We love London. It’s our home. It’s also one of the most fascinating places to be, due to its history, due to its multicultural population and due to it being the home of so much great arts and culture (from music to theatre to street art). We are always finding out incredible new facts about London and so wanted to share a few of them with you all. So, here are our 12 amazing facts about London.
Any taxicab driver in London is required to be able to decide routes immediately without need for a sat nav or to look at a map. So before being allowed to drive a black cab, every driver must learn how to navigate the city by passing the “Knowledge”, a ridiculously difficult test of London geography that includes 320 basic routes that must be mastered, as well as the 25,000 streets within that route, and roughly 20,000 landmarks and places that are all within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.
It’s no surprise that this law was recently voted the most absurd in Britain. In truth, it’s not certain why this law is still standing, though in theory it was created with a purpose. Another bit of British bureaucracy is that anyone who dies in the Houses of Parliament is entitled to a state funeral. So, to stop just anyone getting one of those, they made it illegal for anyone to die there. It kinda makes sense?!
J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, never had kids, but that didn’t stop him from handing over the copyright of his most famous novel to Great Ormond Street in 1929, eight years before he passed away. This kind piece of philanthropy means that, in the UK, whenever there’s a Peter Pan book or toy is sold, a movie is made, a production is put on or any other work based on the original Peter Pan book, the hospital will get a royalty payment.
The copyright for Peter Pan has actually expired everywhere in the word except for the US (where the copyright is in place until 2023) and Spain (until 2017), which would normally mean that the royalty payments would stop. However, the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988) (CDPA) has granted the charity a right to royalty in perpetuity in the UK which means that these royalty payments will never stop, even if the copyright expires.
Though Great Ormond Street have never revealed how much money they’ve earned from this copyright (as was the wish of J.M. Barrie) we can assume it has been quite substantial.
Karl Marx’ close relationship to London is not often talked about as often as it should. For it was in London that Marx drafted the Communist Manifesto in a room above the Red Lion pub on Great Windmill Street (now a trendy B@1 bar). Marx also wrote Das Kapital in the reading room of the British Museum, in between spells of getting drunk or asking Friedrich Engels for a little extra cash to tide him over.
In 2012, the French parliament created a constituency for Northern Europe as one of 11 overseas seats. Though technically the MP representing French citizens across Northern Europe, due to the number of French living in the UK – over 200,000 living in London (which makes it France’s 6th largest city by number of French people living there) and over 400,000 in the whole of the UK – many have referred to the role as France’s MP for London. Currently occupied by Christophe Premat, it’s no wonder that they call London “Paris-on-Thames”.
London was the location of the first traffic light in the world when one was erected outside the House of Commons in 1868. Unfortunately it blew up the following year, injuring the policeman who was operating it. There are now 6,252 traffic lights in London (according to TfL’s 2015 figures) with that number increasingly rapidly. Intriguely, there is currently a debate between city planners in the US and UK over which is best, traffic lights or roundabouts? Well, there’s only one way to find out…
In the whole of the UK there’s only one road where you have to drive on the right. Any ideas what it is? It is in fact Savoy Court, home of one of London’s most famous hotels, The Savoy. No one knows the exact reason for this peculiarity. Some believe it was to allow taxis to drop off guests at the Savoy Theatre, which is on the right-hand side, before picking up fares from the hotel at the other end. Others think it’s because there’s a tiny roundabout at the end with a small turning circle that wouldn’t be possible the other way around. Whatever the reason, it’s a fact!
This is another one of our absurd laws. Any Royal Navy ship that enters the Port of London must provide a bottle of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London upon arriving. This offering will be marked by a ceremony at the Constable’s Dues with the Royal Navy mooring at the Tower Pier with the ship’s captain delivering the alcohol.
Edmund Spenser was a much loved poet who died in 1598. As with many poets and playwrights of that era he was buried in Westminster Abbey. The curious thing about Spenser’s burial, is that according to historian William Camden, many of his contemporaries threw elegies into his grave, with one of those contemporaries being William Shakespeare. In 1938 a search was commissioned to try and find Spenser’s exact burial site and see if the stories were true but the grave couldn’t be found, meaning that potentially some of Shakespeare’s finest unpublished works could be languishing underground to this day.
Ever wondered why there are so many pubs called the Dog and Duck in the UK? Well, it unfortunately is related to an old rather despicable game that involved dogs chasing a duck whose wings had been clipped, meaning that the only way the duck could escape was by diving into a pond. The game was popular at many places across London, though Balls Pond Road near Islington is known as being one of the most well-known places it was played.
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Frith Street in Soho is famous for hosting many incredible musical performances over the years – the list of jazz, blues and folk greats who’ve played the venue over the years is incredible. However, it was for a rock star that it has particular significance, as Jimi Hendrix made his last ever public performance at the venue in 1970.
As we’ve already mentioned in this article, London has been home to many famous residents. Some of the most surprising are perhaps this lot: Voltaire, Edgar Allen Poe, Ho Chi Minh, Mahatma Gandhi, Vincent Van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, and Hiter’s older half-brother, all of whom all lived in London for a time.
Hopefully that’s given you an idea of just what a fascinating place London is. If you’d like to find out some more great facts then check out our article Top 10 Weird Facts About The Thames or see what sights you can see in London via our article Sightseeing On The Thames.
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