Cabbies don’t just know the streets of London like the backs of their hands — they’ve got a wealth of trivia up their sleeves, too.
Pit your wits against the city’s black cab drivers by answering these 40 questions, taken from The London Cabbie’s Quiz Book — written by taxi driver, Ian Beetlestone.
(Hint: you might find a clue or two in a couple of the images)
1. Which two politicians had a much analysed dinner at Granita restaurant (now closed) in Upper Street in 1994?
2. In the second half of the 20th century, Berwick Street also became famous for its record shops. It’s fitting, then, that a photograph of the street appeared on the cover of a 1995 album by which zeitgeisty British band? What was the name of the album?
3. Across the Long Water from Serpentine Bridge is a statue to which fictional children’s hero? Who had it erected?
4. The equestrian statue of King Charles I on the roundabout between Whitehall and Trafalgar Square stands on the site of the original Charing Cross. What does this spot officially mark?
5. Which monument, on your right as you drive along the Victoria Embankment, was originally constructed in Egypt around 1450 BCE? What is erroneous about the way it was installed in London?
6. In December 1952 bus driver Albert Gunter earned his place in London lore when he did what on Tower Bridge?
7. 1950s Stepney is the setting for which memoir by Jennifer Worth, made into a hit BBC drama broadcast throughout the 2010s?
8. The Limehouse area along the River Thames was the original home of which immigrant community, now more readily associated with an area in the West End?
9. What is the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street?
10. Which hospital stood in what is now Liverpool Street from 1247 until 1676, when it moved to Moorfields? How has its name become part of the English language?
11. In City Road, as you pass the junction with Shepherdess Walk, you see a pub on your right that features in a famous nursery rhyme. What’s the name of the pub? And the nursery rhyme?
12. Just off Brixton Road, a mural of which one-time local became the focus of candlelit vigils in January 2016, after his death in New York aged 69?
13. What inconvenience first befell London motorists in Great Cumberland Place in September 1960?
14. At the north end of Battersea Bridge is a statue of a 19th century American artist who settled in London and took inspiration from this stretch of the River Thames. A small residential street nearby is named after him. Who is the artist, and what is the name of the street?
15. From what does Piccadilly take its name?
16. Who opened a refuge ‘for affording temporary food and shelter for destitute females on their discharge from the Metropolitan gaols’ at 195 Mare Street in 1860?
17. Fassett Square, in Dalston, was the blueprint for which fictional square? That square itself is in which fictional district, named after a road a little further north, in Stoke Newington?
18. A blue plaque towards the southern end of Westferry Road marks the launch site of which ship in 1858? At the time it was the largest ship in the world. Who designed it?
19. Who, led by Annie Besant, went on strike in Fairfield Road, just south of Tredegar Road, in 1888?
20. Artists Bridget Riley, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen are all alumni of which educational institution, based in New Cross?
21. One of the National Maritime Museum’s most prized exhibits is the coat worn by whom, and where, in 1805?
22. Which pioneering film actor and director was born near Elephant and Castle in 1889? Which other film actor – famous for his cockney accent – was born here in 1933?
23. Whose funeral cortege did Mary Shelley watch going past her window in Kentish Town Road in 1824?
24. In the 1970s, a series of sightings of what, where in Highgate, caused a media sensation?
25. What nickname is sometimes used to refer to The Bishop’s Avenue, on account of its gargantuan houses (and their prices)? According to his 2012 memoir Joseph Anton, which author was obliged to live here for a time in the 1990s, and why?
26. How is the distinctive street pattern just north of Endymion Road colloquially known?
27. Which British film – partly set in nearby Camden Town – closes with an out-of-work actor performing a Shakespeare soliloquy in the rain in Regent’s Park? Which Shakespeare play is he quoting from? And why are wolves wandering around behind him?
28. What were the ‘seven sisters’ from which Seven Sisters Road takes its name?
29. What is the hospital in Hammersmith called? Why? And where is Hammersmith Hospital?
30. Putney Bridge is unique among London’s River Thames bridges in that it still has what at both ends, historically a common sight at river crossings generally?
31. The site of which 1988 disaster is marked by a memorial in Spencer Park?
32. A blue plaque at 3 Court Lane Gardens in Dulwich marks the birthplace of which heroine of London adventurers, born in 1906?
33. Honor Oak Road, off London Road, is named after a tree beneath which who is said to have dined and rested on a journey to Lewisham in 1602?
34. In Woburn Place is London’s largest what? What does it boast 1,630 of? What is its name?
35. Who was arrested at Heathrow Airport on 8th June 1968, attempting to board a flight to Brussels? For what crime?
36. Which Edinburgh firm opened a factory in Harlesden in 1902, and has been sweetening the air nearby ever since?
37. What is Walthamstow’s postcode, and what’s it got to do with Christmas 1994?
38. In the 1950s, fifty thousand people were employed where, in Dagenham?
39. King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park is famous for its protected views of what?
40. Michael O’Brien achieved what first at Twickenham Stadium in 1974?
1. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – they supposedly made a Labour Party leadership succession pact there on this occasion.
2. Oasis; (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
3. Peter Pan; JM Barrie (Peter Pan’s author)
4. The centre of London, for the purpose of measuring distance to London (for example, on motorway signs)
5. Cleopatra’s Needle; two sphinxes lie facing the needle – in ancient Egypt they would have been facing away from it, as its guardians.
6. Realising the bridge was opening, and it being too late to brake, Gunter slammed his foot on the accelerator and his bus leaped the gap.
7. Call the Midwife.
8. Chinese (Chinatown is now in the West End).
9. The Bank of England’s nickname.
10. Bethlehem or Bethlem Hospital; the word ‘bedlam’ is a corruption of its name.
11. The Eagle; Pop Goes the Weasel (‘Up and down the City Road / In and out of the Eagle’).
12. David Bowie.
13. The first parking ticket was issued.
14. James Abbott McNeill Whistler; Whistlers Avenue.
15. The piccadill – a type of collar fashionable in the seventeenth century, and from which tailor Robert Baker made his fortune before building his home nearby.
16. Elizabeth Fry.
17. Albert Square (Eastenders) in Walford, after Walford Road.
18. The SS Great Eastern; Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
19. The ‘Match Girls’ – female workers at the Bryant & May factory here.
20. Goldsmiths College.
21. Lord Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar.
22. Charlie Chaplin; Michael Caine.
23. Lord Byron’s.
24. Vampires, at Highgate Cemetery.
25. Billionaires’ Row; Salman Rushdie lived in a high-securityhouse here for his own safety after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for writing The Satanic Verses.
26. The Haringey Ladder.
27. Withnail and I; Hamlet; they are in the wolves’ enclosure in London Zoo, which is located in Regent’s Park.
28. Seven elm trees.
29. Charing Cross Hospital; it was originally sited just off Strand in Charing Cross, but relocated to Hammersmith in 1973; further north in Du Cane Road, White City.
30. A church.
31. The Clapham Junction rail crash, a passenger train collision that killed thirty-five people.
32. Phyllis Pearsall, creator of the A–Z Map.
33. Queen Elizabeth I.
34. Hotel; rooms; The Royal National Hotel.
35. James Earl Ray; the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
37. E17, which gave local band East 17 their name; they had a Christmas No 1 in 1994 with Stay Another Day.
38. Ford Motor Company.
39. St Paul’s Cathedral.
40. He was televised sport’s first streaker.
0-10: Wouldn’t trust you on a Santander Cycle, mate.
11-20: Maybe you’ll be an Uber driver one day.
21-30: Baby, you can drive my car.
31-39: Is that a swollen hippocampus, or did your score just give you a big head?
40: You’re a cabbie, aren’t you.
The London Cabbie’s Quiz Book by Ian Beetlstone is available now, RRP £14.99