Mark Mason

The secrets of London by postcode: NW (North West)

A Sherlock Holmes mystery, a band that caused an earthquake and a dog that inspired the Beatles

  • From Spectator Life
Madness in 1992 [Alamy]

This month our trivia-inspired tour of London’s postcode areas reaches NW, where Tim Burton snored, Madness caused an earthquake and Desmond Tutu asked policemen for directions even though he knew where he was going…

  • The Renaissance hotel at St Pancras station had the first revolving door in Britain. It was installed at the Midland Grand (as the hotel was then called) in 1899, by the device’s inventor Theophilus Van Kannel. (The door itself – or rather a modern replacement – is still in the same spot, at the entrance nearest the road, rather than the main one set further back.) Another innovation was the Ladies’ Smoking Room, the first in Europe where women could light up. And there was more girl power a century later, when the Spice Girls shot the video for Wannabe at the hotel. (Although, as they filmed it at night during a spell when the hotel was closed, the group were freezing cold – the resulting reaction from Mel B’s nipples meant the video was banned in some parts of Asia.) These days you can enjoy a meal in the Booking Office restaurant, so named because it used to be where the station sold you your train tickets. Rooms from £231.
The Booking Office restaurant at the Renaissance hotel [Marriott]
  • The second most famous resident of 221B Baker Street had a war wound that moved around his body. In the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, Dr Watson mentions that while serving in Afghanistan he was shot in the shoulder. But in the second story, The Sign of Four, he talks of ‘my wounded leg’. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came to write The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, he covered his mistake by having Watson describe the bullet ‘which I had brought back in one of my limbs’.

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