In the 17th century Sir Walter Raleigh brought the potato to England from the New World, and its arrival kick-started a catalogue of events that eventually saw fish and chips become an iconic British dish. While Britain may not have invented the potato chip, Northern parts ate their fill of this cheap food stuff, while in the South, fried fish was introduced to London’s East End. In the late 1860’s fish and chip shops appeared on British streets, and our favourite dish was born. But this wasn’t the only tasty treat that Britain can lay claim to. If you’re feeling hungry, you might also want to tuck into roast dinner, a traditional afternoon tea, or perhaps a regional speciality like Cornish Pasties, Oatcakes from Staffordshire, or Haggis from Scotland.
Keeping with the Scottish theme, Alexander Fleming revolutionised the medical world when he discovered Penicillin, by accident in 1928. The Scot, and his work in creating the first antibiotic drug earned him many awards, including the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Other figures noted for their contribution to society include Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish born scientist, who also dabbled in inventing. He was quite simply a pioneer, widely credited for his outstanding work in developing the telephone. Public telephones needed housing as well, and the red telephone boxes, originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, became UK icons.
The advent of mobile technology, and the evolution of phone box design, means the red versions are not widely seen, although they remain a British symbol, celebrated in museums and on merchandise. Along with the phone box, Britain has its fair share of icons/symbols including the British Bulldog, the Beefeaters or Yeoman Warders which guard the Tower of London, and the Footguards, with their distinctive red tunics which guard the other Royal Palaces, images of which you can see emblazoned on souvenirs and retro/vintage products.
Tourists may also see the distinctive Routemaster double decker buses on products sold in and around London. The original Routemasters went out of service in 2005, but were well-known throughout the world, and some working models can still be seen today on tourist routes across the capital.
While some people have gone down in design history for their contributions to industry, other Brits have made their names in a sector far removed from transport. British fashion has been showcased throughout the world on catwalks, in magazines, and of course in the shops. Which famous names in fashion have you bought or seen? Icons in the fashion world include Vivienne Westwood, who is known for her punk and new wave fashion designs. Then there is Mary Quant, a Welsh born designer, whose approach to fashion influenced many other designers and fashion houses. Her aim was to open up the fashion world to the youth market, which she succeeded in doing in the 1960’s. Quant helped the Mod fashion movement take off, was credited for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants, and she produced iconic items such as plastic raincoats, tight, bold coloured sweaters, and knee length lace-up boots.
From fashion, to another global brand, and no mention of ‘made in Britain’ would be complete without mentioning the iconic music, bands, and singers, that have been produced over the years. The 1960’s is one period of music often mentioned, thanks in part to the talents of Dusty Springfield and The Beatles. Dusty Springfield’s hit ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ hit number 4 in the American charts in 1966, while Liverpool band The Beatles, produced hits from albums such as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road. Britain has also produced hit makers such as Elton John, Cliff Richard, Kate Bush, Shirley Bassey, Queen, Deep Purple, The Dave Clark Five, Duran Duran, and operatic star Katherine Jenkins. There are also pop acts like Take That and Robbie Williams, indie/rock bands like Blur and Oasis, and of course One Direction, a recent success story from the X Factor, whose debut single sold over 2 million copies to date in America. They, and fellow British act The Wanted, have made the most of America’s new found love of British Pop, so maybe this is a new chapter in British music history being written!
With countless album and single sales, and awards, there’s almost too much to mention when it comes to British music, and perhaps when it comes to British landmarks as well. Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, The Bristol Suspension Bridge, Big Ben, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and more, all contribute to making Britain what it is. Whether your favourite British item is mentioned on this list or not, there are many iconic people, buildings and products that have come out of this country.