Monday, December 24, 2012

London Facts


The world's first traffic light was erected outside the House of Commons in 1868. It blew up the following year, injuring the policeman who was operating it.

Cars are requiredby law to travel on the right-hand side of the road in Savoy Court - this was originally decreed by Parliament in 1902 so that theatregoers could decamp from their carriages directly into the Savoy Theatre.

Arsenal is the only football club to have its own, eponymous Tube station, even though London's arsenal was based in Woolwich.

St Thomas' Hospital used to have seven buildings, one for each day of the week, supposedly so that staff knew on which day patients had been admitted. Only two of the buildings remain.

Brixton Market was the first electrified market in the country and stands, as a result, on Electric Avenue.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London was also intended to be used as a fixed telescope to study the motion of a single star by Robert Hooke, who designed the structure with Sir Christopher Wren.

Only six people died in the Great Fire of London, but seven people died by falling or jumping from the Monument to it before a safety rail was built.

The nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel refers to the act of pawning one's suit after spending all one's cash in the pubs of Clerkenwell.


The circular church of Nôtre Dame de Paris in Leicester Place off Leicester Square has a crucifixion mural, including a self-portrait, painted by the French artist Jean Cocteau in 1960.

The Piccadilly Circus statue known as Eros, is actually intended to depict the Angel of Christian Charity, and is part of a memorial to the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. Its stance, aiming an arrow up Shaftesbury Avenue, is thought to be a coarse visual pun.

Pubs in Smithfield, such as the Fox and Anchor, and in Borough, such as the Market Porter, are licensed to serve alcohol with breakfast from 7am to fit in with the hours worked by market porters.

The only true home shared by all four Beatles was a flat at 57 Green Street near Hyde Park, where they lived during the autumn of 1963.

London was the first city to reach a population of more than one million, in 1811. It remained the largest city in the world until it was overtaken by Tokyo in 1957.

The only London theatre not to close during the war was the Windmill in Soho, which then offered a variety show mixing comedy acts with semi-nude female tableaux. It is now a table-dancing club.

The Dome, the focus of the Millennium celebrations, is the largest structure of its kind in the world - big enough to house the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Statue of Liberty.

Elephant and Castle derives its name from a craftsmen's guild, whose sign featured an elephant in reference to the ivory handles of the knives they made.

Mayfair is named after a fair that used to be held in the area every May; Piccadilly after a kind of stiff collar made by a tailor who lived in the area in the 17th century; and Covent Garden was originally the market garden for the convent of Westminster Abbey.

London's smallest house is three-and-ahalf-feet wide, and forms part of the Tyburn Convent in Hyde Park Place, where 20 nuns live.

It is illegal in London to have sex on a parked motorcycle, beat a carpet in a public park, or impersonate a Chelsea pensioner - the latter offence is still theoretically punishable by death.

Marble Arch was designed by John Nash in 1828 as the entrance to Buckingham Palace, but was moved to Hyde Park when Queen Victoria expanded the palace. It contains a tiny office once used as a police station.

There is a 19th century time capsule under the base of Cleopatra's Needle - the 68ft, 3,450-year-old obelisk on the Embankment - containing a set of British currency, a railway guide, a Bible, and 12 portraits of "the prettiest English ladies".

Only one British Prime Minister out of 51 who have held the office since 1751, has ever been assassinated - Spencer Perceval was shot at the House of Commons in 1812.

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