Think you know all about London’s most famous landmarks? Well, they still have a few secrets to reveal.
Instantly recognisable attractions in London, such as Tower Bridge, Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral are well-known throughout the world. Despite being familiar to the majority of visitors to the capital, some of London’s most famous landmarks have a few little known secrets of their own. Read on to find out what many people don’t know about these iconic sites.
The Tower of London once housed a polar bear
In the 13th century it was not unusual to see a polar bear swimming in the River Thames and catching fish. The creature, which is found in historic records under the term “the white bear” was a gift to Henry III from King Haakon of Norway in 1252 and lived in the Tower of London.
95 per cent of the Shard’s building materials came from recycled sources
A modern architectural masterpiece and viewable from some London Bridge serviced apartments, the Shard is a sight to behold. Despite making a dramatic impact on the capital’s skyline, the building process was remarkably eco-friendly due to the use of recycled materials in its construction.
The London Eye has 32 capsules, but has a number 33
For superstitious reasons 13 was left out when numbering the capsules on the London Eye. This means that although there are only 32 pods, the final one is referred to as 33.
It takes pennies to keep Big Ben on time
Big Ben, the name used to refer to the clock, its tower and the bell inside at the Palace of Westminster, has its time adjusted every year to ensure complete accuracy. This is done with old British pennies. If it is fast, a penny is added and when the clock appears to be slow, a penny is removed from the pendulum.
Dinner was served atop Nelson’s Column
A statue of Horatio Nelson has looked down upon visitors to Trafalgar Square since 1842, but a very bizarre dinner party was hosted on his plinth before the likeness was put in place. No fewer than 14 members of the memorial committee who commissioned the statue dined 170 feet up, taking in views of the surrounding area.
The statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus is actually his twin brother
Despite popular belief that the statue at the centre of Piccadilly Circus depicts Eros, the god of romantic love, this is not the case. It is actually Anteros, Eros’ twin brother, who represents selfless and mature love. It was the first statue in London to be cast out of aluminium.
Bovril predated Coca Cola in Piccadilly Circus
While the neon lights of the Coca Cola logo are the longest established in Piccadilly Circus, having been there since 1955, they were not the first. Shining logos have been a feature of the junction since 1908, with Bovril and Perrier being among the first products to be advertised in this way at the location.
Buckingham Palace has a post office and a doctor’s surgery
It’s not surprising to hear that the Queen’s residence has 775 rooms, but it may be more of a shock to hear that Buckingham Palace has a post office, doctor’s surgery, police station, cinema and pool. With more than 800 staff living within the palace grounds, it’s more like a village than just one family’s home.
St Paul’s Cathedral was nearly destroyed in the Blitz
A bomb made a direct hit on St Paul’s Cathedral in 1940 during the Blitz. Luckily, it didn’t explode and was carefully extricated, leaving the building unharmed. Had the bomb gone off, then the London skyline would look very different today. The ability of St Paul’s to remain unscathed despite the best efforts of the Luftwaffe became a symbol of Britain’s indomitable spirit during the conflict.
The public competition to design Tower Bridge was won by one of the judges
The winning entry to design Tower Bridge was actually submitted by one of the people tasked with judging the public competition. Sir Horace Jones died not long after work began on the famous river crossing point, but after eight years and the efforts of 432 workers, his vision was complete.