Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge

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This London structure is so well known and iconic that it’s often used as the symbol for the city. The strikingly beautiful bridge demands attention as it spans the River Thames. And this one does NOT have a song written about it.

Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous landmarks. And yet, how much do you know about it?

Check out these ten curiosities about London’s Tower Bridge, and find out!

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge title meme

Tower Bridge Stats

Before sharing the curious facts about Tower Bridge, let’s look at the amazing stats.

It took 432 construction workers eight years to build Tower Bridge. Due to London’s growing population, Tower Bridge was constructed to make it easier for people to cross the Thames. Construction began on June 21, 1886 and finished on June 30, 1894.

The bridge contains more than 11,000 tons of steel. The foundation needed 70,000 tons of concrete to adequately support the bridge. And the structure contains more than 31 million bricks and 2 million rivets.

At the time of construction, the cost was a staggering 1.84 million pounds. Today the cost equivalent equals 152 million pounds.

Now check out the curiosities.

Not That Bridge with a Song

Tower Bridge is frequently mistaken for London Bridge. That more plain bridge is located further upriver. Because Tower Bridge is so eye catching, it’s understandable that people think it’s London Bridge. I actually made that mistake myself, labeling Tower Bridge photos incorrectly when I returned home from my trip.

London Bridge dates back to 1176. The site has supported a succession of bridges, with the latest one completed in 1971. Read more about this structure HERE.

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge other one
Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge – it’s not the one with a song. This plain structure is London Bridge.

Design Competition

In 1876, the City of London held a competition for the design of the new bridge. Although architects submitted more than 50 designs, none were selected.

Finally, seven years later in 1884, architect Sir Horace Jones and civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry submitted a winning design. Sir Horace is also the architect behind some of London’s most beautiful buildings including Leadenhall Market, Smithfield Market and Billingsgate Market.

Sadly, Sir Horace died before his bridge was completed.

What are Bascules?

Tower Bridge is a levered bridge, meaning it opens up to allow for the passage of ships navigating down the river.

The two levered sections are called bascules, a French word meaning “see saw”.  The 1,100 ton bascules, located in the center of the bridge, raise up to a 83 degree angle. It takes approximately five minutes for them to raise completely.

There’s a huge cavern beneath the bridge containing counterweights that operate the bridge. This unique space is sometimes used to host concerts, due to the incredible acoustics.

The bascules used to operate using coal burning steam engines. Currently a combination of oil and electricity power the levers.

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge bascules
Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge – bascules *Canva photo

Where Did the Name Come From?

Since London already had a namesake bridge, this structure needed a different name.

The Tower Bridge name comes from its proximity to the Tower of London, located just across the river.  Although the bridge isn’t as old as it’s made to look, it does intentionally match the architecture of the famous, and much older, Tower of London.

Color Changes

The original Tower Bridge featured a drab brown exterior.

In 1977 the colors changed to red, white and blue to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. Since then the bridge has undergone another major facelift. Between 2008 and 2016 the bridge was painted the current colors of bright blue and white.

The bridge gets a facelift every 25 years.

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge
Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge – color changes

Prostitutes and Pickpockets

Originally, the bridge’s two high level walkways allowed pedestrians to cross when the bascules were open. However, people had to climb flights of stairs to use the walkways and then climb back down stairs in the opposite tower. Most preferred to simply wait for the ship to pass through.

The walkways fell into disrepair and became a sort of red light district in London. Ladies of the night and pickpockets gathered on the walkways, looking for business. The walkways closed in 1910, reopening later as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Glass Walkway

In 2014, the Tower Bridge Exhibition launched the Glass Walkway. The west high level walkway now features a glass bottom, where visitors can admire the bridge from a unique angle and watch pedestrians and ships passing below.

Special events, such as doggie days and even yoga classes, are held on the glass walkway. Yoga classes take place at sunrise, 42 meters above the River Thames.

Wedding Destination

You can also book the walkways for your special wedding…if you are willing to pay the hefty price. Tables are set up along the glass walkway, for a one of a kind reception after saying “I do”. The Tower Bridge Victorian engine rooms are also available for special receptions and events. Imagine the gorgeous photos!

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge night
Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge – imagine an evening wedding on the walkways! *Canva photo

Daring Feats

Tower Bridge has experienced some exciting moments.

In 1912 a pilot named Frank McClean flew his short biplane between the bascules and the walkways, during an emergency. He made it through without damaging the bridge or his airplane.

And Thomas Hans Orde-Lees jumped off the bridge in 1917, safely parachuting into the River Thames. He wanted to show the benefits of RAF pilots using parachutes. His stunt is considered the momentum for the founding of the Royal Parachute Regiment. Apparently there’s even a film of the stunt.

Most outrageous of all, a London double decker bus began crossing the bridge in 1952 as it suddenly started opening to allow a ship to pass through. Driver Albert Gunter stayed calm, pressed the pedal to the floor and jumped the widening gap. He made it safely.

Albert received a day off for his quick thinking and 10 pounds.

Right of Way

More than 40,000 people use the Tower Bridge every day, crossing on foot and in cars. However, ships on the river always have right of way.  Ship captains must give the bridge 24 hours notice of their approach. And then everyone, no matter who they are, must wait for the bridge bascules to raise, the ship to pass through, and the bascules to lower again.

The bascules raise twice a day, on average, for the passage of ships. It’s considered lucky to see the levers rise.

You might catch the bascules raising on this London webcam.

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge 40000
Ten Curiosities About London’s Tower Bridge – 40000 people use the bridge in a day

Experience the Bridge

It’s free to walk across Tower Bridge. If you want to explore the towers or snap photos from the glass walkway, there is a fee for that. Within the towers are interactive history exhibits. The admission fee includes a visit to the Victorian engine rooms as well.

Or you can admire the structure from several vantage points along the River Thames. We took photos from the nearby Tower of London. The bridge is definitely a gorgeous sight. I want to explore it further, on my next visit.

Did you learn anything new about Tower Bridge? What curiosity surprised you the most?

Ten Curiosities About London's Tower Bridge group shot
Our group shot with Tower Bridge in the background.

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Good Luck Traditions from England

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This fun series, looking at unique superstitions and traditions in different countries, comes to a close with this post. That is, until I visit more countries!

I wondered if England’s traditions and those in Scotland, Ireland and the US might be very similar. However, I found that not true. There are some similarities. For the most part though, England has their own collection of superstitions and good luck practices. Or, in some cases, the good luck traditions from England are the opposite of those in other countries.

You’ll see what I mean, in the following post.

Good Luck Traditions from England title meme

Pocket that Money

Putting money into the right hand pocket of new clothes brings good luck and fortune. The practice is thought to attract MORE money to put into that pocket.

Similar British traditions include wearing new clothes on New Year’s Day and on Easter Sunday, so that more new clothes arrive.

Cut Hair at the Right Time

This British traditions suggests that cutting hair as the moon is waxing ensures good luck. At the very least, the Farmer’s Almanac agrees that cutting hair during this time results in thicker, faster and longer hair growth.

Want to try it out? Cut or trim your hair during the first two days of a waxing (growing) new moon.

Good Luck Traditions from England waxing moon
Good luck traditions from England – cut hair during the waxing moon

Hang a Horseshoe Over the Door

Horseshoes are considered lucky because they are made of iron, which supposedly wards off evil spirits. And the horseshoes are traditionally hung with seven nails. Seven is the luckiest number.

It’s important though, how that horseshoe is hung. Make sure to hang it so that it resembles a U, to invite good luck into the home. Hang it upside down and luck runs out of the house.

Meet a Black Cat

In the US and some other countries, encountering a black cat is considered bad luck. However, the British believe it’s lucky to meet a black cat. In fact, black cats are often featured on good luck and birthday greeting cards in England.

Good Luck Traditions from England black cat
Good luck traditions from England – lucky black cats

White Rabbits

This tradition says it’s considered lucky to say the words, “white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits” on the first day of each month, before saying any other words.

Why though?

One possibility is that the word rabbit was an expletive many years ago. The ancient belief is that uttering expletives helps avoid evil. Another possibility is that rabbits are considered lucky animals.

This custom carried over to the United States. President Roosevelt apparently uttered rabbits, rabbits, rabbits on the first day of every month.

Falling Leaves

Catching falling leaves in autumn guarantees good luck for the following year. Each leaf caught equals one month of good luck. So for the best year possible, catch 12 leaves as they fall to the ground.

Good Luck Traditions from England falling leaves
Good luck traditions from England – catch falling leaves in autumn

Knocking on Wood

In the US, and some other countries, people knock on wood to keep something from happening. For example, someone says, “I’ve never had a car accident…knock on wood.” And they then rap their knuckles against something wooden, like a table.

The British tradition is the opposite. They knock on wood to make something happen. “I intend to travel this summer…knock on wood.” And they then touch or knock on something wooden.

Four Leaf Clover

This tradition seems similar in several countries, including the US. Find a four leaf clover, good luck comes to you.

This tradition originates in Ireland. The majority of clovers have three leaves. A more rare four leaf clover brings faith, hope, love and luck to the finder.

Get a lucky four leaf clover charm to carry always, HERE.

Good Luck Traditions from England four leaf clover
Good luck traditions from England – four leaf clover

Peacock Feathers

Those gorgeous peacock feathers are NOT considered lucky in England. It’s considered unlucky to have peacock feathers inside the home or to hold anything made from the feathers.

This tradition comes from the belief that the eye shape on the feather is associated with the Evil Eye and wickedness.

Ravens

In some parts of the UK, encountering two ravens together is good luck.

Two ravens bring good luck or good news. Seeing one raven brings bad luck.

In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy. Ravens are also called God’s messenger to the mortal world. Seeing one means change is coming.

According to English legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens at the Tower of London leave or die. As a result, six ravens, at least, have resided there for centuries. Obviously, not the exact same ravens.

Good Luck Traditions from England ravens
Good luck traditions from England – ravens. I snapped this photo in the Tower.

Your Good Luck Traditions

Do you or your family practice any good luck traditions? My family has an assortment of sayings and traditions, passed down from generation to generation.

I have a fairly high percentage of English DNA. I enjoyed learning more about this country’s traditions.

You can check out the other posts in this series:

Ten Scottish Superstitions

The Luck of the Irish

Italy’s Good Luck Traditions

I’d love to hear about any traditions or superstitions that your family practices. You’ll find me out this autumn, catching leaves as they fall! And…I already have a lucky horseshoe, hung correctly, over my front door.

Good Luck Traditions from England peacock feathers
Good luck traditions from England – no peacock feather in the house

 

 

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Fun Facts about the London Eye

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It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the world and yet the London Eye is relatively new. Open for rides on March 9, 2000 the observation wheel has since become an iconic symbol of the city.

Located on the South Bank of the Thames River, the London Eye draws 3.5 million visitors a year, when there’s not a pandemic going on. In fact, the gigantic wheel is the most popular paid tourist attraction in England.

What do you know about this attraction? Read on to learn more with these fun facts about the London Eye.

Fun Facts about the London Eye title meme

It’s Not Really a Ferris Wheel

The London Eye is 443 feet tall, making it the 4th largest wheel in the world. However, don’t call it a Ferris wheel. The Eye is actually an observation wheel.

The wheel is cantilevered, supported on only one side by an A frame. The pods, or capsules, are on the outside of the rim.

Fun Facts about the London Eye 4th largest in the world
Fun facts about the London Eye – it’s not a Ferris wheel   Canva photo

The Wheel Moves Slooooowly

Rides on the London Eye last approximately 30 minutes as the wheel turns at .6 miles per hour. In fact, the wheel moves so slowly that it doesn’t need to stop for people to board or disembark. For disabled or elderly riders, the wheel will stop to make loading and unloading safer for them.

Origination

Husband and wife team David Marks and Julia Barfied came up with the idea for the Eye when they entered a 1993 competition. City leaders wanted a fresh landmark for London, to honor the new millennium. The competition turned into a bust, however the plans for the London Eye caught the attention of the organizers.

Originally called the Millennium Wheel, the structure took seven years to complete, at a cost of $75 million. Declared finished on December 31, 1999, technical difficulties kept the ride from officially opening to the public until March of 2000.

Although intended as an attraction for five years, the wheel received a permanent license in 2002. The wheel was renamed the London Eye in 2011 because of the stunning panoramic views of the city that the ride offers.

Fun Facts about the London Eye drawing
Fun facts about the London Eye – created for a competition   Canva photo

Climbers

If a structure exists, people will find a way to climb it. Magician David Blaine rode a full rotation standing atop one of the pods, in 2003. And the next year, a man dressed as Spiderman climbed the wheel. He remained on top of a pod for 18 hours, in an attempt to bring attention to father’s rights in the UK.

Capsules

Speaking of the pods, also called capsules, the London Eye has 32 of them, one for each of the city’s 32 boroughs. The pods are numbered to 33 though. Why? There’s no capsule 13, for superstitious reasons. Each capsule holds 25 people, for a total of 800 riders at a time.

Fun Facts about the London Eye pods
Fun facts about the London Eye – 32 pods that hold 25 people each   Canva photo

You Can Rent a Capsule

So far, 5000 couples have gotten engaged on the Eye. And 500 weddings have been performed there. The capsules are available for such events.  To pop the question to your sweetheart, you can rent a private capsule for £185.00 on a weekday or £275.00 on the weekend.

Party Pods

In 2013, Red Bull Academy turned the Eye into a rotating night club. Thirty capsules hosted different parties, celebrating the UK’s club culture. Different artists performed in the pods.

Fun Facts About the London Eye - get engaged
Fun facts about the London Eye – 5000 engagements aboard the ride  Canva photo

Light Up the Night

At night, the London Eye lights up. And for special occasions, such as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the wheel lights up in red, white and blue.

Oh the Views

The thrill of riding the wheel is the astonishing views of London. On a clear day, you can see Windsor Castle, which is 25 miles away.

Fun Facts About the London Eye views
Fun facts about the London Eye – you can see for miles   Canva photo

Where is the London Eye?

The London Eye is located at the Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London. It’s directly across from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. While currently closed due to COVID, reopening is scheduled for May 17, 2021.

For the best price, purchase tickets ahead of time, using this LINK. At this time, advance tickets for adults run £24.50. The day of, adult tickets cost £31.00 each. There are also fast track and family tickets available. The wait time in line can exceed two hours during peak times such as weekends. Plan on less busy times, such as evenings, and you might only wait half an hour.

The wheel is easy to spot. On our first evening in London, we suddenly saw the Eye from the top of a double decker bus. What a thrill to see it, storm clouds gathered behind it and a rainbow arching nearby.

We never rode the Eye while in London, due to long, long lines. However, we snapped photos of it from Westminster Bridge and enjoyed seeing the Eye frequently during our city wanderings. The huge wheel is on my Top Ten Must Visit Places in London…and on my next trip, I’ll wait in line to take a ride.

Have you ridden on the London Eye? Share your experiences in the comments!

 

Fun Facts about the London Eye selfie
Fun facts about the London Eye – view from Westminster Bridge

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Ten Must Visit Places in London

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London, England…what an amazingly vibrant city. On a girls’ trip there in 2017, my mother, sisters, niece and I loved exploring the old town. We spent four, fun-filled days in London and only barely scratched the surface of all there is to experience there.

Certain well known landmarks and attractions draw first time visitors. And for good reason. They strongly represent the city, both historically and culturally.

As you explore the capital of England, check out these ten must visit places in London.

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London

Ten Must Visit Places in London

Arguably, more than ten must visit places exist in London. However, this list is a great start to all that London offers.

Tower of London

What a surprise the Tower was to me. This extraordinary site on the north bank of the Thames River contains not one tower but many, 12 of which are open to the public. At the center of the complex is the White Tower, built as a royal palace by William the Conqueror in 1078. The White Tower later became a prison and served in that capacity until 1952.

The complex contains many buildings worth exploring including dungeons, battlements and the palace. The Tower ravens live here. Read about them HERE. Plus, the Tower houses many historical artifacts including the crown jewels.

Plan on at least half a day here. A full day is better.

Location: St. Katharine’s and Wapping, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London tower of london
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Visible from the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the city’s most iconic structures. Although not the oldest London bridge spanning the Thames River…construction began in 1886…it’s the most stunning, architecturally.

The roadway lifts up, allowing ships to pass beneath. Walk across the bridge. Or a tour of Tower Bridge takes you to the top of the structure where magnificent views, and a glass floor, await.

Spend one to two hours exploring Tower Bridge or 30 minutes for a walk across it with stops for photos.

Location: the bridge is a seven minute walk from Tower of London

Ten Must Visit Places in London Tower Bridge
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Tower Bridge

Westminster Abbey

Royal weddings and special events take place within this medieval church. The Poet’s Corner, tombs of half sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor and final resting sites of famous authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens reside within. Paid tours and free audio guides are available.

Plan on one to two hours to explore the Abbey.

Location: 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London westminster abbey
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Westminster Abbey

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The House of Lords and the House of Commons comprise the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. Guided and self guided tours take visitors through multiple areas including Westminster Hall, the oldest building on site, the House of Commons chamber and the Royal Gallery. Or you can simply take photos of the exterior, an activity that bestows upon the structure the title of “one of the most photographed buildings in the world”. One of the best vantage points is Westminster Bridge.

Big Ben, the most famous clock tower in the world, is located at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament. Learn more about this structure at Fun Facts About Big Ben.

Spend one to two hours inside the Houses of Parliament.

Location: Houses of Parliament and Big Ben is a one minute walk from Westminster Abbey

Ten Must Visit Places in London big ben
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The London Eye

Across the Westminster Bridge is London’s most famous attraction, the gigantic Ferris wheel located near the Thames River. The Eye’s purpose is to present spectacular views of London’s South Bank. Therefore, the wheel turns very slowly, and reaches a height of 400 feet. Know that lines for The London Eye typically require a two hour wait. For many a pic from Westminster Bridge is enough!

The ride on the wheel lasts about 30 minutes.

Location: Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London eye
Ten Must Visit Places in London – The London Eye

Buckingham Palace

The home of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months and during selected times in winter and spring. During the tour, visitors get a peek into 19 different rooms including the Throne Room. When the palace is not open for tours, visitors can still view the massive structure, built in 1703, through the ornate gates and fence. The beautiful statue of Queen Victoria, pictured on the title meme, is located outside the fence near the gates. The changing of the guard takes place in the forecourt, at 11:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

If doing a tour, plan on 2 to 6 hours here.

Location: Buckingham Palace Road, Westminster, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London buckingham palace
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Buckingham Palace

Piccadilly Circus

Located just 1 kilometer from Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus is reminiscent of Times Square in New York City. It’s an active, high energy spot, the meeting place for five busy roads, and considered the hub of London’s hustle and bustle. Located near Piccadilly Circus are many restaurants, shops and pubs. At night the neon lights from huge billboards reflect off of the Eros statue located in the center of the circle. Which, by the way, is why this area bears the name Piccadilly Circus. It’s not an actual circus!

You can easily spend hours exploring in this area. We walked to Piccadilly Circus after our stop at Buckingham Palace. Hustle and bustle is correct! And I totally failed to snap a photo.

Location: West End in Westminster, London

 

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London piccadilly circus
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Piccadilly Circus Photo by Adrian Raudaschl, Unsplash

Natural History Museum

London offers so many fine museum to wander about it. Honestly, we didn’t take the time to explore any of them during our short stay. However, first on my list when I get to return to London is this one, the Natural History Museum. Located in Kensington, this museum offers 70 million different specimens and exhibits, from dinosaur bones to simulations. Admission is free and there is an app to download that helps in navigating the massive building. Prepare for long lines if visiting on the weekend as the museum is extremely popular with families. The exterior of the structure is very photograph worthy as well.

Half a day probably isn’t enough time for this museum, however it’s a start.

Location: Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London natural history museum
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Natural History Museum Photo by Julia Worthington, Unsplash

Jack the Ripper Tour

We experienced this tour on our first evening in London. What a great way to get to know the city and have fun with a group of people. We traveled in a double decker tour bus, busily snapping photos as we headed to London’s East End. The unsolved murders of the infamous Jack the Ripper continue to fascinate people. This unknown serial killer murdered and mutilated five women in the late 1800s. There are a variety of tours that include both riding and walking excursions in the Whitechapel area where Jack committed his crimes. We enjoyed this tour HERE. The night of our tour the overcast gray sky and light drizzle, created the perfect spooky atmosphere for learning more about Jack the Ripper.

Most tours last about two hours.

Location: tours depart from a variety of locations, however they all end up in the East End

Ten Must Visit Places in London jack the ripper tour
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Jack the Ripper Tour in the East End

London Dungeons

This fun attraction combines theatrical actors, 360 degree sets, storytelling, 19 interactive shows, 1000 years of history, state of the art special effects and two thrilling underground rides. Get up close and personal with Sweeny Todd and Jack the Ripper and interact with historical figures who are master storytellers. And enjoy several photo opportunities that are unforgettable. In fact, my sisters, niece and I still laugh over those photos due to my sweet little mother’s hilarious expressions. This is primarily a walking experience, in dimly lit surroundings. Make sure walking and low lighting isn’t a problem for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend the London Dungeons.

Tour is approximately 90 minutes long.

Location: the Queen’s Walk, South Bank, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London dungeons
Ten Must Visit Places in London – London Dungeons My dear mother’s expression seems to say, “Fire? What fire?”

Have You Visited London?

Please note, many of these sites and attractions in London are currently closed, due to COVID. I’m encouraged, however, that soon these places will open again and travel restrictions will ease. In the meantime, how fun to visit these places again, via my photos and memories.

Have you visited London, England? What place or attraction in the grand old city do you recommend from your must see list? Please share in the comments below.

Ten Must Visit Places in London tour bus
Enjoying the London views from the top deck of a double decker tour bus.

Necessities for your trip to London:

 


 

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Fun Facts About London Bridge

 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

We grew up with the nursery rhyme:

“London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”

So when I visited London in 2017, on a girls’ trip with my sisters, mother and niece, I was surprised to discover that London Bridge isn’t the fanciest bridge crossing the Thames. However, it has a rich, interesting history.

Check out these fun facts about London Bridge! And plan to walk across this iconic landmark on your trip to beautiful London.

Fun Facts About London Bridge title meme

Many Versions of London Bridge

Many versions of London Bridge have spanned the Thames, beginning with the original Roman bridge, constructed from wood in 50 AD. Those early wooden structures fell prey to weather, fires and invading armies.

In 59 AD a piled bridge was constructed. The local Britons built a small trading settlement nearby, the town of Londinium. After the small town fell to  invaders a year later, the Romans built a walled city. Some of the original wall remains today.

The first stones in a new bridge were set in this location in 1176. It took 33 years to complete the new stone bridge and it lasted for more than six centuries. This bridge boasted a width of 26 feet and a length of about 900 feet. Nineteen gothic arches, sunk into the river bed, supported the structure.

Houses Rested on the First Stone London Bridge

The new stone bridge featured a chapel at its center, a variety of shops, gates, a drawbridge, a mill with a waterwheel and houses that stood seven stories tall. The houses jutted out over the edges of the bridge and some nearly touched in the center, making the bridge more of a tunnel in places. The rent from those houses and shops funded construction and upkeep on the bridge.

One of London’s most notorious sights took place on the Stone Gateway at the southern end of the bridge. Severed heads of traitors decorated pikes stuck into the gate. The head of William Wallace (Braveheart) first appeared on the gate in 1305, starting a gruesome tradition that lasted 355 years.

A Bridge of Calamities

The bridge suffered many calamities. Fire broke out on both ends in 1212, trapping many people in the middle. In 1282, five of the nineteen arches collapsed, due to a build up of winter ice.

Houses on the bridge burned during Wat Tyler’s Peasant Revolt  in 1381 and again during the Jack Cade rebellion in 1450. And a major fire destroyed a third of the bridge during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

By 1762, all the houses were removed and two arches in the middle replaced with one great arch. However, the burden of upkeep on the old bridge became too much. The city decided to replace the medieval bridge.

Granite Bridge

On June 15, 1825 construction began on a replacement bridge. Granite quarried from Dartmoor made for a sturdy bridge spanning five arches. Six years later, William IV and Queen Adelaide opened the new London Bridge and the old one came down.

Fun Facts About London Bridge old
Fun Facts About London Bridge – granite edition completed in 1831

London Bridge is Falling Down

In 1962, the granite bridge literally began falling down, sinking into the Thames. The structure could not adequately handle the increase in traffic across the bridge.

When the city once again decided to build a replacement bridge, the granite one went up for auction. Robert P. McCulloch, founder of Lake Havasu City in Arizona, submitted the winning bid.  After purchasing the bridge for $2,460,000, McCulloch spent another $7,000,000 to dismantle, move and reassemble the structure in Arizona. Today that old bridge is a popular tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City.

Fun Facts About London Bridge Lake Havasu City
Fun Facts About London Bridge – the reassembled bridge in Lake Havasu City, AZ

Current London Bridge

Queen Elizabeth II opened the current London Bridge, designed by Lord Holford, on March 17, 1973. The bridge contains three spans of prestressed concrete box girders. It is 928 feet long and cost 4 million pounds to build.

London Bridge is frequently featured in films and documentaries, most often shown with commuters streaming across on their way to work in the city.

Fun Facts About London Bridge 2
Fun Facts About London Bridge – current structure

Mistaken Structures – Tower Bridge

Two other bridges in London are often mistaken for London Bridge.

Tower Bridge, downstream from London Bridge, and considered the city’s defining landmark, boasts grand towers. As its name implies, this bridge spans the Thames near the Tower of London.

While London Bridge has many incarnations, Tower Bridge is the original structure, built in 1894. Watch for a future post on this gorgeous bridge.

Fun Facts About London Bridge tower bridge
Fun Facts About London Bridge – this is NOT London Bridge…it’s Tower Bridge

Mistaken Bridges – Westminster Bridge

Many tourists mistake Westminster Bridge for London Bridge as well. This bridge is located near the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

The current 1862 bridge replaced an older version from 1750.

Fun Facts About London Bridge westminster bridge
Fun Facts About London Bridge – and this is NOT London Bridge…it’s Westminster Bridge

Queen’s Jubilee

London Bridge became part of Queen Elizabeth II’s route during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.

Terrorist Attack

On June 3, 2017, London Bridge experienced a terrorist attack. A van rammed pedestrians on the bridge. Seven people died in this attack and a coordinated one in Borough Market. The presumed terrorists died as a result of police gunfire. Newly installed security barriers now protect pedestrians walking across the bridge.

Haunted Bridge

As with any structure doused with centuries of history, ghosts inhabit London Bridge and the surrounding area. Impaled heads alone would leave some strong…and creepy…residual energy. There are also spooky tales of grave robbers, bandits, restless ladies of the night and former inmates from London’s oldest prison. Interestingly, the former bridge, now located in Lake Havasu City, claims London spirits as well.

Check out this London Bridge Ghost Tour.

Have You Visited London Bridge?

Is the magnificent city of London on your travel list?

There are SO many amazing sights and experiences waiting there for the adventure seeker. We loved our visit to this bustling city and I am looking forward to returning in the future.

On your visit, take time to walk or drive across one of London’s oldest bridges. Or better yet, catch a hop on/hop off bus. Sit back and enjoy the tour while a knowledgeable guide highlights points of interest.

If you’ve visited London, what fun did you experience?

Fun Facts About London Bridge 1
The strange building in the background, the Walkie Talkie, earned the title of “Britain’s Ugliest Structure”.

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Movies That Inspire You to Visit England

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Third in the Movies That Inspire Travel series, this post offers a selection of movies that inspire you to visit England. Click these links for the Italy and Ireland movie posts. I’m enjoying this series greatly as it combines two of my favorite activities…traveling and watching films. I hope you are enjoying them too. Additionally, my intention is to encourage readers to add countries to their travel lists, inspired by these amazing movies.

While I can’t travel as much right now, due to COVID imposed regulations, I can soothe the longing to do so by watching films with storylines set in the countries I love.

Grab a cup of tea or a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy an evening watching one or two of these movies.

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England title meme

Sense and Sensibility  1995

This Jane Austen classic stars Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet.

The death of Mr. Dashwood leaves his widow and three daughters poor, as his son from his first marriage inherits all. The women are marginally provided for by a kind cousin. However, marriage prospects for the young women are limited. Sisters Elinor and Marianne possess different perspectives on life and different interests but they love and support each other through challenging circumstances and tangled romantic relationships.

Fun fact: Newcomer Kate Winslet was originally only considered for the small role of Lucy Steele. However, Kate really wanted to play Marianne. When she arrived for her audition, she pretended her agent sent her to read for the role of Marianne. Her reading won her the part.

Watch Sense & Sensibility on Starz or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to visit England sense and sensibility
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Sense & Sensibility

Bridget Jones’s Diary  2001

Rene Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Gemma Jones star in this romantic comedy.

Bridget Jones struggles with self perceived imperfections. As a New Year’s resolution, she decides to take charge of her life and make changes. Keeping a diary of her thoughts allows her to discover her own personal truths. When two very different men enter her life during her year of self improvements, and both catch her romantic interest, hilarity ensues.

Fun fact: For the role of Bridget, Zellweger gained 25 pounds, learned to speak with an English accent and worked at a British publishing company for a month. No one at the publishing company recognized her. On her desk she kept a framed photo of her then husband, Jim Carrey. Her co-workers found this odd but did not mention it to Zellweger for fear of embarrassing her.

Watch Bridget Jones’s Diary on Starz or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England bridget jones diary
Movies That inspire you to visit England – Bridget Jones’s Diary

Gosford Park  2001

Gosford Park, a comedic mystery, starts Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Tom Hollander, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen and Stephen Fry.

Set in the 1930s, in an old country estate, Lord and Lady McCordle host a weekend gathering. The invitees…rich, pretentious and famous…anticipate a relaxing weekend hunting pheasant. But when a murder occurs guests and members of the below stairs staff go on the suspected murderer list. As an investigation ensues, by bumbling Inspector Thompson, each person does their best to hide his or her secrets.

Fun fact: The well received series Downton Abbey was originally planned as a spin off of this film. Instead it developed into a stand alone series inspired by Gosford Park and set several decades earlier.

Rent Gosford Park on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England gosford park
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Gosford Park

Calendar Girls  2003

This comedy stars Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett and Annette Crosbie.

Middle aged women in the Women’s Institute brainstorm ways to up the fundraising efforts for their local chapter. Last year’s calendar, featuring area bridges, only raised a little more than 76 pounds. Inspiration comes from a member’s husband, who before he dies of leukemia says: “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. The last phase is always the most glorious.”

The women choose to sell a calendar featuring 12 local middle aged women posing nude. They hope to sell a few hundred calendars. The outcome surprises and delights them.

Fun fact; This movie is based on actual events. The real “calendar girls” were all members of the Rylstone Women’s Institute. They make guest appearances in the film.

Watch Calendar Girls on Cinemax or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England calendar girls
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Calendar Girls

Love Actually

Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Colin Firth, Kris Marshall, Martin Freeman, Johanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Lucia Moniz star in this romantic comedy.

Christmas time in London is the setting for this fun romp of a film that follows the interconnected lives of eight very different couples. Each couple deals with their love relationships and their complex lives, some doing so better than others.

Fun fact: The lake in which Firth and Moniz “swim” is actually only 18 inches deep. The actors knelt to give the illusion of deeper water. The lake was also swarming with mosquitos. Firth’s bitten elbow swelled up to the size of an avocado and required medical treatment.

Rent Love Actually on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England love actually
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Love Actually

Pride & Prejudice  2005

Keira Knightley, Matthey Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan star in the romantic drama adapted from a Jane Austen novel.

Pride & Prejudice is the humorous and tender story of five sisters growing up in England’s Georgian era. The Bennett Family’s future happiness depends on the daughters marrying well. When the wealthy and seemingly snobbish Mr. Darcy moves into the area, for a summer in the country, the sisters’ lives are upended. Is it love in the air…or is it a battle of the sexes?

Fun fact: Macfadyen, who portrays Mr. Darcy, is very nearsighted. During the early morning scene, in the misty rain, the director stood behind the camera waving a red flag so the actor knew where to walk.

Rent Pride & Prejudice on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England pride and prejudice
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Pride & Prejudice

The Theory of Everything  2014

This biographical drama stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior and David Thewlis.

The Theory of Everything explores the life of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking. It’s also the love story of Hawking and his wife, Jane. Over the course of their marriage and life together, Hawking becomes ill with ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disorder. As Hawking defies his prognosis and makes amazing discoveries in science, his marriage is challenged to its core.

Fun fact: To prepare for the role, Redmayne lost 15 pounds, trained for four months with a dancer to learn how to control his body, met with 40 ALS patients and kept a chart tracking the order in which Hawking’s muscles deteriorated. He stood for hours before a mirror, contorting his face and between takes stood motionless and hunched over, to stay in character. And he met with Stephen Hawking once for three hours, before filming began. He was afraid to ask the physicist anything.

Rent The Theory of Everything on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England the theory of everything
Movies That Inspire You to Visit England – The Theory of Everything

Paddington  2014

This fantasy adventure stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Matt Lucas, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi.

A young Peruvian bear, with a love for all things British, travels to London in search of a home. Around his neck is a label: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Lost at Paddington Station, the bear realizes city life is not what he imagined. Fortunately, he meets the Brown Family, who kindly offer him a place to stay.  All appears to be going well until the newly named Paddington Bear catches the attention of a museum taxidermist.

Fun fact: Paddington Bear is based on an actual lone teddy bear that author Michael Bond noticed in a London store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve, 1956. He purchased the bear as a gift for his wife and later wrote a story about him. The bear’s appearance in the story…and subsequent movies…was inspired by old newsreels showing train-loads of child evacuees leaving London during WWII with labels around their necks and their possessions in small suitcases.

Rent Paddington on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England paddington
Movies That Inspire You to Visit England – Paddington

Downton Abbey  2019

Hugh Bonneville, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leach, Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Brandon Coyle star in this lavish period piece drama.

The film continues the story of the Crowley family and their below stairs staff at Downton Abbey, following the popularity of the long running television series. Set in 1927, the Crowleys and the Downton Abbey staff prepare for the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary while struggling with their own life dilemmas and challenges.

Fun fact: The royal visit of King George V to Downton Abbey was based on his real life visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, an estate in Yorkshire used to film the ballroom scenes in the movie.

Watch Downton Abbey on HBO or buy on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England downton abbey
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Downton Abbey

Emma  2020

This romantic drama, inspired by the Jane Austen novel, stars Anna Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Gemma Whelan, Bill Nighy and Josh O’Connor.

Handsome, clever and rich, Miss Emma Woodhouse is without equal in her small town. Desiring that everyone other than herself find true love, Emma moves through a series of comical mismatches and romantic missteps before discovering what real love is all about.

Fun fact: Emma and Mr. Knightley are not wearing gloves during their dance scene, while all the other dancers are gloved. Director Autumn de Wilde felt the bare hands added to the sexual tension between the two characters during their last dance.

Watch Emma on HBO or buy on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England emma
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Emma

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England

Truly, there are SO many movies with English storylines that it was difficult to limit my choices to ten. These are some of my favorites though. And several, such as Emma, have more than one version to enjoy.

All of these films increased my desire to experience England for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country in 2017.

Until I can return, I’ll stir my memories and create new intentions by watching British films.

What’s your favorite movie set in England?

Jack the Ripper London Tour
Seated on the top deck during our Jack the Ripper London tour.

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Fun Facts About Big Ben

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When visiting London, one of the most iconic structures in the grand old city is Big Ben. In fact, the tower is one of the most recognizable buildings around the world. Big Ben symbolizes the United Kingdom and parliament and frequently graces still shots of London.

We all recognize Big Ben however how much do we really know about it?

Check out these fun facts about Big Ben and discover something new.

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Fun Facts About Big Ben

Before diving into the rest of the fun facts, let’s discuss the name. The most surprising thing about this tower is that its name isn’t really Big Ben! The largest bell in the tower is nicknamed Big Ben. The tower’s official name is currently Elizabeth Tower, changed from Clock Tower in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

A hundred years ago the tower went by the name St. Stephen’s Tower. The clock within the tower is known as the Great Clock.

Because everyone refers to the tower as Big Ben, I will too throughout this post.

Big Ben’s Stats

The tower stands 315 feet tall and contains 11 stories with 334 steps rising to the belfry. Each of the four clock faces is 23 feet in diameter and composed of 300+ sections of opal glass. The hour hand is 9.2 feet long while the minute hand is 14 feet long. Twenty eight energy efficient bulbs illuminate each clock dial.

From 1939 to April 1945 the clock faces remained unlit, in compliance with wartime blackout rules.

The Big Bell

Big Ben is the nickname of the largest bell in the tower. It weighs 13.7 tons, stands 7.2 feet tall and has a diameter of 8.9 feet. It’s intended name was Royal Victoria.

The original bell cracked during testing in October 1857. The replacement bell developed a crack too, in 1859. They turned that bell a quarter clockwise and installed a lighter hammer. The bell remains flawed but it works.

When struck, the bell chimes with the musical note E. Four smaller bells rest beneath Big Ben. They ring on the quarter hour and chime in G sharp, F sharp and B.

Fun Facts About Big Ben red bus
Fun facts about Big Ben – it’s currently undergoing renovation and has scaffolding around it

For the Birds

In 1949 a flock of starlings roosted on the clock’s minute hand. As more and more birds gathered, their combined weight slowed the time-keeping mechanism, setting it back five minutes.

On New Year’s Eve 1962, heavy snow and ice slowed time as well. The clock rang in the new year 10 minutes late.

Pennies

Except for rare instances, such as those listed above, the clock is considered the most accurate in the world. It stays that way with the use of copper penny weights on the clock mechanism. Removing or adding a penny changes the clock’s accuracy by two fifths of a second per day.

They replaced three of the pennies for the London Olympics in 2012.

Keeper of the Clock

The keeper of the Great Clock is Steve Jaggs. He ensures that the clock is well maintained and oversees the changing of the time twice a year. He also heads up a team of clockmakers responsible for all of the clocks in the Palace of Westminster.

Prison Inside

Did you know a prison exists inside Big Ben? One third of the way up the stairs is the Prison Room. MPs, in breach of codes of conduct, were imprisoned there.

It was last used as a prison in 1880 when newly elected MP Charles Bradlaugh refused to swear allegiance to Queen Victoria on the bible. He spent one night in the room. There’s a pub named after Bradlaugh in Northhampton.

Fun Facts About Big Ben Westminster
Fun facts about Big Ben – there’s a prison room inside

Twitter Account

Big Ben has its own Twitter account! It tweets the appropriate number of BONGS on the hour, every hour. That’s all that the account tweets…no replies, no retweets…and yet it has more than 430,000 followers.

Is the Light On?

When the Ayrton Light is illuminated above the clock face, that means parliament is in session.

Latin Inscription

The Latin words beneath the clock face read Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam. The phrase means, “O Lord keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”.

Christmas Bells

Big Ben’s chimes first aired internationally in 1932 during King George V’s Christmas Broadcast.

Fun Facts About Big Ben with the bridge
Canva photo: Big Ben without the scaffolding

Superstar

Big Ben is often featured in films. The earliest recorded film cameo was Stage Fright in 1950. It’s appeared in many other movies, including 28 Days Later (2003), V for Vendetta (2006), Spectre (2015) and London Has Fallen (2016). Plus the big tower features in 17 Disney films!

Who Can Tour Big Ben?

As of 2010, only residents of the UK can tour the tower. And even the British must be sponsored by a member of parliament. Tourists are no longer allowed inside.

Leaning Tower

During its 161 years, Big Ben developed a slight tilt. The clock tower leans about a foot and a half off center, pointing slightly northwestward. The cause of the lean? The London clay beneath the tower is drying out.

Renovations

Big Ben is currently undergoing renovations. When I visited in 2017, scaffolding surrounded the tower and remains in place today.

The clock was dismantled, piece by piece, cleaned and repaired. Architects are modernizing the tower, making it more energy efficient and adding an elevator, a kitchen and a toilet. Until that work is completed in 2021, Big Ben chimes only on New Year’s Eve, Remembrance Sunday (a UK holiday) and other special occasions.

Fun Facts About Big Ben - featured in films
Fun Facts About Big Ben – it’s often featured in films  Canva photo

A Must See When in London

When my sisters, mother, niece and I visited London, catching a glimpse of Big Ben was high on our list of must sees. Our first day in London, riding on the hop on/hop off bus, Big Ben suddenly came into view. What a thrill to see it. Even surrounded by scaffolding, it looked gorgeous.

The light rain ceased and as the sun peeked out, a rainbow appeared, arcing over Big Ben. We’d see the big clock tower several more times while in the city, however I’ll never forget my first sight of this iconic structure.

Have you seen Big Ben?

Fun Facts About Big Ben rainbow
My favorite photo of Big Ben. See the rainbow in the sky?

Check Out These Travel Tales From England Posts:

Ghost Stories from London

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

The Tower of London Ravens


 

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Ghost Stories from London

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

As we enter Halloween Week, I bring you Ghost Stories from London. The capital city of England, London boasts a long history that stretches back to Roman times.  That history includes its fair share of darker episodes and notorious people such as Jack the Ripper.

Some of London’s iconic structures such as Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are famous for reasons that go beyond interesting architecture.

Grab a cup of hot tea and settle into your favorite chair while I tell you five stories from London’s spooky side.

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Ghost Stories from London

This magnificent city, that survived plagues, fires and bombings, stands today as one of the world’s greatest cities. For more than 2000 years it’s been a major settlement for the area and a powerful, influential center for arts, commerce, education and finance.

London’s population of almost 9 million people, as of 2019, makes it the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. It also boasts a large unseen population of spirits and ghosts who wander the streets after dark or inhabit many of the historical buildings.

Ghost Stories from London Dungeons
I highly recommend The London Dungeon, a fun interactive way to learn more about the city’s dark side.

The Tower of London Ghosts

Numerous ghosts haunt the Tower of London. This complex began as a royal palace and eventually became known for its prison. Since 1067, the Tower has experienced many deaths, mostly by executions and the occasional murder.

Supernatural activity in the Tower includes strong, repugnant smells, temperature drops in rooms, mischievous poltergeists and even a death heralding bear!

Among the more famous ghosts are the murdered young princes, Anne Boleyn and the White Woman in the Castle Keep.

Young Princes

In 1483 two young princes, Edward and Richard, came to the Tower. Their father, King Edward IV died, technically making his son Edward the next King of England. At age 12, Edward was too young to rule so his uncle Richard III became Protector of the Throne.

Unfortunately, Edward never became king. The princes disappeared, believed murdered by their ambitious uncle. The murder was never officially solved, however the skeletal remains of two young boys were found buried in a stairwell 200 years later. They are thought to be the princes.

The shadowy figures of the two little lost boys appear often in the White Tower, holding hands as they drift from room to room.

Anne Boleyn

Anne, the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII, was imprisoned in the Tower in 1536, after failing to give the king a son. She was beheaded the same year. Her ghost is spotted in different parts of the Tower, inside buildings and also outside on the Tower Green where she was executed.

Visitors report seeing her headless torso pacing the Tower at night. She’s also seen in the Chapel of St Peter, where she is buried. A captain of the guard, patrolling the Tower at night, saw a flickering light in the chapel and investigated. Peering through the window, the astonished captain watched a procession of lords, ladies and knights in armor. A small woman appeared in the center of the festivities. He identified the woman as Anne Boleyn.

After a few minutes, the light faded and the procession of ghosts disappeared.

The White Woman in the Castle Keep

The White Tower, at the center of the Tower of London, is called the Keep. Amazingly, almost all keeps in England are haunted by a similar ghost…a woman wearing white or black robes.

In The Tower Keep, visitors catch a glimpse of a woman in white, from the corners of their eyes. They then report smelling a pungent, stale perfume. Some feel as if the room closes in around them while others say that chills run down their spines. In recent years, people feel taps on the shoulder. When they turn around, there’s nothing there except a wisp of white that disappears.

Ghost Stories from London Tower of London
Ghost Stories from London – many ghosts haunt the Tower of London

Buckingham Palace Ghosts

Buckingham Palace, the royal home of English monarchy, houses hundreds of people and a host of ghosts. The two most repeated stories involve a monk and the secretary of King Edward VII, who committed suicide in an office on the first floor.

The Ghost Monk

The palace is built on the site of a monastery. A monk died there, chained in his cell. The ghost of the monk appears frequently on the palace’s rear terrace, cloaked in his brown cowl. Others report hearing the rattle of chains and moans from the same terrace at night, when no one is out there.

The King’s Secretary

During King Edward VII’s reign, from 1901 to 1910, his private secretary Major John Gwynne was involved in a scandal. After divorcing his wife, the Major couldn’t handle the rumors that followed his decision. He ultimately shot himself in the head, in a first floor office.

Today staff and employees avoid that office. They report an uneasy feeling in the room. Some claim to hear a single gunshot coming from the empty office.

Ghost Stories from London Buckingham Palace
Ghost Stories from London – Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey Ghosts

Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place in London with the ghost of a monk. Westminster Abbey has one as well, along with the ghost of an unknown soldier.

Father Benedictus

For 500 years, a Benedictine Abbey occupied the site of the Westminster Abbey. Edward the Confessor rebuilt it and from 1066 on, the current abbey serves as the place for the coronations of England’s kings and queens.

Over the centuries, during many renovations and additions, the abbey’s floor level lowered. This might explain why the ghost haunting the abbey floats a few feet above the floor. Called Father Benedictus, this spirit is frequently seen bobbing about the cloisters in the early evening.

Father Benedictus appears so solid that visitors often have conversations with him. He once helped a lost couple find their way out of the abbey. And in 1900 he entertained a group of 25 people, who watched him drift around and then disappear into a wall. Two American visitors claim the spirit spoke very politely to them during a long conversation.

The Unknown Soldier

In the abbey is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It is a memorial to soldiers who died during WWI. On November 11, 1920, an unidentified soldier received a royal burial in soil brought in from the battlefields of France. He rests beneath a marble stone quarried in Belgium. When the abbey becomes quiet after dark, the soldier ghost materializes beside the tomb. He stands for several minutes, head bowed, and then slowly fades away.

Ghost Stories from London Westminster Abbey
Ghost Stories from London – Westminster Abbey

The Ghosts in London’s East End

London’s most notorious person, known as Jack the Ripper, terrorized the city in 1888. The serial killer was never caught nor was his identity confirmed. He killed at least five women, all prostitutes in the Whitechapel District in London’s East End.

With the ferocity of the killings, it’s not surprising that several locations and buildings near the murder sites are haunted. The ghosts of some of the victims stalk the streets where they died. However, the Ten Bells Pub is strongly linked to the Jack the Ripper story. Located at the corner of Commercial and Fournier Streets in Spitalfields in the East End of London, this pub is connected to two of Jack’s victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly.

Annie, the second victim, was reportedly seen drinking in the pub shortly before her body was found around the corner. Her ghost appears, sitting in the exact same spot where she sipped her last drink before death. She’s also known to move pints of beer, break glasses and even steal from patrons.

And staff members working at the pub claim to see a ghostly older man dressed in Victorian clothing. They’ve encountered cold spots in the pub and experience feelings of uneasiness. Others who slept upstairs in the building heard footsteps in the hall and faint laugher, when no one else was present, or woke up to find the specter lying next to them in bed!

Ghost Stories from London Jack the Ripper
Ghost Stories from London – a moody street from our Jack the Ripper Tour.

London’s Most Haunted House

Claimed by many as London’s most haunted house, 50 Berkeley Square looks like a normal townhouse from the outside. However, stories of its hauntings became so prevalent that it sat empty for many years.

The ghosts of 50 Berkeley Square include a child wearing a kilt, a young woman who committed suicide and a man who went mad, locked in a room in the attic.

A Young Man Goes Mad

A couple of people occupied the house in its early days, without incident. But when Thomas Myers moved in, in 1859, a shift occurred. Thomas prepared the house for his soon to be bride, however days before the wedding, she jilted him. Despondent, Thomas moved into a room in the attic and did not leave the house again until his death. He supposedly went mad in his seclusion. Passersby saw him moving from room to room by candlelight, late in the night.

After he died, people walking by still saw the flickering candlelight, moving throughout the house.

People who lived in the house after Thomas experienced strange things in that attic room, including seeing a brown mist appear. Several died and at least one went insane.

A maid making up a bed in the attic room for a visiting man screamed in terror. Occupants of the house found her lying on the floor, muttering “Don’t let it touch me.” She died the next day. The visitor, a Captain Kentfield, arrived and decided to sleep in the room anyway. Thirty minutes after going to bed he screamed. The house owners heard a gunshot and found him lying dead on the floor, a horrible expression on his face.

Another man, Lord Lyttelton, spent the night in the attic room, armed with a shotgun. When an apparition approached him, he fired his gun. Although he heard something fall to the floor, he couldn’t find anything beyond cartridge shells.

Shapeless Creature

Another story is the tale of two sailors who, needing a place to sleep, broke into the abandoned house in 1887 and slept in the attic room. They woke to the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs. The door creaked open and a strange shapeless creature with a huge gaping mouth entered the room.

One terrified man squeezed past the apparition and ran for help. He returned with a police officer. They found the second sailor impaled on the iron fence, below a broken window in the attic room.

Other Ghosts

Another ghost associated with 50 Berkeley Square is that of a young woman who jumped from the attic room, after suffering abuse from an uncle. And the child in the kilt is thought to be a young girl killed in the house by a servant.

Eventually the house stood vacant and run down, for many years.

Maggs Bros, antique book dealers, purchased the property and occupy the ground floor. Although staff hear strange noises from the upper floors of the house, no one goes up to check. In fact, no one is allowed to go upstairs. A posted sign warns that the upper rooms are not to be used for any reason.

Ghost Stories from London 50 Berkeley Square
Ghost Stories from London – 50 Berkeley Square, London’s most haunted house.

One More Post in This Series

Next week, just before Halloween, I’ll share the last post in this series, tales from my own hometown. I’ll include a couple of personal stories as well.

Whether you believe in ghosts, or not, I hope you are enjoying this series of scary tales from some of the world’s most amazing cities.

And I’d love to read your ghost stories, in the comments below!

Check out the other posts in this series:

Ghost Stories from Dublin

Ghost Stories from Venice

And…Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

Ghost Stories from London group shot
Group photo in front of Buckingham Palace

Great Reads from Amazon:

 


 

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Fun British Phrases and What They Mean

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One of the things I enjoy when I visit other countries is the accent of the locals.  The Scottish, Irish and British all speak English, and yet they sound very different from each other and from Americans.

Beyond their charming accents, it’s interesting to hear unique words, expressions and colloquialisms common to the region. I’m typically in a country for a day before I begin to understand the dialect enough to respond properly!

I have British kinsmen and friends. I spent three amazing days in London, England on a girls’ trip with family. And those wonderful British shows that I love are sprinkled with colorful language. Thanks to all of these sources, I’ve picked up a few common sayings.

Check out these fun British phrases and what they mean, before your next trip to England.

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British Words We Know

Most of us know a handful of British phrases, thanks to movies and television, and some even caught on in the US. The loo is the toilet…or as it’s more commonly called in the US, restroom or bathroom. In England a cookie goes by the name biscuit and chips are french fries while the British use the word crisps for chips. And when looking for the elevator in a building, call it the lift.

We use the British word cheers as a drinking toast but not often in place of goodbye or thank you. As we know, a flat is an apartment and a frock a girl’s dress. The word gobsmacked, meaning amazed, crossed the pond 40 years ago. President Obama apparently uses the word.

Mate, as in friend, roundabout, queue and knickers, all words originating from England, are fairly common in the US now too.

British Words and Phrases We May Not Know

See how many of these words and phrases you know!

Anorak

Although it’s more often used as a synonym for a raincoat, an anorak carries a different meaning  in slang.

The geeky person, with strong interests or expertise in a particular niche, is called an anorak. This might originate from the perceived uncool appearance of anorak coats and the people wearing them.

Bagsy

Calling bagsy is the equivalent of calling dibs on something, like riding in the front seat of the car. A kid might call bagsy on food from his friend’s lunch, that the friend isn’t going to eat.

Bender

Someone who goes on a spree of excessive drinking and mischief is on a bender. Benders may last more than 24 hours, so you might hear that someone is on a weekend bender or a three-day bender.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean London Dungeons
Fun British phrases and what they mean – we weren’t on a bender, however this is one of my favorite photos from London! My good natured mom isn’t sure what’s going on!

Bloody

This word, considered a mild curse word, pairs with practically any other word to demonstrate incredulity or anger. I’ve most commonly heard it paired with hell, as in “bloody hell”.

Bob’s Your Uncle

I love this comical phrase! It is the British equivalent to “there you go” or “voila”. The phrase accompanies a process that seems more difficult than it actually is. “Balance on the bicycle, start peddling, and Bob’s your uncle…you’re riding a bike.”

Brolly

Brolly is simply the abbreviated form of umbrella.

Builder’s Tea

A strongly brewed cup of English breakfast tea with milk is called builder’s tea.  It’s common courtesy to offer a builder working on a house builder’s tea, especially during cold weather. This practice most likely originated the phrase.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean Speedys
Fun British phrases and what they mean – Speedy’s in London. I wonder if you can get a builder’s tea there?

Chuffed

When someone feels joyful or pleased with an accomplishment, she is chuffed.

Curtain Twitcher

A nosy neighbor (neighbour in England), spying on what’s going on in her neighborhood from behind a curtained window, is called a curtain twitcher.

Faff or Faffing

To faff is to waste time doing very little. It comes from the 17th century word “faffle” meaning “to flap about in the wind.” If you are hanging out, not really doing anything, you are faffing about.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean tower bridge
Fun British phrases and what they mean – we did NOT do any faffing about while visiting London!

Innit

I’ve heard this phrase a lot. The abbreviation of “isn’t it”, people use innit to get agreement from someone OR to agree with something said. For example, “It’s cold today, innit?”. Or a person says, “It’s cold today” and another answers “Innit.”

Minging

Something unpleasant, unattractive or unappetizing is minging. The word comes from the Scottish slang word “ming”, meaning feces. “What is that you are eating? It’s minging.”

That’s Pants

When someone says “that’s pants” they aren’t referring to trousers. It means rubbish, trash or garbage.

Pea Souper

When fog covers London, especially a yellow or dark fog caused by air pollution, it’s a pea souper. This phrase originated in the 1200s due to the burning of coal, which contributed to heavy, dirty looking fog.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean ripper tour
Fun British phrases and what they mean – it was appropriately dreary on our Jack the Ripper Tour, but not quite a pea souper. We enjoyed this tour.

Poppycock

I think I first heard this British word as a child, while watching a movie. Poppycock comes from two Dutch words, “pap” which means soft and “kak” which translates to dung. It means nonsense or implies an untruth. When someone says “that’s poppycock”, they literally mean “that’s soft poo”.

Skew Whiff

Something that hangs crookedly or seems askew is skew whiff.

Skive

From the French word esquiver, meaning “to slink away”, skive is the act of avoiding work or school by faking an illness.

Sod’s Law

This British axiom means “If anything can go wrong, then it definitely will go wrong.” In the US we call it Murphy’s Law.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean station
Fun British phrases and what they mean – we didn’t experience Sod’s Law while on our trip, thankfully!

Spend a Penny

Another charming saying, spend a penny is the polite way for women to say they are going to the loo or toilet. The phrase originated in Victorian England when it cost a penny to open the lock on a public toilet for women. Men’s urinals were free.

Splash Out

This phrase means spending a significant amount of money on an event or an item.

Tickety Boo

Something satisfactory and in good order is tickety boo. The phrase may originate from the Hindu phrase, ṭhik hai, babu, which translates to “it’s alright sir”.

Wind Your Neck In

Americans might say “mind your own business”. The British say “wind your neck in”, meaning the same thing. This tells a person his opinion is not wanted or that the issue doesn’t concern him.

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean London eye
Fun British phrases and what they mean – everything was tickety boo on this trip to London.

Did You Learn New Phrases?

Aren’t these words and phrases fun? Of course, there are many more. I intend to share unique fun phrases and what they mean from each of the countries I’ve visited. Watch for those posts.

I love adopting words, phrases and customs from other countries. One of my favorite practices, afternoon tea, came home with me from Scotland in 2014.

Do you have favorite phrases you enjoy, from countries you’ve visited? Share them in the comments!

Fun British Phrases and What They Mean London Bridge
An iconic view of Big Ben and London Bridge.

More Tales from England:

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

Tower of London Ravens

 


Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace, home to Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family, serves as the centerpiece of the monarchy and a venue for many functions. The massive structure is often the focal point for celebrations and commemorations.

On our girls’ trip to the UK in 2017, we stopped by for a visit. We discovered when we arrived in London that Buckingham Palace was open to the public, since the Queen was not in residence. Unfortunately, no tour times remained available.

However, we enjoyed walking around outside the black iron gates and snapping photos. I’ve since learned fun facts about this palatial residence.

Check out these 10 things you may not know about Buckingham Palace.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace title meme

Buckingham Palace Background

The palace didn’t begin life as one. In fact, a village once occupied the spot. Edward the Confessor owned that plot of land and the village. Henry VIII claimed the land for the Crown in 1531. In the 1600s James I intended to raise silkworms there. He planted mulberry trees on the property, however he planted the wrong variety of trees and his plans failed.

John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham, built Buckingham House on the land so that he had a place to stay during his visits to London. In 1820 the house received a palatial makeover by architect John Nash. Buckingham fired him for going way over budget!

George III paid 21,000 pounds for the palace in 1761, as a gift for his wife, Queen Charlotte. She birthed all but one of their 15 children there. However, Queen Victoria first named it as her official residence when she moved there after her coronation in 1837.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace

A Sneaky Visitor

Teenager Edward Jones, known as “the Boy Jones”, sneaked into the palace multiple times during Victoria’s reign. He stole food and the Queen’s underwear…naughty boy…and boasted about sitting on the throne.

Eventually authorities caught him and sent him to Brazil. After he escaped and returned to London, they imprisoned him on a ship for six years and then packed him off to Australia. Jones died there on Boxing Day, 1893.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace queen victoria
10 things you may not know about Buckingham Palace – Queen Victoria attracted  a determined admirer

It’s a Palace, It’s a City

While the Royal Family calls Buckingham Palace home, many other people live there as well. Over 800 staff members dwell within the palace. With a post office, pool, police station, cinema and health clinic, Buckingham behaves as a town more than a palace. It even has its own zip code.

One of the residential staff members, a clock maker, maintains over 350 clocks and watches. Two horological conservators wind the clocks up every week.

The Largest Room

In the palace, the largest room is the Grand Ballroom. It measures  36.6 meters long, 18 meters wide and 13.5 meters high. A party celebrating the end of the Crimean War in 1856 marked the first event held in the grand ballroom.

When electricity came to Buckingham Palace in 1883, the ballroom received illumination first. It took four years to wire the entire structure. Now over 40,000 light bulbs shine bright in the palace.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace
10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace – it possesses its own post office and zip code

So Many Windows and Rooms

Buckingham Palace features 775 rooms tucked within 77,000 square meters of floor space. The palace’s 760 windows get washed every six weeks.

Of the rooms, there are 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms and 19 state rooms.

The Royal Family famously uses the balcony, located on the East Front, to greet large crowds that congregate outside the palace. Queen Victoria first stepped onto the balcony, making a public appearance in 1851. What a tradition she started!

Is the Queen Home?

When the Queen’s royal standard flag flies above the palace, the Queen is in residence. When the Union Jack billows in the wind, this signals that the Queen is elsewhere. She typically spends summers in her castle in Scotland.

The Union Jack indicated the Queen’s absence when we visited.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace flag
10 things you may not know about Buckingham Palace – the Union Jack means the Queen is away

Why Do the Guards Wear Red?

The iconic red uniforms that the guards wear were chosen intentionally. When first created, red for the uniforms proved one of the cheapest dyes to manufacture. Concerning military strategy, red is the most difficult color to distinguish from a distance. The enemy experienced difficulty identifying the number of soldiers present.

King Henry VII made the Royal Body Guard a permanent fixture of the Royal Family over 500 years ago.

Secret Tunnels

A series of secret tunnels runs beneath Buckingham Palace. When King George VI and the Queen Mother explored the tunnels, they discovered a man from Newcastle living in them.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace seal
10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace – symbolism on the gates

Symbolic Gates

In 1905 the  Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts received their most important commission to date…building the wrought iron fence that surrounds the palace and the beautiful gates.

Those gates do more than create a barrier. They tell a story.

On the gate is the Royal Coat of Arms, featuring a crowned Lion symbolizing England and a Unicorn symbolizing Scotland. Diagonally opposite each other on the shield, three walking lions represent England, from the reign of King Richard I. The harp symbolizes Ireland and the upright, or rampart, lion stands for Scotland.

At the bottom of the crest St. George battles the dragon, a mythical nod to King George V.

Party Time

Queen Elizabeth II hosts at least three parties every year at London’s royal residence. Forget fine dining. Guests consume about 20,000 sandwiches at each of these parties, typically held in July.

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace gates
Buckingham Palace gates

First US President to Visit

On the way to a Paris conference, President Woodrow Wilson and First Lady Edith Wilson visited the UK in December 1918. King George V threw a banquet in their honor at Buckingham Palace, beginning a long tradition of entertaining US heads of state at the royal residence.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter infamously broke protocol by giving The Queen Mother an unexpected kiss on the lips!

Where to Find Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is located between Green Park and St James’s Park in Central London. This iconic structure doesn’t have an actual street address. Rather, it’s located at the juncture of two processional roads, Constitution Hill and The Mall.

The nearest London Underground stations are Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and St James’s Park.

We took the underground and walked across Hyde Park to reach the palace and then visited nearby Piccadilly Square afterward.

Although sad that we couldn’t go inside, we enjoyed seeing Buckingham Palace. It’s a landmark checked off my list of “must sees”.

Besides, I feel like I’ve seen inside the palace, thanks to the series, The Crown! Another fun fact…The Crown never actually filmed inside Buckingham Palace. Instead they recreated the palace in several estates throughout England.

Perhaps on my next trip to London I’ll get a tour.

Have you visited Buckingham Palace?

10 Things You May Not Know About Buckingham Palace group
Group shot in front of the gates.

Check out other Tales from England:

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

The Tower of London Ravens

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.