For those interested and willing to deviate slightly from the average tourist’s beaten path London is full of curiosities worthy a little of their time.
One of these curiosities, often referred to as London’s smallest public sculpture, is a couple of mice fighting over, or sharing depending on your perspective, a piece of cheese.
Located at the Eastcheap end of Philpot Lane, a stone’s throw from the rather better known and somewhat larger ‘Walkie Talkie’ building at 20 Fenchurch Street (visitor entrance to the Sky Garden on Philpot Lane), these duelling mice are thought to have been carved in 1862 when their host building, an ornate office for spice merchants Messrs’ Hunt and Crombie, was constructed.
Why they are here no one really knows for sure but various, all dubious, stories abound.
Other than the assertion that they were merely added as a decoration or a mark (a 19th century tag!) of the builder the most plausible explanation relates to a tragic altercation between two workmen.
One day when one of the workmen took out his pre-packed lunch he noticed that it had been tampered with and the cheese had disappeared from his sandwich – presumed eaten by a person or persons unknown. His dining partner on the day denied being culpable for this odious crime and what probably started out as a parley soon developed into fisticuffs resulting in both men plunging from the scaffolding, where they should have been enjoying their lunches, to their deaths on the street below.
It was subsequently found that a mouse, or mice, had partaken of the cheese. Accordingly, the endearing little sculpture we see today was added to the building in memory of the two unfortunate workmen.
An alternate story is pretty much identical to this apart from the assertion that the two workmen being remembered actually fell from the nearby Monument to the Great Fire of London during its construction some two hundred years earlier.
A less morbid version of the story suggests that over time mice had set themselves up in the evolving building at Eastcheap and had taken to helping themselves to workmen’s lunches. Workmen subsequently decided to add the sculpture in memory of their lost lunches.
Location: First floor level at the juncture between No. 13 Philpot Lane and 23 Eastcheap