The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace… None of them interest me. I prefer learning about the parts of London you won’t find on a tea towel. You might dismiss them as ‘boring’. They’re not. You just need to find out what makes them special.
Central Wash, Queensway
The first coin-operated launderette in the UK, Central Wash, was opened by film star Jean Kent in 1949. The glamour of the hydro-extractor was irresistible for the people of Queensway – an article in Power Laundry magazine at the time said: ‘By 12.45pm, all but one of the machines were being used by customers.’
Tim Hunkin’s collection of satirical coin-operated machines includes a photobooth that distracts you as it takes your picture, remote-control paparazzi drones and a solar-eclipse booth. They do late openings, but go when it’s quiet so you can try ‘Microbreak’ – a three-minute package-holiday machine – in peace.
Barclays Bank, Enfield
The world’s first cash machine arrived here in June 1967. A new technology was about to be introduced, one that would change the way customers accessed their money for ever. A celebrity was needed to preside over the momentous day, and so there was only one choice: Reg Varney from sitcom ‘On the Buses’.
Lost Property Office, Baker Street
The place where misplaced umbrellas, prosthetic limbs and iPhones come to rest. The window displays illustrate some of the items that have been handed in. A friend told me that when she went to collect a bag she’d left on a bus, the loose change inside had been removed and kept in the safe for security.
Built in the 1790s, the Horse Hospital is no longer a place for injured equines. Tucked away behind Russell Square tube station, the building hosts exhibitions, screenings and performances on often obscure, unusual and sometimes dark themes.
James Ward is the author of ‘Adventures in Stationery’ and will host the sold-out Boring Conference at Conway Hall on Sat May 6.
Main image: Novelty Automation
Want more capital banality? Check out London's boring but inexplicably beautiful buildings.