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London: Facts

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1. The first traffic light in the world was built outside the House of Commons  in 1868.The following year it blew up, injuring the police officer who operated it. 

2. The tomb of Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenserin at Westminster Abbey is said to contain unpublished works by his contemporaries – including Shakespeare – who threw manuscripts into his grave to honour his genius.

3. Cars are required by 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.

4. One, London, is Apsley House’s postal address, the former residence of the Duke of Wellington on Hyde Park Corner.

5. Arsenal is the only football club with its own eponymous Tube station, although the arsenal of London was based in Woolwich.

6. St. Thomas ‘ Hospital had seven buildings, one for each day of the week, allegedly so that staff knew on which day patients were admitted.

7. Signs on Albert Bridge order troops to break the step while marching over it in order to avoid damaging the structure by resonating vibration.

8. Before Nelson’s 17 ft statue was erected in 1842 on top of the Trafalgar Square column, 14 members of the memorial committee that commissioned the work held a dinner party on the 170ft-high plinth.

9. The exact center of London is marked by a plaque overlooking Trafalgar Square in St Martin’s-in – the-Fields Church.

10. Brixton Market was the country’s first electrified market and is therefore on Electric Avenue.

11. Dr. Samuel Johnson once owned 17 London properties, only one of which survives – the museum was donated to Dr. Johnson’s Memorial House in Gough Square, which contains a brick from China’s Great Wall.

12. One of the many buried waterways in the capital, the Fleet River still runs under the Cheshire Cheese pub cellars on Fleet Street.

13. East London is the city’s most popular movie location, hosting all of Oliver! To A Full Metal and Orange Clockwork Jacket. Greenwich’s naval buildings stood in Patriot Games for Washington.

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

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

16. Behind Bart’s hospital, Postman’s Park is one of the great hidden contemplative spots in London. It is full of memorials to “ordinary people” who committed heroic acts.

17. It is believed that the tiered design of St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street inspired the tiered wedding cake.

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

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

20. The statue of the Piccadilly Circus, known as Eros, is intended to depict the Angel of Christian Charity and is part of a memorial to Shaftesbury’s Seventh Earl. His position is thought to be a coarse visual pun, aiming for an arrow up Shaftesbury Avenue.

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

22. A flat at 57 Green Street near Hyde Park, where they lived in the fall of 1963, was the only real home shared by all four Beatles.

23. In St Leonard’s graveyard, Shoreditch, the gravestone of the famous Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage reads simply “Exit Burbage.”

24.London was the first city in 1811 to reach over a million inhabitants. It remained the world’s largest city until it was overtaken in 1957 by Tokyo.

25. Covent Garden‘s first performance of a Punch and Judy show was recorded in the diary entry of Samuel Pepys for May 9, 1662, and it is believed that there has been a similar puppet show every year since.

26. During the war, the only London theater not to close was Soho’s Windmill, which then offered a variety show mixing comedy acts with semi-nude female paintings. It’s now a club for table dancing.

27. The Dome, the focus of the Millennium celebrations, is the world’s largest structure of its kind – large enough to house Giza’s Great Pyramid or Liberty Statue.

28. Elephant and Castle derives its name from a guild of craftsmen whose sign featured an elephant in reference to the ivory handles of their knives.

29. Pearly Kings and Queens, so-called for wearing clothes lined with countless pearl buttons, were originally the costermongers or barrow boys ‘
“aristocracy” and were chosen to protect their rights from competitors and rogues.

30. Mayfair is named after a fair held every May in the area ; 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 Westminster Abbey monastery.

31. John Logie Baird showed in 1926 how TV would work in what is now Frith Street, Soho’s Bar Italia.

32. London’s smallest house is three-and-a-half feet wide and is part of Hyde Park Place’s Tyburn Convent, home to 20 nuns.

33. Parliament Houses have 1,000 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, eight bars and six restaurants – none of which are open to the public.

34. At the junction of Marble Arch and Edgware Road is the site of Tyburn Tree, London’s infamous public gallows – where an estimated 50,000 people were hanged.

35. Instead of incorporating an electrified advertising hoarding into the building, the architect of the Oxo Tower incorporated the name of the company in the windows on all four sides.

36. Having sex on a parked motorcycle, beating a carpet in a public park or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner is illegal in London – the latter offense is still punishable by death theoretically.

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

38. Under the base of Cleopatra’s Needle – the 68 ft, 3,450-year-old obelisk on the Embankment – there is a 19th century time capsule containing a set of British currency, a railway guide, a Bible, and 12 portraits of “the most beautiful English ladies.”

39. After being thrown out of a party at that address in Peckham, Jarvis Cocker, Pulp pop band singer, wrote a song called 59 Lyndhurst Grove.

40. Only one of the 51 British Prime Ministers who had held the office since 1751 has ever been assassinated – in 1812 , Spencer Perceval.

41. Cock Lane, near Holborn Viaduct, was not named because of any association with poultry, but because it was the only street in medieval times to be licensed for prostitution.

42. At 3 Saville Row, the Beatles played their last gig on the Apple Corps roof. It is now a store for Abercrombie & Fitch.

43. Only one house where Charles Dickens lives still stands, at 48 Doughty Street, which is now a museum. He lived there from 1837 and 1839, and it’s where he wrote Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers.

44.The reading room at the British Museum is where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital between bouts of getting very drunk and requesting more money from Friedrich Engels.

45.Over 1,000 bodies are buried in a plague pit built in 1665 below Aldgate station.

46.Busses in London weren’t always red. Several routes had different-colored buses before 1907.

47. For more than 600 years, the original medieval London Bridge was in use ; it featured heads displayed on spikes over half of that time, including those of Guy Fawkes and William Wallace.

48. The city’s oldest church, All Hallows by the Tower, was founded in 675 near Tower Hill. The undercroft has a 2nd century A.D. Roman pavement.

49. In a room above the Red Lion pub on Great Windmill Street, Karl Marx drew up the Communist Manifesto. It’s a trendy bar from B@1 now.

50. Until 1916, Harrods sold cocaine.

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