I AM UNABASHEDLY and unreservedly proud to have London as my capital city. Places come close, but I don’t think there is anywhere else that has such a strong, immediately recognisable identity as London. Nowhere else has one foot in the future and another in the past quite as plainly as this city and that’s what makes London feel so much different to its Asian, American and even other European cousins. Believe me, I could write post after post about why I love LDN, and bombard you with my self-indulgence, but instead, I thought it would be a good idea to share some interesting facts, quirks, tales – all of which help make London so unique. Some you might already know, some you might not; either way I hope you enjoy!
1. Around half a million mice call the London Underground home.
2. Some of the things that have been found in the River Thames include shoes, a whale, cameras, Roman coins, shopping trolleys, corpses, smoking pipes, a walking catfish, fruit, batteries and hearing aids.
3. The Great Fire of London in 1666 only killed around six people. The Great Plague the year before, however, killed over 100 000 – nearly a fifth of the city’s population at the time.
4. Around 55% of the London Underground network is actually above ground.
5. The first escalator in the world was installed in Harrods in 1879.
6. London accounts for around 16% of the UK’s restaurants.
7. Jerry Springer was born in Highgate tube station during World War II.
8. Winston Churchill’s telephone number used to be in the phone book.
9. There is an urban legend that The Mall can be closed and turned into a makeshift runaway if the Queen needs to leave Buckingham Palace in a hurry.
10. London was the first city to reach a population of over 1,000,000 people.
11. London is the only city to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012).
12. St John’s Wood is the only tube station whose name does not have any letters of the word ‘mackerel’ in it.
13. The world’s first traffic light was erected in Parliament Square in 1868, constantly manned by a policeman.
14. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
15. Savoy Court is the only road in the UK where drivers must drive on the right.
16. The longest recorded traffic jam on the M25 was 37 miles long.
17. Big Ben is in fact the name of the 13 ton bell, neither the clock nor the tower. The tower is called Elizabeth Tower.
18. The last execution at the Tower of London took place in 1941.
19. London’s most haunted residence is believed to be 50 Berkeley Square.
20. Covent Garden is a misspelling of ‘Convent’s Garden’, referring to the convent that used to be there.
21. The District line has 60 stations; the Waterloo and City line has two: Waterloo and Bank.
22. Dairy Milk Whole Nut is the most popular item in London Underground vending machines.
23. The London Eye was only scheduled to be a temporary exhibition.
24. Around a quarter of London’s population today was born outside the UK.
25. Waterloo Bridge was built mostly by women.
26. Christopher Wren designed and rebuilt fifty one churches and one cathedral in the City of London after the Great Fire.
27. All distances from and to London are measured from the statue of King Charles I in Charing Cross.
28. In the last two thousand years, London has had six names: Londinium, Augusta, Lundenwic, Ealdwic, Lundenburh and London.
29. Before entering the City of London, The Queen must seek permission from the Lord Mayor of London.
30. London has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any city in the world outside Paris.
31. Aldgate tube station is built upon a plague pit, which houses hundreds of corpses.
32. The average house price in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is £1,586,426. The average house price in the Borough of Barking and Dagenham is £185,450. (2013)
33. St Bride’s Church, off Fleet Street, is said to be the inspiration behind the traditional tiered wedding cake.
34. Buckingham Palace has the postcode SW1A 1AA.
35. The shortest distance between two tube stations is between Leicester Square and Covent Garden – 260 metres. It is quicker to walk and the journey costs £4.30. However, it is the most popular journey with tourists.
And in case you didn’t know…:
This is London Bridge This is Tower Bridge
If you were wondering, the brilliant cover image is one of a collection by nickprints!