Interesting London facts
Famous Sussex People
Did you know that Battersea Dogs Home deals with around 15,000 strays a year.
Did you know that Battersea Bridge, built by Joseph Balzagette in the 1880'w, is Londons narrowest bridge
Did you know that the first Asparagus grown in Britain was grown in Battersea Park in 1850.
Did you know that the first Football Match played under Football Association rules was played in Battersea Park on the 9th of January 1864
Did you know that Mozart wrote his first ever symphony at 180 Ebury Street? He was just eight years old. A second followed it before his and his father’s stay in England (which lasted from April 1764 to July 1765) ended.
Did you know that Chopin gave his first recital in Britain at 99 Eaton Place in 1848? He had been lured across the Channel by a Scottish pupil, Jane Stirling. Later he played at various Scottish castles ; his last British concert though was at London’s Guildhall .
Did you know that the 1st Golf Club in England was founded at Blackheath by James I in 1608.
Did you know that Blackheath Hockey Club , founded in 1861, is the oldest Hockey Club in the world
Did you know that Blackheath Rugby Club , founded in 1858, is the oldest Rugby Club in the world
Did you know that the floodlights at Brentford Football Club were donated by Chelsea Football Club ? A further link between the two clubs is that Chelsea reserves play at Griffin Park. The ground is named after an old local brewery which owned the land thereabouts – perhaps explaining the fact that uniquely in English football there is a pub at every corner of the place.
Did you know that the first drawing of the moon made with a telescope, and the first telescopic observations of sunspots, were made at Syon House in Brentford? Thomas Harriot , who had surveyed Virginia with Walter Raleigh , obtained one of the early ‘Dutch trunk’ telescopes and set about making astronomical observations with it, seemingly before Galileo. He was at the time in the pay of the Earl of Northumberland, and lived at the latter’s Syon House by the Thames .
Did you know that the oldest Mulberry Tree in Britain is to be found in the grounds of Charlton House - planted at the suggestion of Charles I in 1608? Along with many others of its type – Morus Nigra, the Black Mulberry – it was planted to try to establish silk-worms in Britain. Unfortunately they only feed on White Mulberries. Not a total waste, however, the fruit is delicious and the tree one of nature’s most gracefully shaped.
Did you know that the Monument is the tallest isolated stone column in the world? The 202 feet high fluted Doric column commemorates the Great Fire of London . It was designed by Christopher Wren , and took six years to build, being finished in 1677.
Did you know that St Mary Woolnoth is the only church in the City of London to escape the Blitz unscathed? And that was not the only danger it has survived: Bank Underground Station is right beneath it, construction of the subterranean structure requiring removal of the crypt.
Did you know that the Guildhall is the only secular stone building to have survived the Great Fire of London ? Its guardian giants, Gog and Magog , didn’t fare so well, destroyed in that inferno – as were their replacements in the Blitz .
Did you know that the world’s first May Day labour march took off from Clerkenwell Green in 1890? Those pioneers were not the first radicals with connections to the area: Wat Tyler camped his peasant army there in 1381 ; and in 1866 a big gathering at the green saw an effigy of Morant Bay Rebellion villain Edward Eyre burned in protest against his violent repression in Jamaica.
Did you know that the first Punch and Judy show recorded in England was performed in Covent Garden in 1662? Samuel Pepys mentions enjoying it in his diaries. It was rather different from the version we now know, performed in a small side-show tent and with marionettes.
Did you know that the first sandwich ever eaten by that name is claimed to have been consumed in the Shakespeare’s Head in Covent Garden by the Earl of Sandwich in 1762? It had 'a slab of meat' (almost certainly beef) in it! Sandwich was a keen gambler who when snacking at the gaming tables had his meats put between slices of bread to keep his fingers (and the cards) free from grease – the Shakespeare’s Head was home to an exclusive gaming society the Beef Steak Club.
Did you know that the palace built for the 1851 Great Exhibition used over 900,000 square feet of glass and was visited by over 6 million people? And that more than 800,000 of them spent a penny visiting (and using) the new-fangled water-closets installed by sanitation pioneer George Jennings? It is not perhaps surprising that the building’s design favoured glass – its architect Joseph Paxton was primarily a gardener and garden designer.
Did you know that on the pillars of the gates of St Nicholas Church in Deptford are two skulls and crossbones? Some reckon these inspired parishioner Captain Henry Morgan to use them as his ensign; what is more sure is that many local sailors bound for long voyages prayed there, some doubtless of a piratical nature; and that having a flag that demonstrated their Deptford origin would have helped avoid attacking neighbours.
Did you know that Deptford is home to Britain’s largest Buddhist community, comprising 4.4 per cent of the district’s population?
Did you know that Britains first supermarket opened in earls court in 1951
Did you know that the first stepped escalator in Britain was installed at Earl’s Court Station in 1911? They were manufactured by the American company Otis of lift fame, the steps of American oak, and the balustrades of teak. Such was their novelty that people made special journeys to have a go on them – and (unproven) legend has it that a one-legged man was hired to ride on them repeatedly, thus demonstrating their safety.
Did you know that Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, just off Fleet Street, was the first new building to open in London after the Great Fire ? Planning priorities getting it right for once. Its roots as a hostelry go back to at least the 13th century, though then as a monastic guest house rather than an inn. The Cheese has a plaque marking where Dr Johnson and other literary figures are said to have sat.
Did you know that the first British-grown examples of Tamarisk, Acacia, Mahogany and Maple trees were all grown in the gardens of Fulham Palace , summer residence of the Bishops of London? They were grown by Bishop Henry Compton (who held the post from 1675 to 1713), a noted botanist. One of his predecessors grew grapes there, some of which Elizabeth I ate.
Did you know that Britains 1st speed bumps were installed on Linver Rd in Fulham in 1984
Did you know that the world’s first weather forecast was issued from Greenwich Royal Observatory in 1848 by James Glaisher ? He was a founder member of the British Meteorological Society in 1850, and a pioneering balloonist (for the sake of weather readings).
Did you know that the Millennium Dome is both the largest dome in the world and the largest single roofed structure in the world? Its dimensions and structure reflect Greenwich’s connection with time measurement: 365m in diameter; and 52m high in the middle; with 12 supporting poles, symbolizing days, weeks and months of the year.
Did you know that Greenwich Park , enclosed in 1433, is Britain’s oldest such park? It became royal property in 1427 when Henry V ’s brother Gloucester inherited it, and remains a royal park to this day.
Did you know that Scottish poet James Thomson is thought to have written the words for " Rule Britannia " in the Dove pub situated on Hammersmith’s historic Thames riverside? It was actually a part of a masque, Alfred, written with his friend Mallet ; Arne supplied the well-known tune. The pub, originally it seems a coffee house, claims to have the smallest bar in Britain, at 3 square metres – into which 35 people are once said to have packed. We all like a drink but that is pushing it. Happily it has other bars.
Did you know that the first flight to take off from London Airport as Heathrow used to be called was to Buenos Aires via Lisbon? It took off on January 1 1946, the day the Ministry of Civil Aviation officially began running the still uncompleted facilities.
Did you know that together, Heathrow’s two runways now stretch for 4.7 miles? In the 1950s the airport in fact had six runways arranged in a rough Star of David pattern, though all were shorter than the modern ones.
Did you know that the world’s first chartered business flight took off from Hendon en route to Dublin in June 1919? The passenger was Gordon Selfridge (of Selfridges Stores fame), who for practical reasons it seems needed to get to Dublin urgently – though in his pomp he did everything in style. His chartered de Havilland DH9 took a mere three and a quarter hours to make the trip, landing at RAF Baldonnel.
Did you know that the first edible cultivated strawberry in England was bred and exhibited in Isleworth in 1806? The grower was Michael Keen, who became the great strawberry expert of his generation – no fool he, Keen named his breakthrough Keen’s Seedling (followed patriotically by Keen’s Imperial). His ‘seedling’ variety was produced by crossing two wild American types; and most of our modern strawbs have it in their ancestry.
Did you know the Chartist rally held in Kennington in 1848 was the first topical event in the world to be photographed? Pioneer photographer William Kilburn captured the huge gathering of Monday April 10 with a Daguerreotype image taking in the crowds, some of those attending holding flags, many in top hats, and some at the edges in carts to obtain a view. The original is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle .
Did you know that The Beatles and the Rolling Stones appeared on the same bill only once - at the Royal Albert Hall on September 15th 1963? It was at a gig for chariddy – the Printers’ Pension Corporation, and the MC was Alan Freeman – how’s about that pop pickers?
Did you know that St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington has, at 278 feet, the tallest church spire in London? The Victorian Gothic building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott , and was completed in 1872.
Did you know that until 1916 Harrods sold pure cocaine to the public? Kits including cocaine and the equipment needed to inject it were available from the pharmacy to send to loved ones fighting at the front – or for home use: it appears making their own entertainment in those days didn’t just involve a good old sing-song. Link: Harrods
Did you know that Knightsbridge is the sole English place-name with six consecutive consonants? Vying for that spot in the league of the arcane is Rossshire which uses the letter ‘s’ three times together; but so too does Invernessshire. Of course if you want to go beyond the reasonable it is only necessary to turn to Wales, though it does feel like cheating as the famously lengthy Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch was contrived in the 1860s as a tourist attraction. It worked.
Did you know that Lambeth Bridge is painted Red to be in harmony with the seat colour of the House of Lords? Rather a strange gesture given that Parliament obstructed the building of the bridge in 1664, 1828, and 1836 – and in 1912 blocked the widening of the one finally constructed in 1860.
Did you know that the oldest fig Tree in Britain stands in Lambeth Palace garden - planted by Cardinal Pole in the 16th Century? It is of the White Marseilles type, said to bear excellent fruit.
Did you know that the Egyptian sculpture above the door of Sotheby’s in Mayfair is the oldest man-made object in London dating from 1600 BC? The little black artifact is carved from igneous rock. Some believe it to be still older – perhaps dating back 5000 years.
Did you know that Mama Cass and Keith Moon died in the same room in flat 12, 9 Curzon Street Mayfair (though not at the same time)? She died in 1974 from a heart attack in her sleep, aged just 32, possibly exhausted by two weeks of shows at the Palladium . Moon had ingested a fatal dose of tablets intended to help him dry out. The flat was owned by Harry Nilsson. Disraeli also died in Curzon Street.
Did you know that the Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe (possibly rebuilt using some timber from The Mayflower) is the only pub in Britain licenced to sell both British and American postage stamps? It was from just outside the pub, then called The Shippe, that The Mayflower left London in 1620 – stopping off in Plymouth to collect more passengers and supplies (which included goods from a bakery in Plymouth still operating today!).
Did you know Soho was part of King Henry VIII 's hunting grounds? When a hunter spied a deer, he yelled "Tally-Ho!", but with a smaller prey, the cry became "So-Ho!" The area, convenient for excursions from St James’s Palace, was then largely wooded. Green Park is a remnant of that hunting ground.
Did you know that Marlboro cigarettes are named after Great Marlborough Street in Soho? They were first manufactured there, the brand – contrary to its macho cowboy image now – originally launched for women.
Did you know that London’s first disco was La Poubelle, a French operation that naturally started in Poland Street in Soho? It opened in 1959
Did you know that the first ever person to appear on television was office boy William Taynton, grabbed by Logie Baird off Frith Street, in Soho, to act in his experiment in 1925? Taynton was paid half-a-crown, or 12.5p in new money, the first TV appearance fee in history.
Did you know that Britain’s first self service petrol station opened in November 1961 on the south end of Southwark Bridge? The very first fuel-only (as opposed to repairs) garage was opened by the AA in 1920, at Aldermaston. Petrol, by the way, only entered our vocabulary in 1870, strangely a trade name of a company called Carless Refining who coined the word for a solvent used, among other applications, to treat nits.
Did you know that the Jamme Masjid Mosque is the only building in the world (outside Israel) to have been a church, synagogue and mosque? The building tells a story about the ever-evolving nature of London: It was built in 1743 as a chapel for Huguenot immigrants fleeing religious persecution in France; in the early 19th century it was briefly a Methodist chapel, its ministry directed primarily towards newly arrived Jews escaping pogroms; Russian Jews took it over at the end of that century; and in 1976 it began a new chapter, serving as a mosque for Bangladeshi Muslims.
Did you know that the oldest rate payer in London is Twinings Tea? Their shop at 216 the Strand has been in continuous use since 1717. The connection goes back a few years more: the shop’s founder, Thomas Twining, bought out a coffee house in 1706 at the rear of the site.
Did you know that the world’s oldest company logo in continuous use is displayed above the door of Twinings Shop on the Strand? The doorway with its golden lion and Chinese figures was erected by Thomas’s grandson Richard Twining in 1787.
Did you know that All Hallows by The Tower is the oldest church in London - dating from 675? The Abbey at Barking founded it, an arch from the original building remaining today.
Did you know the world’s first Valentines card was sent by the Duke of Orleans in 1415? He was languishing in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt , and the message contained a poem to his wife. His missive is held by the British Library .
Did you know that slips (cuttings) from the Weeping Willow planted by Alexander Pope in his garden at Twickenham were sent to the Empress Catherine of Russia, such was its fame; and the painter J.M.W. Turner is thought in 1808 to have rescued another from the by then doomed tree, painting it and composing a poem in its honour into the bargain. Turner planted this ‘one weak scion’ in his own Twickenham villa, Sandycombe Lodge. One (improbable) legend has Pope’s Weeping willow as the first in the land, and father to all the rest, grown from a twig found alive in a basket of figs sent from Turkey.
Did you know that the Victoria Embankment was the first outdoor space in Britain to be lit by electricity? Arc lamps of a type recently invented by Russian engineer Pavel Yablochov were used in what was an experimental venture in 1878. Billingsgate fish market soon followed, along with the Holburn Viaduct. The first street in the world to be lit by electric lamps was Mosley Street in Newcastle .
Did you know that Britain’s longest serving Indian Restaurant is the Veeraswamy in Regent Street? It opened in 1926. Patronized by politicians like Indira Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, it has also been frequented by stars of stage and screen, among them Charlie Chaplin . And when Marlon Brando ate there I’m guessing they had to send out for extra supplies. Another 20 naan breads Marlon?
Did you know that the clock on the Big Ben Tower slowed down by 5 minutes in 1949 when a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand? At 14 feet long there is plenty of room for them
Did you know that there are over two miles of passages in the Houses of Parliament ? These include a royal route from a porte cochere beneath the Victoria Tower all the way to the Lords.
Did you know that the first person buried at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey was Geoffrey Chaucer ? Though his place in the Abbey came courtesy of his role as Clerk of Works, not for his writing.
Did you know that Westminster Bridge is painted green to be in harmony with the seat colour of the House of Commons?
Did you know that Parliament Square was made into Britain’s first roundabout in 1926? By then it had already existed for about 80 years.
Did you know that Westminster Abbey is Britain’s largest church? Begun by Edward the Confessor , it was added to and altered hugely by Henry III . Henry IV actually died in the Abbey.
Did you knowthat College Garden in Westminster was laid out in the 10th Century and is Britain’s oldest Garden? Part of it was originally for growing medicinal herbs
Did you know that Jack the Ripper was left-handed? It is one of the few hard facts we have relating to the killer who stalked Whitechapel in 1888 , determined from the wounds inflicted on his victims. A lack of facts has not stopped amateur and professional sleuths alike claiming they have solved the riddle of his identity: to date there are more than 100 candidates for the post including the future Edward VII ’s son Prince Albert Victor; Lewis Carroll ; Walter Sickert ; and Doctor Thomas Cream.
Did you know that the future King George VI competed at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships ? He lost in the first round of the men’s doubles in 1926 when he was Duke of York. Another man you might not immediately think of as playing there is racing driver James Hunt who competed as a junior.
Famous London people
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