To celebrate the launch of the Mail Rail attraction — a former Post Office railway beneath Clerkenwell — we hosted a quiz themed around all things postal and subterranean. See how well you'd have done on the four main rounds:
Round 1: Subterranean London
1. Beneath which bridge does the subterranean River Fleet (now a sewer) meet the Thames?
2. The two tunnel boring machines digging the Northern line extension to Battersea are called Amy and Helen. After who are they named?
3. An old deep-level shelter in Clapham was recently converted into a hydroponic salad and herb farm. Do you know, or can you guess, what punning name this business trades under?
4. How many tunnels beneath the Thames can the public legally walk through?
5. Mark Twain, author of Huckleberry Finn, was aboard the first train to run on which tube line, opened in July 1900?
6. Which is the only station where London Overground trains pass beneath London Underground trains?
7. What now occupies the ornate gents toilets beneath Foley Street in Fitzrovia?
8. Which of the following is not the name of a 'ghost station' - that is, an old underground station no longer in use. (a) Aldwych, (b) British Museum, (c) Brompton Road, (d) Royal Albert Hall
9. In October 1888 a female torso was discovered in the basement of a Whitehall construction site. The victim was never identified, and the murderer never caught. Which organisation moved into the building once it had been completed a year later?
10. Which is the only London Underground station to contain none of the letters in the word Londonist?
2. London postcode trivia
Each question relates to one of the London postcodes.
1. EC: Whose tomb lies directly beneath the highest point of St Paul’s dome?
2. WC: A body whose headquarters are in the WC area regulate a certain activity. One of their rules concerns the names of something central to the activity. The rule limits those names to a maximum of 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation. The names of what?
3. E: This company was founded by Marcus and Samuel Samuel in Whitechapel in 1897. They took its name from the objects their father had sold. These objects occur naturally, but were painted before being sold. Their company dealt in a different product, however. In 2016 it had revenues of $233 billion. Which company?
4. W: The birth of the current Queen in 1926, at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, was attended by the holder of which Cabinet post? Holders of this post had attended all births of possible future monarchs since the 17th century, but this was the last time it happened.
5. N: Which London football club is the only one in the top four English divisions whose name ends in an ‘r’?
6. SE: Winston Churchill’s coffin left London from Waterloo station, rather than Paddington, which would have been more convenient for Oxfordshire. Churchill insisted on this purely to annoy whom?
7. SW: The Queen and Prince Philip – in the morning one of them prefers a bath, the other a shower. Which is which?
8. NW: Abbey Road recording studio: The Beatles had three US number ones that had single word titles — which three songs?
9. BR (Bromley): In Petts Wood, Bromley, there is a sundial. What characteristic makes it different from almost every other sundial in the UK?
10: UB (Southall): In Southall, there is a gasholder that has a large white 'LH' painted on it, together with an arrow. Why?
3. National postcode trivia
As per the previous round, but taking inspiration from postcodes beyond London.
1. DY (Dudley): Who is the only British PM ever to serve under three different monarchs?
2. GL (Gloucester): Badminton takes its name from the Gloucestershire country house where it was first played. Professional shuttlecocks are always made with feathers taken from the same wing of a goose — is it the left or the right wing?
3. PE (Peterborough): The shortest county boundary in England measures just 19 metres. It is the boundary between which two counties?
4. BD (Bradford): Which series of books was inspired when the author's son asked him what a tickle looked like?
5. L (Liverpool): The four-word motto of Liverpool John Lennon airport is taken from the lyrics of Imagine. Which four words?
6. Deliberately not giving you the postcode area for this one: There is only one place in the UK from which you can see all four constituent countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Where is it? A half-point for a general answer, full point for a more precise one.
7. BT (Belfast): The Titanic (built in Belfast) sank on 15 April 1912. Which two boats had famously sunk 15 days before?
8. WS (Walsall): The Queen’s handbags are made by Launer of Walsall. She always keeps a banknote in it, ready for next week’s church collection — what denomination is it?
9. BL (Bolton): One of the football clubs in this code has the shortest name in the top four divisions — which one?
10. WR (Worcester): Bricklehampton is the longest British place name to display which quality?
Round 4: Post Office history
1. In October 1816, what unlikely animal attacked the mail coach near Salisbury?
2. Which still operational tube station was called Post Office for its first 37 years?
3. How did round-the-world yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester make postal history in 1967?
4. In the mid-1930s, German Gerhard Zucker tried to convince the Post Office to use what form of transport for delivering mail?
5. Golden post boxes in both Teddington and Isleworth commemorate the same Olympic athlete. Who?
6. Most post boxes carry a royal cypher to show under whose reign the box was erected. How many British monarchs are symbolised in this way?
7. What colour were Air Mail postboxes usually painted, up until the second world war?
8. Which north London museum, where you can see postal exhibits, was previously home to Rowland Hill, the man who introduced the universal penny post?
9. In the animated series Postman Pat: Special Delivery Service, what type of vehicle — not normally associated with the post office — has the registration plate Pat8?
10. Which way does the Queen face on a standard issue stamp, left or right?
Questions devised by Londonist editor-at-large Matt Brown, and author Mark Mason.
2. Amy Johnson and Helen Sharman
3. Growing Underground
4. Three (Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels plus the Rotherhithe Tunnel)
5. Central line
7. Coffee shop (The Attendant)
8. (d) Royal Albert Hall
9. Metropolitan Police (accept Scotland Yard)
4. Home Secretary
5. Tottenham Hotspur
6. Charles de Gaulle. (Half point for 'the French'.)
7. Queen bath, Philip shower
8. Help, Yesterday, Something
9. Set, or rather positioned, to British Summer Time rather than GMT. Its creator was William Willett, who was Chris Martin of Coldplay's great-great-grandfather
10. To direct pilots to Heathrow. (The Southall gasholder was directly underneath the flight-path into Heathrow. Unfortunately a very similar gasholder was directly underneath the flight-path into nearby RAF Northolt. Several planes made the perfectly understandable error, and had to be alerted by air traffic control that they were about to land at the wrong place. One American Boeing 707 did actually go that final step, touching down at Northolt. Embarrassing enough in itself, but a further problem was that planes need a longer runway to take off than they do to land.)
1. Stanley Baldwin (MP for Bewdley)
3. Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
4. Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves
5. Above us only sky
6. Snaefell mountain on the Isle of Man
7. Oxford and Cambridge in the Boat Race
9. Bury FC
10. No letter repeated
1. A lion or lioness
2. St Paul’s
3. First living non-royal to appear on a postage stamp (half point for anything implying stamps)
5. Mo Farah (the hint being that he won two golds at London 2012)
6. Six (all monarchs since Victoria)
7. Blue (or Air Force blue)
8. Bruce Castle in Tottenham
9. Snowmobile. The over-funded Greendale Post Office also possesses an off-road jeep, a motorbike, a helicopter and a VTOL jet plane.
10. Left (and all monarchs since Victoria have done so, in contrast to coins where the direction alternates with each reign).