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The Brolly

963 of 1160 nominations


The Brolly

Is this an icon?


The Brolly

When skies look thunderous, the faithful old umbrella – or brolly, as we affectionately call it – is a real comfort. But it first appeared in hot countries to protect people from the sun, the word originating from umbra, the Latin word for shade.

Pictured in the ancient art of Egypt, Assyria, Greece and China, it was invented around 4000 years ago. The Chinese were the first to coat their umbrellas with wax and lacquer to protect them from the rain.

Parisians were keeping dry underneath them by the mid-1750s, but the English held back for another 30 years. Early models were made from wood or whalebone with an alpaca or oiled canvas cover, until Samuel Fox began producing umbrellas with steel ribs in 1852. It took more than a century for the next major innovation – the collapsible compact version.

An altogether more macabre use for the umbrella occurred when Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was murdered by means of a poisoned umbrella in London in 1978. His assassin has never been captured.

Photo: Rosemary Rainbow


Your comments

It is, or at least was,essentially ubiquitous probably in association with a bowler.

Jim Watts

But what is the origin of the word 'brolly'?
Steve Atkinson

Isn't it obvious?

View All Comments (9)



I believe rice, peas and jerk chicken is an Icon of England.

Ade Adeluwoye