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10 Things You Didn’t Know About London

August 4, 2015

10 Things You Didn’t Know About London

Secrets, facts and trivia – here are some things we bet you didn’t know about our glorious capital!

1. Famous in film

St Barts Church in Smithfield has been used in the filming of The Other Boleyn Girl, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare In Love, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. The battle scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket were filmed at Beckton Gas Works and much of James Cameron’s Aliens was filmed in a disused power station in Acton.

2. Lost river of London

London has 22 lost rivers. They are mainly subterranean and flow through manmade culverts underground as the city has gradually been built above them but at Sloane Square there is a tunnel running above the station which contains the Westbourne, one of these lost rivers. (

3. How many London Bridges?

London Bridge refers to several historic bridges that spanned the River Thames between Southwark and the City of London. Wooden structures were replaced by stone bridges, most famously the Old London Bridge which was in continuous use for over 600 years until 1831. For 355 of those years, heads of traitors dipped in tar and boiled to protect them from the elements, were displayed impaled on spikes to serve as a warning to others. William Wallace was the first to appear in 1305 and then following were other famous characters such as Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell.

4. Pollution problem

In December 1952 a combination of cold and windless weather and the thick coal pollution left London in such disgusting thick smog that over 100,000 were admitted to hospital with 12,000 losing their lives. It was reported that the pollution was so bad that a theatre performance at Sadler’s Wells had to be abandoned when the smog crept into the auditorium.

5. Big Ben

Big Ben, one of London’s most iconic landmarks, is in fact the name of the bell, not the clock or the clock tower. And the bell chimes in the key of E. The tower is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, renamed only in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And the clock is the second largest four-faced clock in the world (Minneapolis City Hall holding first place)

Lamb & Flag image courtesy of

Lamb & Flag image courtesy of

6. Pubs with a past

The oldest pubs in London include: the Lamb & Flag (33 Rose St, WC2) the site of which has been home to a public house since tudor times; the Cittie of York (22 High Holborn WC1) which has been the place of an inn since 1420 and the Angel (101 Bermondsey Wall, SE16), which since the fifteenth century was a pub kept by monks at the nearby eleventh-century Benedictine monastery.
It is hard to know which is the oldest as most were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and so records show most public houses dating from about 1667.  In the early 14th Century there were 354 taverns in the city which curiously also acted as job centres as tradespeople would group at a particular public house in the hope of being selected by masters for work. It is common to find pubs named after famous people or animals as people were illiterate and so names had to be easily illustrated on the signs outside. (

7. Secrets at Benugo Bar

And for more public house trivia – the Benugo Bar at the British Film Institution holds a secret bar. Head to the back of the restaurant and behind the bookcase you will find a secret door that takes you down a dark corridor and leads you to the Drawing Room. It’s a small cocktail bar only for the people in the know and private functions. (

8. Going to the Chapel?

Going to the Chapel? Between 1613 and 1754 London was the Las Vegas style wedding capital as a legal loophole meant that on-the-spot marriages could be carried out at the ‘Liberties of the Fleet’ – the area surrounding the Fleet Debtors’ Prison. It was an area famed for debauchery and many illicit marriages were carried out but in most cases unions were made for those wanting to marry without parental consent. It is estimated that about 250,000 marriages took place in the 60 year period. (Found in Lost London by Richard Guard)

9. The London Underground

There is so much to know about the London Underground; the deepest station is Hampstead on the Northern Line; Aldgate Station is built on the site of a mass grave of bodies from the plague; there are about 40 ghost tube stations including ‘the British Museum’ between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn which hasn’t been used since 1932. But a little known fact is that the Royal Mail has its own miniature underground train system. It hasn’t been used for over 10 years and consists of only 8 stations but for 70 years their 2ft wide trains carried post across the city from Liverpool Street to Paddington.

10. What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Shoreditch was so called after King Edward IV’s mistress, Jane Shore, who died penniless in a ditch in this east end of London. Charing Cross also earned its name from a lady. Also known as Eleanor’s Cross, the original Charing Cross was erected by Edward I following the death of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, in 1290.
A memorial cross was placed at each resting place on her funeral procession, the last being in the village of Charing. A Victorian replacement of the cross can be found today in the forecourt of Charing Cross Station, 180 yards from the original location which is now marked by a statue of Charles I on horseback looking down Whitehall. (Found in Lost London by Richard Guard)
What secrets of hidden London do you know about? Let us know your fun facts!