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East London is packed with history, with oddities and with things unknown – here are a few to whet your appetite.

  1. Wilton’s in Wapping is the world’s oldest surviving Music Hall, built in 1743 and still a living piece of London’s musical history. There are more than 17,000 music performances a year across London’s 300 venues with The O2 arena named the world’s most popular music venue for the last five years running.
  2. The clock of St Anne’s Limehouse is the highest church clock in London and was designed as a special maritime clock for shipping on the Thames: it chimed every 15 minutes to guide the 6,000 ships that moored in the docks every day in the heyday of the docks. It was named after Queen Anne (1714-1727) who raised money for it by taxing coal arriving by river.
  3. Until 1994 there were no Roads in the City of London. The first, Goswell Road, became part of the Square Mile in 1994 after boundary changes. There are plenty of Lanes, Streets, and Ways, but the term “roads” wasn’t generally used until the 16th century.
  4. In 1852 Samuel Winkworth Silver moved his rubber making company SW Silver and Co north of the Thames from Greenwich to manufacture waterproof clothing. Later this site became the works of the India Rubber, Gutta Percha And Telegraph Cable Company, which constructed and laid submarine cables. However, the original owner’s name lives on in… Silvertown.
  5. Arsenal are the only football team in London to have a Tube station named after them. The station – Gillespie Road – was renamed in 1932 after the team moved from Woolwich to North London. Woolwich is not the only place to lose its team. Millwall disappeared from the Isle of Dogs to south London while West Ham – the Irons – grew out of the Thames Ironworks on the Lea Peninsula.
  6. Unusual street names in London include Ha Ha Road in Greenwich, Hooker’s Road in Walthamstow, Quaggy Walk in Blackheath, and Cyclops Mews and Uamvar Street in Limehouse.
  7. The oldest church in the city, All Hallows by the Tower, near Tower Hill, was founded in 675. The undercroft has Roman pavement dating from the 2nd century AD. The beheaded victims of Tower of London executions were sent there for temporary burial.
  8. You could fit the Great Pyramid at Giza inside The O2. Its dimensions and structure reflect Greenwich’s connection with time measurement and the new millennium: 365m in diameter; and 52m high in the middle; with 12 supporting poles, symbolising days, weeks and months of the year.
  9. The 62m Monument to the Great Fire of London was also intended to be used as a zenith telescope to study the motion of a single star by Robert Hooke, who designed the structure with Sir Christopher Wren. It was also meant to host gravity and pendulum experiments but traffic vibrations rendered it unusable. Officially, more people have been killed falling off the Monument (8) than were killed in the Great Fire itself (6).
  10. The gravestone of the famous Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage in the graveyard of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, reads simply “Exit Burbage”. The church is sited near England’s first purpose built playhouse and its acting connections do not end there, as it was used as St Saviour’s in sitcom Rev.
  11. A small trackside sign to the east of the East India DLR platforms indicates the Meridian Line – also signalled by a laser from Greenwich. Those travelling to the next station – Canning Town – cross hemispheres to do so.
  12. Of the capital’s four Unesco world heritage sites, two are in the east – Maritime Greenwich and the Tower of London. The other two are Westminster Palace and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
  13. The pair of bronze lions that guard the main entrance to HSBC in Canary Wharf are replicas of those which have stood outside HSBC’s Hong Kong HQ since 1935. The only difference was that sculptor Mark Kennedy was told not to recreate the “war wounds” of the HK lions. The pair, completed at Bronze Age Foundry in Limehouse, had to earn their own battle scars. The base of each lion contains eight coins, the number representing good fortune in China.
  14. John Strype’s map of 1720 describes London as consisting of four parts: The City of London, Westminster, Southwark and “That Part Beyond the Tower”. Strype was a member of a Huguenot family who, in order to escape religious persecution, had settled in “That Part”.
  15. Brick Lane Market, as shown in the film of Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane is not actually Brick Lane market. Following protests by the local community’s portrayal of them, the producers of the 2007 book used locations elsewhere, although Brick Lane does appear in the film.
  16. A “London tunnelling marathon” of 26 miles (42km) of new tunnels beneath London is a feature of Crossrail including a Thames tunnel at Woolwich. The first Thames Tunnel, Rotherhithe to Wapping, was the first tunnel under a river in the world and Brunel’s creation is still in service as part of the Overground Network.
  17. The principal architect for One Canada Square Cesar Pelli based the shape on the World Financial Centre in New York and the Elizabeth Tower. Although when he came up with the design the Elizabeth Tower was known as the Clock Tower – commonly known as Big Ben. (See main picture)
  18. The three Royal Docks formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1.0 km2) and an overall estate of 1,100 acres (4.5 km2). This is equivalent to the whole of central London from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge. They are known as the Royals because of their names – Victoria, Albert and George V – not because of any Crown interest.
  19. Robert Douglas Norman, 27, had resigned his position with AEG Electric Company and was on his way to Vancouver when disaster struck on board the ship that was taking him to New York. Robert found a place for a woman in a lifeboat but he perished on April 15, 1912, when the Titanic sank. His watch when he hit the water, at seven minutes past three.
  20. The UK’s tallest sculpture – the 114m ArcelorMittal Orbit – was designed by Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. The design brief was to build a tower of 100m to match the Eiffel Tower. Kapoor said intended to give a sense of “building the impossible” while Balmond wanted a tower that appeared unstable “Never centred, never quite vertical”.