Posted in Blog by melissaleclerc on September 2, 2020
The hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital makes it a top place to live and study. With its iconic architecture, vivid history and near-endless selection of shops, bars and restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in London. And while that’s great news for those who like to keep their social schedule well stocked, you might end up letting some of its less well-known facts pass you by in the process.
Though you may know a thing or two about London already – like how the name Big Ben refers to the unseen bell rather than the iconic clock tower, for instance – what about some of the facts about the city that are on the weirder, wackier side? Here’s a selection of hidden gems and less well-known nuggets about London that just may surprise you…
For newbies and tourists, London’s transport system is notoriously tough to get to grips with. But did you know that London buses traverse the city so regularly that it equates to 12,128 circumferences of the Earth? That’s a mind-boggling 302 million miles every 12 months!
Those who drive black cabs for a living have to pass the fearsome, extremely difficult geography test called “The Knowledge” before they can take the citizens of London from A to B. This requires drivers to learn 320 basic routes, all 25,000 streets that fall within these routes, and 20,000 landmarks within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross, a task that’s said to take between 2-4 years to learn.
Renowned for its multiculturalism, London is one of the most diverse cities in the world. But did you know that among its 8 million residents, there are 300 languages spoken, including Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien and, of course, English.
There are three babies known to have been born on the London Underground. Among them is none other than American talk show icon Jerry Springer, who was born at Highgate Station on 13 February 1944, while his mother took shelter from a Luftwaffe bombing raid.
By the way, the London Underground is the oldest underground network in the world, being built way back in 1863.
Bartholomew The Great, a medieval church located in Smithfield, has the name “the weeping church”. In wet and cold weather, the porous nature of the church’s stone lets water pass through, creating the effect that the church is crying. One of the city’s most unusual facts, this hidden gem is well worth visiting.
Should you own a full suit of armour, then make sure you don’t enter the Houses of Parliament donning it. Why? Because since 1313 it’s been illegal to do so, thanks to an act that decrees: “in all Parliaments, Treatises and other Assemblies, which should be made in the Realm of England for ever, that every Man shall come without all Force and Armour.” They really took that “forever” part seriously.
Despite a long-standing rumour, it is not actually illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. According to gov.uk: “the issue of dying in Parliament appears to arise from the idea that anyone who dies in a Royal Palace is eligible for a state funeral. We have not been able to trace any such law, and neither have the House of Commons authorities”.
At one time, London was the capital city of six different countries. During World War Two, the resulting devastation in Europe made London the only safe city in the continent; displaced governments of Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France – countries who had been conquered by Germany – all took refuge there.
Six ravens take up residence in the Tower of London! Charles II ordered that six ravens protect the tower, and ever since, the same number has been housed there. It’s been said that if any one of them flies the coup, the tower is doomed to fall. For that reason, each of the ravens has had a wing clipped.
Depicting two small mice eating a piece of cheese, London’s smallest statue can be found on Philpot Lane. Though there’s little evidence to back it up, it’s said to commemorate two builders who fell to their deaths after arguing over a cheese sandwich.
London has hosted the Olympics three times, in 1908, 1948 and, of course, 2012. The first of these games was also the longest in its history, stretching out for 187 days.
A tidal wave of beer might sound fun, but in 1814, it resulted in the deaths of eight people. Known as the London Beer Flood, it started when a vat of beer in the Meaux & Company Brewery exploded, unleashing a torrent of booze from Tottenham Court Road to its surrounding streets. Of the eight people who died, five of them were also attending a wake.
In scenes resembling an action movie, in 1952, bus driver Albert Gunter was driving his bus along Tower Bridge as it started to rise. Putting his pedal to the metal, Gunter channelled his inner stuntman and managed to clear a ten-foot gap before landing on the other side. His reward? A day off, which was more than earned!
Everyone knows about the Great Fire and the Great Plague, but what about the Great Stink? Yep, that happened too. Back in the day, London was always a bit smelly, but the unpleasant aromas became so bad in 1858 that the city passed laws to stop the butchery of animals within the city and to stop people dumping sewage in the Thames.
Enjoyed this collection of facts and stats about London? Be sure to read the rest of the Nido blog for more inspiration and knowledge on where to study in the UK.
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