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Land & People
England is 74 times smaller than the USA, 59 times smaller than Australia and 3 times smaller than Japan. England is however 2.5 times more populous than Australia, and 1.5 times more populous than California. With 2.5 times less inhabitants than Japan, its density of population is slightly higher than the country of the rising sun.
The highest temperature ever recorded in England was 38.5°C (101.3°F ) in Brogdale, Kent, on 10 August 2003.
English people consume more tea per capita than anybody else in the world (2.5 times more than the Japanese and 22 times more than the Americans or the French).
Among the three ghosts said to haunt Athelhampton House, one of them is an ape.
The Slimbridge Wildlife & Wetlands Trust is the world's largest and most diversified wildfowl centre. It has the largest collection of swans, geese, and ducks on Earth, and is the only place where all six species of Flamingo can still be observed.
Mother Shipton's Cave near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, is England's oldest recorded tourist attraction. Its owner, Charles Slingsby, fenced off the site in 1630 and started charging visitors to gape at this so-called petrifying well. The mineral-rich water from this uncanny spring has the ability to give objects a stone-like appearance after a prolonged exposure.
English people have the highest obesity rate in the European Union (22.3% of men and 23% of women). They also have the highest percentage of overweight women (33.6%) and the 6th highest for men (43.9%).
Culture & Language
French was the official language of England for about 300 years, from 1066 till 1362.
Public schools in England are in fact very exclusive and expensive (£13,500/year in average) private schools. Ordinary schools (which are free), are called state schools.
The English class system is not determined by money, but by one's background (family, education, manners, way of speaking...). Many nouveau-riches, like pop-stars or football players, insist on their still belonging to the lower or middle class.
Oxford University once had rules that specifically forbade students from bringing bows and arrows to class.
An official report of the European Union surveying universities in all member states ranked the University of London as the top performer in terms of publications and in terms of citations, and the University of Cambridge as top performers in terms of impact.Fish 'n chips is not much traditional an English dish than Chicken Tikka Massala. The first fish & chips restaurant was only opened in 1860 by a Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin.
British police do not carry guns except in emergencies.
The world's largest second-hand book market can be found at Hay-on-Wye, a small village at the border of England and Wales. The village is also famous for proclaiming itself independent from the UK in 1977.
One of England's quaintest traditional event is the cheese rolling competition in Brockworth, Gloucestershire. Every year in May people chase Double Gloucester cheese down the steep Cooper's Hill. The tradition is said to have originated with fertility rites in Roman times. Other cheese rolling events exist in England, for example at the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire.
Coveting the title of England's oldest surviving festival alongside the cheese rolling of Gloucestershire, are the Horn Dances of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire. Based on ancient Anglo-Saxon traditions, the present festival go back at least to the 11th century, but might be much older.
The Rothschild art collection at Waddesdon Manor is one of the world's most important, rivalling with that of the Louvres Museum and New York Metropolitan Museum.
History & Monuments
Silburry Hill, in the English county of Wiltshire, is the largest man-made earthen mound in Europe. It was built about 4750 years ago.
The stone circle at Avebury is the largest in the world. It was built between 5300 and 4600 years ago and covers 11 ha (28 acres). The outer circle is surrounded by a bank and ditch long of 1.5 km (1 mile).
The so-called British Imperial system of measurement (English units in the USA) has its roots in Roman units. The Romans also counted in feet, which they divided in 12 inches (unciae in Latin, from which the English word is derived). 5 feet made a pace, and 1000 paces (mille passus) became a mile in English. The Roman gallon was the congius (worth 0.92 U.S. gallons). The word pint comes from Latin picta ("painted"), via the Old French pinte, and corresponded to a painted mark on a vessel indicating this measure. Other units like the pound only evolved in the Middle Ages.
Colchester in Essex is the oldest recorded town in Britain, as well as the first Roman town and Roman capital of Britain. Colchester Castle has the largest keep ever built in Europe, having a land area 50% bigger than the Tower of London.
The Fossdyke, connecting the River Trent at Torksey to Lincoln, is the oldest canal in Britain. It was built by the Romans around 120 CE and is still navigable today.
Middle Ages & Renaissance
York was the first English city to become settled permanently by the Danish Vikings (in 867) and the last to remain under Viking rule (until 954). It served as capital of the Danelaw under the name of Jorvik.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest royal residence in the world still in use. It was originally constructed in 1070 and rebuilt in stone in 1170.
Berkeley Castle is the oldest English castle still inhabited by the family who built it. The founder of the Berkeley family was Robert Fitzharding (c. 1095–1170). He started building the present castle from 1153.
Winchester was the first capital of England, from 827 to 1066. Winchester Cathedral, completed in 1070, has the longest nave of any medieval cathedral in Europe.
York Minster is Britain's largest medieval cathedral, has the largest Gothic nave in the country, and the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.
The first building in the world to overtake the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt was Lincoln Cathedral, completed in 1280. Had its spired not been destroyed by a storm in 1549, it would have remained the highest construction ever built in the world until 1884, when the Washington Monument was erected.
The world's largest and oldest chained library is in Hereford Cathedral, which also contained the best preserved of the four Mappa Mundi.
The mathematician Thomas Harriot (1560–1621) invented the symbols for "is less than" [<] and "is greater than" [>].
The county of Kent is home to England's oldest church (St Martin's in Canterbury), oldest school (the King's School, established in 600, also in Canterbury), and oldest brewery (Shepherd's Neame Brewery in Faversham, founded in 1698).
Founded in 1534, Cambridge University Press is the world's oldest printing and publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world.
Opened in 1660, the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom, and one of the oldest in the world (possibly the first in Europe outside Italy). The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, inaugurated in 1683, was the world's first university museum.
Champagne was invented in England, not in France. In 1662 scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper to the Royal Society in London describing how the addition of sugar and molasses to wine make it brisk and sparkling. This method, now known as méthode champenoise, was adopted by Dom Pérignon over 30 years later to produce the first sparkling wine in Champagne.
18th century to present
The national anthem of the United States ("The Star-Spangled Banner") was composed by an Englishman, John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) from Gloucester.
The claim for the world's oldest working railway is disputed between Tanfield Railway in County Durham, which oldest section dates from 1725, and Middleton Railway in West Yorkshire, which has been working continuously since 1758.
The world's first modern encyclopedia was Chambers' Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published in 1728 in London. It pre-dates the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert by over two decades.
Established in 1734, Bennett's of Irongate in Derby is the oldest department store in the world, pre-dating by over 100 years the first department stores in the USA, France or other parts of Britain. It is still trading in the original building.
During the first three decades of the 19th century, West Cornwall produced two thirds of the world's copper. The smelting of copper ore was subsequently transferred to Swansea, in South Wales, which became the global centre for the trade during most of the century.
The Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 29 locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal (between Bath and Reading) rising 72 m in 3.2 km, making it the steepest flight of locks in the world. The locks were built in the early 1800s.
It is in England that the first postage stamps appeared. The first Penny Post was invented by entrepreneur William Dockwra in the 1680's for delivery of packets within London. The first nation-wide stamp (and first adhesive stamp) was the Penny Black, introduced in 1840 as part of Rowland Hill's postal reforms. Because Britain was the first country to issue national stamps, British stamps still have the unique distinction of not mentioning the country's name on them.
The custom of afternoon tea was devised in 1840 by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, who felt the need for an extra meal between lunch and dinner. She began inviting her friends to join her, and the custom quickly spread around British society and throughout the British Empire. Britain's first tea room was opened in 1864 by the Aerated Bread Company at London Bridge.
In 1884, Charles Parsons invented the steam turbine, which made cheap and plentiful electricity possible. In 1894 he launched the first steam turbine-powered boat, the Turbinia, by far the fastest ship in the world at the time. The steam turbine engine revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare.
The statue of Anteros on Piccadilly Circus (1892) was the world's first statue to be cast in aluminium.
The world's first modern Olympic Games were not held in Athens in 1896, but in the small town of Much Wenlock (Shropshire) in 1850, which inspired French Baron Pierre Coubertin to launch the Athens Olympics half a century later.
The English invented and developed the world's earliest railways. In 1901, Hornby became the first maker of model railways. The British love of train also gave birth to Thomas the Tank Engine, originally in books in 1946, then on TV from 1984 onwards.
The man behind the construction of the world-famous Sydney Opera House was Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962), an English conductor and composer of Belgian origin, who was director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music at the time.
The world's first electronic, digital, programmable computer was made at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, in 1943-44. Nicknamed Colossus, it was used by British codebreakers to help read encrypted German messages during World War II. Colossus was kept a state secret until 1974, which is why Americans have been credited with the invention of computers.
The world's first drive through safari park opened at Longleat House (Wiltshire) in 1966.
Liverpool Cathedral, Britain's newest cathedral (completed in 1978), holds many records. It boasts the world's the largest (though not the highest) belltower, with the world's highest and heaviest peal of bells, and the largest organ in the UK. It is the second longest church on Earth after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the biggest cathedral in England.
Harry Ramsden's holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fish and chip shop in the world, seating 250 people, serving nearly a million customers a year. It is Britain's longest established restaurant chain. Its first shop opened 1928 at Guiseley, West Yorkshire.
Britain has the highest per capita consumption of cider, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world. Over half of England's cider is produced in Herefordshire. The world's largest producer of cider is H. P. Bulmer, based in Hereford. Cider making was introduced by Viscount Scudamore in 1639, who brought the recipe from France. In 1674 he built the county's largest house with cider money at Holme Lacy, near Hereford.
The Equitable Life Assurance Society, founded 1762, is world's oldest mutual insurer. It pioneered age based premiums based on mortality rate, the basis of modern life assurance upon which all life assurance schemes were subsequently based.
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