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10 things you might otherwise never know about London

1. It is illegal for any member of the government to wear armour in the Houses of Parliament.

2. According to a law dating back to 1835, a person granted the ‘Freedom of the City of London’, has the right to ‘herd a flock of sheep across London Bridge’. The last person to exercise this right was the television personality and writer Stephen Fry, who walked a sheep on a lead, across the bridge in April 2013. The City of London Police wish to point out that they frown upon anyone attempting to herd sheep across any of London’s bridges, whether they be ‘Freemen’ or not.

3. By law, taxi drivers in London were once required to carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats, with which to feed their horses. This law wasn’t changed until 1976 – thirty years after the last horse-drawn taxi left London’s streets. Another antiquated taxi law stated that if a cab driver needed to stop and pee, he could ask a policeman to shield him from view with his cape.

4. Since 1850, the stuffed and dressed body of philosopher Jeremy Bentham has been displayed sitting in a chair at one of London’s most prestigious universities. The body’s head is made of wax, with the mummified original being locked away in the university’s vaults.

5. Things left behind on the London Underground include an average of 80,000 umbrellas a year, a human skull, a samurai sword, many prosthetic legs, and a coffin.

6. There are several secret rivers flowing beneath London; one of them passes directly under Buckingham Palace.

7. In 1945, a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand of Big Ben and held the time back by five minutes.

8. It is illegal to beat a carpet in the streets of London. This dates back to a law of 1839, which also states that it is illegal to ring people’s doorbells then run away, build a pigsty outside your home or carry a plank along the pavement.

9. Britain’s smallest police station is in Trafalgar Square. Built in 1926, it can house a single police officer, or at a squeeze, two prisoners. The column-shaped stone box has narrow windows and a large ornamental light on top; it also once had a direct telephone line to Scotland Yard. When the phone line was used, the light on top of the station flashed, alerting passers-by that the officer was calling for reinforcements. These days the ‘building’ is no longer used by the police – it is now a Westminster Council broom cupboard, for the city’s cleaners.

10. Among the animal bones found buried under London are those of a crocodile, a hippo, a wolf and a mammoth.