23 October 2022

Savoy Court has its own
rules. But is it really the
shortest street in London?

Savoy Court, where the taxis drive on the right, claims to be London’s shortest street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Savoy Court off the Strand is sometimes said to be the shortest street in London, if not in England. It also said to be the only street in Britain where cars must legally drive on the right side of the street.

For more than 100 years, vehicles, from horse-drawn carriages to taxis, have entered and left Savoy Court on the right-hand side of the road.

Savoy Court is privately owned property. It is not a public thoroughfare as it leads only to the Savoy Theatre and the Savoy Hotel.

Nevertheless, the peculiar detail of driving on the right is provided for in a special act of parliament and seems to date back to the days of old hackney cabs, or even to the era of horse-drawn carriage.

When being chauffeured in a horse-drawn carriage, a woman or a dignitary would traditionally sit behind the driver. By approaching the hotel on the right-hand side of the road, either the chauffeur or the hotel’s doorman could open the door without walking around the car. This would allow the passenger to alight from the carriage and walk straight into the hotel.

Some sources say the that by driving on the right, the drivers of hackney cabs could open the backdoor without leaving the cab, allowing the passengers to step out onto the footpath. The passenger’s door in a hackney carriage opened backwards and had the handle at the front. The cab driver could reach his arm out of the driver’s door window to open without having to get out of the cab himself.

Other sources say this peculiar tradition is due primarily to the construction of Savoy Court. When approaching and leaving the hotel, it is easier to do so while driving on the right-hand side of the street.

Another explanation says a special Act of Parliament gave traffic the privilege of driving on the right when entering Savoy Court from the Strand because the Savoy Theatre is on the right-hand side. Taxis can drop their fares directly outside the theatre without turning round in front of the Savoy Hotel, and when leaving they are then free to pick a new fare from the hotel as they turn around.

The small roundabout at the main entrance of the hotel meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 ft (7.6 metres) to navigate it. To this day, this is the legally required turning circle of all London taxis.

But Savoy Court is not the only place where one must drive on the right: there are similar rules at Hammersmith Bus Station and at Victoria Station’s Eccleston Bridge entrance, which functions as a drop off point and car park and has its driving directions reversed.

The success of the Savoy operas enabled D’Oyly Carte to commission building the Savoy Hotel on the site of the former Savoy Palace. Its first manager was C├ęsar Ritz, who went on to found the Ritz Hotel. The first chef was Auguste Escoffier, who created the Peach Melba in honour of Dame Nellie Melba’s visit in 1892.

In 1898, the Savoy acquired Simpson’s in-the-Strand, which had evolved from a chess club and coffee house into one of the best-known restaurants in London. The original restaurant buildings were demolished when the Strand was widened in 1903 and Simpson’s was rebuilt as part of the complex linked to the hotel.

A consortium headed by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire and investor, bought the Savoy Hotel in 2005 for an estimated £250 million. The hotel closed in December 2007 for a lavish restoration that took almost three years to complete.

When Savoy Court was reopened by the Mayor of Westminster in 2000, it was described as ‘London’s shortest street.’

Savoy Court off the Strand is about 38 metres long. But is this the shortest street in London?

Kirk Street, at 15 metres (50 ft) is London’s shortest street with an address: the Dickens, a former pub. But it is a paved, pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

It seems London’s shortest thoroughfare is Leigh Hunt Street in Southwark, which is named after Leigh Hunt, a write and contemporary of Keats and Shelley. The street is a mere 11 metres (36 ft) in length since it was cut short by the creation of a park, and there is nothing on Leigh Hunt Street now apart from the street nameplate itself.

Savoy Court is privately owned and leads only to the Savoy Theatre and the Savoy Hotel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying for World Peace and with USPG:
Sunday 23 October 2022

The Peace Bell in Coventry Cathedral is inscribed inn English and German with the word Friede Peace … the Week of Prayer for World Peace invites prayers today on the theme of ‘Uniting Rather Than Dividing People’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This is Last Sunday after Trinity. Later this morning, I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year, the Week of Prayer for World Peace is from 16 to 23 October. In my prayer diary from last Sunday until today, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection from the programme for the Week of Prayer for World Peace (16 to 23 October);

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

‘All who humble themselves will be exalted’ (Luke 18: 14) … the Chapel of Christ the Servant in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 18: 9-14 (NRSVA):

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

The Week of Prayer for World Peace takes place this year from Sunday 16 October 2022 to Sunday 23 October 2022

Week of Prayer for World Peace 2022, Day 8:

The week of Prayer for World Peace takes place from the second to third Sunday in October each year, which this year is from last Sunday (Sunday 16 October 2022) to today (Sunday 23 October 2022).

The Week of Prayer for World Peace is supported by a wide range of organisations, many of which I have engaged with over the years, including the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, Christian CND, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

Day 8: Uniting Rather Than Dividing People:

Help us to work with all people towards a peaceful world.

‘Living God,
Who shall judge between the nations:
We ask that that you would lead the nations in the paths of peace
And that the dividing wall of hostility would be broken down.
Lord, in your mercy,
‘Hear our prayer.’
— Church of Scotland

‘O God, channel our hearts
so that they pulsate love and empathy,
rather than emit hatred and apathy.
‘Focus our eyes
so that they see the endless potential in people’s Divine souls,
rather than see the limits of their physical bodies.
‘Tune our voices
so that they speak words and sing songs of unity and empowerment,
rather than tones of discord and division.
‘Guide our hands and feet
so that they become your instruments of kindness and peace,
rather than tools of cruelty and destructiveness.’
— Rabbi Pinchas Allouche

The best refuge is an Earth where Serenity rules: an Earth that the Spirit of Wisdom, from the beginning of creation, and in the radiance of Righteousness, has cultivated green and fertile, and has presented to its inhabitants the two gifts of Good Thought and the power of Self Dominance.
— Zarathustra —The Gathas

The ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze, a gift from the Frauenkrche Foundation, Dresden, to Coventry Cathedral … the Week of Prayer for World Peace invites prayers today on the theme of ‘Uniting Rather Than Dividing People’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Today’s Prayer (Sunday 23 October 2022):

The Collect:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God of all grace,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Theology in Korea.’ This theme is introduced this morning:

The relationship between the Anglican Church in Korea and USPG dates back to 1889, with the consecration and sending of Charles John Corfe as the first Missionary Bishop of Korea. The Church now has over 120 parish and mission Churches, four religious communities and around 55,000 members.

Over the past 30 years, a significant focus for the relationship between the Anglican Church in Korea (ACK) and USPG has been through engagement in theological formation. The ACK encourages its priests to apply Scripture to historical and contemporary subjects, enabling them to put theology into practice.

A priest who is currently studying for a PhD in the Old Testament writes, ‘My studies have focused on the Book of Daniel and the approach it outlines with regard to suffering and inequality. As a result of my research, I have been asked to give lectures on the Old Testament where I can share and discuss theological insights with my fellow clergy in the Diocese of Daejeon. Although not every priest in our diocese takes part in a formal degree programme, we provide an open space for everyone to study theology and share their knowledge with each other.’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Merciful God,
May we be your humble servants. Let us learn of your ways,
serving our communities as we put faith into action.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Father Forgive’ … the ruins of Coventry Cathedral … the Week of Prayer for World Peace invites prayers today on the theme of ‘Uniting Rather Than Dividing People’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

A Jewish prayer for peace