London Firsts


Scientist Christopher Merrett invented the first sparkling wine in London in 1662, which was 35 years before Dom Perignon created his version in Champagne (though the French name stuck)

Vending machine

‘The curious mathematical fountain’ was set up in the Black Horse Tavern in Smithfield at the end of the 17th century. It dispensed tea, coffee, whiskey, cherry brandy and rum punch.

Jigsaw puzzle

John Spilsbury, a London engraver and mapmaker, made the first jigsaw puzzle in 1761 to teach children geography.

Roller skates

A London instrument maker, Joseph Merlin, first showed off his wheeled boots at a party in 1760. He rode into the ballroom, playing the violin, then crashed into a mirror. Disaster!


One of the first escalators in the world was installed in Harrods in 1898. It was made of 224 pieces of tough leather linked together. Harrods was concerned that the customers may have felt a bit giddy after their first ride, so the shop assistants gave out brandy and smelling salts.



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