England is a country steeped in history and culture, with an archaeological record dating back into the early Neolithic period and beyond.
There is so much to discover in the United Kingdom. You may know about their love of tea or the invention of the Indian dish, the Chicken Tikka Masala, but do you know everything about this magnificent country?
We have compiled a list of ten interesting facts about England that you probably didn’t already know. Read on to see if you are truly an anglophile or just a pretender to the crown.
The Romans Invaded England for the Oysters
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Despite a fairly questionable reputation when it comes to food, England has some particular delicacies. One of these lesser-known local specialties is oysters from Colchester.
When the Romans first invaded Britain in AD43, they set up an encampment that later grew into the first capital of England. This was long before the days of London or Londinium as it was known in those days. Colchester was the first city in the British Isles.
Historians believe that one of the main reasons the Romans invaded the islands was because they could not get enough of the delicious oysters and wanted to control the supply.
To this day, Colchester oysters are considered some of if not the best oysters in the world. If you want to try them for yourself, you should travel to one of the fine seafood restaurants on Mersea Island. Or visit in October to witness the annual Oyster Feast.
London’s Ice Wells
Moving south to the current capital of England and Great Britain, London, we can find the second of our cool facts about England. The hidden ice wells that lie beneath Kings Cross Station.
In the Victorian era, between the years of 1840 – 1900, London was crazy about ice cream. It was a new trend, and the city could not get enough of it. It was a real feat to get yourself a frozen treat in a time long before refrigeration units.
Enter Italian Swiss entrepreneur and immigrant Carlo Gatti. He saw that everyone was screaming for ice cream and found a way to make it available for them.
He built two vast wells under his premises in Kings Cross in central London. Each was 42ft deep by 33ft in diameter. He could store many tonnes of ice that he would import from the frozen rivers and lakes of Scandanavia.
He then sold the ice to the ice cream makers of London and other parts of Great Britain. Carlo Gatti died a millionaire in 1878, and you can still visit his ice wells today via the London Canal Museum.
London Has 40 Abandoned Tube Stations
There are 270 active stations on the London Underground (or Tube as it is colloquially known). Like us, you may have passed through some on your travels around the city.
What you may not have known, though, is that there are also 40 abandoned and shut down stations that still haunt the lines, sitting silent and alone deep underground. If you look closely, you can sometimes see one hiding in the shadows of the tunnels as the train passes through.
Stations have to be closed for many different reasons. The railway lines have changed direction over the years as extensions have been added. Or simply as they became underused as passenger numbers dropped.
Many played a part during the Second World War as bomb shelters for the people of London during air raids. Londoners used Aldwych station to store the relics from the British Museum to keep them safe. Whilst Down Street station became the home of the Primeminister’s War Cabinet.
The Queen of England Created a New Dog Breed
The Queen of England is famous for the beloved Corgis that have accompanied her throughout her royal life. She has owned more than 30 corgis throughout the duration of her reign. Pembroke Welsh Corgis were the preferred dogs of her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. So they have always been a part of her life. Read: How to Visit The Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament in London
However, when her sister Princess Margaret came to visit with her pet dachshund Pipkin one day, the royals changed both breeds forever. One of the Queen’s corgis impregnated Pipkin, and the resulting offspring were dubbed Dorgis. A brand new breed of dog, initially bred exclusively by the royal sisters.
The litter included Cider, Berry, Vulcan, and Candy, four Dorgis that would live with the Queen until their deaths, some twenty years later.
Stonehenge Is Older Than the Pyramids
Stonehenge is as ancient as it is mysterious. The stone circle is of great religious importance to those of the druidic faith. It sits on the Salisbury Plain as it has since the Neolithic age 5,000 years ago. That was 500 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
How and why stone age man built it still puzzles archaeologists to this day. Most agree it was a place of great ritualistic importance. One legend claims that giants from Ireland built Stonehenge, crossing the sea via the Giant’s Causeway. However, there is little evidence for this! Read 42 Amazing Ancient Ruins of the World
King Henry the 8th Levied a Tax on Beards
King Henry the Eighth of England, the Tudor king, was famous for his many wives and long reign in the 1500s. There have been many strange taxes in the history of England over the years. These have included windows, salt, and candles. But, the beard tax of 1585 may be the strangest of them all.
There is some scholarly debate on whether the tax was actually enforced or, in some cases, even existed at all. However, there is a lot of documentary evidence about Tudor Laws that gave strict regulations on how someone could dress.
Luckily there is no such law in place in England today for which the modern-day beard-loving hipsters of Shoreditch in London are extremely grateful. Read How to Visit Windsor Castle
All the Swans Are Royal
The graceful, elegant swans that are a key feature of every park and riverbank around the United Kingdom all belong to the Queen of England. They have done so since the 12th century, and to injure or kill one could be considered an act of treason.
Swans were a delicacy enjoyed by the wealthy at banquets and feasts hundreds of years ago. None more so than the Royal Family, who laid claim to ownership of every bird in the country.
Even if you find a dead swan, you must turn it over to the Crown, to someone known as the Queen’s official Swan Marker. Thankfully today, the species is protected, and nobody eats them anymore.
The Annual Devonshire Manhunt Festival
You may be aware of some of the stranger events that take place in England every year, especially the infamous cheese rolling festival. However, there are some even more outlandish celebrations taking place if you dig a little deeper.
In Combe Martin in Devon on every Spring Bank Holiday weekend, a man dressed as the Earl of Rone flees an extraordinary manhunt. This annual event reenacts the murder of Irish aristocrat and supposed rebel Earl Hugh O’Neill.
The locals believe that in 1607, Hugh was fleeing the Queen’s Grenadiers after being shipwrecked on the Devonshire coast. The Grenadiers caught Hugh and shot him before marching him to the sea and throwing him in.
Play actors reenact the whole gruesome act while the other participants get very drunk and revel in large colorful costumes. A very traditional English festivity indeed!
9. It Has Some Amazing Place Names
The English have a very wry sense of humor, and it may become clear as to why when you discover what some of the towns and villages across England and the United Kingdom are called.
Some are hilarious, while others are just plain rude. It is important to keep an eye out when you pass through the English countryside to see if you can spot a few on your travels.
There’s Badgers Mount and Sandy Bottom, or Spankers Lane in Derbyshire to WhamBottomLane in Lancashire. There is always something to keep you entertained en route during your trip!
10. You Are Never Far From the Sea
England in part of the British Isles and large archipelago off the coast of Europe. It is not a very big country. In fact, you could fit all of the United Kingdom, that is, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, inside Texas over 2.8 times.
So it shouldn’t come as too much surprise to know that you are never far from the sea when you are in England. In fact, even if you are standing in the dead center of the country, you are still no more than 70 miles from the coast.
Shame the English weather doesn’t often encourage a beach day!
Be Inspired by Our Facts About England
Hopefully, our fun facts about England have inspired you to take a trip to the British Isles and discover some of the incredible history and culture for yourself. There is a great deal to explore!
If you have any interesting England facts of your own, why not share them in the comments below? Or, if you have enjoyed this article, please take a look at another on our blog.