Try The Most Fiendish London History Quiz Ever

By M@
Try The Most Fiendish London History Quiz Ever
The city skyline with a question mark

50 questions, all about London and its history. How many would you get right?

The annual London Historians quiz took place on 18 November, and was deemed the most difficult yet. Teams had to tackle 50 questions, posed by Londonist editor-at-large Matt Brown.

The winning team managed to get 30 out of 50. That leaves plenty of margin for you to improve upon. So have a go at the questions below and see if you could have beaten the champs.

Round 1 (pictures): Strange exhibits

Five questions. The first is a sign 'do not touch the walrus'. The second is Captain Sensible's beret and glasses. Third is some copulating couples inside porcelain shells (yes, it's as weird as it sounds). Fourth is a miniature protest about the Olympics. Fifth is an anatomical model that looks like a naked Noel Edmonds. There is a hole where his brain should be, which some would say is true to life.

Round 2: Name game

1. What in a London context are Aurora, Cyclone, Meteor, Monsoon, Tornado & Typhoon?

2. Who are the following in a London context: Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Georgie

3. Put these famous London Charles’s in order of year of birth, oldest first:
Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Charles Holden, Charles Babbage

4. Which is the odd one out: Broadgate, Ludgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate?

5. There are 32 London boroughs. How many begin with the letter H? (No need to list them - just need the number)

Round 3: The sounds of London

This round is dedicated to the memory of Ian Rawes who created the wonderful London Sound Survey website, and who sadly passed away in October aged just 56.

1. Easy one to start. According to the popular song, which unlikely creature “sang in Berkeley Square”?

2. In the most commonly sung version of Oranges and Lemons, we hear from six sets of bells. However, as with most folk songs, there are alternative versions, including a longer ditty featuring 15 London churches. Which churches contribute the following two lines?

(a) Old Father Baldpate, say the slow bells of ?
(b) Brickbats and tiles, say the bells of ?

3. Minnie Smith is the first person on record to have uttered which well-known London phrase?

4. For centuries, the streets of London were filled with the cries of street sellers. The Lionel Bart musical and film versions of Oliver! include a set-piece in which a number of street sellers harmonise their cries in the well-known song “Who will buy?”. Can you name any three of the four items or services for sale?

5. What common phrase, derived from Cockney rhyming slang, means to imitate breaking wind?

Round 4: London's villages

1. A stone semi-circle known as the Giant’s Teeth can be found in the village of Harmondsworth, west London. But which demolished London landmark were the stones taken from?

2. The village of Crews Hill in north London is dominated by one type of business. What is it?

3. The village of Downe in Bromley was for many years the home of which world-famous person, whose house there is now a museum?

4. What is unusual about the village of North Ockendon in the London Borough of Havering?

5. Sticking in that borough, the small village of Havering-atte-Bower is home to a stocks and whipping post - a very rare survival in London. Which famous politician visited in 2010, as attested by a nearby plaque.

Round 5: London around the world

1. In which US state can you find much of the previous London Bridge, which was shipped over to the States in the late 1960s?

2. The Battle of Porto Bello in 1739 is commemorated in Notting Hill’s Portobello Road. But in which present-day country did the battle take place?

3. Severndroog Castle is a famous folly up on Shooter’s Hill in south London. Its peculiar name is taken from an island fortress, captured by Commodore Sir William James in 1755. Similar to the last question, I’d like to know in which country the original Severndroog fortress was (and still is) located.  

4. In which US state would you find the Thames River, which flows 15 miles from Norwich to New London?

5. The Memorial to Paddy the Wanderer, in Wellington, New Zealand is a drinking fountain for dogs. It’s built from stones salvaged from which London landmark?

Round 6 (pictures): House museums

Five picture questions, you have to name the house museum. The first has a green door on a Georgian facade. The second is a couch draped with middle eastern fabrics. The third is another Georgian facade with red shutters. Fourth is a room cluttered with artifacts from antiquity. Fifth is a spacious and elegant drawing room with red wallpaper.

Round 7: Future history

1. A plaque in Brockley marks the future home of Amanda Grayson, who will be born in the year 2210. Who is her better-known son?

2. The year 2070 is usually given as the expected year by which what will need replacing?

3. Which famous author wrote a novel called The Last Man, set in 2092, which describes the abandonment of London after the population is decimated by plague?

4. The 1966 film Daleks’ Invasion of Earth 2150 A.D. has a self-explanatory plot. But which actor played the role of the Doctor in this largely forgotten film spinoff from Doctor Who?

5. Why might crowds gather at Trinity Buoy Wharf on 31 December 2999?

Round 8: Connections round

The questions in this round are on a range of subjects, but something connects the answers.

1. Which part of town was known as Battle Bridge until a new landmark prompted a name change from the 1830s?

2. What word connects each of the following: Turkey, Folly, Falcon and Hackney?

3. Lambeth Palace is the traditional London home of whom?

4. Which London football league team has had more home grounds than any other English side?

5. What connects these four answers?

Round 9: Lucky dip

1. What was the cost of a bag of bird seed in Edwardian times, according to magical nanny Mary Poppins?

2. What unusual feature was installed in Holloway tube station in 1906, but never opened to the public?

3. Which famous fictional character has a scar on his left knee that is a perfect replica of the tube map?

4. In August 1942, school boys Leonard John Mitchell and Arthur Hart of Balham found their 15 minutes of fame when they became the first to do what, ahead of a queue of motorists?

5. The following four fast-food restaurants all opened their first London branches in the 1970s. Put them in order, oldest first: Burger King, Costa, McDonalds, Pizza Hut

6. Which still-existing London theatre opened in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre?

7. The London statue of which king was recently found to have the legs of a Roman goddess?

8. What act of death defiance was the highlight of the very first Thames Festival in 1997, as well as at the Festival of Britain in 1951?

9. Which London place name is thought to derive from the Old English for “Place of Welcome”?

10. And finally, a very serious question to finish off… In the Muppet Christmas Carol — widely regarded as the best Christmas film of all time (and I’d argue the best film of any kind) — what role does Gonzo the Great play?


A bunch of inebriated quiz participants mug at the camera. One of their number clutches a classic trophy. One has frightful red trousers on.
This team of Camden tour guides won the live quiz with 30 out of 50 points. London Historians director Mike Paterson is to the left, with quizmaster and Londonista Matt Brown hiding at the back-left. Image by Chris Burton.

Round 1

1. Horniman Museum
2. Museum of Croydon
3. Wellcome Collection
4. Museum of London
5. Science Museum

Round 2

1. Thames Clippers, or Uberboats
2. The Tower of London ravens (accept ‘ravens’)
3. Babbage (1791), Darwin (1809), Dickens (1812), Holden (1875)
4. Broadgate (not one of the original gates in the Roman/Medieval wall)
5. Seven (unless you’re a Cockney who drops their Hs, in which case it’s zero). They are Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon and Hounslow

Round 3

1. Nightingale
2. Aldgate and St Giles (half point for each)
3. “Mind the Gap”. As a platform guard, she was shouting it at Charing Cross in the 1950s, 10 years before the official first recording.
4. (Sweet red) roses, milk, (ripe) strawberries, knives to grind. Half a point for two, only need the nouns not the adjectives. No points for any of Oliver's replies ("Who will buy this wonderful morning..."), as he's not a street vendor.
5. To blow a raspberry, from raspberry tart (fart). Just need the word raspberry to score the point.

Round 4

1. (Old) Waterloo Bridge
2. Garden centres
3. Charles Darwin
4. It’s outside the M25 — the only populated part of London to be there
5. Boris Johnson, who was there to unveil an adjacent village sign

Round 5

1. Arizona
2. Panama
3. India
4. Connecticut
5. (Old) Waterloo Bridge (again!)

Round 6

1. Dickens House Museum (will accept anything with Dickens in answer)
2. Freud Museum (the famous couch)
3. Dennis Severs’ House
4. Sir John Soane’s Museum
5. Leighton House Museum (named for Frederic Leighton but don’t need that)

Round 7

1. Spock
2. The Thames Barrier
3. Mary Shelley
4. Peter Cushing
5. To witness the end of Longplayer, the 1,000-year long piece of music that began on 1 Jan 2000. (Just the word ‘longplayer’ or any answer that has the essence of the question is good for a point.)

Round 8

1. King's Cross
2. Brook (they're all London brooks)
3. Archbishop of Canterbury
4. QPR or Queen's Park Rangers who've had over 20 home grounds
5. The connection is that all four answers contain a chess piece (king, rook, bishop, queen)

Round 9

1. Tuppence. This was also the sum needed for paper and strings for a kite, and the amount Michael had at his disposal for investment in his father's bank
2. A spiral escalator. Its remains are now stored at London Transport Museum Depot
3. Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter
4. Cross the new Waterloo Bridge (there’s the bridge again!)
5. Pizza Hut (1973), McDonald’s (1974), Burger King (1977), Costa (1979)
6. The Old Vic
7. Alfred the Great (in Trinity Church Square, Southwark)
8. A tightrope walk over the Thames
9. Walthamstow
10. Charles Dickens (accept 'narrator')

Total 50 points. How many did you get?

Looking for more? Try the 2019 London Historians quiz (which was a wee bit easier).

Check out London Historians' site and Facebook group.

Last Updated 19 November 2021