I’ve known about the mice of Philpot Lane for a year when I started researching for a forthcoming London Attractions book which I am working on but it was only on Tuesday that I finally set my eyes upon it.
I was out and about on a scouting mission through the narrow lanes of Roman and Anglo-Saxon on the look out for hidden gems and lost treasures that most never see. I found plenty of these that I knew about and a few that I didn’t know about but the walk allowed me to visit this tiny curiosity.
The smallest monument in London is just a minute away from one of if not the largest monument in London, so grand it is simply known as The Monument which commemorates the starting point of The Great Fire of London in nearby Pudding Lane.
Even The Monument itself is unexpected by the tourists I take around this part of London on my Harry Potter tour and with good reason, you don’t go round the corner of a typical street to be confronted by the below every day!
Just a little way from The Monument however on Philpot Lane, you might just see the smallest Monument and though there is little hard evidence, remarkably the tiny monument may actually be related to incredibly tall one.
Look upwards to the first-floor level and you might just sneak a peek at two mices fighting over cheese on this old building which used to be the headquarters for a Spice merchants.
The building dates from around 1852 and despite the cute image of the mice, it is said to tell a rather sad story.
Local legend has it that the mice were created to mark the tragic death of two workers involved in the construction of the nearby Monument to the Great Fire of London. Two of the workers on this project were sat high in the air and took a break for lunch. One of the men noticed that his cheese sandwich had been nibbled at, leaving very little behind. He accused the friend next to him of eating the sandwich and the men got into a scuffle, which resulted in them falling to their deaths. It was, supposedly, later discovered that the food had been eaten by mice.
One of the men noticed that his cheese sandwich had been nibbled at, leaving very little behind. He accused the friend next to him of eating the sandwich and the men got into a scuffle, which resulted in both of them sadly falling to their deaths. Tragically it was, later discovered by their colleagues that the food had been eaten by mice who ended up scavenger the meals of other construction workers.
The mice were supposedly carved into the building as a way for Victorian builders to remember their illustrious if tragic forebears.
Officially only 6 people died in The Great Fire of London in 1666 despite 90% of the buildings being completely destroyed. The real figure is likely in the hundreds or even thousands but the lower figure is recorded as investigators didn’t really put much effort into the collating the details of the lower and middle-classes.
This means that including the two builders along with a handful of suicide jumpers in Victorian days, The Monument to the Great Fire of London killed more people than the Great Fire itself!