After crossing the Atlantic and disembarking in Southampton, Nellie’s next stop was London. She had just four hours to obtain an official passport from the American Legation, visit The World newspaper’s London office to pick up her cables; and get herself to the Pacific and Orient ticket office to buy tickets covering half of her world journey.
She did it — just. After arriving by train at Waterloo station, she travelled by a four-wheeled horse and cart in the early morning fog.
Second secretary of the American Legation (now Embassy) Robert S McCormick had risen early to await Nellie’s arrival and complete the passport that would open doors around the world. Along with US Minister to the Court of St James Robert Todd Lincoln (son of the President), McCormick was based at 123 Victoria Street in headquarters described as ““small dingy offices.”
Lincoln would be relieved to know that swanky glass-fronted offices hosting no less than the corporate headquarters of Jimmy Choo shoes now stand at 123.
To make her passport official, Nellie had to swear to her date of birth before McCormick. It later came to light that she took the opportunity to trim three years from her age. A very Victorian thing to do; a very Nellie thing to do.
Dashing from London’s West End to the heart of the City, she arrived at 122 Leadenhall Street buying her passage from Folkestone to Boulogne, France and beyond. Now a state of the art architectural marvel designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, the sleek and erogenous Leadenhall Building of international renown has recently risen 225 metres high where the P & O Steam Navigation Company once stood. Londoners fondly call it ‘the cheese grater’ based on its shape. Amidst the soaring steel and glass, the architects have retained a poignant reminder of the golden era of steam travel in the form of a stone-carved relief entitled ‘Navigation’ featuring Neptune cradling an ocean liner.
Nellie got to her final London destination, Charing Cross Railway Station, just in time to gulp down a few bites of ham and eggs and grab a quick cup of coffee at the Charing Cross Hotel before the Folkestone train was called. I treated myself to an over-priced cappuccino in the hotel bar with Nellie in mind.
Opened in 1865 and extended in 1878, the station and hotel stand in their Victorian glory pretty much as they did in Nellie’s day. Trains still run to Folkestone from Charing Cross delivering passengers to ferries for Boulogne, France where Nellie was headed.