Did you know…? 14 fantastic facts about London

london nights

You may not be aware of it, but London’s a mega-metropolis with a history that dates back at least two millennia, which means it has many a secret – and fascinating fact to uncover for visitors to its incredible environs. And, just to whet your appetite, here are 14 fantastic nuggets of truth for you…

Big Ben

  • Big Ben isn’t the name of the tower of the gothic masterpiece that’s the Palace of Westminster (that’s called Elizabeth Tower) but, in fact, the moniker of the bell that sits inside at the tower’s very top
  • The instantly recognisable ‘bong’ of Big Ben is in the musical note of ‘E’.
  • Cock Lane, to be found right by Holborn Viaduct, isn’t so named because of anything to do the poultry trade and centuries-ago markets, but actually because in the Middle Ages it was the only street in the city to be licensed for prostitution.

Nelson’s Column

  • Time for some Nelson’s Column facts – and why not? Standing atop its column, the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, slap-bang in the centre of Trafalgar Square slap-bang in the centre of town (and not far at all away from hotels near Westbourne Terrace) is 17-feet-tall and was erected almost 200 years ago in 1842.
  • Amazingly, following the column’s siting on its spot, as many as 14 members of its memorial committee (who’d commissioned the monument) enjoyed a dinner party atop of the 170ft-high plinth – before the statue was affixed there.
  • The only British Prime Minister of the total 51 who have occupied the office since its creation in 1751 who’s been assassinated (Spencer Perceval) was bumped off at the House of Commons; he was shot in the home of democracy in 1812.
  • A plague pit dug in the year 1665 (one year before the Great Fire of London) beneath Aldgate Tube station was once the resting place in excess of 1,000 bodies.
  • You may not know it but once upon a time cocaine was far from illegal and freely available everywhere – in up until 1916, you could even buy it in legendary Knightsbridge department store Harrods.

wine cellar

  • A wine cellar built by the notorious six-times-married King Henry VIII still lies underneath the Ministry of Defence’s HQ in Whitehall.
  • According to a law passed in Westminster’s Parliament, should a man kiss a woman against her will, she can legitimately bite off his nose – that particular law dates back to the year 1837, the year Queen Victoria ascended to the throne.
  • All vehicles in the UK must be driven on the left-hand side of the road, right? Wrong! In 1902 Parliament decreed that they must be driven right-hand side of the road in the West End’s Savoy Court. Why? To make it easier for horse-drawn carriages to drop off and pick up theatregoers for the Savoy Theatre.
  • Just a random fact that Brixton Market occupies Electric Avenue? Nopes. It’s because it was the was the first market in the UK to be supplied with electricity.
  • Looking for a fine, tranquil spot away from the hustle-bustle in The City? Head for Postman’s Park, located before Bart’s hospital. Here you’ll find small but moving monuments commemorating the heroic deeds of ‘everyday’ Victorian folk; a great curio to visit then if you’re staying relatively nearby, like at the Park Grand London Paddington hotel.
  • Technically, it’s illegal to pass away in the Houses of Parliament – although, famously, many an MP and Lord and Lady fall asleep on the benches during sittings.