Last Updated on 22nd March 2022 by Mike@bitaboutbritain
Which anniversaries will be marked in Britain in 2021? Here is a selection of noteworthy events and birthdays for you. Each one will be on someone’s calendar for 2021 – and each one offers a little insight into Britain’s story.
Scroll through to spot those occasions that may have slipped your mind, or click/tap on a year below to go straight to featured events for it.
|71AD – 1950th anniversary||596 AD – 1425th anniversary||871 AD – 1150th anniversary|
|1096 – 925th anniversary||1346 – 675th anniversary||1371 – 650th anniversary|
|1471 – 550th anniversary||1621 – 400th anniversary||1646 – 375th anniversary|
|1721 – 300th anniversary||1746 – 275th anniversary||1771 – 250th anniversary|
|1796 – 225th anniversary||1821 – 200th anniversary||1846 – 175th anniversary|
|1871 – 150th anniversary||1896 – 125th anniversary||1921 – 100th anniversary|
|1946 – 75th anniversary||1971 – 50th anniversary||1996 – 25th anniversary|
A Bit About Britain only highlights significant anniversaries – centenaries, half centuries and quarter centuries – otherwise we’d be here all night. We also mention British celebrities whose 100th, 75th or 50th birthdays might be celebrated this year. Links to pages or sites with more information have been provided where considered appropriate. There are also product links to Amazon: if you buy ANYTHING on Amazon having first clicked one of these links, A Bit About Britain might earn some commission; that would be nice, wouldn’t it? You might also be interested in the timelines featured on this site.
71AD – 1950th anniversary of…
The Roman conquest of northern England. 71AD is the year generally given for the Roman campaign into the land of the Brigantes, whose territories stretched over most of what is now northern England, and their eastern neighbours, the Parisi. 71AD is also the year given for the foundation of York (Eboracum), by the IXth Legion heading north from Lincoln, as part of that military expansion. By c74AD, the Romans had reached the area around Carlisle (Luguvalium). Odd to think there was a frontier somewhere in the English midlands before that. What did the Romans do for us?
596AD – 1425th anniversary of…
The Gregorian, or Augustinian, mission to bring Christianity to England. The story goes that Pope Gregory I spotted some fair-haired youngsters in Rome’s slave market and asked who they were. He was told they were Angles. “Not Angles, but angels,” quipped the witty Pope, who promptly dispatched one of his best men, Augustine, along with several companions, to preach the word of God to the English nation. They almost didn’t make it. According to Bede, shortly after setting off, they became afraid “at the idea of going to a barbarous, fierce and pagan nation, of whose very language they were ignorant.” Augustine & Co were encouraged by Gregory, however, landed on the Isle of Thanet in Kent the following year, and set about their task with a smile and all necessary vigour. How did Christianity come to Britain?
871AD -1150th anniversary of…
Alfred the Great. Alfred is the only king of the English to be called ‘great’. When he became King of Wessex, the land of the West Saxons, in 871, it was the only remaining independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Britain, the others having fallen to Danish invaders. Alfred successfully led the resistance to the Danes; without him, there would be no England. As well as his military leadership, which included the recapture of London, he is often credited as being the father of the Royal Navy and is renowned for his law-making, patronage of learning and administrative abilities. He died in 899 and his grandson, Athelstan, eventually became the first king of all England.
1096 – 925th anniversary of…
The University of Oxford. Details are a little fuzzy, but Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, claims 1096 as its year of foundation, because “teaching existed at Oxford in some form” then. The university really took off after Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris, in 1167. The University of Cambridge had to wait until 1209, when some academics decided to decamp from Oxford following early disputes between town and gown. A walk round Oxford.
1346 – 675th anniversary of…
The Battle of Crècy. The Battle of Crècy on 26 August 1346 was a victory for King Edward III of England over the French during the Hundred Years’ War. It is considered a military milestone, because a larger and heavily armed French force was overwhelmed by English and Welsh archers; mounted nobility was defeated by largely peasant infantry. According to legend, Crècy was also the origin of the adoption of three ostrich feathers and the motto Ich dien (‘I serve’) as the heraldic device of the Prince of Wales, taken from the slain body of blind King John of Bohemia by Edward’s oldest son, the 16-year-old Edward of Woodstock (known to history as the Black Prince).
1371 – 650th anniversary of…
The first Stuart monarch. On 22 February 1371, Robert II became the first Stuart king of Scotland. His mother, Marjorie, was the daughter of Robert the Bruce. His father, Walter, was the hereditary steward of Scotland – hence the name. The Stuarts (or Stewarts) ruled Scotland until 1603, when James VI also became King James I of England, and (with a gap for the Republic in England from 1649-1660) both kingdoms until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Who were the monarchs of Scotland?
1471 – 550th anniversary of…
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 4 May 1471. The Battle of Tewkesbury was a decisive victory for the Yorkists over the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses. Among those killed was the Prince of Wales; his father, Henry VI, was murdered in the Tower of London shortly afterwards. The House of York under Edward IV reigned, relatively peacefully, until Richard III was booted off the throne by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Orkney and Shetland becoming Scottish. In the middle ages, Orkney and Shetland were part of the Jarldom of Orkney under the King of Norway. In 1468, they were pledged by King Christian I of Denmark and Norway as security for the dowry of his daughter Margaret, who married King James III of Scotland. In 1471, James III offered William Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, the castle and lands of Ravenscraig in Fife, in return for the Earl’s rights in Orkney and Shetland, which William accepted. It was clear that the dowry was unlikely to be paid, so James declared the Orkney and Shetland to be forfeit to the Scottish Crown, and they were formally annexed by the Scottish Parliament on 20 February 1472.
1521 – 500th anniversary of…
Defender of the Faith. On 11 October 1521, Pope Leo X conferred the title Fidei defensor or ‘Defender of the Faith’ on King Henry VIII of England. This was a reward for Henry’s robust response to the ideas of German Protestant theologian Martin Luther. Ironically, of course, Henry facilitated the English Reformation which resulted in Britain becoming a predominantly Protestant land. And successive British monarchs, including Elizabeth II, have continued to use the term, abbreviated to FD, as Heads of the Church of England.
1621 – 400th anniversary of…
Oxford’s Botanic Garden – Britain’s oldest botanic garden. Oxford’s Botanic Garden was founded in 1621, by a gift of £5000 from Henry Danvers, First Earl of Danby, as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research. Before Edward I expelled England’s Jews in 1290, it had been Oxford’s Jewish cemetery (there is still a footpath today called Deadman’s Walk south of Merton College which probably marks the route from the synagogue where Christ Church is now, outside the city walls to the burial ground).
1646 – 350th anniversary of…
Charles I’s surrender. King Charles I surrendered to Scottish Covenanters besieging Newark on Trent on 5 May 1646. This effectively brought the first phase of the Civil War, which had been waging since 1642, to an end. The Scots subsequently handed Charles over to the English Parliamentary forces in exchange for £100,000. Sadly, fighting broke out again in 1648. Charles was executed in 1649.
1721- 300th anniversary of…
Britain’s first Prime Minister. Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745) is generally acknowledged as being Britain’s first ‘Prime Minister’. In fact, the office was, and still is, ‘First Lord of the Treasury’. Second Lord of the Treasury is the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Walpole held both offices until 1742. He also received 10 Downing Street from King George II, refusing it as a personal gift and asking that it be an official residence for himself and his successors. He moved in during 1735, following extensive refurbishment. List of British Prime Ministers.
1746 – 275th anniversary of…
The Battle of Culloden – the last pitched battle on British soil. The Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 brought the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 to a bloody end. Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, had taken his largely Highland Army as far as Derby, before retreating north to Inverness, pursued by Government forces under the Duke of Cumberland. On the morning of the battle, many of the Prince’s troops were exhausted after an aborted attack on the Government army camped at Nairn. The ground chosen for the battle was partly marsh, wholly unsuited to the favoured tactic of the Highland charge. Moreover, on this occasion the Jacobites were no match for the well-trained, disciplined, Government troops. They were also slightly outnumbered. The battle lasted less than an hour and was a decisive victory for the Government. Afterwards, Cumberland ordered his troops to ruthlessly pursue and search out any surviving rebels and a shameful bloodbath ensued.
The first water powered cotton mill. Sir Richard Arkwright, sometimes known as ‘the father of the factory system’, constructed Cromford Mill, the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mill, 17 miles north of Derby in 1771. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Britain’s industrial revolution.
1796 – 225th anniversary of…
Joseph Turner exhibiting his first oil painting at the Royal Academy. The first oil painting Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy was ‘Fishermen at Sea’. It is a moonlit scene featuring vulnerable-looking fishing boats surrounded by waves with the Isle of Wight’s ‘Needles’ ominously in the background.
1821-200th anniversary of…
Potato crop failure in Ireland. The partial failure of the Irish potato crop in 1821 led to serious food shortages the following year, with deaths from starvation in the west and south of the country, followed by outbreaks of typhus.
John Constable’s Hay Wain. John Constable finished The Hay Wain in 1821 and showed it at the Royal Academy. It is an oil painting of a rural scene on the River Stour near Flatford Mill featuring Willy Lot’s cottage, and one of Constable’s most famous works. The scene is still recognisable today.
1846 – 175th anniversary of…
The repeal of the Corn Laws. The Corn Laws of the early 19th century placed tariffs on imported grain, protecting domestic production to the benefit of rural landlords. However, they also forced prices higher, to the distress of the poor, and depressed the market, to the detriment of industrial manufacturers and urban classes. The Anti-Corn Law League was formed in 1838 as a pressure group, but the issue was finally forced by the shortage of food caused by the Great Famine in Ireland. Prime Minister Robert Peel forged a combination of modern Conservatives, Whigs and free traders to repeal the Corn Laws on 15 May 1846, which gradually lowered food prices, benefitted manufacturing and is generally thought to have ushered in a period of free trade and economic growth. It also split Peel’s Conservative party, resulting in his resignation shortly afterwards.
1871 – 150th anniversary of…
The Albert Hall. The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences was officially declared open on 29 March 1871, by The Prince of Wales on behalf of his mother Queen Victoria, who, being reminded of her late husband, was too overcome to speak. The venue was named for Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who died in 1861, and partly funded by profits from the Great Exhibition of 1851, of which the Prince had been champion. But it was mostly funded by selling 999-year leases on more than 1300 seats.
1896 – 125th anniversary of…
Britain’s first wireless communication. Radio telegraphy pioneer Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) found little interest in his ideas in his native Italy and in 1896 journeyed to Britain to find support. He applied for a patent here and, on 27 July 1896, successfully demonstrated his wireless telegraphy system by sending a signal between the Central Telegraph Office in London, now the HQ of BT, and a Post Office building 300 metres away in Carter Lane. He carried out further demonstrations on Salisbury Plain and, in December, demonstrated his system at a public lecture in Toynbee Hall in London’s East End. It caused a sensation.
The Daily Mail. The Daily Mail, Britain’s first tabloid newspaper, was launched on 4 May 1896. It was published by Alfred Harmsworth (1865-1922), later Lord Northcliffe. Northcliffe’s great-grandson, Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, still controls the paper.
The first motor show. Britain’s (and, some say, the world’s) first motor show was held at the Imperial Institute in London (now part of Imperial College) from 9 May to 8 Aug 1896. The 1896 Horseless Carriage Exhibition was organised by the newly created Motor Car Club. A contemporary account noted, “though the number of exhibits is not large, it is sufficient to show that the manufacture of these vehicles is now passing out of the experimental stage. It shows, further, that the purchaser of the near future will have to choose between oil and electricity as a source of power.”
Born in 1896
Among those born 125 years ago were:
Arnold Ridley – William Arnold Ridley was a writer and actor, who will be remembered as Private Godfrey in the sitcom ‘Dad’s Army’. He was born in Bath, Somerset, on 7 January 1896 and died in 1984).
Dodie Smith – Dorothy Gladys ‘Dodie’ Smith a novelist and playwright whose most famous work was ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ (1956) – subsequently a Disney cartoon and, later, a film. She was born on 3 May 1896 in Whitefield, Lancashire, and died in 1990.
Henry Allingham – Henry William Allingham was born on 6 June 1896 and died on 18 July 2009 aged 113. He was Britain’s oldest surviving veteran of the First World War and the longest-lived man ever recorded from the United Kingdom.
Wallis Simpson – Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in Pennsylvania, USA, on 19 June 1896. Her third husband in 1937 was the former King Edward VIII and the two became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She died in 1986.
A J Cronin – Archibald Joseph Cronin, doctor and novelist, was born in Cardross, Dunbartonshire, on 19 July 1896. His 1937 book, ‘The Citadel’, is a fierce attack on get-rich members of his own profession. Many of his works were filmed, or adapted for TV and he was the creator of the long-running TV medical drama, ‘Dr Finlay’s Casebook’. AJ Cronin died in Switzerland in 1981.
Albert Ball – Albert Ball was a First World War flying ace, at the time of his death Britain’s most successful fighter pilot with 44 victories. He was born in Lenton, Nottingham, on 14 August 1896, joined the army on the outbreak of war in 1914, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 and was shot down, or crashed, and killed in May 1917. Among his many honours was the Victoria Cross, awarded posthumously.
Bud Flanagan – Chaim Reuben Weintrop, as Bud Flanagan, was an entertainer best known for his partnership with Chesney Allen (1894-1982). Among Flanagan and Allen’s many popular songs was ‘Underneath the Arches’. Flanagan/Weintrop was born in Whitechapel, London, on 14 October 1896 and died in 1968.
Oswald Mosley – Oswald Ernald Mosley is best known as the founder of the British Union of Fascists and for his Nazi sympathies, but in fact prior to that had been a Conservative MP, then an Independent, then Labour. Adolf Hitler was a guest at his wedding to his second wife, Diana Mitford, in 1936, and both were interned during the Second World War. He was born in Mayfair on 16 November 1896 and died in 1980.
Miles Dempsey – Miles Christopher Dempsey was a career soldier who served in both world wars. During the Second World War he commanded XIII Corps during the invasions of Sicily and Italy in 1943 and the Second Army for D-Day and the subsequent battle for North-West Europe in 1944-45. He was born in New Brighton, on the Wirral, on 15 December 1896 and died in 1969.
1921 – centenaries in 2021 of…
Britain’s first family planning clinic. Marie Stopes opened the first family planning clinic in Britain with her husband, Humphrey Roe, on 17 March 1921. It offered free advice to married women and was situated at 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway, London N19.
The Royal British Legion. The British Legion (Royal British Legion since 1971), representing the interests of ex-servicemen and women, was formed on 15 May 1921. It brought together four already established ex-service organisations and its first president was Field Marshal Earl Haig. The Legion adopted the poppy as a commemorative device that same year, in recognition of the poppies of Flanders where so many had died. So, the first ‘Poppy Day’ was on 11 November 1921.
The Football Association banning women’s football. Women’s football flourished during the First World War, with many teams being formed from munitions factories and huge sums raised for charitable work. The most famous of these teams was probably Dick, Kerr Ladies from Preston. Their Boxing Day match against St Helen’s Ladies at Goodison Park in 1920 was watched by 53,000 spectators. However, on 5 December 1921, the Football Association banned women playing soccer on Association members’ pitches, because “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” Women continued to play on other grounds. The FA lifted the ban 50 years later, in 1971.
The Irish Free state. The Irish Free State established by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, which brought an end to the Anglo-Irish War. The treaty recognised the island of Ireland, with the exception of the 6 counties of Ulster, as an independent dominion of the British Empire, with the British sovereign as head of state. The 6 counties of Northern Ireland) remained part of the United Kingdom, as they still do. Ireland became a republic in 1937. The treaty led to the Irish Civil War between those who supported, and those that opposed, it.
Born in 1921
A selection of British celeb centenaries:
Peter Sallis – Peter John Sallis, actor, was born on 1 February 1921 in Twickenham, Middlesex, and died in 2017. He had a distinguished and varied career, though fans will remember him best as Cleggy in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and as the voice of Wallace in the ‘Wallace and Gromit’ films.
Pat Kirkwood – Patricia Kirkwood was born in Salford, Lancashire, on 24 February 1921 and died in 2007. She was an actress, singer and dancer and the first woman to have her own television series on the BBC, in 1954. She, and Buckingham Palace, have always denied rumours of an affair between her and Prince Phillip.
Joan Greenwood – Joan Mary Waller Greenwood, actress, was born in Chelsea, London, on 4 March 1921. She died in died 1987. With her trademark husky voice, she had an extinguished career in theatre and film.
Tommy Cooper – Thomas Frederick Cooper, magician and comedian, was born in Caerphilly, Wales, on 19 March 1921. Famed for his red fez, ridiculous jokes and tricks that appeared to go almost wrong, he died of a heart attack on live TV in 1984.
Dirk Bogarde – Derek Niven van den Bogaerde, actor and author, was born in West Hampstead, London, on 28 March 1921. He served in intelligence during WW2, was one of Britain’s most popular film actors of the 1950s and ‘60s (including the ‘doctor’ films inspired by Richard Gordon, also born in 1921) and died in 1999.
Peter Ustinov – Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov was born in London on 16 April 1921. He was a multi-talented actor, writer, director, raconteur and linguist; he died in 2004.
Asa Briggs – historian, was born on 7 May 1921 in Keighley, West Riding of Yorkshire. He specialised in social and Victorian history (his books were on my reading list at university) and was an authority on the history of broadcasting. During the Second World War, he served at Bletchley Park. Asa Briggs died in 2016.
Humphrey Lyttelton – Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton, jazz musician, composer, broadcaster, cartoonist and calligrapher, was born at Eton College, Buckinghamshire, on 23 May 1921. He presented BBC Radio 2’s ‘the Best of Jazz’ for 40 years but, outside jazz circles, will probably be best-remembered as the presenter of the often outrageous and iconoclastic radio comedy panel game, ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, from 1972 until 2008. He died in London in 2008.
Prince Philip – Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, also known as the Earl of Merioneth Baron Greenwich, or the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born on 10 June 1921 in Corfu. I am tickled by the fact that he was born in a villa called, ‘Mon Repos’ and puzzled that, unlike every other royal personage you come across, he appears to have just one Christian name. Sadly, Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle on 6 April 2021.
Harry Secombe – Harry Donald Secombe, comedian, singer and actor, was born in Swansea on 8 September 1921. Lovers and students of comedy will know him as the third essential member of the surreal radio comedy, ‘The Goon Show’ (with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers); lovers of musicals will know him for playing the part of Mr Bumble in ‘Oliver!’. He died in 2001.
Richard Gordon – Gordon Stanley Ostlere was born in Paddington, London, on 15 September 1921. A qualified and practising doctor and anaesthetist, in the 1950s, he wrote the popular ‘doctor’ books, starting with ‘Doctor in the House’, which spawned a successful series of comedy films and several radio/TV series in the 1960s and ‘70s. He died in 2017.
Jimmy Young – Leslie Ronald Young, singer and broadcaster, was born on 21 September 1921 in Cinderford, Gloucestershire. He had several chart hits in the 1950s, most notably ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘The Man from Laramie’, before embarking on a broadcasting career that culminated in the highly successful ‘JY Prog’ on radio from 1973-2002. He died in 2016.
Deborah Kerr – actress Deborah Jane Trimmer was born in Hillhead, Glasgow on 30 September 1921. Nominated for multiple Oscar awards, her credits include film classics such as ‘From Here to Eternity’, ‘The King and I’, ‘An Affair to Remember’ and ‘Separate Tables’. She died in Suffolk in 2007.
Robert Runcie – Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 – 1991, was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 2 October 1921. He died in 2000.
Pearl Carr – Pearl Lavinia Carr was a singer who, with her husband ‘Teddy’ Johnson, is possibly best remembered now for representing the UK in the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest and coming second with ‘Sing, Little Birdie’. She was born in Exmouth, Devon on 2 November 1921 and died in 2020.
Ron Greenwood – Ronald Greenwood was born in Worsthorne, Lancashire, on 11 November 1921. He was a successful football player, but is best known as manager of West Ham United in the 1960s and ‘70s, and of the England national team from 1977 – 1982. He died in 2006.
‘Johnny’ Johnson – George Leonard Johnson was born on 25 November 1921 in Hameringham, Lincolnshire, and is the last surviving member of 617 Squadron RAF to take part in the ‘Dambusters’ raid, Operation Chastise, in May 1943.
Liz Smith – Betty Gleadle was born on 11 December in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, and was a much-loved character actress. She achieved fame in middle-age, becoming a household name with the TV sitcoms Vicar of Dibley and The Royale Family. She died in 2016.
1946 – 75th anniversary of…
The start of Labour’s nationalisation programme. The Labour Government, elected by a landslide in 1945, began a programme of nationalising key industries. In 1946, it introduced acts in Parliament to nationalise the Bank of England, coal and to create a national health service – today’s NHS. These were followed in 1947-49 by acts to nationalise electricity, transport, communications and steel.
Winston Churchill’s Fulton Speech. Speaking in the USA on 5 March 1946, in the company of President Truman at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, Churchill delivered one of history’s most famous and controversial addresses, ‘The Sinews of Peace.’ In it he urges strength on the part of the western democracies to deter and contain the perceived threat from communism and their erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union, under its tyrannical leader, Joseph Stalin. The speech marks, not the start of the Cold War, but draws attention to the fact that the seeds had already been sown and could grow if not checked. It contains the following well-known passage:
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”
The full text of the speech can be found on the website of the International Churchill Society and makes fascinating reading, particularly if you are one of Churchill’s tedious detractors.
The combined radio/TV licence. A combined radio/TV licence was introduced on 1 June 1946. Issued by the GPO (General Post Office), it cost £2 a year. As of 2021, the cost is £157.50. In 1946, however, the BBC’s single TV black and white channel had the monopoly; commercial television and a second channel had to wait until 1955.
Free school milk. On 28 March 1946, The Minister of Education, Ellen Wilkinson, announced the introduced of free milk for all school pupils under 18. Free milk had been available to school pupils since 1921, but it now became compulsory for all to be issued with a free one-third of a pint of milk.
New Towns Act. The New Towns Act of 1946, influenced by the garden city movement, established an ambitious programme of new towns to deal with homelessness following enemy bombing, and slum clearance. The sites chosen were adjacent to existing settlements. The first such town designated, on 11 November 1946, was Stevenage in Hertfordshire. It was the first town in Britain to have a pedestrianised town centre. Other towns in the first ‘wave’ of development were: Crawley, Sussex; Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire; Harlow, Essex; Newton Aycliffe, County Durham; Peterlee, County Durham; Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, Hertfordshire; Basildon, Essex; Bracknell, Berkshire; Corby, Northamptonshire. Parliament subsequently authorised further developments in England, Scotland and Wales, the largest being Milton Keynes.
Born in 1946
A selection of celebrities born in 1946:
John Paul Jones – John Richard Baldwin, bass player with Led Zeppelin, was born on 3 January 1946 in Sidcup, Kent.
Syd Barrett – Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was a co-founder, guitarist and songwriter with Pink Floyd, leaving the band in 1968. He was born in Cambridge on 6 January 1946 and died in 2006.
Claire Short – Clare Short, Labour politician, member of Parliament and government minister, was born in Birmingham on 15 February 1946.
Ian Lavender – Arthur Ian Lavender, actor best known as Private Pike in the sitcom ‘Dad’s Army’, was born on 16 February 1946 in Birmingham.
Alan Rickman – actor Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman was born in Acton, London on 21 February 1946. He achieved worldwide fame as the terrorist leader in the 1988 film ‘Die Hard’, with subsequent memorable roles as the Sheriff of Nottingham in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series and part of the stellar cast in ‘Love Actually’. He died in 2016.
Colin Bell – Colin Bell, footballer – most notably with Manchester City, and also the England national team, was born in Hesleden, Co Durham on 26 February 1946. He died on 5 January 2021.
Robin Cook – Robert Finlayson Cook, Labour politician, member of Parliament and Foreign Secretary (1997-2001), was born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, on 28 February 1946. He died in 2005.
David Gilmour – David Jon Gilmour, guitarist and songwriter, described on his own website as “the voice and guitar of Pink Floyd” was born on 6 March 1946 in Cambridge.
Sue Townsend – Susan Lillian Townsend was a journalist and writer who will be best remembered as the creator of Adrian Mole (initially aged 13¼). She was born in Leicester on 2 April 1946, and died there in 2014.
Dave Hill – David John Hill, musician, was co-founder of and lead guitarist with the rock band, Slade. He was born in Holbeton, Devon, and brought up in Wolverhampton.
Les Gray – Thomas Leslie Gray was the vocalist with 1970s glam-rock band Mud. He was born in Carshalton, Surrey, on 9 April 1946 and died in Portugal in 2004.
Alan Knott – Alan Philip Eric Knott was a cricketer with Kent and England, particularly renowned as a wicket-keeper. He was born in Belvedere, Kent, on 9 April 1946.
George Robertson – George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Labour politician and Secretary General of NATO from 1999 to 2004, was born in Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay on 12 April 1946.
Joanna Lumley – Joanna Lamond Lumley, actress, presenter and activist, was born on 1 May 1946 in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India on 1 May 1946. She rose to prominence in the TV series, ‘The New Avengers’ in the 1970s, but is familiar to many as Patsy Stone in the sitcom ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ (1992–2012), and for her work with the Gurkha Justice Campaign.
Donovan – Donovan Phillips Leitch, singer-songwriter, was born in Maryhill, Glasgow, on 10 May 1946. He was a big part of the 1960s folk-pop scene, with hits such as ‘Catch the Wind’, ‘Universal Soldier’ and ‘Mellow Yellow’.
Maureen Lipman – Maureen Diane Lipman, actress, columnist and comedienne, was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, on 10 May 1946.
Robert Fripp – musician best-known as guitarist and co-founder of the prog-rock group King Crimson, Robert Fripp was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, on 16 May 1946.
George Best – George Best, born in Belfast on 22 May 1946, was possibly football’s first superstar. He played most notably with Manchester United, and at international level with Northern Ireland, and died in 2005.
Noddy Holder – Neville John Holder is a musician, songwriter, broadcaster and actor, best known as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the rock band, Slade. He was born in Walsall, Staffordshire, on 15 June 1946.
Jack Straw – John Whitaker Straw, Labour politician, member of Parliament, Home Secretary (1997-2001) and Foreign Secretary (2001-2006) was born in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, on 3 August 1946.
Keith Moon – Keith John Moon, drummer with the rock band The Who, was born in Wembley, London, on 23 August 1946. He died in 1978.
Alison Steadman – Alison Steadman, actress in theatre, film TV and radio, was born in Liverpool on 26 August 1946. My younger reader will know her as Pam in the TV sitcom ‘Gavin & Stacey’’.
Barry Gibb – Barry Alan Crompton Gibb was born on 1 September 1946 in Douglas, Isle of Man. He co-founded the Bee Gees, one of the most commercially successful pop groups of all time, with his brothers Maurice and Robin, is renowned for his falsetto vocals and for being an extraordinarily successful songwriter.
Don Powell – Donald George Powell, drummer with the rock band Slade, was born on 10 September 1946 in Bilston, Staffordshire.
Felicity Kendal – Felicity Ann Kendal, actress, was born on 25 September 1946 in Olton, Solihull, Warwickshire. Most of her work has been on TV and she rose to fame in the 1970s sitcom ‘The Good Life’.
Bel Mooney – Beryl Ann Mooney, journalist, author, broadcaster and agony aunt, was born in Liverpool on 8 October 1946.
Charles Dance – Walter Charles Dance, actor, was born on October 11, 1946, in Redditch, Worcestershire, and grew up in Plymouth. He rose to prominence starring in TV’s ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ in 1984 and often plays authoritarian figures, such as Tywin Lannister in ‘Game of Thrones’, and Lord Mountbatten in ‘The Crown’.
Edwina Currie – Edwina Currie, former Conservative politician, author and broadcaster, who famously wrote about an affair she had with John Major before he became Prime Minister, was born in Liverpool on 13 October 1946.
Justin Hayward – Justin David Hayward, musician and songwriter, was born on 14 October 1946, in Swindon, Wiltshire). He best known for his time with The Moody Blues from 1967, when he replaced Denny Laine. His most famous composition, perhaps, is ‘Nights in White Satin.’
Philip Pullman – Philip Pullman, author of the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and other works, was born in Norwich on 19 October 1946.
Peter Green – Guitarist and songwriter Peter Allen Greenbaum was most famously the founder of Fleetwood Mac, leaving in 1970, whose compositions included ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Albatross’ He was born on 29 October 1946 in Bethnal Green, London and died in 2020.
Diana Quick – Diana Marilyn Quick, actress, was born in London on 23 November 1946. She is perhaps best known for the role of Lady Julia Flyte in the 1981 TV version of Brideshead Revisited.
Jane Birkin – Jane Mallory Birkin, actress, singer and model who achieved virtual pop immortality for her duet ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’ with Serge Gainsbourg in 1969, was born in Marylebone, London, on 14 December 1946.
Janet Street Porter – journalist and broadcaster, born Janet Vera Bull in Brentford, Middlesex, on 27 December 1946.
Polly Toynbee – Mary Louisa ‘Polly’ Toynbee, journalist and writer, was born in Yafford on the Isle of Wight on 27 December 1946.
1971 – 50th anniversary of…
The Ibrox disaster. A crush in an exit stairwell at the ‘Old Firm’ (Glasgow Rangers v Celtic) football match on 2 January at Rangers’ Ibrox ground killed 66 people and injured more than 200. A government enquiry was launched and in 1975 mandatory licensing of sports venues was introduced.
The first British soldier killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland. 20-year-old Gunner Robert George Curtis was the first military fatality in Northern Ireland since troops had been deployed on 14 August 1969. He was shot by a sniper.
Decimal currency. Decimal currency was introduced in the UK on 15 February 1971, replacing pounds, shillings and pence. Instead of 12 pennies to a shilling and 20 shillings to the pound (21 for a guinea), there were 100 pence to the pound. No more thrupenny bits (three old pennies, equivalent to 1.25 new pence), tanners (sixpence – equivalent to 2½ new pence), bobs (shilling – equivalent to 5 new pence), florins (two shillings – equivalent to 10 new pence), half-crowns (equivalent to 12½ new pence; a crown was 5 bob, or 25 new pence), or 10 bob notes (10 shillings, equivalent to 50 new pence).
Margaret Thatcher ended free school milk. Actually, she didn’t. As Education Secretary in Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government, Margaret Thatcher received the nickname “Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher” for ending free school milk. The bill was passed on 14 June 1971. In fact, what she did was end free school milk for primary school children over the age of 7. Charged with making budget savings, she discovered that the milk was costing £14m a year (in 1971), twice as much as was spent on books. Labour’s education spokesman Edward Short attacked the Tories’ proposals as “the meanest and most unworthy thing” he had seen in his 20 years in the House of Commons. Even then, politicians were hypocrites; in 1968, his own Labour government had withdrawn free milk from secondary schools. Some (albeit Conservative) sources say that the Education Secretary at the time was the same Mr Short – but it may have been his predecessor. I have seen further claims that Labour’s Shirley Williams withdrew milk for 5–7-year-olds in 1977, but these sources seem just as bigoted as the anti-Thatcher rhetoric. If anyone can quote a reliable source, please do! And, tell me, did any government since Heath’s restore milk?
The Old Grey Whistle Test. BBC’s unique live music show, introduced by ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, first aired in September 1971 and lasted until the end of 1987. Its cultural descendant is Later…with Jools Holland.
Upstairs, Downstairs. Upstairs Downstairs was a TV drama/soap first set in Edwardian London, a kind of Downton Abbey, depicting the lives of the aristocrats and the plebs wot served them. It began in October 1971 and ran until 1975.
Among the ground-breaking books published in 1971 –
‘The Day of the Jackal’ – Frederick Forsyth;
‘Mr Tickle’ (the first of the ‘Mr Men’ books) – Roger Hargreaves;
‘Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall’ – Spike Milligan.
Born in 1971
Gary Barlow – singer and songwriter, born on 20 January 1971 in Frodsham, Cheshire.
Clare Balding – broadcaster and journalist, born Clare Victoria Balding on 29 January 1971 in Kingsclere, Hampshire.
Patrick Kielty – comedian and presenter, born on 31 January 1971 in Downpatrick, County Down.
Amanda Holden – actress and media personality, born on 16 February 1971 in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Charlie Brooker – Charlton Brooker, screenwriter, presenter, satirist, born on 3 March 1971 in Reading, Berkshire.
David Coulthard – David Marshall Coulthard, racing driver, was born on 27 March 1971 in Twynholm, Kirkcudbrightshire.
Ewan McGregor – Ewan Gordon McGregor, actor, was born on 31 March in Perth, Scotland.
David Tennant – David John McDonald, actor, was born on 18 April 1971 in Bathgate, West Lothian.
George Osborne – Gideon Oliver Osborne, former Conservative politician, member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then newspaper editor, was born on 23 May 1971 in Paddington, London.
Kirstie Allsopp – Kirstie Mary Allsopp, TV presenter, was born on 31 August 1971.
Richard Ashcroft – Richard Paul Ashcroft, vocalist and co-founder of the band The Verve, was born in Wigan, Lancashire, on 11 September 1971.
Stella McCartney – Stella Nina McCartney, fashion designer, was born in Camberwell, London, on 13 September 1971.
Sacha Baron Cohen – Sacha Noam Baron Cohen, comedian and actor, was born in Hammersmith, London, on 13 October 1971.
1996 – was it only 25 years ago since..?
London Docklands bombing. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a truck bomb at South Quay, near to Canary Wharf, in London, on 9 February 1996. The explosion killed two people, injured more than 100 others and caused millions of £s of damage.
Dunblane massacre. On 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton entered Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, shot 16 children and a teacher dead, injured 15 others, and then killed himself. One outcome was that private ownership of handguns became pretty much illegal – as it should be.
The Duke and Duchess of York divorce. Prince Andrew and the former Sarah Ferguson divorced on 30 May 1996.
Manchester bombing. The IRA detonated what is said to have been the largest bomb in Britain since WW2 outside the Arndale Shopping Centre in Manchester on Saturday 15 June 1996. 200 people were injured and millions of £s of damage was caused.
Dolly the sheep. Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh on 5 July.
The Prince and Princess of Wales divorce. The Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, divorced on 28 August 1996. Just over a year later, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.
Stone of Scone returned. The historic Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, on which kings of Scotland were traditionally crowned, is returned to Scotland from Westminster Abbey, where it had been for 700 years since being stolen by Edward I of England in 1296. It is now in Edinburgh Castle and there is a replica at Scone Palace, in Perthshire.
If you feel anything or anyone has been left out, please get in touch via the Contact Page. And, in particular, get in touch if you believe anyone so far significant was born in 1996.