Icons of England
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870 of 1170 nominations



Is this an icon?



It would be very strange indeed if, in our search for Icons of England, we were to overloook the English (and British) capital. “London pride,” sang Sir Noel Coward, evoking the Blitz spirit, “has been handed down to us”, handed down over 2000 years ever since the Romans first happened upon a mosquito-infested stretch of marshland around the river Thames, and established a settlement there. They built a bridge across the river, found to be not far from the site of today’s London Bridge, and founded a trading centre called Londinium on its northern side. As the population grew and the buildings increased in splendour, London became a major European city – and has never looked back. It fell on hard times after the Roman withdrawal from England, but by the Tudor era was busy and prosperous once again. At the epicentre of the industrial revolution, London became the grim place depicted in many Victorian novels, when its atmosphere was choked with smog from fuel-burning (see London Fog). Standing firm through wartime bombing in the 20th century, it emerged with its dignity intact to swing through the sixties, and become the headquarters of Cool Britannia in recent times.


Your comments

Ever since the Romans decided it would make a good place to base themselves, London has been at the centre of our national life. Whether in its mediaeval form of a collection of villages surrounding the City of London, or as the most multicultural metropolis in the world, which it became in the 20th Century, it has always exemplified the best of English life. Its where Shakespeare showed his plays; where Chaucer’s Pilgrims set off from; where the Sixties swung; where the Great Fire roared and where Mary, Anne Boleyn and numerous others lost their heads. In the 19th Century it was the largest city in the world, and the centre of the largest Empire ever known. With the invention of Greenwich Meantime it became the place everywhere else sets their clocks by. It may not be as pretty or as well planned as many European cities, but that is part of its charm. London has been lived in for the best part of 2,000 years, and that shows in every twist & turn. With Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath and Greenwich Royal Park at one extreme, and Soho, the City and Docklands at the other, in many ways London is England.

Ciaran Norris

How can it NOT be an English icon? With Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Royal Guards with their funny looking hats + Big Ben..... it's probably the first thing people outside the UK think of when you mention England.
John Duck

Multicultural metropolis, a universe in a few square miles, organically grown, crowded, busy, polluted, beautiful here and ugly there, old history meets new modern life, above all: Alive. London is the first thing any world citizen thinks about when the UK is mentioned - and it is the largest, most complete, living icon of Britishness in the world.
Robert Holbach

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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer