Think you know everything there is to know about London? Think again! Here’s a list of 21 things you definitely (probably) didn’t know about our great capital.
4. Until 1916, Harrods stocked Ryno’s Hay Fever and Catarrh Remedy, which was almost purely cocaine. Shoppers could also pick up a gift set for “friends at the front,” which contained cocaine, morphine, needles and syringes.
5. Many pubs in Smithfield Market, such as the Fox and Anchor, and in Borough Market, such as the Market Porter, are licensed to serve alcohol with breakfast from 7am. This is to accommodate market porters’ working hours.
7. The clock that sits at the entrance to the Horse Guards Parade at Buckingham Palace has a black mark by the II to commemorate the time that King Charles I was executed in 1649.
8. In 1842, before the 170-foot statute of Nelson was constructed on the Trafalgar Square column, 14 members of the memorial committee that commissioned the piece held a dinner party on the plinth.
10. There is only one place in London where cars are required to travel on the right-hand side of the road—Savoy Court in Strand. Originally, this allowed theatregoers to decamp from their carriages and go directly into the Savoy Theatre.
11. The world’s first traffic light was erected outside the Houses of Parliament in 1868. It blew up the following year.
12. One historian has estimated that up to 20% of all women in 1700s London were prostitutes.
13. Royal Navy ships entering the Port of London are still required by law to give a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower.
14. When London hosted the Olympics in 2012, the organisers asked the manager of The Who if drummer Keith Moon was available to play with the band at the opening ceremony. The manager informed them that Moon had been dead for 34 years.
16. In 1251, Henry III was given a polar bear as a present from the King of Norway. He kept it in the Tower of London, attached to a long chain so it could swim in the Thames and catch fish.
17. When British Airways had trouble erecting the London Eye, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airlines, had a blimp fly over the site with a red sign that said, “BA Can’t Get It Up!!”
18. According to popular belief, the Trafalgar Square statue of George Washington, whose great-grandfather immigrated to The States from England, is built on soil imported from the U.S. because Washington once claimed he would never again set foot on English soil.
19. To get a license to drive a classic London taxi, you have to prove that you know every street and landmark in London as well as the back of your hand. This extensive set of information is known as The Knowledge, and it takes three to four years to memorise.
20. It’s against the law to die in the Houses of Parliament.