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Prison pig that helped invent the toothbrush; ... and some other unusual tales of British ingenuity.

Byline: EMMA PIETRAS

EVER wondered who thought up the toothbrush or how America got its name?

Turns out it was all down to good old British inspiration. And they aren't the only amazing things our country is responsible for.

A new TV show, I Never Knew That About Britain, explores the nation's brilliant inventions with Flog It presenter Paul Martin, histo-rian Suzannah Lipscomb and scientist St e v e Mould travelling up and down the British Isles revealing fascinating unknown facts.

These range from how our last invasion led to the birth of the paper money to which church steeple inspired tiered wedding cakes.

I Never Knew That About Britain starts on Monday at 8pm on ITV.

emma.pietras@mirror.co.uk

Was America named after a Bristol businessman?

Explorer Amerigo Vespucci is usually held responsible for the name. But was he really?

In 1495, when sailor John Cabot went to Bristol to find funding for a voyage, he met rich merchant Richard Amerike who agreed to bankroll the building of his ship. Cabot was the first modern European to land in parts of North America.

No records were kept but it was common for new lands to be named after financial backers. And America was first named on a map in 1507.

Divine inspiration for the tiered wedding cake

Every prospective son-in-law likes to make a good impression on the father of his beloved and William Rich was no different.

The apprentice baker fell in love with the boss's daughter and he knew that not just any wedding cake would do. When he looked out of the window at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street, London, he found his inspiration in the steeple's graceful design to create the first tiered wedding cake - the form that's still popular with couples today.

Barn that built Manhattan

The US might be home to some of the world's tallest buildings but a Shropshire man was the "grandfather of skyscrapers".

In 1797 architect Charles Bage designed Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury using an iron frame as an alternative to wood to reduce the risk of fire. It was a world-first and was as tall as a five-storey building.

The same principle was adapted to create the frame used for America's skyscrapers.

Why we have paper money...

The Battle of Fishguard in 1797 marked Britain's last invasion and although the small Welsh town held off the French, fear of an unknown future prompted people to take their money out of the Bank of England on a large scale.

Fearing it would run out of coins, the Bank introduced "promise to pay" notes, giving birth to paper money.

To this day bank notes bear the statement: "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of..."

Dinner parties that made modern surgery possible

Surgery became feasible and childbirth bearable (almost) thanks to the invention of anaesthetic - all thanks to dinner parties hosted by James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery. Determined to ease the pain of labour, he invited his guests to test different concoctions swigged from a brandy decanter.

When they tried chloroform everyone went into a deep sleep until morning. He knew he'd hit on something and it went on to be used in surgery and was even given to Queen Victoria during the birth of Prince Leopold.

The folding baby buggy inspired by the Spitfire

It's hard to see what the two have in common but when Spitfire engineer Owen Maclaren saw his daughter struggling with her bulky pram, he found inspiration.

Using the same concept as the folding mechanism on the fighter plane's wheels, he designed a lightweight collapsible buggy. Production on the Maclaren started in 1967, 10 years later he was selling 5,000 a year and the brand is still around today.

The pig and the toothbrush

Life in London's Newgate Prison was tough for William Addis when he was jailed for rioting. Inmates had to share cells with livestock so keeping clean was out of the question. But, in 1780, the rag merchant had a eureka moment and came up with something we all still use today.

Spotting a broom, it gave him an idea to drill holes in an old bone and use the pig-hairs left behind on the prison bars as bristles. The first toothbrush was born in that moment.

Coffee shop that launched the Stock Exchange

Jonathan's Coffee House, founded in Exchange Alley in the City of London in around 1680, was the first home of the Stock Exchange.

Boys were paid to run to the docks and the homes of merchants and find news that might affect the fortunes of around 100 companies selling shares. Any crucial information was posted on a blackboard.

Then in 1698 a Huguenot customer called John Castaing started to publish stock prices, bullion prices and exchange rates in a newsletter. The same basic system is used today (though with computers and a lot less running).

Bicycle that grew into a tractor

Champion cyclist and entrepreneur Dan Albone from Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, came up with the first practical and successful tractor in 1896 after putting a combustion engine on his bike in an attempt to go faster.

At the time most ploughs were pulled by horses. Portable steam engines and self-propelled traction engines were tried but proved too heavy for Britain's soil.

Seeing local farmers struggle, it dawned on Albone that he could use a combustion engine instead and after five years of research, he came up with a lighter tractor he called the Ivel Agricultural Motor. He had it patented and models were exported all over the world.

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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Words:950
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