A Fiendish London History Quiz: Can You Beat The Champs?

By M@
A Fiendish London History Quiz: Can You Beat The Champs?

Every year, Londonist editor-at-large Matt Brown devises and hosts a pub quiz for the London Historians group. We've had the same winners three years in a row — a group of very knowledgable tour guides. How would you have fared? Below are the questions from the 2019 quiz. The winning score was 42/50 — can you do better?

Round 1: Historic Royal Palaces

Round 2: The centuries round

Each question relates to the year '19 of a given century.

1. (1519)The financier and founder of the Royal Exchange Thomas Gresham was born 500 years ago this year. Which animal sits on top of his coat of arms, and still features prominently throughout the Bank area of the City?

2. (1619) Sir Jeffrey Hudson, born this year, was known as Lord Minimus, because he stood just a metre tall. Serving as court dwarf to Charles I and Henrietta Maria, he led a remarkable life. Which of the following accomplishments would NOT have been on his CV? (a) Painted by Van Dyck, (b) Captain in the English Civil Wars, (c) Shot a man dead in a duel, (d) Invented a crude form of pogo stick.

3. (1719) John Flamsteed died on the last day of this year. Which important London role was he the first person to hold?

4. (1819) Burlington Arcade off Piccadilly was completed in this year. It is policed by a uniformed Beadle. One of the arcade’s rules is that nobody may whistle while passing through. Now, according to trivialist Mark Mason, there are two living exceptions to this rule. One is a schoolboy from Essex who was promised exemption if he improved his school grades (which he did). The other person is one of the most famous people in the world. Who?

5. (1919) Which car manufacturer, still a well known name, opened its first factory 100 years ago in Cricklewood?

Round 3: Lord Mayors

1. Henry Fitz-Ailwin is credited as the first holder of the role from 1189, although he was styled Mayor of London rather than Lord Mayor of London. Where, not far from here [the Christopher Hatton pub in Holborn], can you see an outdoor public statue of Fitz-Ailwin?

2. Which notable politician, who also has a statue in the Holborn area, served as Lord Mayor in 1774?

3. How many women have served as Lord Mayor of London?

4. In 1884, George Notte became the last Lord Mayor to do what?

5. What kind of establishment was the Whittington Longhouse, a building financed by Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington, but destroyed in the Great Fire?

Round 4: London Latin

1. The Brick Lane mosque features a famous sundial and the words Umbra sumus. What does that phrase mean?

2. In which area of central London can you find a pediment bearing the legend Che Sara Sara?

3. Which venerable London organisation has the motto Nullius in verba, which roughly translates as ‘take nobody’s word for it’?

4. The motto of the City of London, shown all over the Square Mile on its coat of arms, comprises three words. These have the initials DDN, and mean ‘Lord Direct us’. But what are those three words in Latin? (Not fussed about spelling.)

5. Which London borough has the most roman numeral letters in its name? Include repetitions of the same letter in your count.

Round 5: The CH round

As a nod to the Christopher Hatton pub, venue for the quiz, this round is all about people or places that share his initials.

1. Charles Holden is well known for designing many of the art deco stations on the London Underground. Which three stations at the end of Underground lines did he design?

2. Which famous CH was born in Lambeth in the 16th century, married at age 16, and died in London while still a teenager?

3. Which eccentric actor, born in Hounslow in 1914, starred in almost 100 films, many of which had similar titles. His last filmed role was an appearance in Supergran in 1987.

4. Which London building with initials CH was declared open by George V in 1925, then reopened by Elizabeth II in 1998, and then reopened yet again by the Queen in 2015?

5. Which area of London, with initials CH, has a Wetherspoon’s pub named after Eva Hart, a long-lived survivor of the Titanic disaster?

Round 6: Name the statue

Round 7: London trees

1. Which type of tree once flourished near the confluence of the Thames and the Lea, giving its name to the area?

2. Tree officers use various measures, such as height, age and setting, to put a monetary value on any given tree. It helps when dealing with the insurance industry. A tree in Mayfair holds the record, valued at £750,000. What species is it?

3. What arboreal landmark was restored at different times by the families MacRae, Hibbert and Basten?

4. Which tube station (and area) takes its name from an oak whose branches were once used to fashion a coffin, and around which merry festivals were once held?

5. Totteridge in north London is famed for a wizened tree that may be older than London itself, and was once thought to be the oldest tree in Britain. What type of tree is it?

Round 8: Return of the musical teeth

Here the quizmaster plays a well-known tune on his teeth. Obviously, you can't hear it, but the questions can still be tackled if I give you the tunes.

1. Which still existing London pub is namechecked in this tune? (Pop Goes the Weasel)

2. Which year did this TV programme debut? (Eastenders)

3. Which London-set musical? (Oom-Pah-Pah)

4. This song is also the name of a London street, but what postcode does it fall under? (Lambeth Walk)

5. Finally, a slightly cryptic one. This song can be linked to an historical English queen, through a sporting connection? (I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles)

Round 9: London on film

1.  Which film actor has a statue in Grosvenor Square?

2. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, shot in 1927, is considered the first true film by which director?

3. Which famous film dressed up Beckton Gas Works to look like a ruined city in Vietnam?

4. Which character, associated with London, was first portrayed on stage in 1904 and on film in 1924. The role has been played, among others, by Betty Bronson, Mary Martin, Mia Farrow and Robin Williams?

5. Two multi-Oscar winning films set in London were released in 1964. One starred Julie Andrews. The other did not star Julie Andrews, but was based on a stage musical that did. Name both films.

Round 10: Odds and ends

1. What London location connects Nancy Astor, Ada Lovelace and William Gladstone?

2. Which London borough can trace its name back to a market town in Yorkshire?

3. What killed seven people in Valentine’s Park, Ilford in August 1939?

4. What title has been held by, among others, Humphrey Henchman, Beilby Porteus, and Gilbert Universalis, and is currently held by Sarah Mullally?

5. Which British Prime Minister was born closest to the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds?

Answers follow below

The winning team (Fifty Shades of Grey Hair) with London Historians head honcho Mike Paterson and quizmaster Matt Brown lurking to the right. The same team has won three years in a row, and gets to lift this not-at-all-generic trophy.


Round 1

1. Banqueting House
2. Kew Palace
3. Kensington Palace
4. Hampton Court Palace
5. Tower of London

Round 2

1. A grasshopper
2. (d) pogo stick
3. Astronomer Royal
4. Sir Paul McCartney
5. Bentley

Round 3

1. Holborn Viaduct
2. John Wilkes
3. Two. Mary Donaldson in 1983 and Fiona Woolf in 2013
4. Die in office (a suspicious number of medieval mayors appear to have done so)
5. A public toilet (or words to that effect). It could seat an incredible 64 men and 64 women

Round 4

1. We are shadows
2. Covent Garden, motto of the Russell family.
3. The Royal Society
4. Domine Dirige Nos
5. Hammersmith & Fulham (6 or 7 depending on how you spell the &)

Round 5

1. Cockfosters, Morden, Uxbridge (half point for any two, full point for all three)
2. Catherine Howard
3. Charles Hawtrey
4. Canada House
5. Chadwell Heath

Round 6

1. Charles Darwin (Natural History Museum)
2. Edward VII
3. Winston Churchill (Guildhall)
4. William Shakespeare (Leicester Square)
5. Millicent Fawcett (Parliament Square)

Round 7

1. Poplar (technically, the black poplar)
2. A London plane (or just plane), in Berkeley Square
3. The Seven Sisters trees, planted by seven daughters of these families
4. Fairlop. Oaks appear on the tube map a dozen times, if you include the various Actons (Acton stems from Old English for oak farm.)
5. Yew

Round 8

1. The Eagle on City Road
2. 1985
3. Oliver!
4. SE11
5. Anne Boleyn, since West Ham (whose anthem it is) used to play at the Boleyn Ground

Round 9

1. Ronald Reagan
2. Alfred Hitchcock
3. Full Metal Jacket
4. Peter Pan (the character appeared on stage before the novels)
5. Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady (half a point each)

Round 10

1. St James’s Square (they all have memorials there)
2. Richmond-upon-Thames
3. A lightning strike
4. Bishop of London
5. David Cameron, who started life at the London Clinic on Harley Street, just down the road.

How did you score? Would you have beaten the winning team with 42 points? If so, keep an eye out for next year's quiz by joining the London Historians Facebook group.

Not had enough facting? Try the London Historians 2018 quiz

Last Updated 06 June 2019