England’s capital is one of the most historically interesting places in the UK – from the Victorian slums and terror of Jack the Ripper to the culture of the West End, there is plenty to learn about this fascinating city and hopefully with these facts, you can learn something new!

  1. Gin was once so popular in the city that the law had to be changed
    We know the Dickensian characters like a bit of gin but did you know that between 1720 and 1751, there was a gin craze? During this time, the government deregulated the distilling trade to deal with a surplus of corn leading to an increase in cheap gin. This in turn lead to the average consumption in London to being 2 pints a week per person – including the children! Eventually the law had to be changed to restrict the selling and distilling of gin to tackle the problem.
  2. The smallest city in England?
    While we all know that the smallest city in England is the cathedral city of Wells in Somerset and St David’s is the smallest city in Wales, technically London is actually the smallest city in England – the City of London is actually only about a square mile in size however Greater London is 606 square miles.
  3. Look out for the strange shaped fences in South London
    If you’re wondering around South London, make sure to look out for the fences as many of those in this part of the city are actually made from repurposed stretchers left over from WWII. Stretchers were mass produced during the war because authorities over predicted the casualties of the blitz, so there were far too many come the end and as many of the gates and fences were melted down as part of the war effort, the stretchers were used in their place. You’ll be able to spot the handles!
  4. It isn’t just stretchers you’ll spot on the streets….
    Take notice of the bollards around the city, some of them are made from old canons! You can find these bollards at various places around London, including at Southwark Bridge, St Helen’s Bishopsgate Church and Canon Lane in Hampstead. Some of the more modern bollards have even been modelled to look like canons to be in keeping.
  5. Ever wondered where the name for some of the tube stations came from?
    Many of them have roots in old English but some have a more practical meaning, Bank for instance is the station closest to the bank. You might wonder which bank, well until 1980, all of them. There used to be a law that banks had to be located within a 10 minute walk of the Bank of England, something that was revoked in 1980.
  6. The longest street in the city is 2.5km long!
    Rotherhide Street is located by the river and was once part of the docklands area.
  7. The streets used to be paved with wood
    There was a time when the streets were paved with a cheaper paving made from wood and some of it still exists! Head to Camden High Street, Upper Street in Angel, Checker’s Street in Islington and Belvedere Road near the London Eye and see if you can spot the difference.
  8. Paddington’s fake houses
    Did you know that there are two fake houses in Paddington to hide the tube line? These have been in place since the Victorian era when the tube was powered by steam! You can find the fake houses at Lenister Gardens, they’re easy to spot as they are both far too thin to be real houses.
  9. London is technically a forest
    Yep, according to UNESCO, London actually counts as a forest because it has more trees than people, in fact, it even has its own forestry conservator.
  10. You used to get a lot more than fancy goods in Harrods
    Back in the 1910s, Harrods was just as fancy as it is now however, guests used to be welcomed with a gift containing morphine, cocaine and syringes!
  11. There are some very odd rules still in existence…
    Did you know that there are some odd laws that apply across London? For example, it is illegal to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and to wear a suit of armour in the Houses of Parliament – something that has been illegal since 1313 and continues to be so. Unlike what Mary Poppins will have you believe, flying a kite in London’s parks and public areas has been illegal since 1839. Doing so could land you with a fine of £500!
  12. While we’re talking about laws…
    Ever wondered why the Palace of Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament are housed was built on the banks of the Thames? It’s so it cannot be surrounded by a mob.
  13. Another weird law that is just for members of parliament
    Every daily session in the House of Commons starts with a 4 minute prayer during which the members must face the wall. No one seems to know why. Which seems about right for the British parliament.
  14. London Zoo used to offer free entry…
    London Zoo might now be located in Regent’s Park, but previously it was at the Tower of London and was known as the king’s menagerie. Entry to the zoo was free on the condition that you brought a cat or dog with you to feed to the lions. If you ever took a stroll around the Tower back in the day, you may have even come across Henry III’s polar bear which was chained up outside so it could catch fish in the Thames.
  15. Speaking of bears at London Zoo…
    Winnie the Pooh actually existed. She lived at London Zoo and was originally from Winnipeg in Canada. She wasn’t yellow but AA Milne’s son, Christopher Robin was very fond of her and so a legacy was born.
  16.  The monarch cannot just walk around the city
    In fact, the monarch needs permission from the Mayor of London to enter the City of London, or to us, the financial district.
  17. It has always been a place for trend setting
    London has historically always been the height of fashion and starting trends, and not just in the more frivolous areas of life, University College London was the first in Britain to allow women to study. Women began being admitted and granted degrees in 1878.
  18. The smallest statue in the world can be found in London
    It is known as the Philpot Lane Mice and features two mice eating a piece of cheese. The story goes that it was built to honour two builders who died after fighting over a stolen sandwich which was actually the fault of some scavenging mice.
  19. The monarchy will fall if the ravens leave the Tower…
    For a long time it was believed that if the ravens left the Tower of London the monarchy would fall – as such, there must always be 6 ravens in residence.
  20. It wasn’t always just our capital
    During WWII, London was the capital of 6 countries at the same time, several of the countries that were conquered by the Nazis set up their governments in London and it became their capital for the duration of the war.
  21. Always bring rum if you’re entering by river
    Historically navy ships are required to pay the Constable at the Tower of London with a barrel of rum in order to enter the port of London, a tradition that is still held to this day as the Ceremony of the Constable’s Dues.
  22. Speaking of entering by river… it isn’t just the Thames you need to be aware of
    London might be famous for the River Thames but it is home to lots more rivers than just the Thames. In fact, 20 rivers run underneath the city.
  23. The buses being red is fairly recent
    London is known for its bright red buses, but this has only been a thing since 1907, before that, the buses were all different colours to signify their routes.
  24. Take note of the street names
    Across London, many streets were given names to indicate the professions that worked from there. In Medieval times, Cock Lane was the only one that was licensed for prostitution and no prizes for guessing what the top job at Hooker’s Road was.
  25. London’s time capsule
    Just along the river from Westminster at Embankment is Cleopatra’s Needle which is thousands of years old and was gifted to the UK as a tribute to Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile. It was finally installed in 1878 and a time capsule was placed there at the same time containing a few things from that year.
  26. There is one instance where you drive on the wrong side of the road
    If you want to go to the Savoy hotel, you will be required to drive on the right hand side – Savoy Court is just off the Strand which by law, requires you to drive on the right hand side of the road.
  27. A weird memorial to an executed king…
    Head to Horse Guards’ Parade and look for the clock at the entrance to Buckingham Palace – the clock has a black spot on it that marks the time that Charles I was executed.It’s there as a reminder of his execution.
  28. Never cross a Londoner
    In a very petty act, the statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square has soil transported from America underneath it because George Washington said he would never set foot on British soil again following the American war for independence.
  29. Count the capsules on the London Eye
    There are 32 capsules on the London Eye to represent the 32 boroughs of London. However, there are actually 33 capsules as no one wants to get in capsule 13.
  30. There are people alive who witnessed the Tower of London’s last execution
    We all know it as the place monarchs had traitors executed but the last execution that took place at the Tower of London was in 1941. The deceased as a German spy and rather than being beheaded, died by firing squad.
  31. If you’re into historic executions…
    Make your way over to Marble Arch, the Tyburn Tree which was the site of thousands of hangings is now a traffic island near Marble Arch.
  32. While we’re on the subject of Marble Arch…
    You might think it a little out of place and that’s because it is, it was originally designed to be the entrance to Buckingham Palace.
  33. Queen Elizabeth is still the only monarch to ride the tube
    She sadly died before she could see the whole of the Elizabeth Line, which was named for her open, but she did get to ride the Victoria Line in 1969 – now we just need Charlie to hop on the tube.
  34. If you spot a TARDIS don’t get excited
    Doctor Who fans know that the TARDIS is based on the former Blue Police Boxes that were used to contact the police, you can still spot the little ones all over the city but two full sized ones can still be found at Earls’ Court and Hendon.
  35. Rock down to Electric Avenue
    Did you know that Brixton Market was the first electrified market in the country? Hence the name of its location, Electric Avenue.
  36. You don’t have to go to Berlin to see the Berlin Wall
    There is a section of it located in the gardens of the Imperial War Museum.
  37. No one knows where the city centre is
    The exact centre of London is highly disputed, some say it is at St Martin in the Fields while others say that the Victoria Embankment is the centre of London. Whichever you believe, there is a plaque at the church in St Martin’s in the Field claiming the title.
  38. Not just human passengers
    Did you know that until 1976 all black cabs in London were required by law to carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats? These were to feed the horses that provided the original transportation around the city.
  39. Jellied eels, fish and chips… Scotch eggs?
    According to Fortnum and Masons, they are the creators of the Scotch Egg – they say that they created it nearly 300 years ago at their London store and they continue to sell them to this day.
  40. What’s in a name
    Many of the names around London come from old English or the tribes that lived in the area but some of them are very simple, Mayfair for instance literally comes from the fact that that area of London held a fair every May.
  41. There is a crying church
    Yes, you read that write, there is a church that cries in London. To see it for yourself go to St Bartholomew the Great on a cold, wet day and watch as the stones literally weep. Don’t get caught up in a religious crisis though, it happens because the church was built with such porous material.
  42. You’re never more than 6 feet from a…
    If you were going to say rat then yes, probably. If you were going to say Starbucks, again yes probably but actually its more likely to be a dead body. There are plague pits all over the city, some of the biggest are at Golden Square Park, Green Park, Knightsbridge Green, Elephant and Castle and the tube station at Aldgate.




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