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Interesting Facts About London

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  1. Is the ninth largest city in the world and the largest metropolitan area in the European Union. If London was a country it would be the eighth London seen from Greenwich.largest in Europe.
  2. Ancient Londinium (London gets its name from the Roman settlement) was where the current 'City of London' stands. This is the financial district and is often referred to as the ‘square mile’, demarcated as it is, by its medieval boundaries.
  3. In Britain, motorists drive on the left – except for one road: Savoy Court, leading into the Savoy Hotel, where cars enter and exit on the right. This was changed by an act of parliament, to enable women to exit cars first, since they traditionally sat behind the driver (from horse and carriage days). Politicians socialise here, which explains matters. The Prime Minister, when visiting, dines at table 1, in the River Restaurant which has the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop.
  4. London will host the Olympics for the third time in 2012 (1908 and 1948). The first city to do so.
  5. Richard the Lionheart introduced swans to Britain in the 12th century, from Cyprus. Mute swans on parts of the Thames are owned by the Crown. Claiming and counting them, is known as Swan Upping.
  6. London has more international visitors than any other city in the world: 15.3 million per year -  the next highest are: Hong Kong with 12 million, Bangkok and Singapore with just over 10 million, followed by Paris with 8.7 million and New York with 7.7 million.
  7. More languages are spoken in London than in any other city in the world (270).
  8. London has the largest wheelchair-accessible bus network in the world.Big Ben is housed in the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster.
  9. 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens in Paddington are dummy houses built to hide the Tube line running underneath (the Metropolitan). The windows are painted on,  and behind the façade is a track. Local pizza firms will ignore your request for delivery here – they’ve heard it before.
  10. London is twinned with New York, Moscow and Berlin.
  11. London’s ring-road the M25, is the largest orbital in the world (at 122 miles).
  12. The Monument is 202 feet high, because it is 202 feet from the base to where the Great Fire of London started in 1666 (the King's baker’s shop, Thomas Farynor's in Pudding Lane). The fire did not put an end to The Great Plague of 1665 as is commonly misunderstood. There are only six recorded deaths relating to the fire, but the rebuilding work took over 50 years.
  13. Big Ben, as everyone should hopefully know – is the bell, not the clock. The tower it’s housed in, is simply referred to as the Clock Tower (not St. Stephen's Tower, which is above the public entrance). The Houses of Parliament are part of the greater Palace of Westminster, built by Barry and Pugin in the mid-19th century.
  14. The Strand is where the edge of the Thames used to be (hence the name). The construction of the Embankment enclosed the river and increased its tidal range.
  15. The junction of Edgware Road and Marble Arch is the site of the original Tyburn Tree, London’s official execution place, where more than 50,000 people were hanged.
  16. Mosquitoes live in the Tube system. They’re not native to Britain and can’t be found anywhere else. It’s thought they travelled on Underground trains from Heathrow where they arrived by plane. They also form their own unique species.
  17. There are 6,128 licensed restaurants in London, a remarkable 22% of Britain's restaurants. They include menus from more than 50 major country cuisines, and 36 Michelin star rated restaurants. Taxi passing through Mayfair in London.
  18. 55% of the London Underground, is not underground.
  19. Five stations on the Underground system are named after pubs: Elephant & Castle, Angel, Swiss Cottage, Royal Oak and Manor House.
  20. There are almost 21,000 licensed taxis in London. 'Black Cabs' come in 12 different colours. The name comes from the device - the taximeter - which was used to measure the distance travelled, which was invented in the 1890s. If the orange light above the driver is off, it has a passenger and won't stop (so waving and shouting won't make any difference).
  21. London began life as Londinium, the Roman fort at the Thames crossing. During the Golden Period of Roman occupation it was called Augusta. Later during the Saxon period of occupation it was known as Lundenwic (actually an area west of Londinium near present day Trafalgar Square). During the 9th century the old abandoned Londinium was repopulated and known as Lundenburh and Lundenwic was depopulated and renamed Ealdwic (old town) - which is where the present district 'Aldwych' gets its name. After that it was called London, and so it remains. London has had five names in the last 20 centuries.
  22. Karl Marx narrowly avoided arrest for drunkenly smashing street lights in Tottenham Court Road after an all-day bender. He and two drinking buddies showed a clean pair of heels to the pursuing police. Karl? - Just the way he rolled.
  23. Ho Chi Minh washed dishes in a West Ealing hotel (The Drayton Court). It was around this time he became interested in political ideology, so would consider world domination, while dipping silver and washing pots. I shouldn't wonder.
  24. The current London Bridge, is the third with that name to span the Thames. The first stood from 1209-1831 and famously contained houses and shops. The second by John Rennie, built to replace the original, lasted until 1968, when it was sold to an American entrepreneur. The outer cladding stones were shipped to Lake Havasu City in Arizona and added to a concrete base, where it still stands today. The current London Bridge was opened in 1973 and is the only bridge controlled by the City of London Corporation (historically protecting its commercial guilds which originated in the medieval period), however only half the span of the river underneath is in their jurisdiction - making it unique in British law. (The famous one in all the photos is 'Tower Bridge'.)
  25. Crossing the medieval London Bridge often took over an hour. There were two 6-foot-wide lanes, so from 1722 those heading north were instructed to use the west-side lane and those heading south to take the east-side lane. No earlier reference to 'driving on the left' in the UK exists, and the habit is likely to have sprung from this simple directive.Cleopatra's Needle waited in Alexandria for 58 years before the perilous journey to London (this is the NY needle pictured in Alexandria, 1880)
  26. The Palace of Westminster was deliberately constructed next to the River Thames, so that it could not be surrounded by a mob.
  27. The world's first traffic light was installed at the junction of Great George St & Bridge St - near Westminster Palace in 1868. It used 'semaphore' style signals during the day and coloured gas lamps at night (red & green); with a policeman operating the equipment at all times. A month after launch, a leaky gas main caused an explosion & the operating policeman was badly burnt. The whole project was put on ice and the next traffic lights to appear were 40 years later, in the USA.
  28. Nelson's Column is based on the column from the Temple to Mars Ultor, in Rome. Before the statue of Nelson was lifted into place using cutting-edge 1843 steam engine technology, 100,000 people queued to see it at ground level. Fourteen of the contributing stonemasons also held a celebratory dinner at the top of the column, before the statue was lifted into place.
  29. Cleopatra's Needle beside the Thames, is often cited as the oldest man-made object in London, but there are older objects in the Petrie Museum Egyptian Archaeology, and much older objects from the Stone Age in the Museum of London. When it was erected in 1878 a 'time capsule' was sunk beneath the pedestal. Included in the booty were: a Rupee, a baby's bottle, a Bradshaw Railway Guide (now popular again) & photographs of twelve of England's most beautiful women.

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