The top 10 myths in London


Cities like London have decades worth of history to boast about, including narratives of war, art, economy and politics. However, due to the massive wealth of stories about it and the fact that the Big Smoke is a huge expanse of land there are also plenty of myths circulating through the facts.

This is the same in just about any big city in the world, if it’s old enough and there are enough tales, some of them will pass into legend and become privy to healthy debate.

However, the difficulty with rumours is that they can sound completely plausible as facts and some events can often be thought of as being too ridiculous to be true and become falsehoods. So, you can see how easily myths can be to distribute, particularly if they reference real people or refer to events that actually happened.

There are so many facts and fictions in London that it’s hard to know where to start, but there are ten myths about the city that we can dispel for you right away.

Some of these might sound obvious but we’re hoping that a couple might surprise you, after all, we’re telling the truth… aren’t we?

Hitler used Senate House for one of his headquarters

Senate House stands as the central library and admin hub for the University of London and it’s believed that this massive building was overlooked by German bombers during the war because Hitler wanted to use it.

It’s said that he picked it out to use as a base during a Nazi invasion where they could operate from safely.

As exciting as this sounds, there is no concrete proof that Hitler ever had plans to use this building or that he was ever in it. As most of the raids happened during the night, it’s likely that Senate House was accidentally missed, rather than spared.

La Infanta de Castilla

La Infanta de Castilla refers to any amount of Spanish princesses who may have been connected to English history and it’s also where the district of Elephant and Castle got its name. Except that this is complete nonsense, which probably doesn’t shock you, seeing as this is one of London’s least glamourous intersections.

We can however tell you that Elephant and Castle got its name from a coaching inn that stood where the station now is in the 17th century. As the tale goes, a blacksmith and cutler stood on the site before this who was part of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, the crest of which featured an elephant and a castle.

Rats everywhere

This is one of those crazy statistics that people believe, such as ‘You eat eight spiders every year or during your life in your sleep’. When it comes to London, it’s said that you’re always only within six feet of a rat, which is delightful.

It’s likely that this harks back to medieval London and 1665, when the plague had infested the city thanks in no small part to rats. Being set against a river, it’s little wonder that London is known for having an abundance of rats, but we would be surprised if you saw any while you were in the city.

According to Time Out, it’s more likely that you’re about 164 feet away from a rat on average when you’re in London. To put that into perspective, it’s about half the height of Big Ben’s clock tower – so you should be okay.

London Bridge was bought by mistake

No it wasn’t. Fake blame for accidentally buying London Bridge lies with American Robert P McCullock, who actually bought the bridge entirely on purpose.

As the fiction goes, he supposed that he was purchasing the famous Tower Bridge in 1968 and although he and many others have insisted this isn’t the case, for many he seems to be protesting too much.

If the ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fall

This is more like a children’s story that you might hear when you’re young and remember affectionately as an adult, rather than something you actually think is true. The Tower of London was founded in 1066, as part of the Norman Conquest, but the ravens weren’t introduced to the tower until the 19th century.

There were eight centuries during which these black-feathered birds had absolutely nothing to do with the tower, so if they decide to leave again England should be just fine.

Chanel’s logo adorns the lampposts of Westminster

Although Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was famous for her risque love affairs – including a scandalous one with the Duke of Westminster during the rip-roaring 20s and 30s – her signature isn’t on the lampposts in this district.

There are interlocking Cs on the lampposts and although it looks like a loving and slightly sad tribute from the duke to Chanel, the letters actually stand for the City Council of Westminster.

Many have suggested that upscale districts like Mayfair would be much better suited to Chanel lampposts, but we couldn’t say as to whether this would happen or not.

When the flag is flying the Queen is home

Contrary to very popular belief – we had to laboriously check this ourselves – when the Union Flag is flying at Buckingham Palace it doesn’t mean that she’s in residence.

You heard it here, the flag is flown at the residence that she is currently absent from, including Windsor Castle, Sandringham House and Buckingham Palace.

Basically, if the flag is flying, she isn’t in the palace so we wouldn’t bother waving – unless you’re more interested in the other royals in residence!

A pregnant woman is legally allowed to urinate in a police officer’s helmet

This is a misappropriation of an obscure by-law, which states that if a public toilet isn’t nearby then a woman who is pregnant will be showed leniency in urinating in public.

Somehow, this odd law got transformed over time to involve a police officer’s hat for no apparent reason. This is an ancient and extremely obscure law and we wouldn’t be surprised if someone was fined by public indecency regardless of the by-law, so we heavily advise that you avoid doing this. At all costs.

The fire of London wiped out the plague

Although this does in fact sound possible – a massive fire destroys all the rats and such that were responsible for the Great Plague – it’s completely untrue.

The fire did in fact destroy a lot of the slums that facilitated the spreading of the plague, which resulted in great loss. There were fewer outbreaks concerning this disease after the fire, but this is likely to be because it ran its course, rather than due to the fire burning it out.

Nylon is a combination of London and New York

Etymology is a fascinating look at the origin of words and for many, it’s a big part of their profession.

However, the word ‘nylon’, did not originate by combining the names of London and New York. How do we know? Quite simply because the original name for Nylon was No-Run, but when the reality of this proved to the contrary the manufacturer changed the name to nylon.

Not just keen on distinguishing fact from fiction, The Shaftesbury Collection also has a range of hotels that constitute a great London holiday package. For information on the Metropolis London Hyde Park hotel, among many others, contact us now.