The Londonist Alphabet Game: Unusual Facts About London

London's oldest 10-pin bowling alley? Image by M@

We asked our Facebook friends to share their favourite facts about London, in the hope of getting at least one suggestion for each letter of the alphabet. Here are our 26 favourites. There were quite a few gaps, however, so we inserted our own facts in places. Check out the Facebook page for further trivia.

A = Aldgate Station: on the Circle and Metropolitan Lines, is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1,000 bodies are buried. (Mark Watson)

B = Borough: Redcross Way contains an unconsecrated burial ground (a mass grave) where ‘single women’ (i.e. prostitutes) were buried in the 16th/17th century. Their activities were not permitted within the City and they were denied Christian burial within the jurisdiction of the City. The site also became a pauper’s grave, and up to 15,000 people are thought to be buried there. The gates to the site are festooned with ribons, crosses, tributes, candles, etc. (Jennie Filer)

C = Clapham Junction station: 150 years old on Saturday. Also not in Clapham. Victorian snobbery (we’ll name our new station after a posher area not too far away to try and attract customers of the better sort) has been confusing Londoners and visitors alike since 1863. (Jonathan Wadman)

D = Dagenham. The name was first recorded in 666AD and refers to a farm owned by a Mr Daecca. (Londonist)

E = Eltham: Erasmus hung out here (no really). (Phil Bird)

F = Fairlop: considered seriously as the station for the proposed London Airport using Biggin Hill RAF base postwar. Station redevelopment plans were drawn up but never proceeded, when Heathrow was selected instead. (John AL Campbell)

G = Greenwich: contains possibly England’s oldest ten-pin bowling alley beneath the naval college. (Londonist)

H = Hanbury Street: East London site of Jack the Ripper’s 2nd murder with the slaying of Annie Chapman, and now also the home of well-regarded retro chippy, Poppies. (Yasmin Selena Butt)

I = Ilford: was a leper colony, and one had to cross a ford to get to the ‘ill ;-) (Andy Jeffery)

J = John Burns Primary School: named after the famous Wandsworth politician and creator of the first municipal housing estate. (Paul Cook)

K = Knightsbridge: The only tube station on the underground network to have six consecutive consonants in its name. (Dave Kirwin)

L = London Eye: on average, the London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid of Giza (Lizzie May)

M = Merton: murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket trained at Merton Priory, Henry III held parliament in Merton, the first Statute of English Law (Common Law) was set out in The Statute of Merton, it’s where Henry VI was crowned — in what is now a Sainsbury’s car park (what is it with kings and car parks?) – but more recently and illustriously, from where comedian Paul Martin took his stage surname… (Adam Lister)

N = New Cross: known as Hatcham for much of its history. (Londonist)

O = Oval, tube station home of the Thought of the Day board. (Stephen Banks)

P = Parliament Square was the site of London’s first traffic lights in 1868. Less than a year later they blew up seriously injuring the very policeman whos traffic duties they had been intended to replace. (Adam Lister)

Q = Built on land used for the Royal Agricultural Show in 1879. Much of it was subsequently built over with housing, but the park remains. (Londonist)

R = Ray Street in Farringdon: if you listen to the grate in the road outside the Coach & Horses pub you can hear the rush of the River Fleet, hidden underneath London! (Andrew MacKinnon)

S = Sloane Square: (a rare) Tube station with a river running through it. The River Westbourne which formed the Serpentine and named Bayswater, and Knightsbridge, before flowing though a metal container, clearly visible above the racks at Sloane Square. Also Sir Hans Sloane brought drinking chocolate to the UK after taking the original drink mixed with water and adding it to milk instead.

T = Tooting: burial place of Philip Gidley King, 3rd Governor of New South Wales (Australia) 1800-1806. [Why Tooting, we wonder?] (Janet Portman)

U = Upminster Bridge: the station contains a swastika motif on the floor of the ticket hall, installed before this ancient symbol took on its more sinister reputation. (Londonist)

V = Vowels: he only two (Underground) stations that contain all 5 vowels are South Ealing and Mansion House. (Neal Dodge)

W = Wanstead Flats: where cattle are free to mooch in from Epping, and then, if they wish, mooch off back to Essex again. Buses stop to let them pass. Or they did when I lived there, anyway. (Claire Leavey)

X = Xrail (Crossrail): This new line is currently being excavated, but the plans go back in some form to the 1940s. (Londonist)

Y = York Way, King’s Cross: Ancient road forming the boundary between Camden and Islington, formerly known as York Road and, before that, Maiden Lane. (Londonist)

Z = Zoological Gardens at Regent’s Park: was the long time home of Guy the gorilla, who arrived at the zoo on Guy Fawkes night 1947. A stuffed Guy can be viewed at the Natural History Museum as part of the permanent ‘Treasures’ exhibition. Guy’s behaviour was copied by the actor who played the lead ape in the film 2001. (Jean McMeakin)

Feel free to suggest alternatives in the comments below, or else nominate a London-themed topic for next week’s alphabetical fun.

Previously in the Londonist Alphabet Game

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  • BoiseBlue

    B for Brentford, named for where Julius Caesar forded the river Brent.

  • macuser_e7

    There hasn’t been cattle on Wanstead Flats since the mad cow disease outbreak in the 1990s. The conservators of Epping Forest keep promising to re-introduce them (there is apparently a small herd in the northern part of the forest) but we have yet to see them. They used to regularly stop the traffic as they ambled across the roads. The funniest thing was seeing them graze on the Whipps Cross roundabout.

  • Gorm

    Surely a joke – Fairlop for Biggin Hill? Biggin Hill is south of the river, you’d never get a taxi from Fairlop to go there. Are you just trying to keep us awake down here?

  • Frogmella

    Technically, Knightsbridge is the only OPEN tube station on the underground network to have six consecutive consonants in its name, since Aldwych’s closure in 1994.