Exploring a host of topics in a humorous and engaging style, this little gem of a book is a repository of intriguing, fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts and trivia about Britain and the things that have made it great. Within this volume are such chapters as inventors and inventions, manners and customs, great Britons, great places such as castles, cathedrals, notable buildings, museums, collections and national parks, while not forgotten is a celebration of the best of British music, food and sports and a host of topics that explore the more eccentric and eclectic people and things that contribute to and define Great Britain. Anyone curious enough to pick up this book will be entertained and enthralled and never short of some frivolous fact to enhance a conversation or quiz! Dip in at random or sit back and enjoy, there are no rules.
About the Author
Neil R. Storey has written more than 30 books, many of them exploring a variety of local and national history topics.
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The Little Book of Great Britain
By Neil R. Storey
The History PressCopyright © 2012 Neil R. Storey
All rights reserved.
TOPOGRAPHY & AROUND BRITAIN
Great Britain was created by the Acts of Union between the Kingdom of England and Wales and the Kingdom of Scotland on 1 May 1707, and the twin Acts that united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland were passed respectively on 2 July 1800 and 1 August 1800 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that came into effect on 1 January 1801.
The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 94,060sq miles.
The coastline of Great Britain stretches for 11,073 miles and there is no location in Britain that is more than 74 ½ miles from the sea.
The highest point in Great Britain is the summit of Ben Nevis in Scotland which soars skywards to 4,406ft.
The lowest point in Great Britain is to be found at Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire at around 9ft below sea level.
The oldest rocks in the British Isles are the Lewisian gneisses, metamorphic rocks found in the far north-west of Scotland and in the Hebrides (with a few small outcrops elsewhere), which date from at least 2,700 million years ago.
During the Anglian Glaciation, about 478,000 to 424,000 years ago, ice up to 3,300ft thick reached as far south as London and Bristol and diverted the River Thames to its present course.
The prevailing wind across Great Britain is from the south-west.
The Wash is the largest estuarine system in the United Kingdom and contains England's largest official nature reserve. Providing an internationally important habitat for fifteen species of birds, it is home for 6,000 common seals and harbours a tenth of Britain's saltmarsh.
CANONICAL LATIN NAMES FOR THE ANCIENT REGIONS OF BRITAIN
Albion or Britannia (Britain)
Scotia (originally the Roman name for Ireland). The name shifted in the Middle Ages to designate the part of Britain lying north of the Firth of Forth (the Kingdom of Alba). By the later Middle Ages it had become the fixed Latin term for what in English is called Scotland.
Ancient England and Wales had its capital at Winchester and in Westminster after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and consisted of the kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, Northumbria, Cornwall and the Principality of Wales.
Telly Savalas, famous for his appearances in the American TV cop show Kojak in the 1970s, made three fifteen-minute British travelogue and tourism films entitled: Telly Savalas Looks at Aberdeen (1981), Telly Savalas Looks at Portsmouth (1981), and Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham (1981). Telly speaks with confidence about the history, notable features and events he saw in each location (although he did not visit any of the locations during the filming) and concluded with a special variation of one of his popular catchphrases: 'So long Portsmouth, Here's looking at you'; 'So long Aberdeen, Here's looking at you' and my personal favourite where Telly remarks candidly: 'Yes, it's my kind o' town, so, so long Birmingham, here's looking at you.'
The remarkable Telly Savalas trilogy was followed by the series Pete Murray takes you to ... where the popular DJ and regular Juke Box Jury panellist (1959–67), guided audiences around Nottingham (1982), Hastings (1982) and Coventry (1983).
Although the extremities of Great Britain are often claimed as John O'Groats in Scotland and Land's End in the south, the northernmost point in Britain is in fact Dunnet Head (also known as Easter Head) in Caithness, Scotland, while the most southernmost point is The Lizard in Cornwall. The most westerly point of the mainland of Great Britain is at West Ardnamurchan in the highlands of Scotland and the furthest point east is to be found at Lowestoft Ness in Suffolk.
THE CENTRE OF BRITAIN
A number of locations have claimed to be the centre of Great Britain. The stone cross at Meriden in the West Midlands was claimed to be the centre for centuries. The claim for the centre of Britain was also made for the Midland Oak on the boundaries of Lillington and Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and Haltwhistle in Northumberland. Using modern methods of mapping using global positioning system (GPS), according to Ordnance Survey, the centre of mainland Great Britain is at grid reference SD 723 367 (3.4 miles south-west of Clitheroe, between Whalley, Billington and Calderstones Hospital in Lancashire). To be precise SD 72321 36671 to the nearest metre.
THE FIVE SMALLEST CITIES IN GREAT BRITAIN
St David's, Pembrokeshire, Wales pop. 1,797
St Asaph, Denbighshire, Wales pop. 3,491
City of London, London, England pop. 7,185
Wells, Somerset, England pop. 10,406
Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales pop. 13,725
THE HISTORIC COUNTIES OF ENGLAND
East Riding of Yorkshire
Leicestershire North Riding of Yorkshire
West Riding of Yorkshire
THE HISTORIC COUNTIES OF WALES
THE HISTORIC COUNTIES OF SCOTLAND
County of Argyll
Elgin (County of Moray)
County of Bute
County of Edinburgh (Midlothian) Stirlingshire
County of Fife
Haddingtonshire (East Lothian)
Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)
Great Britain has fifteen National Parks, namely (and the year of their designation):
The Brecon Beacons (1957)
The Broads (1989)
The Cairngorms (2003)
The Lake District (1951)
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (2002)
The New Forest (2005)
North York Moors (1952)
Peak District (1951)
Pembrokeshire Coast (1952)
South Downs (2010)
Yorkshire Dales (1954)
LAND AREA COVERED BY NATIONAL PARKS
England: 10 National Parks cover 9.3 per cent of the land area
Wales: 3 National Parks cover 19.9 per cent of the land area
Scotland: 2 National Parks cover 7.2 per cent of the land area
The Lake District is England's largest National Park. It covers 885 square miles with a width (west to east) of 33 miles and 40 miles (north to south). The deepest lake is Wastwater at 243ft, the longest lake is Windermere which is 10 ½ miles long. To be precise there is only one official lake in the Lake District – Bassenthwaite Lake – all the others are 'meres' or 'waters'.
Britain's largest National Park is the Cairngorms, which covers an area of 1,748 sq miles, over twice the size of the Lake District and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Five of Scotland's six highest mountains are within the park, and there are 55 summits over 2,900ft. 36 per cent of the land area is over 2,600ft and 2 per cent is over 3,000ft. The land above 1,900ft is known as the 'montane zone' and is the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the British Isles.
TWENTY THREE-LETTER PLACE NAMES IN BRITAIN½
Ely (Cambridgeshire) Lew (Oxfordshire)
Ore (West Sussex)
Raw (North Yorkshire)
Rye (East Sussex)
Lag (Dumfriesshire) Wem (Shropshire)
REALLY ANCIENT BRITONS
In July 2010 archaeologists digging near the village of Happisburgh in Norfolk discovered seventy-eight pieces of razor-sharp flint shaped into primitive cutting and piercing tools believed to have been laid down by hunter-gatherers of the human species Homo antecessor otherwise known as 'Pioneer Man' some 840,000–950,000 years ago. This makes them the oldest human artefacts ever found in Britain and the earliest known Homo genus in Northern Europe.
Other early human remains found in Britain include Homo heidelbergensis, 'Boxgrove Man', who existed 478,000–524,000 years ago and Homo neanderthalensis, 'Neanderthal Man' of 230,000 years ago.
The population of mainland Great Britain since 1801:
(United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland)
The UK population continues to age gradually. The number of people aged 85 and over was more than 1.4 million in mid-2011, comprising 460,000 men and 951,000 women, and accounting for 2.3 per cent of the total population. Between 1981 and 2011, this age group increased by just over 0.8 million.
In mid-2011, there were more people of state pensionable age than there were under-16s.
SOME OF BRITAIN'S LARGEST CITY DISTRICTS WITH THEIR POPULATIONS
(Reported as the 2010 mid-year estimates from the Office for National Statistics)
Greater London 7,172,091
City of Glasgow 592,800
City of Edinburgh 486,100
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
In 1841 the returns of the census revealed the most popular girls' names were Mary (1.43m) and Elizabeth (809,000); for boys it was John (1.28m) and William (1m) – a top four that remained unchanged for 50 years.
According to the Office for National Statistics the ten most popular names for baby girls 2011/12 are:
And for baby boys:
TEN OF THE OLDEST SIGNIFICANT REMAINS OF BUILDINGS IN GREAT BRITAIN
Knap of Howar, Orkney – A Neolithic farmstead dating from 3500 BC
Jarlshof, Shetland – A complex of wheelhouses dating from 200 BC
Temple of Claudius – Colchester, Essex, about AD 60
Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre – Monmouthshire, about AD 90
Painted House – Dover, Kent, about AD 200
Beehive cells – Eileach an Naoimh, Argyll, c. 6th century AD
St Martin's Church – Canterbury, Kent, AD 597
Church of St Peter-on-the-Wall – Bradwell, Essex, AD 654
Escomb Church – County Durham, about AD 670
The Crypt of Ripon Cathedral, Ripon, Yorkshire, AD 672
THE HOUSE OF GOD
Liverpool Cathedral is the largest Anglican cathedral and church in Europe.
Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest extant church spire in the United Kingdom that stands a lofty 404ft tall. The second tallest spire is that of Norwich Cathedral at 315ft.
The tallest spire ever constructed on a British church was built on Lincoln Cathedral and completed in 1311. It stood 524ft making it the tallest spire in the world until its collapse during a storm in 1549.
SOME ECCENTRIC BRITISH PLACE NAMES
Assloss, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire
Bell End, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Blue Vein, near Box, Wiltshire
Boghead, near Tarland, Aberdeenshire
Bottom Flash, (a lake) near Winsford, Cheshire
Bottom, Mossley, Greater Manchester
Botusfleming, near Saltash, Cornwall
Brown Willy, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Bully Hole Bottom, near Gaerllwyd, Monmouthshire
Buttock, near Barley, Lancashire
Cess, Martham, Norfolk
Crackpot, Swaledale, North Yorkshire
Curry Mallet, near Taunton, Somerset
Dirt Pot, Allendale, Northumberland
Dog Village, near Exeter
Donkey Town, near Camberley, Surrey
Diggle, east of Oldham, Greater Manchester
Durdle Door, near West Lulworth, Dorset
Fingringhoe, near Colchester, Essex
Fustyweed, Lyng, Norfolk
Golden Balls, near Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire
Great Snoring, near Walsingham, Norfolk
Haseley Knob, near Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Helions Bumpstead, near Saffron Walden, Essex
Hole in the Wall, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Knockdown, near Malmsbury, Wiltshire
Land of Nod, near Grayshott, Hampshire
Loggerheads, between Stoke and Shrewsbury (also another near Mold)
Lumps of Garryhorn, near Carsphairn, Dumfries and Galloway
Messing, near Colchester, Essex
Mucking, near Tilbury, Essex
Nempnett Thrubwell, south of Bristol
Nether Wallop, near Andover
North Piddle, Worcestershire
Oh Me Edge, near Byreness, Northumberland
Old Sodbury, Gloucestershire
Pant, near Oswestry, Shropshire
Plucks Gutter, near Ramsgate, Kent
Pratt's Bottom, near Farnborough
Raw, near Whitby
Scratchy Bottom, near Durdle Door, Dorset
Shingay cum Wendy, Cambridgeshire
Slack Bottom, near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Steeple Bumpstead, near Haverhill, Essex
Throcking, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Thrupp, near Stroud
Thwing, near Bridlington
Tincleton, near Dorchester, Dorset
Tiltups End, near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
Tomtit's Bottom, near Cowley, south of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Turner's Puddle, near Dorchester, Dorset
Ugley, near Bishop's Stortford, Essex
Undy, near Caldicot, Monmouthshire
Zeal Monachorum, north-west of Exeter
BRITISH PLACE NAMES THAT MAKE YOU THINK TWICE
Booby Dingle, Peterchurch, Herefordshire
Bumwell Hill, Carleton Rode, Norfolk
Bushy Bottom, Edburton, West Sussex
Cock Play, Bewcastle, Cumbria
Cocklick End, near Slaidburn, Lancashire
Crapstone, near Plymouth, Devon
Droop, near Dorchester
Great Cockup, near Bassenthwaite, Cumbria
Lickey End, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Lickham Bottom, near Hemyock, Devon
Mankinholes, near Todmorden, West Yorkshire
Minges, near Ware, Hertfordshire
Nasty, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Netherthong, near Huddersfield
Penistone, South Yorkshire
Piddlehinton, near Dorchester
Pisser Clough, near Widdop, West Yorkshire
Rimswell, East Riding of Yorkshire
Ring Burn, Glenwhilly, Dumfries, Scotland
Rotten Bottom, Tweeddale, Borders
Sandy Balls, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire
Shagg, near East Lulworth, Dorset
Shitlington Crags, near Wark, Northumberland
Shitterton, near Bere Regis, Dorset
Shitlington, (now Shillington) Bedfordshire
Slaggyford, near Haltwhistle, Northumberland
Spunkie, near Lugton, Ayrshire
Stublick Bog, near Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
The Bastard, near Campbelltown, Kintyre
Titty Ho, Raunds, Northamptonshire
Tongue of Gangsta, Orkney Islands
Turdees, near Chapelhall, North Lanarkshire
Wetwang, near Bridlington, Yorkshire
Excerpted from The Little Book of Great Britain by Neil R. Storey. Copyright © 2012 Neil R. Storey. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 Topography & Around Britain 7
2 Battles & Wars 23
3 Royalty 44
4 Great Britons - Famous & Not So Famous 50
5 Britain at Work 59
6 That's Entertainment 63
7 Food & Drink 83
8 Legends, Ghosts & Curiosities 94
9 Transport 106
10 Natural History 118
11 Sports Roundup 126
12 Sense of Place - Quintessentially British 138
13 On this Day 159