Big Cities, Big Records

Most of us in Britain live in towns or cities rather than in the countryside and over 30% of us live in the largest ‘metropolitan’ areas. This means that our ‘home county’ is not one of the great ‘shire’ counties, such as Oxfordshire or Herefordshire, but is one of the metropolitan counties formally created in the 1960s or 1970s. Greater London, with almost 9 million residents, is by far the largest of these metropolitan counties, followed by the West Midlands (2.9 million), Greater Manchester (2.8 million) and West Yorkshire (2.3 million). The largest of the shire counties (Hampshire) only comes fifth in the rankings with a population of 1.8 million, but actually has more residents than the metropolitan areas of Glasgow (1.3million) and Merseyside (864,000).

Even if you live in a metropolitan county, though, it will still have its own county records. It is easy to think of the ‘urban’ records each will have -its oldest building or its largest cathedral, sports venue or concert hall and so on. But the metropolitan counties also have their highest and lowest points, even if they are built on (although they usually aren’t!), their longest river, and their largest nature reserve. There are green and ‘rural’ parts of all of the metropolitan counties – Sutton Park, in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, for example is the largest urban park in Europe, covering 900ha (Grid Reference SP11209610).

Because Greater London is bigger than all the others, and in most cases is much older, it would be easy to expect that the capital has almost all of the national records for urban landscape. But while it holds more national records than each of the others, it is by no means only Greater London which holds UK records for any of these ‘extreme’ locations. There are national record places to be found in every one of our metropolitan counties. Here is just one example of a national record held in each of our seven largest metropolitan counties

Greater London

The tallest building in the European Union is ‘The Shard’, a 95 storey commercial building next to London Bridge station, completed in 2012 with a height of 309.7m. (Grid Reference TQ32798019).

West Midlands

The longest road bridge in the UK is the M6 Bromford Viaduct at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. Opened in 1971, this elevated stretch of motorway runs from Junction 5 (Castle Bromwich) to Junction 6 (Gravelly Hill (aka ‘Spaghetti Junction’), a distance of 5.6km. (Grid Reference SP14209010).

Greater Manchester

The largest pub in the UK is ‘The Moon under the Water’ on Deansgate in Manchester. It was formerly the Deansgate Picture House and became a pub in 1995. It has a capacity of 1700 customers. (Grid Reference SJ83719849).

West Yorkshire

The highest motorway in the UK is the M62 at Junction 22 (the Rockingstone Moss Interchange) at an altitude of 372m. (Grid Reference SD98801478).


The shortest distance between motorway junctions in the UK is 160m between J17 and J18 on the M8 in Glasgow. (Grid Reference NS58156630).


The oldest public park in the world is Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead, designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847. (Grid Reference SJ31038923).

South Yorkshire

The largest stately home in the UK is Wentworth Woodhouse, Wentworth in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough. The main façade of 185m is the longest of any stately home in Europe. The house has more than 300 rooms and a floor area of 23,000 square metres. (Grid Reference SK39519768).


The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate each of these record locations on a map at


And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Where is the tallest tree in the United Kingdom?


The Answer to the Last Question

Where is the largest living thing in the UK?

The largest living thing in the UK is a sessile oak tree growing at Croft Castle, Yarpole in Herefordshire. The tree is 35.2m tall, and has a girth of 8.70m, which means that the volume of timber in the tree is 107.5 cubic metres. (Grid Reference SO45286569)

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