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  THE INTREPID FOX GIVES MAJOR CLUE AS TO IT'S NEW VENUE
11th March 2014

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intrepid fox

"On Newgate steps Jack Chance was found, and bred up near St Giles' Pound..."
Old Ballad

To blend historical fact with myth, legend and supposition is an art that enables you to litter clues to the truth along the way. So take my hand and walk with me through history... but always remember to tread carefully.

The Parish of St-Giles-In-The-Fields, where The Intrepid Fox currently stands, is a fascinating place. "For most of it's history St Gile's was a place where the outcasts gathered together to live..."

According to existing records the earliest notice of the district, dated c1118, state that a hospital for lepers was founded here by the wife of the head of the monarchy, Queen Matilda. In almost every ancient town in England the church of St Giles stands outside the walls, an allusion to the arrangements of the Israelites of old who placed their lepers outside the camp. Malcontents, misanthropes and misfits: fuck 'em, let 'em live outside "society". Some things never change...

Article continues below...

   


In 1417 Sir John Oldcastle, the inspiration for Shakespeare's Falstaff, was burned alive for heresy here. As the flames engulfed him Sir John is said to have cursed the land and surrounding area, the executioner, the King and all his descendants. Perhaps his ghost still lingers: the "Curse of Falstaff", still wreaking havoc...

Before the infamous "Tyburn Tree" was erected in 1571 to hang criminals, situated near the modern Marble Arch; gallows stood near the north-west corner of the hospital in St Giles. Lord Cobham and some of the accomplices of Babington's plot against Queen Elizabeth danced the devil's jig there. This led to the custom of allowing the malefactor in the fatal cart, whilst passing the tavern known as The Angel pub now, to indulge in a 'bowl' of ale before their date with destiny.

For nearly 200 years this practice continued, with the man with his hand on the lever in the 1680's being the notorious Jack Ketch with his sombre cape covering his head...

If you take a good walk about the area you'll notice on the western side of the church, the arch adorned with a beautiful bas-relief of the Day of Judgement. This was formerly the northern gate to the churchyard, dating from the days of Charles II, carefully moved and re-erected "where it will command a prominent position towards the new street that is destined sooner or later to be opened from Tottenham Court Rd to St Martin's Lane".

I sense the perverse stench of the corporate hand again when I hear the words "destined sooner or later to be opened": part of the "Resurrection Gateway" to Covent Garden, methinks. Fuck anyone in the way who isn't protected...

But the area is historically most well-known for being the site of one of the worst slum/ghetto areas in London: the infamous "St Giles rookery"...

In 1666 The Great Fire of London displaced many thousands of people: many of them were "re-housed" in St Giles. Over the next 100 years conditions deteriorated drastically: poorly built dwellings; slime and putrification; lack of sanitation; poverty; squalor; decay and despair. A community with no hope: "a danger and a problem to be eradicated".

A maze of narrow alleyways, shattered buildings, people crammed 10 to a room; with the general perception of the occupants by the authorities of them being "drunken, lazy, criminal and sexually promiscuous..."

Landlords callously profiteering from multiple sub-letting of shoddy tenements. A massive influx of immigrants exploited by greed. Compensation for the owners when their buildings were demolished, but the tenants were simply expected to disperse. To fucking where? "It was as if the authorities simply expected the poor to vanish into thin air".

Thousands coming to the city to find work, marvelling at the magnificent buildings of the rich, but ultimately finding themselves trapped in a London of darkness and desolation. But it was the discovery of gin which really fucked 'em up; the cheapest and quickest road to oblivion: Hogarth's 'Gin Lane'.

Then in 1834 Parliament passed the "Poor Law", one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation ever conceived. Benefits were abolished and applicants had to report to the "workhouse" to walk a treadmill, or the such, for food. Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist"... when you need an armed escort to visit someone's house, you know it ain't the most desirable neighbourhood in town...

But by far the strangest stories came out of a ruin of a building on Dyott St: "Rat's Castle". Perhaps inspired by the lurid "penny dreadfuls", cheap pulp fiction aimed at working class adolescents; colourful and implausible rumours of kill-trained rats, revenges from beyond the grave, secret thief and beggar brotherhoods. Sweeney Todd and Varney the Vampire. Black Bess and The String of Pearls. Tales to entertain and thrill...

But, as always, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For your entertainment at the Fox this week: Thursday 13th we're proud to be hosting the Breed 77 and Generation Graveyard aftershow party; Friday 14th is club CRISIS and Saturday 15th brand new THE GUN CLUB... if you check out the calendar at www.intrepidfox.com you'll see they're all free for you lovely people...!!!

The Interpid Fox now has three weeks before it's eviction from it's home here on St Giles High Street. Every week we shall be posting a new statement around 5.00pm on the Tuesday. We ask our many friends out there to please share...

Always remember to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Nothing is ever as it seems, but every word holds it's own secret... Some of the correlation between past and present can be seen: some may see a clue to our new venue held within our little trip through history...

Signing off for this week with two messages: to the alternative community Tchatcha-em-Ankh and to the grey motherfuckers of the corporations Khaibitu-em-Betu-Tuf...

(Main references: "Ragged London" by Michael Fitzgerald.)











 

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