Last year, I blogged about some perhaps lesser known British trivia. There were the 3 ghosts in a manor house – one apparently being an ape and a cheese rolling tradition amongst other fab bits.

This year, we jump back onto that water wagon (all things water, remember) and we explore a few more bits of the trivial:

The national anthem of the United States – ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’- was composed by an Englishman, John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) from Gloucester. For some strange reason, when I was farm labouring in Kent, I used to sing the first few lines of said anthem. More racial memory stuff going on, I wonder?

The claim for the world’s oldest working railway is disputed between Tanfield Railway in County Durham, which oldest section dates from 1725, and Middleton Railway in West Yorkshire, which has been working continuously since 1758. Choo-choo!

The world’s first modern encyclopaedia was Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published in 1728 in London. It pre-dates the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D’Alembert by over two decades.

Established in 1734, Bennett’s of Irongate in Derby is the oldest department store in the world, pre-dating by over 100 years the first department stores in the USA, France or other parts of Britain. It is still trading in the original building.

It is in England that the first postage stamps appeared. The first Penny Post was invented by entrepreneur William Dockwra in the 1680’s for delivery of packets within London. The first nation-wide stamp (and first adhesive stamp) was the Penny Black, introduced in 1840 as part of Rowland Hill’s postal reforms. Because Britain was the first country to issue national stamps, British stamps still have the unique distinction of not mentioning the country’s name on them.

The custom of afternoon tea was devised in 1840 by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, who felt the need for an extra meal between lunch and dinner. She began inviting her friends to join her, and the custom quickly spread around British society and throughout the British Empire. Britain’s first tea room was opened in 1864 by the Aerated Bread Company at London Bridge.

We may not do tea to the standard of the Duchess of Bedford’s, but we do offer a rather fine selection of PG Tips amongst other hot drinks, so you can have your own afternoon tea. We supply the hot water dispenser, you supply the fine bone china, pinkie fingers and sarmies.