Most of us like to have a bank of facts that we can throw out at dinner parties or down the pub, so what better than some of the more quirky and generally interesting facts about London…
1) For players of the card game Bridge, a little club in London’s Mayfair has very great significance. The Portland Club has only 100 members, but it still sets official rules for bridge games all around the world.
2) The epic song Jerusalem (as sung at every Women’s Institute meeting and Last Night the of the Proms) was written by William Blake in London, or to be precise No 17, South Molton Street, which even features in the words.
3) Any person declared a Freeman of London has the right to drive his/her sheep through the city of London and across London Bridge without payment of a toll. The last recorded time this happened was 2008 when 500 freemen drove sheep across London Bridge in aid of charity.
4) The driving of cars, horses and such on the left in Britain has many potential origins possibly dating back to Roman times, but it was made official practice at least over London Bridge in 1722 when the Lord Mayor of London ordered it to be so, to facilitate the easy passage of people, livestock and carts over said bridge.
5) A room above what is now Bar Italia is Soho is where this mysterious contraption called television was first demonstrated by John Logie Baird in 1926….it’ll never catch on you know as the director of the BBC at the time was quoted as saying.
6) The clock tower next to the Houses of Parliament is often referred to as Big Ben, but in fact this is incorrect. The tower itself should be called St. Stephen’s Tower, whereas the large 13 ton bell inside the tower is actually Big Ben.
7) The Great Fire of London consumed the houses of about 80% of London residents in 1666, but remarkably only 8 people are known to have died in the disaster.
8] Her Majesty the Queen is not allowed to go into the House of Commons because she is not a commoner.
9) One of the best views of London is said to be from the top of “The Monument” which was built where the Great Fire of London stopped. It’s 202 feet high because it is 202 feet from the site of the baker’s house in Pudding Lane and has 311 steps to climb it.
10) Buckingham Palace has over six hundred rooms! That must have some serious heating bill.
11) The first escalator in London was installed in the Harrods store in 1878.
12) The very first air conditioning was installed in London in 1883 at the Lloyds Restaurant (Law Courts branch) to cool the judges and lawyers while they dined. Since this was pre-electricity being available, the air-conditioning bellows were powered by 2 women cycling 8 hours a day!
13) The annual “budget box” as held up traditionally by the Chancellor of the Exchequer outside number 11 Downing Street was the same one used by Gladstone in 1860 and was still in use until 1997. No wonder it was looking a bit battered.
14) The The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the only person ever allowed to drink alcohol in the House of Commons, but only while addressing the house during budget speech day.
15) The Tower of London lays claim to the longest continual ceremony in the world with the Ceremony of the Keys. The ceremony to ensure that the tower is secure runs every night finishing at exactly 10pm and dates back over 700 years. It has apparently never been missed.