London is a fascinating city with a long, rich history, and as such it has many stories to tell. These entertaining tales are part of what attracts many visitors to the capital in the first place, but in some cases they may not be entirely true.
With April Fool’s Day coming up, we thought we’d put together our top 5 urban myths about London. How many have you heard before?
1. If the ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fall
The iconic Tower of London has been home to ravens for centuries, and today they are known as ‘guardians’ of the building. This idea dates back to the time of Charles II, when the King is thought to have afforded them protected status.
It is a popular London myth that if the tower’s six resident ravens were to leave, the country would crumble. While this would be most unlikely, it hasn’t stopped the attraction from keeping seven birds in the building at all times (the six required, plus one spare).
2. Taxi drivers must carry a bale of hay in their car at all times
When taxis were first introduced in London in the 17th century, they came in the form of a horse drawn carriage. It is thought that there may once have been a law requiring drivers to carry food for their horse, purely to stop the animal from just eating anything it happened to walk past.
Whether that is true or not, there is certainly no legal requirement today for drivers to have what would be a largely pointless bale of hay in their vehicle.
3. Green Park has no flowers because the King cheated on his wife
Many of London’s Royal Parks are decorated with striking flowerbeds that can brighten up any walk through the city. However, Green Park is said to take its name from the fact that there are no flowers in it at all.
Sat just across the road from Buckingham Palace, the park became a favourite of King Charles II towards the end of the 17th century.
At this time, the park did contain flowers, and the King would pick these to present to his wife on his return to the palace. The story goes that one day she was told Charles had picked flowers and given them to another woman. In response, she reportedly ordered the removal of every flower in the park, and there are still none to this day.
4. An American entrepreneur once bought London Bridge by mistake
In 1968, US businessman Robert P McCulloch signed a deal to buy London Bridge for just over £1 million. He dismantled the ailing structure and rebuilt it as a tourist attraction in Arizona, where it remains popular today.
While that is true, there is a popular myth that McCulloch was under the impression he was buying the much more visually appealing Tower Bridge, which still stands just a little further down the Thames. Despite all involved in the deal repeatedly denying this rumour, it continues to endure almost 50 years later.
5. The first person born on the London Underground had the initials T.U.B.E.
The first ever birth on the London Underground happened in 1924 at Elephant & Castle station, and the excitement surrounding the event meant it was reported in several newspapers.
These stories asserted that the child had been named Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor, a name that would have made her initials spell the word ‘tube’, which of course is a popular informal term for the service. While that would have been fun, the child’s name was later revealed to be the much more sensible Marie Cordery.