In history

Britain has a hugely rich and diverse history full of fascinating things to learn. We’ve compiled a list of 30 things you might not know about Great Britain – how many of these did you already know?

  1. Golf was invented in Scotland and can be traced back to the 1400s. So, Scotland is evidently the place to be if you are looking for a golfing holiday! That wasn’t always the case though, historians say that King James II of Scotland outlawed golf for a while because he said it distracted his army!
  2. The longest town name in the world can be found in Britain. It’s in Wales to be exact and apparently a number of letters were added purely for the amusement of tourists. Don’t believe us? Head to the town of Llanfairpwllgyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch. The train station even has the whole name spread all the way across the platform!
  3. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Its’ been in almost continuous use since the 11th century and is still one of the Queen’s official residences.
  4. The Queen’s most famous residence is Buckingham Palace in London, but before it was in use as a palace, the site originally housed a brothel.
  5. Speaking of the Queen, did you know she isn’t allowed to enter the House of Commons? This law has been in place since 1642 when the then monarch, Charles I, went to the commons to arrest several MPs in the lead up to the English Civil War. Since then monarchs aren’t allowed to enter the chamber, they have to make all their addresses from the House of Lords.
  6. The British invented speeding tickets – the first one ever was issued in Kent in the 1890s. The recipient was a man named Walter Arnold who was caught driving at 8mph when the speed limit was only 2mph.
  7. Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, has the highest concentration of Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary indoor shopping arcades in Britain. It is why it is known as the City of Arcades.
  8. As you might expect, the British are thought to drink more than 60 billion cups of tea a year! While tea actually originated in India and China, it has been a staple of British culture since the 1700s.
  9. While we’re on the subject of tea, it has been the most popular drink in Britain since the 18th century, before tea, the Brit’s favourite drink was gin.
  10. Did you know that Britain holds the record for the world’s shortest war? The Anglo-Zanzibar War which broke out in 1896 lasted just 38 minutes.
  11. London is famous for the underground, but did you know that the transportation system around the city is among the oldest and largest in the world? There are over 200 functioning stations around the city.
  12. Just while we’re on the underground, one of the city’s most notorious plague pits left over from the plague can be found underneath Aldgate Station. There are more than 1000 bodies there.
  13. It is thought that Shakespeare increased the number of words in the English language by around 3,000.
  14. One of the most famous inhabitants of the Tower of London is its collection of ravens. There has to be 6 ravens at the Tower at any one time as legend has it that the monarchy would fall if any of the birds flew away. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the ravens have their wings clipped and they have a number of spares so there are always 6 on the grounds at all times.
  15. While everyone knows Big Ben they might not know that that is the name of the bell inside the clock tower rather than the tower itself. The tower is St Stephen’s Tower and the Houses of Parliament are within the Palace of Westminster.
  16. Postage stamps as we know them were invented by the British. The first adhesive stamp was used by a public postal system in 1840 and had a picture of Queen Victoria on it.
  17. Loch Ness is the largest body of freshwater in Britain by volume, it keeps a temperature of 6 degrees all year around, it doesn’t even freeze!
  18. All horses in the UK must possess a passport. The Queen is the only person in the UK that doesn’t need a passport to travel, however all other members of the Royal Family do.
  19. Though English is now one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and is the official language of aviation, did you know that originally, French was the UK’s official language for almost 300 years? It was introduced by the Normans in 1066.
  20. While we’re on the subject, English might be the UK’s official language but there are actually several languages that are spoken including four Celtic languages which are still officially recognised including Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Cornish.
  21. During the 16th century, there was a tax implemented for everyone with a beard.
  22. We know that Britain is old but did you know that we have historic sites that are older than the Egyptian pyramids? It is believed that Stone Henge was created in 3000 BC – way before the pyramids!
  23. If you’ve ever thought that MPs sound a bit drunk and lairy while watching PMQs, they very well might be. MPs aren’t allowed to drink in the chamber, however the Chancellor is allowed an alcoholic drink while they deliver the annual budget.
  24. In 1814, a vat of beer exploded in London causing a beer tsunami which claimed the lives of several people.
  25. Did you know that you are never more than 75 miles from the sea when you’re in England?
  26. We didn’t just invent the postage stamp and golf, Britain can also claim football, rugby, boxing and cricket.
  27. The oldest home in the UK is thought to be about 6000 years old, it still remains today and has many of the original stone furnishings.
  28. Brits are known for their love of a night out, but did you know that our first king actually made it illegal to be out of bed after 8pm?
  29. Records show that during the Battle of Hastings, which took place in Hastings at a place called Battle, both sides stopped for a lunch break. In related news, Brits consume 11.5 billion sandwiches a year!
  30.  Forget swans, the Queen owns all the whales in UK waters too!

What are your favourite facts about Great Britain and the UK?

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