As a great city at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the former centre of the British Empire, London has witnessed many firsts. Here are some of the more unexpected ones. See the Secret London blog for details of more London firsts.

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London Firsts 1 2

First Urban Underground

Opening in 1863 (five years BEFORE the last public hanging at Newgate), the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington (then Bishop’s Road) and Farringdon was the world's first urban underground passenger-carrying railway. Confusingly, the original platform now serves the Hammersmith & City line.

Paddington W2
Tube: Paddington

First Airport

In 1920, the world's first airport opened in Croydon, offering flights to Europe and, later, around the Empire. A remodelling in 1928 saw the opening of the world’s first purpose-built airport terminal and airport hotel. It’s an airPORT, by the way, only if you pass through customs.

Purley Way, Croydon
Rail: Waddon

First UN Meeting

First General Assembly of the United nations, with 51 nations represented,was held in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, on January 10, 1946. It was created as a successor to the League of Nations, which was thought to have been ineffective in preventing World War II.

Methodist Central Hall Westminster SW1
Tube: Westminster

First Gas Works

Founded by the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company in 1812, the works on this site supplied gas throughout Westminster. By 1815, it had 200 miles of piping in place. There are still 1,600 gas lamps in Central London, such as the ones in Goodwin’s Court, Covent Garden, WC2.

Great Peter Street SW1
Tube: Westminster

First Railway Victim

William Huskisson MP was the first person ever killed in a rail accident, when he was run over by Stephenson's Rocket in 1830, at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. This statue was presented to Lloyd’s by his wife. They in turn had it placed in this rather obscure spot.

Pimlico Gardens SW1
Tube: Pimlico

First Electric Power Station

The world's first public electricity generating station was opened near Holborn Viaduct in 1882 to light the lamps on the bridge. Designed by Thomas Edison, it was steam powered and supplied DC current. It predated Edison’s Pearl Street New York power station by some months.

Holborn Viaduct EC1
Tube: Farringdon