On a small strip of no man’s land between two buildings on Philpot lane, a pair of tiny mice are gnawing at a piece of cheese. This is London’s tiniest public sculpture, and the origin of these little creatures remains a mystery.
A plaque indicates that the buildings were constructed in 1861-62, as an office for spice merchants, but it is not known when the sculpted rodents appeared on the scene. The story behind the Philpot Lane Mice most often told is a tragic tale, albeit with little evidence to back it up.
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 workers on this project were perched 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.
The theory is that the statues of the mice and cheese were added to remember these men, but this story has been debated and the timelines questioned. Yet, the curious animals are still there, chewing away at their tiny treat.
Know Before You Go
From the corner of Eastcheap and Philpot Lane, locate the large '23' above the arched entrance, currently occupied by Joe & The Juice.
Follow to the left, the straight piece of plasterwork immediately above the Philpot Lane street sign . The mice are easily seen on the far left corner before the shells on the next building over Blacklock .
The mice are most easily seen from opposite. The street is level and is accessible at any time.