Five More Odd Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About London

Sharon and Tracy woz ere (see below). Image by Dave Pearce in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Sharon and Tracy woz ere (see below). Image by Dave Pearce in the Londonist Flickr pool.

1. The Jubilee Extension, which opened in 1999, was hewn out by two tunnel boring machines called Sharon and Tracy, named after the characters in Birds of a Feather.

2. On the day that the Shard was evacuated in a fire alert, it’s interesting to note that London’s worst disaster started in approximately the same place. In 1212, thousands of people rushed from the City onto London Bridge to watch a blaze in Southwark. Unfortunately, wind blew embers across the water, setting fire to buildings at the north end of the bridge. Many were trapped between the two conflagrations. According to chroniclers, as many as 3,000 people died either from the effects of the fire or after jumping into the river (the number may be unreliable, but if it was even a quarter of that, it would rank as the capital’s worst accident). We covered this story in more detail in our ‘forgotten disasters’ series.

3. 30-year-old Joseph deHavilland was found crucified on Hampstead Heath in July 1968. Eight-inch nails had been driven through his hands. deHavilland, who survived, had convinced three friends from Maida Vale to pin him to the cross to ‘make the world a happier place‘.

4. Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia has long been a popular destination for those seeking a decent meal. In the early 20th century it was often referred to as Charlottenstrasse because of the number of German restaurants and cafes nearby. These all closed down during the First World War. Incidentally, the term ‘Fitzrovia’ is relatively recent, first recorded in 1940, but only gaining popular currency from the 1960s. It was usually considered part of Soho.

5. Golders Green was the site of the first airline crash in the UK. In 1920, a Handley Page O/400 biplane took off from Cricklewood Aerodrome bound for Paris. Onboard were two crew and six passengers. For reasons never determined, the plane struggled to gain height and hit a tree in Golders Green. It crashed into the garden of 6 Basing Hill. Both crewmen and two passengers were killed.

Enjoyed those? Here are five more from last month, including an improbably death from billiard balls. And feel free to share your own weird facts in the comments below.

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  • David

    IIRC, Sophie and Emma did the fetching and carrying for Sharon and Tracy…

  • Peter Twist

    The journalist and Labour politician, Tom Driberg, is generally credited with giving Fitzrovia its name, describing as “Fitzrovians” the writers and artists who crowded into the Fitzroy Tavern. This solid Victorian pub is still the centrepiece of Charlotte Street, which possibly boasts the finest collection of restaurants anywhere in London.