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

Football Association

Before the first meeting of the Football Association here on October 16, 1863, there had been no agreed set of rules for football. It took six meetings to define them, with some early teams pulling out because of rules banning carrying the ball or hacking at an opponent - hence the Rugby Football Union.

New Connaught Rooms,
Great Queen Street WC2
Tube: Covent Garden

Rugby Football Union

On Jan 26, 1871, a meeting at the Mall Restaurant agreed a set of rules for the version of football that had started at Rugby School. On the site of the former restaurant - in a building that was the former home of the White Star shipping line, owners of the Titanic - now stands the Texas Embassy Cantina.

I Cockspur Street SW1

Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Queensberry Rules

Lillie Bridge Grounds - which were close to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge - held the first ever amateur boxing matches in 1867. The cups were donated by the Marquess of Queensberry, who also gave his name to the famous rules - drawn up by John Graham Chambers - that ensure a fair fight.

Lillie Road SW6
Tube: West Brompton

First Machine Gun

This plaque marks the spot where, in 1881, US-born Hiram Maxim invented the world’s first portable, self-powered machine gun. At Shangari River in 1893. Cecil Rhodes’ troops, armed with a Maxim Gun, lost only four men and killed 1,500 natives. Maxim also invented the first auto resetting mousetrap.

Hatton Garden EC1
Tube: Farringdon

First Incorporated Charity

Captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751) was a shipbuilder in America before becoming a merchant in London. Appalled by the number of abandoned babies he saw, he set up the Foundling Hospital in 1739. Handel and Hogarth were among the artists who supported his work.
Coram’s Fields WC1
Tube: Russell Square

First Electric Telegraph

In 1816 Francis Ronalds built a telegraph using electrostatic and clockwork principles to send messages. He offered his invention to the Admiralty, who rejected it, saying: ‘Telegraphs of any kind are now wholly unnecessary.’ Ronalds was knighted in 1870, a belated recognition of his pioneering vision.
26 Upper Mall W6
Tube: Hammersmith