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Top Ten Red British Icons Top Ten Red British Icons

Top Ten Red British Icons

There are ten British icons that have become the top global symbols of this country. Some are recent while some have their origins way back in history. They all remind us, residents and tourists alike, that Britain is unique place that has been the melting pot for many cultures over thousands of years. A place where tradition is cherished, innovation is admired and eccentricity is accepted. Here are the top ten british icons with a twist. They're all bright red!

The Original Mini Motor Car

f-british-icons-mini-carTop of the Top Ten British Icons, uniquely British, the Mini was the brainchild of Sir Alec Issigonis a designer for the British Motor Corporation and was first produced in 1959. It was the British answer to the Volkswagen Beetle and became an instant icon of the 1960's. Small but deceptively spacious it was easy to park, cheap to run and very 'cool' to drive. It was seen as eco friendly long before the green movement had even put down roots. In 1969 it was the real star of the cult classic film The Italian Job. Since then it has featured in many other motion pictures and become a firm favourite with celebrities from Mick Jagger to Mr. Bean. It has even had its own international exhibition and been featured on postage stamps. More than 1.5 million were produced. In 1996 the Mini was voted car of the century and in 1999 it was voted the second most influential car in the history of motoring. A Top Ten Icon of Britain.

The Little Red Miniskirt

f-british-icons-mini-skirtFor millennia the nature of the clothes worn by women were largely dictated by a male dominated society. In 1965 a London-based designer called Mary Quant decided to launch a fashionable red skirt that was far short than anything a woman might have worn in public. She named it after her favourite car the Mini. The miniskirt was a sensation and almost overnight London seemed full of women suddenly proud of their lovely legs. Controversy raged but female liberation had won a great victory. For the first time everyday clothes could be revealing in public. The craze swept around the world making a statement of female independence and sexuality. It started in London and has remain a popular British icon ever since. There is now even a micro miniskirt which is really just a wide cloth belt. Many 60's politicians predicted it would cause the downfall of civilisation. It's still banned in several countries.

The Routemaster London Bus

f-british-icons-london-busThe original red busses of London were the Routemasters that were introduced in 1958. Designed specifically for the city they were distinctive double-deckers that quickly became a British icon. Although production ceased in 1968 they were still widely used up until 2005. Tourists to London often consider a ride on one of these vehicles a 'must-do' activity and can still use them on two heritage routes which run from Olympia to Aldwych and from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill. Various societies exist to preserve these busses and many are now owned by private individuals. City tour companies as far apart as Dubai and Montreal use either original Routemasters or replicas to add to the excitement of the journey. The recent film 'Cars II' features an animated London Routemaster bus known as Topper Deckington III

The Red British Telephone Box

f-british-icons-telephone-boxThis is one of the most recognisable of the top ten icons of Britain and at time one there was a red telephone box on almost every corner. Before the age of the mobile phone they were considered an essential part of life for anyone away from home. The first phone boxes were made of concrete and introduced in 1920. A competition was later held to find a better and more attractive design. This was won by Giles Gilbert Scott of the Sir John Soane's museum in 1924. To make it resilient it was made from cast iron and to make it visible it was painted in red. This would be the basic design for all future red telephone boxes until the need to save money resulted in the unloved and easily damaged modern version. Recycled kiosks can now be found around the world from Israel to Oklahoma. Many have been bought by private individuals.At the peak of their use in the early 1980's there were over 73,000 classic red phone boxes located around Britain.

The Red British Budget Box

f-british-icons-budget-box-britishThe 'Red Box' is a form of briefcase used by British government ministers to carry important documents. The original was made for William Gladstone around 1860 during his time in office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Red boxes were typically made of leather-covered wood lined with lead and satin. It is said that the hinges not the catches were next to the handle which meant it had to be locked at the bottom. If it wasn't it would fall open when lifted thus ensuring it was never taken anywhere unlocked. The most famous red box is the iconic one that is raised to show the British public and the media outside 10 Downing Street that the budget for the year has been agreed by government officials. The original was retired in 2010 and a new and more modern red briefcase is now used. They are still lead lined to ensure the contents are invisible to x-ray scanners and will sink if thrown in water. They are said to be bomb-proof. The original is now on display in the Cabinet War Rooms.

The London Underground

f-british-icons-london-undergroundOne of the most recognised symbols in London is a red wheel bisected by a blue rectangle. It's the sign of 'The Underground', a vast network of subterranean railway tunnels that connect almost every part of the city. Casually referred to as The Tube it serves Greater London as well as parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. As the oldest underground railway in the world it has a special place in transport history. Started in 1860, certain sections are still being extend today. Roughly 28 million people collectively make approximately one billion journeys every year. There are 249 miles of train track linking up 260 operational stations. It was also used as a bomb shelter during the Blitz on London during WWII. The origin of the symbol is uncertain. The red and blue symbol was first used in 1908 and was probably based on an earlier design used by the London General Omnibus Company which, in turn, was a circle containing five pentagrams.

Guards at Buckingham Palace

f-british-icons-household-divisionThe elite guards at Buckingham Palace are known as the (Royal) Household Division. They're comprised of some of the best active soldiers in the world from seven elite British military regiments. Two of these, the Life Guards and The Blues and Royals are cavalry regiments. The remaining soldiers are from the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Welsh Guards and the Irish Guards. It is the uniform of this second group that has become an icon of Britain. Dark trousers, a red tunic and the famous bearskin headgear have become synonymous with precision, courage and discipline. The bright red tunics of the British military originally got their colour from being died in crushed cochineal from the Americas. The bearskin headgear was adopted from the Grenadier Guards who were granted permission to wear it after their victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Icons of Buckingham Palace.

Strawberries and Cream

f-british-icons-strawberries-creamA wonderful British icon is the traditional dessert of brilliant red strawberries coated with an avalanche of cream. Today they're usually associated with tennis and Wimbledon but were originally served at many medieval festivals and banquets to celebrate a good summer and general prosperity. They were first cultivated in the cooler provinces of the Roman Empire. Over the centuries people have used them both as a medicine and as an aphrodisiac. The tradition of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon probably dates back to the very beginning of the competition which coincided with the rapid and successful expansion of both dairy and strawberry farming in the south of England. Strawberries and sour cream were once believed to encourage vigour and stamina. According to the popular TV show, Blue Peter, more than 27,000 kilograms of the fruit and 7,000 litres of cream are consumed during the two weeks of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

The Red Pillar Mail Box

f-british-icons-red-mail-boxIt's generally accepted that the modern postal service was first invented and implemented in Britain. It should not be confused with advanced courier services that had already existed for thousands of years. The premise of the royal mail was that anyone could send a letter from any location to any destination in Britain by using a prepaid stamp. This meant that thousand of post boxes would be needed with the goal of at least one in every village. The solution was the red pillar box made from cast iron and introduced in 1852. More than 150 variations have been produced over the years and it quickly became an icon of Britain and its associated countries such as Australia, India and Morocco. These Pillar Post Boxes are still widely used today even after the arrival of email and instant messaging. As the postal service in the UK has adapted to the age of electronic communication a number of pillar post boxes icons have been decommissioned and these have become sought after collector's items with originals fetching over £1,000 per unit.

The Red Dragon of Wales

f-british-icons-welsh-dragon The origin of the red Welsh Dragon can be traced back to early Celtic tales from between 415 and 480 AD. The first story tells of how two giant dragons are tricked into getting drunk and imprisoned in a cave. It may represent a very early truce between the original Britons and the invading Saxons that arrived shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire. A second story recorded in the Historia Brittonum, which was written in 830 AD, tells how a Welsh king called Vortigern (circa 470AD) releases the dragons on the advice of the boy-wizard Merlin. The Dragons continued their fight and at first the White Dragon looked like winning but was eventually defeated by the Red Dragon. At the time the meaning was clear; Vortigern would be defeated but the Welsh would succeed in defending their land against the Saxons. If this was indeed a prophesy it turned out to be accurate. After this event the red dragon quickly became a symbol of everything Welsh. THE RED DRAGON OF WALES: In Welsh it is written as 'Y Ddraig Goch' - The Red Dragon. It was not incorporated into the national flag of the UK but was used by Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth. The dragon symbol was probably introduced to Britain by the Romans. Those that remained in Britain after 410 AD most likely aligned themselves with local Britons against the Saxon invaders. The Welsh flag was only officially recognised as late as 1959.

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