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21 Weird Facts about British History that Will Change Your Idea of It

8. Those who could not afford chimney cleaning services dropped a goose with its legs tied, down the chimney. It gave birth to the phrase “the blacker the goose, the cleaner the flue”.

Goose Down the Chimney, Victorian Era
Image Source: florencemuseum, ruchalachimney

When the goose flaps its wings, it cleans the chimney as it comes down. Small children were the usual chimney sweepers back then because only they could fit into it. People sold the soot they got from their chimneys to farmers and gardeners to use as fertilizer. Chimney sweeping was one of the essential things to do for clean air in the house. It is said that Queen Victoria ordered the chimneys be cleaned often after she found out that people breathed foggy, smoke filled air at homes.(source)

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9. The Victorians called sausages “little bags of mystery” because there was no knowing what could be inside them.

Little Bags of Mystery
Image Source: tandf.co.uk, balimeat

The Victorians were rather skeptical about sausages and felt that they might be partially filled with horsemeat. The doubts they had were probably justified as there seem to have been reports of butchers killing horses to make sausages. Sometimes butchers were inspected and even moved court where veterinarians gave proof against them. However, how far those accusations and doubts were true is not entirely clear.(1, 2)

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10. In the 16th century, the Parliament passed a law that every man, excluding nobility and children younger than six, must wear a flat cap on Sundays and holidays, to avoid being fined.

Flat Caps in 16the Century
Image Source: waremakers

The Act was passed to increase wool trade within the country. The Bill was repealed in the year 1597, however, the flat cap continues to be widely used even today. Other such sumptuary laws include restrictions on the colors of clothes, fabric and material, food and even the amount of money spent on luxuries were decreed based on the rank and social status of people. It was also a way for the kings and government to prevent or reduce expenditure on foreign goods.(source)

11. The world’s first speeding ticket was give to Walter Arnold in Kent for going at 8 mph on a road with a 2 mph speed limit.

Motor Cars During Victorian Era
Image Source: ancestry.com

Back then, along with staying below the speed limits you had to have a person walking and waving a red flag in front of the vehicle to alert pedestrians. The speed limits are certainly laughable compared to what we have now. But as motor cars were relatively uncommon, they were known to scare a few. The driver of the said car was nabbed after being spotted by a police constable who chased him for five miles on a bicycle.(source)

12. During the Victorian era, Britain had a population explosion, reaching more than twice the size it was before.

Population Explosion During Victorian Era
Image Source: victoriantruth

During the Victorian era, Britain experienced many revolutionary changes as compared to other countries. There were agricultural and industrial revolutions which considerably eased lives, increased fertility rates and standards of living. Because of the revolution, Britain was able to provide for its population at the right pace, whereas other countries fell into the Malthusian Trap. Their rate of population expansion was faster than the rate at which they could grow and provide resources, resulting in famine.(source)

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13. Queen Victoria received a huge block of half a ton of cheddar cheese as her wedding gift from the cheesemakers of Somerset.

Queen Victoria's Wedding Gift
Image Source: historytoday, costco

Known as the Great Pennard Cheese, it was made from the milk donated by farmers from 700 cows. The cheese was prepared by 26 milkmaids and later placed in a three-foot octagonal mould in June, 1939. When the cheese was presented to the Queen on February 10, 1840, she said she preferred a more mature cheese. So the farmers took it back to present it for royal christening.

The cheese was later caught up in a legal feud with some merchants who tried to earn quick money with a plaster cast of the cheese. Though the farmers won, the original cheese was later broken and fed to pigs.(source)

14. Between the years 1912 and 1948, art was considered an Olympic sport and works of art from architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpting were awarded medals.

Art Competitions During Olympics 1912
Image Source: britishpathe, theatlantic

The founder of Olympic Movement Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, felt that the games should reflect a completely educated man in both mind and body. He felt that art and sport should be combined and that men should compete in sport rather than in war. But, in 1954 the idea of artists participating in Olympics was abandoned and replaced by Olympic cultural programs.(source)

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