England is a country steeped in history and culture, with an archaeological record dating back to 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 interesting facts about England that you might not have already known. Read on to see if you are truly an anglophile or just a pretender to the crown.
Interesting Facts about England
England is the largest country in the United Kingdom with a population of more than 56 million people. England is part of the United Kingdom which includes three other countries of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The capital city of England is London and it is bordered by the English Channel, The North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is only 33 kilometers (20 miles) from mainland Europe and is connected to France by the Channel Tunnel which is the second-longest undersea tunnel in the world. So, now that we have all the housekeeping out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more fun facts about England.
1. There is A Difference Between the UK and Great Britain
The terms “UK” and “Great Britain” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things. The official name of the United Kingdom is actually The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. When referring to Great Britain, which is technically a geographical term, refers to the largest island in the British Isles. Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales, but not Northern Ireland.
On the other hand, when you are referring to it as the UK you are referring to the country which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK is a sovereign state with a single government, legal system, and currency.
2. 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. Read 42 Amazing Ancient Ruins of the World
3. The Queen of England Created a New Dog Breed
The Queen of England was famous for the beloved Corgis that accompanied her throughout her royal life. Pembroke Welsh Corgis were the preferred dogs of her parents, so they have always been a part of her life.
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.
4. London Bridge is No Longer in London
Here’s a fun fact that I bet you didn’t know. The original London Bridge is no longer in London it is now found in Arizona, USA. London Bridge was transported from London in the 1970s and there is a distinct English feel in the London Village. Check out 26 Top Places to Visit in Arizona
5. All the Swans Are Royal
The graceful, elegant swans that are a key feature of every park and riverbank around the United Kingdom all belonged to the Queen of England (now King Charles). It has been in law 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.
6. The Royal Residence
Another cool fact is that Buckingham Palace may be the official residence of the King, but Windsor Castle is actually the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. The castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has been expanded and renovated over the centuries.
It is home to the famous St. George’s Chapel, where many royal weddings and funerals have taken place, including the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. residence of many monarchs over the centuries, including Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, and the current Queen Elizabeth II.
7. Ravens and the Tower of London
Ravens have a long-standing association with the Tower of London The legend goes that if the six resident ravens ever leave, the kingdom and the Tower will fall.
The traditions date back to the reign of King Charles II in the 17th century when the king was warned that if the ravens ever left the Tower, it would be a sign of disaster for the kingdom. He, therefore, made a law that six ravens be kept at the Tower at all times, and this tradition has been maintained ever since.
8. The Romans Invaded England for the Oysters
Despite a fairly questionable reputation when it comes to traditional English food, the UK 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 city 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.
Read more about some of the other Great British Foods in our guide.
9. First Capital
The concept of a capital city as we understand it today did not exist in early medieval times. However, if we look at the history of the English monarchy, Winchester was the first major royal city and center of government in England, serving as the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.
It was the residence of several Saxon kings, including King Alfred the Great, who made Winchester the center of his kingdom in the late 9th century. Winchester Cathedral was founded in 642 AD with the current cathedral dating back to the 11th century.
Winchester remained an important city throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, but it was gradually overtaken by London as the country’s political and economic center.
10. London’s Ice Wells
Moving south to the current capital, 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 to 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 Scandinavia.
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.
11. Big Ben
Many people think that Big Ben is a clock, but in actual fact, it is the Great Bell of the Clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. The tower that houses the clock and bell is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben weighs around 13.7 tonnes (15.1 tons) and is 2.2 meters (7 feet) tall and 2.7 meters (9 feet) in diameter. Big Ben has been silenced on a number of occasions throughout its history, including during World War I and II, and for repairs and maintenance.
12. The World Of Literature
England is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. However, the United Kingdom has produced many great writers including Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland but spent much of his life in England.
13. London Has 40 Abandoned Tube Stations
There are 270 active stations on the London Underground or Tube as it is colloquially known. 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.
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.
14. King Henry VII 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 English history over the years. These have included taxes on 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.
15. 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, but 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!
16. 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 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!
17. You Are Never Far From the Sea
England in part of the British Isles and a 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. 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. Read more about Wales: 20 of the Best places to visit in Wales
18. The English Language
Obviously, the official language of England is English, which is spoken by most of the population in the country however did you know that English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world? Thanks to the overarching influence of the British Empire, which contained a quarter of the world’s population in the 18th century, the English language was spread far and wide.
Although Mandarin is becoming increasingly popular, English is still one of the most sought-after second languages in the world and is the official language of 67 countries.
19. England is Home to Many Famous Scientists
England not only has some of the best Universities in the world like Oxford and Cambridge but it also produces some of the most advanced minds in the world. These include the brilliant minds of Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin just to name a few.
20. Annual Cheese Rolling Competition
In our opinion, one of the more fun facts is that it has its share of crazy competitions and festivals like this one. Each year in Gloucestershire people gather to roll a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down a steep hill, and then chase after it in an attempt to catch it. This has been going on for over 200 years!
The competition takes place on Cooper’s Hill, which is a steep slope located near the town of Brockworth. The cheese wheel can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour as it rolls down the hill, and competitors often stumble and fall as they try to keep up. It is hilarious to watch and probably even more fun to take part in.
21. An Englishman Invented the World Wide Web
Another one of those little-known facts about England is that it is home to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland in 1989.
Berners-Lee was looking for a way to allow scientists to share information more easily across different computer systems. He developed a system of hypertext links and a standardized language for creating and sharing documents, which eventually became the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee’s invention revolutionized the way we access and share information, and it is now an integral part of modern life.
22. In 1996 England Won The FIFA World Cup
Even if you don’t know much about English football you probably know that England has one of the top football teams in the world. Thanks to the level of talent in the Premier League they are almost always in the top rankings and have won the world cup title once which was back in 1966 against Germany.
Interesting England Facts
Hopefully, our fun facts about England have inspired you to take a trip to the British Isles and discover some of the incredible cultures for yourself. There is a great deal to explore!