Edinburgh Castle and Ross Fountain (Dreamstime)
List 17 May

Local Stories – 10 entertaining historic tales from the corners of British cities

(Sponsored Content) - British cities are full of fascinating local stories. Here are 9 entertaining tales of eccentric characters and urban legends from London, Bristol and Edinburgh, all Mercure Hotels lo

EDINBURGH

 

1: The Duke of Princes Street’s legacy


Edinburgh cityscape (Dreamstime)

Princes Street is one of Edinburgh’s main thoroughfares, and few loved it more than the late Ivor Guild.

Locally and affectionately known as the Duke of Princes Street, Guild lived in a room with few possessions at the New Club (a private social club) on the street for 57 years, until his death at the age of 90 in 2015. He never owned his own property and never married, nor did he have any children.

Upon his passing, it was revealed that Guild was sitting on a fortune of £26million, some of which was split between his three nieces and nephews, the rest gifted to the city. When asked why he stayed at the New Club so long, among his replies were: “A great advantage was that I could walk to work in seven minutes."

 

2: The Lone Piper at Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has been the setting of myth and legend throughout Britain’s history. It’s considered one of the most haunted places in Scotland, with the Lone Piper as one of the most talked about ghost tales.

The story goes that hundreds of years ago residents discovered trails beneath the castle, so they sent a piper boy down to investigate. He was instructed to play his pipes continuously so that they could locate him, but at some point the sound ceased and he was never seen again. It’s thought that you can hear the ghost of the piper boy playing down these spooky corridors.

 

3: Remembering Greyfriars Bobby

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby (Dreamstime)

Greyfriars Bobby is a household name in Edinburgh. This Skye Terrier was a lifelong pal of John Gray, a night watchmen who kept the streets of Edinburgh safe in the mid-19th century. 

The pair were inseparable right up until John died of tuberculosis in 1858.
Legend has it that Bobby sat by his master’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard every waking minute for 14 years after his death. 

The little hound was such an iconic part of Edinburgh life that, after his death in 1872, a statue of Bobby was erected. It can still be seen opposite the graveyard. Disney even made a film about the dog in the 1960s.

 

BRISTOL

 

4: The extraordinary life of DJ Derek

Bristol graffiti featuring DJ Derek (Dreamstime)

Until the late 1970s, Derek Serpell-Morris was just a humble accountant from Bristol. Little did anyone expect that this man would become one of the most admired DJs of his time, stumbling into a career that was revered by leading figures in the industry, including fellow Bristol natives Massive Attack.

DJ Derek was best known for playing reggae, ska, and dancehall. He performed at Glastonbury, was given a Bristol Lord Mayor’s medal for his outstanding contribution to music, and appeared in a Dizzee Rascal music video. He passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on as one of Bristol’s most treasured characters.

 

5: Brunel complained of train delays too

The Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is responsible for shaping several iconic Bristol landmarks, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Temple Meads Station, and the creation of the Great Western Railway link between Bristol and London.

However magnificent today, those projects didn’t always run smoothly, as two letters Brunel wrote in 1838 suggest. In these documents, Brunel complained of hold-ups and his dislike of certain contractors, proof that delays in the UK’s transport system aren’t just a 21st century problem.

 

6: Early protests from Banksy

https://track360.co/click_tag/7d0b2e3c-e996-412c-8016-0b7d93af407a Banksy's The Well Hung Lover (Dreamstime)

Any Banksy fan will know that the rumour mill has been awash with tip-offs that this prolific street artist is a Bristol local. Pieces of his early work can be found in the city, include the 1997 mural The Mild Mild West, which depicts a teddy bear hurling a Molotov cocktail at police. 

One of the more rebellious stories of Banksy’s presence in Bristol surrounds his controversial piece The Well Hung Lover on Frogmore Street. Spray-painted a stone’s throw from City Hall also in Banksy’s early days, the stencil was seen as an act of revolt against the council, who at the time condemned this kind of street art. 

 

LONDON

7: The curious case of Stanley Green

Oxford Street (Dreamstime)

Nicknamed ‘Protein Man’, Stanley Green was a staple of London’s Oxford Street during the 1970s and 1980s. Wearing a sandwich board warning passers-by of the damning effect of eating meat, eggs, fish, cheese and the like, Stanley would tirelessly march up and down this famous avenue. 

It’s said that Stanley printed his (questionable) leaflets in his own front room before handing them out to pedestrians as they strolled by. Stanley passed away in 1993, but to remember this character, recognised by thousands, his board and pamphlets were given to the Museum of London, where you can still see them on display today.

  

8: The Suffragettes at Speakers’ Corner

Situated on the northeast edge of Hyde Park, Speakers’ Corner is world famous for being a pinpoint of free speech. Since its creation in 1872, this tiny section of London has been a pivotal site for political, religious, or radical talks and demonstrations, a space where anyone can hop up on their soapbox and express their views. 

Among the most famous events that occurred here was a march of 250,000 women on June 21, 1908. The Suffragettes who organised this rally held meetings at the Corner every week, but this was one of their most momentous turnouts, with speeches at Speakers’ Corner and throughout the park in support of their cause.

 

9: Love letters from Keats' House 

Keats' House (Dreamstime)

The famous poet John Keats lived in a house in Hampstead from 1818 to 1820. During this time, Keats fell in love with his neighbour, Fanny Brawne, and the couple would write love letters to each other declaring their affections. 

While Fanny’s letter to Keats were buried with him after he died in Rome in 1821, Keats’ letter to Fanny were preserved and one was auctioned off to the City of London Corporation for £96,000. The letter is now on display at Keats House, a museum set up in the poet’s former home.

 

10: Tales of everyday self-sacrifice at Postman’s Park

Located next to the Museum of London and St Bart’s Hospital, Postman’s Park is a small area dedicated to everyday people who have given up their lives for someone else’s. The idea was conceived in the 1880s by George Frederic Watts, a painter who shunned the Queen’s offer of baronetcy, instead pining for a more humble existence. 

To show his respect for people he believed to be everyday heroes, he proposed a memorial park. The idea was initially denied funding, but after 10 years Watts finally saved the money for the project himself. Plaques are still erected in the park today. 

 

This article is an Online Promotion, supported by Mercure Hotels who have over 80 hotels found in Edinburgh, London, Bristol and throughout the UK and Europe. Mercure are currently sharing unique local stories and secrets from around the UK. To find out more, see www.mercure.com/local-stories

Main image: Edinburgh Castle and Ross Fountain (Dreamstime)