Mark Mason

On this day: why is there a grasshopper on top of the Royal Exchange?

On this day: why is there a grasshopper on top of the Royal Exchange?
Image: Getty
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Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history.

23 January

In 1571, the Royal Exchange opened in London. The building (or rather its Victorian replacement) still bears a golden grasshopper, the emblem of the Exchange’s founder Thomas Gresham. He chose this to commemorate one of his ancestors, who as an illegitimate baby was abandoned in a Norfolk field. A local family, the Greshams, were out walking, and only found the baby because their young son chased a grasshopper into the field. They adopted the infant, calling him Roger. Thomas Gresham knew that without that grasshopper he would never have existed. 

A workman repairs the gilding of the Royal Exchange grasshopper (Getty)

24 January

Luis Suarez (born 1987). The Uruguayan is as famous for biting opponents as he is for scoring goals. He’s done it three times, which means that if you play football against him you are 1,850 times more likely to be bitten by him than by a shark in the ocean. (One in 2000 plays one in 3.7 million.) 

Luis Suarez has bitten players on three different occasions (Getty)

25 January  

Burns Night (celebrating the birth in 1759 of Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns). Traditionally celebrated with haggis – unless you’re a Scot living in the US, where haggis is banned because it contains chopped lung (Chopped heart is OK, apparently). In 1965 Brazilian customs intercepted a parcel of haggis, and after extensive analysis decided it must be fertiliser. 

26 January

Paul Newman (born 1925). Students at Princeton University have christened April 24 Newman’s Day, honouring the actor’s comment ‘24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.’ The students attempt to drink that number of beers over the course of the day. 

27 January  

In 1880 Thomas Edison received a patent for his ‘incandescent lamp’ (light bulb). The inventor always offered potential research assistants a bowl of soup as he interviewed them. Anyone who added salt or pepper without tasting the soup first was rejected – Edison didn’t want people who made assumptions without evidence.

28 January

In 1958 Lego patented the design of its bricks. The company’s name is short for ‘leg godt’, which in Danish means ‘play well’. 

29 January 

In 1595 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ received its first performance. A 2003 performance in Malvern had to be abandoned when the actress playing Juliet fell off the balcony. A spokesman for the theatre company said that she had been ‘acting her socks off … and just leant out a little bit too far.’