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18 Gross And Creepy Facts About London That Really Put Things In Perspective

We're basically living on top of a giant pit of trash and skeletons.

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2. There were no pavements and no sewage system in medieval London, so all the filth ended up on the streets or in the Thames.

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The extent of the filth got to a point where some streets became unbearable and muck-rakers were hired for the sole duty of cleaning them. Justifiably, they were paid well.

3. Because there was no sewage system, most Londoners used cesspits – a.k.a big ol' holes in the ground full of shit.

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They were supposed to be emptied by muckrakers on a regular basis, but that didn't always happen. One muckraker, called Richard the Raker, fell through the rotten planks of his own outhouse and drowned in the contents of the cesspit below. Which is a pretty shitty way to die tbh.


4. The stench of waste was so bad that the street that is now called Sherborne Lane was originally called Shiteburn Lane.!4m5!3m4!1s0x487603547e8083b1:0x6173e3169a422580!8m2!3d51.5121924!4d-0.0883786

To be clear – that is literally what it was named, it wasn't a pun. Sherborne derives from Shiteburn.

6. Rotten meat was often dumped into the Thames by butchers.

The stench of rotting entrails in the river got so bad that King Edward III ordered to ban butchers from slaughtering animals in the City of London in 1371 – delegating the dirty work to Stratford in the east, and Knightsbridge in the west.

7. Farringdon station is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Anne Naylor, a 13-year-old girl who was killed by her mother and sister in 1758 and dumped where Farringdon Station was later built.

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Many claim you can hear her screams echo through the station.


9. A huge vat of beer in a brewery exploded in 1814, creating a 15 foot tall wave of beer, and killed 8 people.

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The incident is known as the London Beer Flood, and the brewery stood where Dominion Theatre is now.

10. The Great Stink of London happened in 1858 and it was exactly how it sounds – The heat of the summer exacerbated the stench of the waste on the banks of the River Thames.

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It was this particularly stinky summer that spurred the government to eventually create an underground sewage system.

11. There are still plague burials being discovered around London.

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The first wave of the plague in England came in the 1300s, with outbreaks happening periodically throughout the century, wiping out thousands of otherwise healthy people each time. The second major wave was in the 1600s (though England was never really free of the plague in between these periods), during which 15% of London's population (around 100,000 people) was wiped out by the plague in just 18 months – between 1665 and 1666.


14. The Great Fire of London killed only six people in 1666 but at least eight people have died falling off the monument built to commemorate the fire.

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However, the death toll of six is only based on official records – meaning many more people could have died during the fire, but their deaths may not have been recorded because victims couldn't be identified from their charred bones.

16. In the 17th century, a watchhouse was built overlooking St. Sepulchre's graveyard, for the specific purpose of deterring gravesnatching, which was all the rage at the time.

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Medical students could only legally obtain the bodies of murderers to study on, which meant there were far too few bodies for the amount of medical students. Consequently there was a huge demand for dead bodies, which were dug up from graveyards and sold for a huge price.

17. A popular activity in London during the 1800s was rat-baiting, which involved placing rats into a pit with a dog and betting on how long it would take the dog to kill them.

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It was practiced in pubs – alongside other brutal and cruel blood sports, such as duckbaiting. One dog called Billy was particularly skilled and killed thousands of rats in his career. In 1832, he set a record of killing 100 rats in 5.5 minutes, which is approximately one rat every 3.3 seconds.

18. In the 1800s, the population of London more than doubled and graveyards in the city became overcrowded. To deal with the problem, the government opened a railway system for the sole purpose of transporting dead bodies to Brookwood Cemetary in Surrey.

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The station was called London Necropolis Station, in Waterloo. It was later moved to Westminster Bridge Road, where the second class entrance to the station can still be seen today.