Quiz: 50 Challenging Questions About London History

By M@ Last edited 11 months ago

Last Updated 09 June 2023

Quiz: 50 Challenging Questions About London History

Can you beat the London Historians 2023 quiz winners in this fiendish quiz?

Every year, Londonist editor-at-large Matt Brown writes and hosts a quiz for the London Historians group. The 50 questions are designed for an audience with a decent knowledge of London's past, rather than complete newbies.

We've published the 2023 quiz questions below. See how you'd have fared and, if you can get close to the winning score of 42 out of 50, then keep an eye out for next year's live event. The winning team get their name on the trophy (which they also have to decorate with a trinket, gradually altering the trophy as the years go on).

Round 1: A Royal Face-Off!

A picture round showing five well-known London statues with Charles III's head superimposed

Round 2: The year in London History

Five questions about historical events and anniversaries from the past year.

1. London lost one of its arboreal landmarks over the recent Christmas period, after an ash tree collapsed in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church. With which famous novelist was it associated?

2. Which bridge, currently getting a £15 million refurbishment, was opened on the same day as Holborn Viaduct in 1869?

3. As you may have noticed, London recently staged its first coronation in 70 years. Before Westminster Abbey was built, which area of Surrey (now in Greater London) was traditionally used for coronations, and may have been the site of up to seven Anglo-Saxon crownings?

4. The recent coronation was, of course, prompted by the death of Her Majesty Elizabeth II. On which date did she die?

5. In which London square can you find the recently reopened Hunterian Museum?

Round 3: Notable addresses

Which super-famous people live or lived at the following London addresses?

1. 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury
2. 87 Hackford Road, Stockwell
3. 36 Craven Street, near Trafalgar Square
4. 32 Windsor Gardens
5. Finally, the penthouse of Alembic House near Vauxhall has had a number of famous inhabitants. Which of the following has NEVER lived there.
(a) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, (b) Bond composer John Barry, (c) novelist and ne’er-do-well Jeffrey Archer, or (d) noted crown-wearer Camilla Parker Bowles?

Round 4. Charles I, II, III... and IV

Five questions about Carolean monarchs.

1. Outside which building, now in the care of Historic Royal Palaces, was King Charles I beheaded on 30 January 1649?
2. Which pub on Holborn is named after a hiding place of Charles II?
3. Our current sovereign enjoys three middle names between the “Charles” and the notional “Windsor”. Name any two for half a point each.
4. On 2 March 1955 the young Prince Charles had his first tube experience when he bought tickets at Charing Cross tube station and descended to the Bakerloo line. Where did he travel to?
5. Please forgive the treasonous thoughts inherent in the following question. We’re unlikely to see a Charles IV in the near future. As the royal succession stands, 25 royals would have to die in order for Charles Armstrong Jones, Viscount Linley (born 1999) to accede the throne. Who was this minor royal’s more famous grandmother?

Round 5. Unusual drinking dens

1. Which London department store boasted its own pub, called the Green Man, between 1973 and 2010?
2. Cynthia’s bar could be found beneath London Bridge on Tooley Street in the early years of this century. What was most notable about the titular barmaid?
3. The Grenadier in Belgravia is a tricky-to-find mews pub that’s packed with history. Its ceilings are particularly memorable – what has been stuck to them hundreds of times?
4. Where in London can you find a pub called The Keys, which is open only to residents and their invited guests?
5. What is the name of the bar (now on Chancery Lane) set up by Saatchi and Saatchi, named after one of their most famous advertising campaigns?

Round 6. Name that Bridge

A picture round showing five images of London bridges

Round 7. Barts and Smithfield

This year marks the 900th anniversary of Bart’s hospital.

1. The hospital was founded in 1123 by a monk called Rahere. As well as being a monk, what other unlikely job did Rahere perform, as depicted in a stained-glass window in St Bartholomew the Less church?
2. Sherlock Holmes first met Dr John Watson at Bart’s Hospital, as recorded on a plaque in the hospital’s museum. The plaque also records Holmes’s first words to his future housemate. From one glance, Holmes deduces that Watson has recently returned from which country?
3. Which famous artist painted the vast canvases that decorate the stairs of the hospital’s great hall?
4. The hospital is, of course, named after St Bartholomew, one of the 12 Apostles. According to tradition, and as often shown in works of religious art, how was Bartholomew martyred?
5. Whose statue stands above the gatehouse of Bart’s – often said to be the only one in London to depict this person?

8. London Oddities

1. Near which tube station can you find a monumental sundial featuring the likeness of Margaret Thatcher?
2. Which London cultural venue is topped by a weather vane that shows Erasmus seated backwards on a horse, and engrossed in a book?
3. Which of the following does NOT describe one of the Fourth Plinth commissions.
(a) A ship in a giant glass bottle; (b) A boy on a rocking horse; (c) A series of Russian doll Nelsons; (d) A massive blue cock
4. Which famous statue was tarred and feathered in 1928 by avant garde artists who disliked its traditional style.
5. In which churchyard can you find bench plaques to John Thaw and Beryl Reid, among many other famous actors?

9. Lucky dip

1. In which area of London does Oliver Twist first encounter the Artful Dodger in Dickens’s original novel?
2. Only two London Underground station buildings can boast a Grade I listed status – the highest form of protected status. One of them is Bank, thanks to one of its entrances being within the fabric of the Bank of England. But what is the other station, whose entire building is Grade I-listed?
3. Who is the most recent British Prime Minister to have been born in London?
4. And who is the last British Monarch to die in London?
5. St Pancras, St James’s, St Giles: three London places that are named after saints. Put them in chronological order of when their respective saints lived.
6. What do the following four tube station all have in common? Swiss Cottage, Royal Oak, Manor House, Maida Vale
7. And for another point, can you name the two additional tube stations that complete the set of six?
8. Notorious talk-show host Jerry Springer died recently. What is his peculiar connection to London Underground?
9. It’s well known that the Brunel’s tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping was the first tunnel beneath the Thames – indeed, the first tunnel beneath any major river in the world. But what was London’s second tunnel to cross under the Thames?
10. And finally… Coal Hill School in Shoreditch will be enjoying a 60th anniversary this year (2023). What work of fiction is it from?


Round 1

1. Charles II
2. Charles I
3. Elizabeth I
4. Prince Albert
5. Anne

Round 2

1. Thomas Hardy
2. Blackfriars Bridge (see our site visit)
3. Kingston-upon-Thames (history behind it)
4. 8 September 2022
5. Lincoln’s Inn Fields (will accept just “Lincoln’s Inn” or “Lincoln’s Inn Square”)

Round 3

1. Charles Dickens
2. Vincent van Gogh
3. Benjamin Franklin
4. Paddington bear
5. (d) Camilla Parker Bowles. (Although the Duchy of Cornwall does own the neighboring building, and I’ve heard rumours that our new monarch once had a bachelor pad up there.)

Round 4

1. Banqueting House (half point for Whitehall Palace)
2. Penderel's Oak
3. Philip, Arthur and George (half point for one correct, full point for any two)
4. Nowhere. He engaged in 30 minutes of train spotting and then went home.
5. Princess Margaret (he’s the son of the previous Viscount Linley, who was Margaret's son)

Round 5

1. Harrods (see our feature)
2. “She” was a robot
3. Dollar bills (will accept “money” or equivalent). See our pub database for photos
4. The Tower of London
5. The Pregnant Man

A trio of keg taps in a bar. The left-most serves Stella, the middle is Beefeater Bitter, the right is Yeoman 1485
The apt beer selection inside The Keys pub

Round 6

1. Blackfriars Bridge
2. Tower Bridge
3. Lambeth Bridge
4. Vauxhall Bridge
5. London Bridge (Nancy’s steps)

Round 7

1. Jester (the window shows him in monk’s robes, but with the multicoloured leggings of a jester)
2. Afghanistan (“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”). Image of the plaque
3. William Hogarth (he took the commission for no pay, rather than let it go to an Italian artist)
4. Flaying, or skinning alive.
5. Henry VIII. Another sort-of-statue stands in Central Park, Havering. However, it's a flat steel structure and some would dispute it counts as a statue. (Plus, some people insist that the London Borough of Havering is in Essex.)

The monk Rahere kneeling beside St Bartholomew in the lesser church of that name. He is wearing brightly coloured harlequin-style leggings
Rahere in his harlequin-esque tights

Round 8

1. Tower Hill
2. Whitechapel Gallery
3. (c) A series of Russian doll Nelsons (but someone should do that)
4. Peter Pan. Read the story here
5. St Paul’s Covent Garden (known as the Actor's Church)

Round 9

1. Barnet
2. St James's Park. See our article about listed tube stations
3. David Cameron, born in the London Clinic, Harley Street in 1966. See our map of British PM's birthplaces
4. Edward VII, in 1910. See our map of English/British monarchs' birth and death places
5. St James (apostle; time of Jesus); St Pancras (289-303); St Giles (c650-c710)
6. All named after pubs
7. Elephant and Castle and Angel
8. He was one of the few people to have been born on the network (at Highgate in1944)
9. The Tower Subway (1870… 27 years after the Brunels’). See our short history of this subway
10. Doctor Who. It appeared in the very first episode, and numerous times since. The first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on 23 November 1963, the day after the JFK assassination.

All images by Matt Brown, except the heads of the former Prince Charles, which are all public domain.