INTRODUCTION Which fruit was St Paul’s Cathedral originally going to be modelled on? Why are London taxis black? And which stadium started out as a cabbage patch? London has captured the imagination of the world for centuries with rich heritage entwined with unforgettable memories, but there is still so much to discover about the city’s unique and eclectic past. Travel with us through a history of unusual stories encapsulating London’s architecture, spirit and people. London & Partners, the official convention bureau for London, offers a total event solution service for clients and event organisers, including free and impartial advice on planning meetings, conferences, events, exhibitions, incentives, launch parties and association meetings in London.
VENUES The May Fair Hotel was opened by King George V in 1927 and once had a crocodile pit in its beachcomber bar. In 1877, the Business Design Centre hosted a walking race with a grand prize of ÂŁ1,000. The winner walked 510 miles in six days with only brief breaks for food and water. Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, is said to walk the Haunted Gallery at Hampton Court Palace. Strange occurrences have been reported, including two female visitors fainting in the same spot just half an hour apart.
DID YOU KNOW
On average, the EDF Energy London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Senate House was Londonâ€™s first skyscraper.
George Orwell used Senate House as his inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in his famous novel, 1984.
Twickenham Rugby Stadium
The hallowed ground that is now Twickenham Rugby Stadium was formerly a humble cabbage patch back in 1907.
The British Museum
CULTURE There are more than 8,000 licensed restaurants in London. They include menus from more than 70 major country cuisines, and over 60 Michelin starred restaurants. Around 250 festivals take place in London every year including Londonâ€™s largest free festival, The Mayorâ€™s Thames Festival, and Europeâ€™s biggest street festival, The Notting Hill Carnival which attracts nearly one million people. Three of the top ten museums and galleries in the world are in London and there are 857 art galleries in total. London has more than 170 museums including 11 national museums, which are free to enter.
DID YOU KNOW
From the first performance of Shakespeare in 1599, at the site now well known as The Globe, there are now over 200 shows to choose from every day across London, including current hits Matilda and War Horse.
Wilton’s Music Hall is the world’s oldest surviving music hall, built in 1743 and a living piece of London’s musical history. London has more than 800 bookshops and over 380 public libraries including the British Library which holds the Magna Carta. The UK capital presents more live comedy than any other city in the world. From hosting new talent in the back rooms of London pubs to high-profile comedians such as Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Steve Coogan performing in major arenas.
HISTORY A room above what is now Bar Italia in Soho is where John Logie Baird first publicly demonstrated the television, in 1926. Britain’s first public toilets were opened in 1855 at Bank in front of the Royal Exchange. A poem commissioned for the occasion included the line ‘wherein a penny opens the gate to Heaven’s mercy’ giving rise to the phrase ‘spend a penny’. Nearly 200,000 Londoners slept each night in Underground tunnels during the Blitz. There were 22,000 bunk beds, plus washroom facilities, and trains ran every night to supply seven tonnes of food and 2,400 gallons of tea and cocoa.
DID YOU KNOW
The Penny Post was invented in the 1670s. This allowed Londoners to send messages to any other part of the city for a mere penny. You would post your message in a coffeehouse and it would be received soon after. This invention astonished foreigners.
BUSINESS Referring to the year AD60, Roman historian Tacitus called Londinium a ‘place filled with traders and a celebrated centre of commerce’. As Britain’s overseas trading empire reached new corners of the globe in the 17th century all manner of exotic fruits and animals arrived in London. A rhinoceros propped up the bar of the Belle Sauvage Inn on Ludgate Hill. For two pence customers could pat it; for two shillings they could sit on it; but for a colossal £15 you could ride it up and down Fleet Street! Whitechapel Bell Foundry is the oldest manufacturing company in the world – more than 600 years old.
The Audley, Mount Street
Pubs, including the Fox and Anchor in Smithfield and the Market Porter in Borough, are licensed to serve alcohol with breakfast from 7am to fit in with the hours worked by market porters.
The nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel refers to the act of ‘pawning one’s suit’ after spending ‘all one’s cash’ in the pubs of Clerkenwell. 18
DID YOU KNOW
Any person declared a Freeman of London has the right to drive his/her sheep through the City of London and across London Bridge without payment of a toll.
Early Tube escalators ended at a diagonal barrier so that the stairway finished sooner for your right foot than your left. Those who wanted to stand rather than walk were therefore asked to do so on the right, the root of the modern convention.
‘A to Z’ map inventor Phyllis Pearsall walked every one of London’s 23,000 streets to compile it. London taxis are black because after the Second World War resources including paint were scarce, and only black paint was cheap.
Canary Wharf Tube station
The Emirates Air Line cable car
DID YOU KNOW
The Emirates Air Line cable car has the capacity to carry up to 2,500 people an hour in each direction (the equivalent of 30 buses) while passengers enjoy spectacular views over London.
Taxi drivers undergo rigorous training called ‘The Knowledge’ which requires them to memorise the quickest routes between 320 different runs. They also have to know the major points of interest within a quarter mile radius of the run’s starting point and end.
AREAS 800 year-old Smithfield Market is so called because it was originally a ‘smooth field’ by the water. Holloway Road really was hollowed out by cattle coming from the north. And some time ago shepherds really did rest by the bushes in Shepherd’s Bush.
DID YOU KNOW
London has played a major role in countless films from A Clockwork Orange to Notting Hill and is now the world’s third busiest film production centre with over 14,000 ‘shooting days’ in 2011 including the 23rd Bond film Skyfall.
St Paul’s Cathedral
DID YOU KNOW
Sir Christopher Wren originally wanted to model the dome of St Paul’s on a pineapple.
ARCHITECTURE The ‘Cheesegrater’ skyscraper (Leadenhall Building) has its unusual shape because the view from Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral must not be obscured. Therefore the building had to be tapered at the top. Likewise, there is a bush in Richmond Park which must be cut so as not to obscure the view of the City. The Houses of Parliament has 1,000 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, 8 bars and 6 restaurants. The Palace of Westminster was positioned by the river so it could not be surrounded by a mob.
EDUCATION London is synonymous with education. Formed in 1179, Londonâ€™s oldest school, the Royal College of St Peter stands in the precincts of Westminster Abbey and has seven prime ministers in its alumni. The free lectures at Londonâ€™s Gresham College are funded by the rent from the businesses in the Royal Exchange shopping arcade in the City. The original exchange was founded in the 16th century by Thomas Gresham, who decreed that a college be established with the rents. More than 400 years later the arrangement still continues.
VISIT LONDON In 2012 London had more than 15 million international visitors, more than any other city in the world. London has always had a very rich cultural diversity. Today the city has communities from 33 different nations and with 230 languages spoken, more languages than any other city in the world. Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin are among the most common. Believe it or not it rains less in London than it does in Barcelona, Paris or Rome.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
DID YOU KNOW
2012 was the third time London has hosted the Olympics, previous occasions being 1908 and 1948, more times than any other city.
Itâ€™s because of Londonâ€™s 1908 Olympics that the marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards long. The organisers wanted to standardise the distance at 26 miles, so a course of that length was laid out. But it finished on the opposite side of the Olympic Stadium from the box inhabited by the Royal Family, who insisted that the runners finish directly in front of them. So the competitors had to run an extra 385 yards round the track, a distance that was then incorporated into all subsequent marathons.
REDISCOVER LONDON FOR YOUR NEXT EVENT To find out more about how you can harness all of Londonâ€™s fascinating charm for your next event contact our expert Event Solutions team: London & Partners 6th Floor, 2 More London Riverside London, SE1 2RR, UK T +44 (0)20 7234 5833 @London_CVB firstname.lastname@example.org londonandpartners.com/convention-bureau