There’s likely to be plenty about England you don’t already know! Even if you were born here, the country is steeped deep in history – from humble beginnings to the rise of the British empire – as well as plenty of infighting with Scotland in between – the English heritage is one which has marvelled many from afar. It’s safe to say that the history and architecture on display across the land is unique – as are some of the braver culinary tastes that our European cousins probably don’t take too much of a fancy to!
Let’s take time to break down some interesting facts about England – making sure to establish that we are purely looking at this one chunk of the British Isles – not the UK, Great Britain, or any other names that our group of islands like to refer to themselves as! We’re purely talking about ‘good old England’ – what is it about the country that’s so special? Maybe not our record in international football – but let’s kick that to one side for now!
1. England’s name is often misused.
It’s not uncommon for people to mix up the names ‘England’ and ‘Great Britain’, or even the ‘United Kingdom’. The rules can sometimes be confusing! While England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all group together as the UK, it might actually cause offence if you refer to someone from Scotland as ‘English’ – there is a lot of history there!
2. England isn’t a sole entity.
Despite being the biggest country in the UK, England hasn’t stood alone as a sole political entity since the 18th Century. All decisions which apply to England are decided by UK-wide government. However, there are local bodies in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, as well as there being separate representation for the regions in the Houses of Parliament.
3. It’s flatter in the south.
England is generally pretty flat towards the south, but the further you head north, the more likely it is you will come across big mountains and hills – such as the Pennines, which stretch across Yorkshire.
4. France and England are pretty close.
England and France are closer together than you may think, at least in terms of distance! It’s only a 34km trip between the two nations, though the English Channel, of course, sits between the countries. Therefore, you’re going to need to cross over via ferry or the Channel Tunnel, which takes you on an underground railway.
5. The biggest peak in England is nearly 1000m tall.
England’s highest peak is Scafell Pike, which stands at a stunning 978m tall! There are bigger peaks in Scotland, however – not that we’re trying to shift any glory away!
6. London breeds some serious sporting heroes.
London is seen as something of a sporting capital on the continent – to the extent that some of the biggest football teams on the international stage, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, all play here. It’s also where the Summer Olympic Games were held on three occasions, 2012 being the most recent event.
However, why should London have all the fun? Manchester is home to not one, but two top-flight international football teams – United and City – both of whom continue to rack up impressive victories on the continent.
7. England has a shaky history in international football.
8. Champagne might have roots in England.
Don’t tell champagne purists in France, but sparkling wine actually has origins in England. That’s because the technique to make wine sparkling and fizzy was discovered before Dom Perignon came across it in France. That said, champagne is always traditionally attributed to him.
9. It’s grim up north…
England is, of course, famous for its rain – and one of the rainiest cities is Leeds, West Yorkshire. It’s here where you’ll likely see more than 102cm of rain fall each year.
10. England plays host to millions of chickens.
It’s thought that England is a nation of chickens, and we’re not being rude. It’s literally true – as it’s thought there are more feathered cluckers in the country than there are people.
11. English cuisine is pretty unique.
England is well-known for its interesting dishes and culinary styles. For example, where else can you find battered fish and chips as the leading national dish? That said, you will also find English people tucking into bangers and mash, and even the odd spotted dick (which is a type of steamed pudding).
However, you’ll probably also know England for its tea-drinking. This isn’t a stereotype – as it’s clear that more people drink tea here, per head, than anyone else on the planet. This is pretty odd considering much of the tea produced worldwide comes from China and India!
12. It’s not always cold and wet here.
You will often find that things get pretty warm in England, though you’ll be lucky to see temperatures rise above 27 degrees C in the middle of summer. That said, the hottest temperature ever recorded here was a relatively scorching 38.5 degrees C, felt down in Brogdale in Kent.
13. The English didn’t always speak English.
Don’t say this too loudly, but French was actually the official language in England for at least three centuries. This was as a result of William the Conqueror successfully bringing over his Norman forces in 1066, after triumphing at the Battle of Hastings.
14. Keep your nerve at the bar!
In England, it is illegal for anyone to serve you alcohol if you are visibly drunk. So how do people still manage to get tipsy so often? It’s a mystery – one for the ages.
15. London is a cultural hodge podge.
London is actually pretty culturally diverse, in that you’re just as likely to find people from elsewhere in the world living here as you are English citizens. That’s because around 25% of people who live in the capital were born overseas.
16. The River Thames is pretty impressive.
The River Thames, which runs through London, is truly huge. This is to such an extent that it has more than 200 different bridges on route and travels down 20 different tunnels.
17. England is a sea-loving nation.
No matter where you might be in England, you are only ever around 70 miles away from the sea, maximum, at any one time. We do like to be beside the seaside!
18. Viking blood is strong in England.
Famously, England was invaded by and settled in by the Vikings in ancient times – and the first city facing occupation was York, the capital of Yorkshire (Funnily enough). The Vikings referred to York as Jorvik, and it was one of their last-standing settlements. To this day, the people of York look back on their heritage with their Jorvik Viking Centre, where you’ll find exhibits and displays.
19. The Queen can’t sit in on a parliamentary debate without getting arrested.
English laws currently prevent any current monarchs from attending the House of Commons. This is less a tradition, and more an ancient holdover from a time when King Charles I made his way into the Houses of Parliament to arrest MPs under his own steam. It’s not clear what would happen if a monarch chose to stroll into the Commons these days, but it’s a law that’s been in place since 1642.
20. It took a while for English as a language to take hold.
King Henry IV holds an odd distinction of being the first English King who actually spoke the native tongue fluently. Remember – William the Conqueror made French the official language for some time!21. London wasn’t always the capital.
Westminster used to be the official capital of England and was as such from 827 through to 1066. Again, it was William the Conqueror who bucked the changes here, bringing the capital status to London instead.
22. It’s a nation of odd traditions.
England is well-known, too, for its fairly strange traditions, such as morris dancing and cheese rolling. Yes – this is where people congregate to roll wheels of cheese down a hill, and see whose cheese gets to the bottom first. Quite how sanitary that is, no one’s sure.
23. There’s more than one London Bridge.
The old London Bridge – one which was famously ‘falling down’ in the nursery rhyme – is no longer in the capital but is actually in a completely different country. It transpires that the bridge was actually taken to pieces in the 1960s, brick by brick – and it now stands in Arizona, US – in Lake Havasu, to be precise.
In fact, it was actually sold to the city – for the princely sum of $3 million, which would still be a lot of money even by today’s standards.
24. The Tower of London used to be a grisly stronghold.
The Tower of London, of course, is one of England’s many famous landmarks. It is here where prisoners used to be held before execution. Thankfully, that’s not been the case for quite some time now – it’s now something of a ceremonial landmark, complete with tours for people to take a look around.
25. The birds must stay!
There’s a legend that if the ravens of the Tower of London – of which there are several – ever fly away, the Tower will fall. That’s why – oddly enough – King Charles II made a point of setting up a law whereby there must always be six ravens on site at all times. Believe it or not, centuries on, this is still very much the case.
26. Be careful with your stamps.
Believe it or not, it’s considered treason if you stick a postage stamp upside down on a letter – as it bears the Queen’s likeness. This is a law that dates back to the Treason Felony Act, which – of course – is more than 170 years old. There’s nothing quite like clinging to traditions!
27. The web is an English creation.
The creation of the internet is thanks to the work of an Englishman – specifically, Tim Berners-Lee. The computer scientist was responsible for helping to create the World Wide Web – which was actually a common term for the internet in the early to mid 90s. Years on, his influence is still felt – with every ‘www’ you’ve ever typed into every address bar!
28. English winters aren’t too brisk.
While England is infamously known for its distinctly poor weather, its winters are actually pretty mild. Chances are, things level out across the year in terms of low temperatures – meaning that most people in England are used to drizzle and cold by this point, anyway! Just don’t expect much in the way of a White Christmas.
29. It’s a nation of pizza lovers.
While England still loves its tea and its various home-grown meals and delicacies, the country started going pizza mad around the end of the 90s. It was around this time where – between 1998 and 2014 – that frozen pizza sales soared by 1,000%! Many believe that the proliferation of American culture into English society is to blame!
30. Cocktails are catching on.
Generally, you’ll not expect to see much ice in a cocktail in England, but this is changing, again, thanks to some good-old Americanisation. For example, ice-based cocktails such as the Long Island Iced Tea are becoming more and more popular up and down the country.
31. Would you pay to go to jail?
In medieval times, there was such a thing as debtors’ prison in England. Rather than being a jail purely for people who avoid paying their debts, this prison system was in fact in place to house those who were unable to pay for a normal stay in jail. Yes – English prisoners were expected to foot the bill for their incarceration and jailed for even longer in debtors’ prison if they were unable to cough up. Many people would probably argue it’s a fairer system than the one we have in place today!
32. It’s a sporting nation like no other.
England is home to some truly interesting sports. One of them is shin-kicking, and yes, it’s as interesting and as potentially painful as it sounds. In fact, to this day, you will still be able to watch shin-kicking competitions take place in the Cotswolds. Essentially, it involves kicking your combatant in the shins until they fall over. Simple? Yes. Effective? Certainly. It’s been around since the 1700s.
33. The slave trade is long since over and done with.
Trading slaves was made illegal in England as of 1807, and until 1834, it was actually legal to own slaves across the whole of the British Empire. It may seem as though we live in enlightened times now, however, it actually wasn’t until 2010 when someone finally noticed that it was still legal – in England itself – to still own slaves!
34. Is the Queen a vampire?
To finish off, did you know that Queen Elizabeth II is related – distantly – to the inspiration behind Count Dracula? Tracing the modern royal family’s ancestry back to Vlad The Impaler is perfectly possible – giving a whole new meaning the term ‘royal bloodline’ in the process! Don’t worry – Vlad wasn’t actually a vampire as we know them in popular culture!
Frequently Asked Questions about England
Where did England get its name?
The word ‘England’ comes from an old term that literally means ‘Land of the Angles’ - and refers to an ancient tribe.
Is England the smartest country on Earth?
No - but it’s thought to be second place to the US.
Why is England not a country on its own?
There are eight different tests that determine whether or not a territory is a country - and England only meets two of them, as it’s largely down to the nation’s ties with Wales and Northern Ireland.
Do you know any fun facts about England? Share them in the comments below!