London myths explained: from rats to ravens

    urban myths
    Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

    London is an ancient place with a complicated and rich history. Here we unpack some of the most well known London myths and discover the truth behind them… 

    Some of these London myths have been around for centuries, and they all come from some form of truth! We debunk these well-known London myths below…

    London myths

    You are never more than 6 feet away from a rat 

    This fact was perhaps inspired by London in the 1600s when plague rode on the backs of rats. It is a rather disturbing legend which is still muttered today and sounds believable to anyone who has ever taken the London Underground. 

    Dr David Cowan, a science leader at Sand Hutton’s National Wildlife Management Centre conducted some research about the number of rats in Britain. His conclusion that you are more like 164 feet away from a rat is only slightly comforting. In central London that means you are probably closer to a Pret a Manger than you are to a rat. 

    If ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fall

    Legend says that if the six birds that reside in the tower leave, the kingdom will fall. The large ebony birds crowd the grounds of the Tower of London but that has not always been the case. The Tower of London was built in 1066 but the ravens did not arrive until 1987. It is therefore safe to assume that the Kingdom will survive without the feathered guardians. 

    urban myths
    Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

    Pregnant women can urinate in policeman hats 

    A rather humorous image that can not possibly be true. The seed of this myth is the law that states if no public toilet is available pregnant women should be shown leniency for urinating in public. 

    urban myths
    Credit: VisitBritain

     Green park has no flowers because Charles II was unfaithful 

    This city park is void of flowers and has no official flower beds but according to tradition, it is not just a design choice.

    During the 1600s, Charles II would wander through the park and pick flowers for his wife, Queen Catherine. He also may have picked flowers for other ladies and when his wife found out she was furious and had all of the blooms removed from the park. 

    urban myths

    Jimi Hendrix is the reason for London’s large parakeet population

    Parakeets are native to Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, not the streets of London, yet if you look to the skies they are never far away. A popular story claims that in the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix released two of the colourful birds and that was the sole reason for their growth within the city. Although that may have contributed, alternative theories are that the birds escaped from the set of The African Queen in 1951 or were released from aviaries during the Great Storm of 1987. 

    urban myths

    Read more:

    Mystical Britain: Britain’s most sacred sites

    Myths and legends behind Britain’s churches

    Wales: A land of King Arthur, myths and legends


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