soho, central London, will be a place to visit.  This was where communism was born 70 years ago. At number 20 was the Red Lion Pub where in 1848 Karl Marx introduced to the world his Communist Manifesto giving lectures in the rooms above. What was a classic London pub is now a cocktail bar called Bar One. He lived at no 28 and 64 Dean Street and walked every day to the British Museum to write “Das Kapital”. In those days Soho was a deprived London area wher…
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Operating Theatre

Aug 30, 2017
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Let’s hope you stay happy and healthy when you come to learn English at the Islington Centre of English but if, sadly, you have to be admitted to hospital you may be taken an operating theatre. The higher-level students of English may query the word “theatre”. Surgeons operating on patients do not expect applause, as they are not in a “theatre”. However nearly 200 years ago they did operate in theatres as the public were allowed to watch operations. Some were restricted to medical students and the most famous today is the one in the chapel tower of Old St Thomas’ hospital in St Thomas Street a…
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How many of you students of English in London know the meaning of the word “flask”.  In my dictionary it says: “ a narrow necked bulbous bottle for wine or as used in chemistry”. In the 1700s the Flask pub in Flask Walk, Hampstead, not far from central London, was named because it supplied bulbous bottles to Mr Phelps at the Eagle and Star pub in Fleet Street right in the centre of London and also two other pubs. But it was not wine in the flasks but water. As one of Hampstead’s attractions was the pure water from the Chalybeate springs which came out of the ground and was the safest liquid an…
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I know many of you are fans of the world famous English detective Sherlock Holmes and plan to visit his museum at 221B Baker Street in the heart of Central London. An employee there answers the thousands of letters sent from all over the world asking for the detective’s help. You need to walk down Baker Street and look at number 109, as this is what 221B would have looked like in Holmes’s day. Near Trafalgar Square which is literally the centre of London is “The Sherlock Holmes” pub at 10 Northumberland Avenue. This was once the Northumberland Arms Hotel and Conan Doyle has   Henry Baskervil…
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Did everyone enjoy the English heat wave last week when Central London basked in temperatures of 31-33 degrees C? I had a pleasant cold beer in Red Lion Square in Holborn where I noticed a Blue Plaque announcing that no 12 Red Lion Square was once the home of John Harrison watch and clock maker who saved thousands of lives. In the 18th century, he invented a clock and then a pocket watch that kept excellent time on board ship resisting changes in pressure, humidity, temperature and the rocking of the ship. It effectively solved the problem of measuring longitude so ships could calculate accura…
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So students of English in central London! When you complete your course at ICE will you get maried? Are you already married, if so what kind of cake did you have at the wedding? The traditional English wedding cake is a rich fruitcake covered in marzipan and icing and in three tiers. It was William Rich, who in a baker’s shop at 3 Ludgate Hill, introduced this cake for weddings around 1775. Every day William passed St Bride’s church in Fleet Street, central London. He admired the spire, which has four octagonal arcades or tiers capped by an obelisk. William thought “St Bride’s Church and brid…
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Students of English in the centre of London make sure, if you are invited to a party at 23 or 24 Leinster Gardens W2 close to Paddington railway station, that you don’t go. This is because, although 23 and 24 look as beautiful as the other five-storey houses in the street there are no houses it is just a 1.6-metre facade. The houses were demolished in 1868 to extend the Metropolitan underground line west from Paddington to Bayswater. The Metropolitan line was the first underground railway in the world starting in 1863 and going east from Paddington to Farringdon. The engines were steam powered…
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OK students of English, what is London’s most famous hotel? The answer is possibly The Savoy in the centre of London off the Strand. Opened in 1889 the first manager was not English but Swiss, Cesar Ritz and the chef was Auguste Escoffier whose mouthwatering dishes led to the expression to “scoff” your food meaning to eat far too quickly. Claude Monet painted “Waterloo Bridge” from his balcony, Johann Strauss was the leader of the hotel’s orchestra and a dishwasher, Guccio Gucci was so inspired by the rich, he returned to Italy to establish his now famous luxury goods company. In 1899 Ritz was…
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