The secret Londoners and their love for the capital…
From finance to food to fashion, London’s the everything capital of the world. No wonder you’ve got everyone from the Abramovichs to Beckhams calling the capital home. But turn the books of history and you’d find so many more notable names who’ve been Londoners in their lifetime.
We’ve picked out a few secret Londoners, take a look:
Voltaire, the French philosopher, lived in London for almost three years in the 1720s. He had been exiled from France as a result of a fracas and was a fervent admirer of the English government. He was however chased through the streets of London by a mob as a result of being so obviously French but his quick wits saved him as he told the mob “Brave Englishmen, am I not already unfortunate enough not to have been born among you?” He then wandered back to his dwellings thought to have been in Maiden Lane.
Van Gogh also spent time in our capital both in Brixton and Isleworth. He arrived in 1873 and worked as an assistant at the art dealers Goupil and Co. in Bedford Street. But his time at 87 Hackford Road SW9 lasted only weeks before he was emotionally rejected by the daughter of the landlady. Returning in 1876 proved more favourable, professionally at least as the local clergyman was so impressed by van Gogh’s religious fervor that he employed him as a part-time preacher in his church.
Peter the Great
Peter the Great, the Russian Tsar, went on a tour around Europe in the late 1690s to study western technology, especially shipbuilding. Staying in England for four months, he rented a house called Sayes Court in Deptford from the diarist John Evelyn. He proved a tenant from hell as he destroyed the carefully tended gardens belonging to Evelyn and as he took delight in being pushed through the hedges on a wheelbarrow by his servants. Sayes Court Park stands on the site of the garden that Peter ruined.
Mahatma Gandhi came to London as a law student in the late 1880s and lived for a while in Barons Court Road. He came back to the capital in 1931 as a spiritual leader of Indian nationalism and “the little man with no proper clothes on”, as George the Fifth once described him.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh, the future president of North Vietnam worked as a vegetable cook in 1914 at the Carlton Hotel, which was destroyed in the Blitz and is now the site of New Zealand House. The restaurant in the hotel was Churchill’s favourite at the time and it is possible he may have eaten food prepared by the man who later founded the Vietnamese Communist Party.
John Harvard, the man who gave his name to one of America’s finest universities, in fact only spent a year of his life over the pond. He was born in Southwark in 1607, the son of a butcher, and baptised in what is now Southwark Cathedral.
Bob Hope, likewise an American institution, was born in Craigton Road, Eltham in 1903 and lived to be 100 years old. Hid family left in 1907 and he became a dancer, joined the vaudeville circuit and then struck lucky in Hollywood. As Hope himself said, “I left England at the age of four when I found out I couldn’t be King”.
Sigmund Freud is arguably better known for his connection with London and his time at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, where there is now a small museum in his name, complete with the famous couches. This is where he lived after a brief stay in Primrose Hill on arriving from exile from Vienna.
His Hampstead home is where he wrote Moses and Monotheism, his last significant work before he died of cancer of the jaw in 1939.
Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books and creator of Tingo, an iPhone App Quiz on interesting Words.