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Whether you live here or are just passing through, here are some London facts that are sure to come up on a pub quiz at some point in your life.
1. London used to have a Texan embassy
1836 – Texas wins its independence from Mexico and sends diplomats to the court of St James’s. The new country ended up setting up an embassy across the street in St James’s itself. Britain was so supportive of this new country that they offered to protect its borders from the United States and Mexico. 10 years later, the United States annexes Texas and now all London has left is a plaque.
2. Almost half of London is green
Yes, 47% of London is comprised of various parks such as Victoria Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park and Richmond Park (which is actually home to a population of wild deer)
3. You are in safe hands
London is home to the world’s largest emergency ambulance service. Over 5000 staff work across about 70 stations making sure you can get to a hospital when it is needed.
4. London Bridge was destroyed by a tornado
The year is 1091 and an F4 tornado (The second worst kind. Check here for a reference) destroys about 600 homes and the wooden London Bridge. This is why they rebuilt it from stone.
5. London Bridge is falling down
Did you know there were three Great Fires of London? The first in 1135 started on London Bridge and the second, in 1212, destroyed London Bridge, taking about 600 people with it. The third Great Fire of London took place in 1666. Incidentally, the nursery rhyme has nothing to do with either event.
6. The Houses of Parliament holds a lot more than lawmakers
Officially known as the Palace of Westminster, this palace is actually the largest in the UK. It is home to eight bars, 11 courtyards, six restaurants, 1000 rooms, 100 staircases a rifle-shooting range and a hair salon.
7. Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Elizabeth Tower is the structure that houses Big Ben. It chimes in the key of E.
8. Cock Lane
Found near Holborn Viaduct, Cock Lane didn’t get its name due to the poultry industry. Historically, it was the only street licensed for prostitution in medieval times. Other unusual street names included Hooker’s Walk, Cyclops Mews, Ha Ha Road and Quaggy Walk.
9. North Korea has an embassy here
But not where you might think. North Korea’s embassy is based in a detached house in Ealing. You can spot it from the North Korean flag flying outside.
10. London Fact! London has one of the oldest public transport systems
The Tube, London’s underground public transport system is the world’s oldest underground railway. It first opened in January 1863 with a track between Paddington and Farringdon. Did you know that more than half of London’s underground network actually runs above ground?
11. A statue of George Washington stands on American soil
You may have walked passed the statue of George Washington at Trafalgar Square numerous times. See the grass it is standing on? That soil was shipped over from Virginia and placed under the statue. Why? After the American Revolutionary War (once everything had calmed down), American sent a statue of George Washington to the UK and the UK were happy to accept it. George Washington wasn’t happy though and declared “I will never set foot in London again!” He was taken rather seriously.
12. Cleopatra’s time capsule
Beneath Embankment’s Cleopatra’s Needle is a time capsule said to contain a portrait of Queen Victoria, cigars, a razor, 10 daily newspapers of the day and pictures of 12 English beauties of the day.
13. There are over 1000 bodies under Aldgate Station
Remember learning about the plague? Aldgate Station is built on top of a plague pit, the place where bodies were through into during the Black Death.
14. St Paul’s Cathedral almost had a third pineapple
Here is another London Fact! Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St Paul’s Cathedral had his first two designs turned down by Parliament. The third was accepted in 1675 and took 20 years to build. The dome took a further 13 years to build after that. Wren initially wanted to put a statue of a pineapple at the top of the dome. St Paul’s Cathedral has 2 pineapple statues already on top of the two western towers. Wren saw them as “a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality.”
15. London has more rivers than just the Thames
As the metropolis of London grew, some of the other rivers started getting in the way. What happened? They were literally built over so that now, London has 21 subterranean rivers. For more information on there, click here.
16. Harrods sold cocaine until 1916
Yep. Nothing more to say on this one.
17. At one point, London was more than just the UK’s capital city
During World War 2, many foreign governments found a safe haven in London after the German’s took their countries by force. Some people that used London as a capital for their governments in exile were The Polish, The Belgians, The Dutch, the free French and the King of Norway.
18. The last execution in the Tower of London was 75 years ago
That’s right. The last execution in the Tower of London took place in 1941. He was a German soldier named Josef Jakobs.
We hope you found these London Facts useful. If you have any more London Facts, leave them in the comments section below!