London Guide: 70 Little Known Facts About The U.K's Capital
All the facts in this article have been sourced from various websites, books and T.V programmes about London. However, just in case I have been misinformed, I would like to apologise before hand if any of the information that I have come across, has been less than accurate.
1. - London is the capital and largest metropolis in the United Kingdom.It has a total land area of 1,706 sq km and a population of 7,556,900 making it the world's ninth largest city.
2. - There has been a settlement in the area since the 2nd century when the Romans originally called the town Londinium, but it did not become the nation's capital until the 12th century.
3. - In the year 1811, London became the first city in the world to amass a population of over one million, a unique title that it held until 1957, when it was equaled by the city of Tokyo, the capital of Japan.
4. - London is known as London Town, as the city of London proper is an area of just 1 square mile, the area that is today the ancient core of London and it's financial district, which is the largest financial centre in the world.
The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
5. - Colloquially known as the Big Smoke or simply the Capital,it is never referred to as a city.
6. - The people of the U.K refer to going to London as going up to town, or up to London.It is never referred to as going down, even by people who live north of the capital.
7 A ) People born in London are referred to as Cockneys, although to be born a true Cockney,legend states one must be born within the sounds of the chimes of Bow Bells.
B ) Bow Bells are situated at St Mary Le Bow church, in London's East End.
C ) The term Cockney is actually a derogatory term, once used by the upper classes towards the working classes, after a group of London working class children, having been brought up in a city and never having seen livestock, asked a city gentleman if the noise of a cockerel was the same as the neigh of a horse, by asking, does a cock neigh?
D ) The upper classes then began to use the term in regard to some one who was a simpleton, which is how they thought of all working classes,and as London's population was made up of mainly working class people, it came to mean the inhabitants of London too.
8 A ) The very centre of London is located at Trafalgar Square, which is where all distances to London from within the U.K are measured.
B ) The Christmas Tree situated in Trafalgar Square every year, is a present to the people of Great Britain from the government of Norway, as a thankyou for the help the U.K gave them during the second world war.
C ) Lord Nelson, who stands at the top of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, is positioned looking through Admiralty Arch towards the Admiralty Building on The Mall, which is flanked by small sailing ships atop each of the street's lamp - posts, which depict Nelson's Fleet.
9 A) - The capital consists of 19,000 listed buildings, six world heritage sites, 1,500 parks, 22 museums, 100 theatres, 233 nightclubs and 3,800 public houses.
B ) The capital is further served by 50 hospitals, 700 hotels, 9 prisons, 5 airports and the world's oldest and largest metro system, the London Underground, locally known as the' tube ', which was opened in January 1863.
The Bank of England, also known as the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
10. - Built along the banks of the River Thames, which is Britain's second longest river and oldest place name in Britain, the river is served by a total of 26 bridges, 2 tunnels and one ferry service within it's environs of London Town.
11. - The capital is politically made up of 32 boroughs, each of which has it's own council chambers, that is collectively presided over by the Mayor of London.
12. - Of It's 7.5 million population, London consists of 50 non indiginous communities and 2.2 million foreign born peoples who between them speak over 300 languages, and who inturn are all served with ethnic shops and places of worship by way of their respective borough councils.
The Houses of Parliament, officially known as the Palace of Westminster.
13 A ) - London's Houses of Parliament was originally built as a church,and then a palace, before becoming the country's seat of government.
B ) The building which is officially called the Palace of Westminster, houses the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
C ) The House of Commons is what the British refer to as their seat of government and where all ministerial duties are performed by duly elected, salaried members from various political parties.
D ) The House of Commons is the only building in the land that a British monarch can not enter, as he / she is not a commoner.
E ) Every person of voting age in the United Kingdom is entitled to visit their respective member of parliament at the House.
F ) The House of Lords is a governmental establishment that is made up of titled individuals, who perform their duties unsalaried.
G ) The Prime Minister, leader of the British government, is the only commoner allowed access into the House of Lords, as he / she is given the title of First Lord of the Treasury during his / her term as Prime Minister.
H ) Seating in the House of Commons is in green leather and seating in the House of Lords is in red leather, this colour scheme is also represented by the striped awnings on the terraces that can be seen by the public along the Houses of Parliament's riverside cafe, with the commoners sitting under green awnings and the Lords seated under red.
I) The famous British condiment, H.P Sauce, was made especially for members of parliament, and the initials HP in the name stands for Houses of Parliament.
15. - This clock-tower houses the largest clock face in the world, with a diameter of 23 feet.
16. - 10, Downing Street, the address associated with the U.K's Prime Minister, is actually the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, there is in fact no official prime ministerial residence in the U.K.
Aeriel view of the City of London
17. - The world famous Old Bailey, the biggest court house in the land, is officially called the Central Criminal Court, the name Old Bailey actually refers to the street it is located on.The street follows the course of the city's old fortified walls, which were called a bailey.
18. - Surprisingly, all the nation's official parliamentary offices are situated along the same street, Whitehall, which includes the nations Home Office, Treasury, Admiralty and the Royal Barracks, home of the Queens Guards.
19. - London's tallest building is the Canary Wharf Tower, situated at One, Canada Square in London's Docklands, a 50 storey tower that stands 244 metres high ( 771 ft 0).
20. - The builder of London's Oxo Tower, a fine example of art deco architecture, situated on London's South Bank, was unable to use his original neon lighted advertisment on top of the tower as he had hoped, so he incorporated the word OXO along the top of the tower by means of placing windows in the shape of the three letters.( Oxo is a meat extract, stock cube, still widely sold in the U.K ).
21. - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, situated in Southwark, is the only building in London to have a thatched roof, and is situated and modelled on, the original site of the famous playwrite's original open air, circular venue.
22. - Waterloo Bridge that spans the River Thames, was built during World War II, by a workforce made up entirely of women, who used self cleaning sandstone.
23 A) - Policemen in the Capital are known as London Bobbies, after the nations first police force was established in London in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel.
B ) His original police station situated in Bow Street, in Covent Garden is still there, where his officers were originally known as the Bow Street Runners, later shortened to Peelers, but now known today as Bobbies.
C ) With the establishment of the nation's first police force, criminals of the day introduced a new language in order to out wit the new constables.
D ) - They called their language Cockney Rhyming Slang, a dialect which is still in use and evolving to this day.
24 . - The world famous area known as Covent Garden,made famous by it's former fruit and vegetable market and Opera venue,is actually a mis-nomer.
The area was built on the site of a former convent garden, which town planners wanted remembered in the areas new title, but it was mis-spelt on the deeds, and is subsequently known as Covent Garden.
25. - The Bank of England, the official bank of Her Majestie's Government of the United Kingdom, situated in the City of London since 1734, is also known as the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
The Southbank Centre and Hungerford Bridge.
26. - The Mayor of London is an elected politician who along with the 25 member London Assembly is accountable for the local government of Greater London.
27. - The Lord Mayor of London is an ancient, ceremonial role undertaken in the smaller environs of the City of London.
28 - In the United Kingdom a city derives it's city status from the fact that it houses a cathedral within it's environs.
London has two cathedrals as it was built up from the mergence of two cities, the City of London, which houses St Pauls Cathedral and the City of Westminster, which houses Westminster Cathedral.
B ) The boundary of these two cities is marked by the Dragon Square at the site of the Temple Bar Monument.
29. - When London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games, it will make it the first city in the world to have hosted the games three times, having already hosted them in 1908 and 1948.
30. - London hosted the fifa-world-cup in 1966, the one and only time England won the tournament.
31. - London's 8,000 iconic, red, double decker buses, run 24 hours a day and cover over 700 bus routes.
32 A) - London's iconic black taxi's are officially called Hackney Carriages, the name comes from a former horse drawn carriage used in the late 1700's.
B ) Today an ancient law still exists that makes it unlawful for one of these taxi's not to contain sufficient fuel for it's horse, by means of carrying in it's boot a bale of hay.
C ) Today these taxi's are known as cabs, and the men and women that drive them are called 'cabbies'.
33 A) - The street named Savoy Court, which is the entrance road to London's prestigious Savoy Hotel, is the only street in Britain with right hand drive.
This is said to have evolved so as the drivers of London's Hackney carriages could open the back door of their cabs without having to leave their seat, when disembarking passengers, when the hotel was first built in 1889.
This has remained so today as a London cab needs a 25 foot turn allowance, which the narrow road to the hotel does not permit.
City Hall, Southwark.
34 A) - London's Tube / metro system is the longest in the world, with 400 km ( 250ml ) of track that serves 270 stations via 12 lines or routes.The system is also the oldest in the world, with construction having commenced in 1863.
B ) Although commonly known as 'The Underground' 55% of the system is actually above ground.
C ) Below the underground transport system London also has 150 miles of tunnels that were built in the 1950's by the government to safeguard the residents of London in case of nuclear attack.
35. - As well as these secret subterranean tunnels, London also hosts 2,000 miles of underground sewers and a labyrinth of underground river systems.
36. - The Queen of England's official residence is the world famous Buckingham Palace, but her ' home ' is actually 18 miles away at Windsor Castle.
37. - Heat generated from within London's urban core makes the overall temperature of the capital five degrees warmer than the rest of the U.K.
38. - London is home to six UNESCO World heritage Sites, they are;
The London Borough of greenwich.
The Palace of Westminster.
St Margaret's Church, Westminster.
The Tower of London.
39 A ) In 2012 The London Borough of Greenwich will become London's second and newest Royal Borough
Because of it's unique position on the globe's Prime Meridian, The Borough of greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time, the system by which all the world's timezones are defined.
B ) London's other Royal Borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, contains the highest priced real estate in the whole of the U.K.
C ) The London Borough of Richmond - Upon - Thames is the only London borough situated both north and south of the River Thames.
GREENWICH PARK AND THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM.
40 A - London hosts 8,000 acres of parkland, 4,000 acres of which have been designated as The Royal Parks, The 8 parks are ; Bushy Park. Green Park. greenwich Park. Hyde Park. Kensington Gardens. Regents Park. Richmond Park and St James' Park.
B ) The Brompton Cemetery in south west London, is the only cemetery to have a Royal Park designation and is now London's ninth Royal Park.
C ) London's famous Marble Arch, situated opposite Hyde Park's Speaker's Corner, was once situated at the entrance to St James' Park, as the parkland was once part of Buckingham Palace Gardens.
D ) The most famous of these parks, Hyde Park, was the location of the world's first street lighting, when King William III had his private pathway through the park lit by 300 oil lamps back in 1690.
E ) Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are infact one continuous piece of parkland, seperated by the Serpentine, which was built to seperate the two areas on the orders of Queen Consort Caroline, in 1728.
F ) London's largest and oldest park is Richmond Park, which covers an area of 2,360 acres.
41 - London was the first location in the world to have a shopping mall or shopping arcade as it was known then, when Lord Burlington built the Burlington shopping arcade, situated off Piccadilly Circus, for his wife and her friends to shop in safety in 1819.
42. - The Gherkin, (whose official title is 30, St Mary Axe) and the Tower of London, look as if they are standing side by side in this photograph depicting 1,000 years of London history and architecture.
43 - Picadilly in London's West End was originally called Portugal Street, but was changed after the manufacture and sale of a popular stiff, lace edged collar was manufactured and sold there during the 16th and 17th centuries, called a picadill.
44 - The Tudor building logo on Old Holborn tobacco packets is the building that stands at High Holborn in the City of London.
45 - The term ' bespoke ' meaning to be ' made to order ' originated in London's Saville Row, after local tailors began to shorten the term ' has been spoken for ' when referring to a piece of material which had already been bought or chosen by a previous customer.
Waterloo Station facade and clock.
46 A - London's largest railway station is Waterloo, situated in the London Borough of Lambeth. The station covers an area of 24.5 acres and has 19 platforms.
B) London's oldest railway station is London Bridge Station, situated on Tooley Street in the London Borough of Lambeth, which has been in continuous use since it's opening on the 14th of December 1836.
C) London's busiest railway station, which is also the busiest station in the U.K and Europe, is Clapham Junction Station, situated on St John's Hill, Battersea, which sees 2,000 trains a day pass through it's portals. with as many as 180 trains an hour during the London rush hour.
All images sourced from various London pages of Wikipedia and courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
Other London articles by the same author.
All images courtesy of wikimedia commons.