Facts About London

Austin Williams | December 2007

South Bank

The Hayward Gallery is named after Sir Isaac Hayward, former leader of the London County Council. It was opened on 9th July 1968… the same day that former West Ham striker Paolo Di Canio was born. 


The Millennium bridge from Tate Modern to St Pauls is 325metres long although its central span is just 144metres and is suspended by tensioned cables that sag by 2.3m. When it opened on 10th June 2000, around 90,000 people walked across. The maximum sway of the deck was approximately 70mm. It was reopened to the public in January 2002. The original scheme cost £18 million and the subsequent modifications cost £5 million.


The northern frontage of Tate Modern, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is over 200m long and the chimney is 99m high (specifically designed to be lower than the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral at 114m). The whole building is constructed out of approximately 4.2 million bricks.

Tower 42

Hell’s Kitchen chef Gary Rhodes’ restaurant ‘Rhodes Twenty Four’ is, unsurprisingly located on the 24th floor of London’s second tallest building. Vertigo 42, a champagne and seafood bar located on the 42nd floor.

Canary Wharf

One Canada Square, also known as the Canary Wharf Tower, is the tallest building in the UK. Designed by Cear Pelli and completed in 1991, its 50 floors reach up to 235 metres and provide 115,000 m2 of floor space

Senate House

In Ridley Scott’s 1983 movie “The Hunger” starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, the scenes in New York’s Art Deco clinic were filmed in University College London’s Senate House, designed by Charles Holden in 1932.


London houses 17 national museums (source: English Heritage) and over 250 other museums, from the Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre to the Wimbledon Windmill Museum.


Thirty percent (475sq km) of London’s surface area is parkland, including eight royal parks. At Manhattan housing densities, the entire population of London could be housed in the area allocated to these green spaces. Nine percent of the 420,000 pubs in Britain are in London – a total of 3800 – and there are 6128 licensed restaurants in London, 22 percent of the total number in the UK. (source: Density in Urban Neighbourhoods in London, Enterprise LSE, 2005)


The Millennium Dome is 320m in diameter – covering 80,000m2 – and is as high as Nelsons Column in the centre. It could fit 13 Albert Halls or 3,300 double-decker London buses. In fact it housed just 5,874,597 paying guests over the year of it’s ill-fated opening: 16,000 people per day…. Or just 22 per minute.

Swiss Re

Foster and Partners’ Swiss Re headquarters is 179.8m high and 56.5m at its widest point. It is constructed using 35km of structural steelwork and its cladding – fitted with 792 electronically opening windows – covers the equivalent area of five rugby pitches. It has just 18 car parking spaces and the highest restaurant in London.


The average speed of tube trains, including station stops, is 33 kph (20.6 mph). The deepest station is Hampstead at 58.5m below ground level and the most distant place served is Amersham at 43km (27miles) away from the centre. The shortest distance between stations is that between Leicester Square and Covent Garden a distance of just 260metres. The longest underground station escalator is 60m at Angel giving a vertical rise of 27.5m. The shortest escalator is 9.1m at Chancery Lane Station with a vertical rise of just 4.6m. The Underground’s busiest station is Victoria, with 76.5 million passengers a year.


The number of people entering London by car during the peak hours of 7am and 10am is exactly the same as was in 1961. From a peak in 1981, it has steadily declined and given that vehicle occupancy rates have increased by 6 percent since 1990, it seems that the number of vehicles has effectively decreased in the last 40 years. (source: Transport for London, Transport Statistics for London 2001)


The London Plan predicts that, by 2016, there will be 8.1million people living in London – an increase of 700,000 people on today’s figures. But this takes us up to the same number of people living in London in 1964. The peak population was 8.6 million living in London in 1939.


Even though around 1700 tonnes of steel were used in the construction of the London Eye, there was more than 3000 tonnes of concrete used in its foundations. The diameter is 122m and 80 spokes connect the rim with the spindle.

Buckingham Palace

300 years ago, the original building on the site of Buckingham Palace was a country-house for the Duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield.

Tower of London

The original Tower of London was begun by Williams the Conqueror in 1070.


There were over 120m passenger movements into and out of London’s airports during 2004. Over half of these – 67m passengers – were dealt with by Heathrow, making it the busiest in the world.


The Port of London actually extends for over 95 miles. It handles 50 million tonnes of cargo per annum, which is 10% of the £85 billion commercial shipping trade in this country.


Over half a billion pounds were spent in London on media productions, from TV advertising to pop promos. Only Los Angeles and New York are busier film production centres.


The BBC’s Corporate headquarters was designed by Lt-Col G Val Myer and built in 1932 as the BBC’s first purpose-built home for radio broadcasting. The frieze by Eric Gill depicts Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ but Member of Parliament G.G. Mitchelson, who lived opposite the BBC at the time suggested that the figures were “objectionable to public morals and decency”. It is not known whether they were amended.


Author: austinwilliams

Austin Williams is the director of the Future Cities Project and author of a number of books on the environment and on China. The latest are "China's Urban Revolution" (Bloomsbury) and "New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future" (Thames and Hudson).

Share This Post On
468 ad