Last Updated on 1st February 2022 by Mike@bitaboutbritain
Which anniversaries are being marked in Britain in 2022? Below is a selection of more than sixty noteworthy occasions for you. Each one will be on someone’s calendar for 2022 – and each one offers an insight into Britain’s story. A Bit About Britain usually only highlights significant anniversaries – centenaries, half centuries and quarter centuries – otherwise we would be here all night. So we focus on years ending in 97, 72, 47 and 22. Also mentioned are almost 80 British celebrities whose 125th, 100th, 75th or 50th birthdays might be celebrated or commemorated in 2022.
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The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
First, we have to mention one highly significant 70th anniversary in 2022, which is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The Queen came to the throne when she was just 25 years old, on 6 February 1952 and has ruled for longer than any other monarch in Britain’s history. Platinum Jubilee celebrations will take place throughout 2022 in the United Kingdom, other Commonwealth countries and beyond. In the UK, communities will particularly come together to celebrate Her Majesty’s historic milestone over an extended bank holiday weekend, from Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June.
Tap or click to read more about the Platinum Jubilee on the Royal website.
Now – scroll through to spot those anniversaries that may have slipped your mind, or click/tap on a year listed below to go straight to it. We start with the most recent anniversaries, just 25 years ago, and work back 1900 years to 122AD, when Hadrian’s Wall was built.
1997 – 25 years ago
Labour win general election
In the 1997 general election on 1 May, the Labour Party won a landslide 418 seats in Parliament, with the Conservatives on 165 and the Liberal Democrats 46. Tony Blair replaced John Major as Prime Minister. The Conservatives had been in government for 18 years, since 1979.
The first Harry Potter book
JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published on 27 June 1997.
Britain hands Hong Kong back to China
Formal authority for Hong Kong, known as ‘the transfer of sovereignty’, passed from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China at midnight on 1 July 1997. The event is seen by some as the definitive end of the British Empire. Apart from the period of Japanese occupation from 1941-45, Hong Kong had been a dependent territory of the United Kingdom since 1841.
Diana, Princess of Wales, killed
Diana, Princess of Wales, died at the age of 36 on 31 August 1997 from a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, while her Mercedes was being pursued by fanatical members of the press. Her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul, also died. Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash. It emerged that Paul was intoxicated. Diana’s death sparked unprecedented mourning in Britain and overseas. Dubbed “the People’s Princess” by Prime Minister Tony Blair, her funeral was watched by a UK television audience of over 32 million, with millions more watching around the world.
Scotland votes for its own parliament
In a referendum on 11 September 1997, more than 74% of votes cast supported a return of Scotland’s parliament, 300 years after it had been abolished. However, turnout was just 60%.
Wales votes for a national assembly
A referendum held in Wales on 18 September 1997 narrowly supported the creation of a National Assembly for Wales – now known as the Senedd Cymru, or Welsh Parliament. Turnout was just over 50% and of those 50.3% voted in favour.
1972 – 50 years ago
Coal miners on strike
Coal miners began a strike for higher pay on 9 January. Schools were forced to close and factories laid off workers. The Government declared a state of emergency on 9 February. Miners returned to work on 25 February.
Troops opened fire on a demonstration on Sunday 30 January in Londonderry (Derry), Northern Ireland. Fourteen civilians, subsequently found to be unarmed, were killed, fifteen were injured. It was the first of several shocking events in 1972 that formed part of ‘the Troubles’, the 30-year conflict between extremist Irish republicans and unionists in Northern Ireland that often spilled into mainland Britain. On 22 February, an IRA (Irish Republican Army) terrorist car bomb killed six civilians and an army padre at Aldershot army barracks, Hampshire. On 30 March, Stormont, the Northern Ireland Parliament, was suspended and direct rule from Westminster was introduced. On 3 June, Protestant marchers clashed with the army, which responded with rubber bullets. On 21 July, ‘Bloody Friday’, the IRA set off some 20 or more bombs over an 80 minute period in Belfast, killing nine and injuring 130. Three more car bombs on 31 July in Claudy killed a further nine people and injured 30.
Football in 1972
Leeds United beat Arsenal 1-0 to win the FA Cup, Derby County won the Football League and Rangers won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, beating FC Dynamo Moscow 3–2 in the final in Barcelona.
Edward, Duke of Windsor, dies
Edward, Duke of Windsor, briefly King Edward VIII in 1936 until his abdication, died of cancer in his French home on 28 May 1972.
Staines Air Disaster
On 18 June 1972, British European Airways Flight 548 crashed near Staines shortly after take-off from Heathrow. All 118 people aboard died. It was the UK’s worst air accident until the Lockerbie disaster in 1988.
National dock strike
A national strike of dock workers on 28 July led to the Government declaring a state of emergency on 4 August.
Ugandan Asians come to Britain
On 6 August 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin announced that more than 50,000 Asians with British passports would be expelled from Uganda within 90 days. Amin denounced these people as ‘bloodsuckers’. Many made their homes in the United Kingdom, began arriving on 18 September and helped to transform Britain.
Terror at the Munich Olympics
Meanwhile – the Munich Olympics were held in West Germany from 26 August to 11 September 1972. The competition was overshadowed by the murder of eleven members of the Israeli team and a police officer inside the Olympic village by Palestinian Black September terrorists.
School leaving age raised
The school leaving age was raised from fifteen to sixteen on 1 September 1972.
The first Mastermind
The first episode of the BBC quiz programme ‘Mastermind’ was broadcast from the University of Liverpool on 11 September 1972 at 2245hrs. Apparently, the format was based on producer Bill Wright’s 3 years as a prisoner of war during WW2. The Mastermind interrogator was Magnus Magnusson. The Radio Times said: “This new and exciting brain game invites contenders to take the stand and defend their claim to the title of Mastermind of the United Kingdom. They have two minutes in which to establish their knowledge of a chosen subject with a further two minutes to consolidate their position by answering questions right across the board.”
The first Emmerdale
The first episode of the ITV soap opera, ‘Emmerdale’ was broadcast at lunchtime on 16 October 1972 as ‘Emmerdale Farm’.
The first domestic Video Cassette Recorder
The Philips Model 1500 VCR launched in 1972 was the first domestic cassette recorder and came complete with TV tuner and timer. According to Wikipedia, it cost “nearly £600 (equivalent to £8,100 in 2020). By comparison, a small car (the Morris Mini) could be purchased for just over £600.”
Born in 1972
Those celebrating their 50th birthday might include:
Mark Owen – Mark Owen, vocalist with the group ‘Take That’, was born in Oldham, Lancashire, on 27 January 1972.
Katya Adler – Michal Katya Adler, journalist, was born in London on 3 May 1972.
James Cracknell – James Edward Cracknell, Olympic rower, was born in the London Borough of Sutton on 5 May 1972.
Geri Halliwell – Geraldine Estelle Halliwell, singer and ex-Spice Girl, was born in Watford on 6 August 1972.
Victoria Coren Mitchell – Victoria Elizabeth Coren, journalist, presenter and poker player, was born in Hammersmith, London, on 18 August 1972.
Idris Elba – Idrissa Akuna Elba, actor, was born in Hackney, London, on 6 September 1972.
Liam Gallagher – William John Paul Gallagher, vocalist and songwriter (famously with Oasis), was born in Manchester on 21 September 1972.
Miranda Hart – Miranda Katherine Hart Dyke, comedienne and actress, was born in Torquay on 14 December 1972.
1947 – 75 years ago
The winter of 1947
The winter of 1946–1947 is a notable event in modern European history. In Britain, it caused severe hardship and disrupted energy supplies to homes and businesses, because snow blocked roads and railways, preventing the transportation of coal. The publication of newspapers and magazines was restricted, for a time television services were suspended and there were serious concerns about food shortages. Livestock froze or starved to death. When warmer weather came in March, the thaw brought widespread flooding. The weather is sometimes cited as a factor in the declining popularity of the Labour Government.
Gardeners’ Question Time
The first edition of the BBC radio programme Gardeners´ Question Time was broadcast on 9 April 1947 as ‘How Does your Garden Grow?’ in the north of England. It went national in 1957 as ‘Down the Garden Path’ and changed to ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ later that year.
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
The first Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod was held from 11-15 June 1947. It was hoped that the Welsh eisteddfod tradition could provide a means of healing wounds from the Second World War and help promote peace. Some 40 choirs from England, Scotland and Wales were joined by 10 groups from overseas.
Independence for India and Pakistan
Pakistan and India gained independence from the United Kingdom on 14 and 15 August (respectively) 1947. Former British India was divided along religious lines into the Dominions of India and Pakistan, the partition was accompanied by considerable religious violence and the displacement of nearly 15 million people during which an unknown number died. India became a republic in 1950, followed by Pakistan in 1956.
Whitehaven mining disaster 1947
Whitehaven’s worst pit disaster occurred on 15 August when 104 men died at the William Pit following a violent explosion. There were 117 men working underground at the time; most were trapped by heavy falls.
The first Edinburgh Festivals
Edinburgh’s first ‘International Festival of Music and Drama’ took place from 22 August to 11 September 1947. Edinburgh Festival Fringe developed from eight groups that arrived hoping to perform, but were refused entry. They went ahead and performed on the fringe of the Festival anyway. See summer in Britain for events.
Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten
Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth was the elder daughter of King George VI and heir presumptive to the British throne. Philip was a former Greek-Danish prince who had been made Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich before the wedding.
Partition of Palestine
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations approved a Partition Plan for Palestine, creating separate Arab and Jewish states and ending the British Mandate of Palestine, which had been established in 1920. Britain gave up the mandate on 15 May 1948. British forces left Palestine leaving the Jews and the Arabs to fight out the wars that followed. Around 750 British military and police lives had been lost to terrorist attacks.
Born in 1947
Remembrance of or a happy 75th birthday to:
Rick Stein – Christopher Richard Stein, chef and restaurateur, born on 4 January 1947 in Churchill, Oxfordshire.
Sandy Denny – Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny, singer-songwriter with the Strawbs, Fairport Convention and Fotheringay before pursuing a solo career, was born on 6 January 1947 in Merton Park, London. She died in Wimbledon on 21 April 1978.
David Bowie – David Robert Jones, one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of the 20th century, and an actor, was born in Brixton, London, on 8 January 1947. He died in New York City, USA, on 10 January 2016.
Steve Marriott – Stephen Peter Marriott, musician and songwriter with the Small Faces and Humble Pie, was born in East Ham, London, on 30 January 1947 and died in a fire at his house in Arkesden, Essex, on 20 April 1991.
Dave Davies – David Russell Gordon Davies, musician with the Kinks and younger brother of Ray Davies, was born in Muswell Hill, London, on 3 February 1947.
Nicholas Owen – Nicholas David Arundel Owen, journalist and newsreader, was born in London on 10 February 1947.
Peter Osgood – Peter Leslie Osgood, footballer – most notably with Chelsea – was born in Clewer, Berkshire on 20 February 1947. He died on 1 March 2006; his ashes were buried under one of the penalty spots at Chelsea’s ground, Stamford Bridge.
Mike Read – Michael David Kenneth Read, disc jockey, television presenter, pop music expert and songwriter, was born in Manchester on 1 March 1947.
Kiki Dee – Pauline Matthews, singer, was born on 6 March 1947 in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She famously helped Elton John achieve his first UK No 1 in 1976 with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.
Pam Ayres – Pamela Ayres, poet, writer of comic verse – often delivered in a distinctive country accent – was born on 14 March 1947 in Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire.
Peter Skellern – Peter Skellern, singer-songwriter, was born on 14 March 1947 in Bury, Lancashire and died in Lanteglos-by-Fowey, Cornwall, on 17 February 2017.
Alan Sugar – Alan Michael Sugar, entrepreneur, possibly best known as founder of the electronics company AMSTRAD (initials from Alan Michael Sugar Trading) and star of the TV series The Apprentice, was born on 24 March 1947 in Hackney, London.
Elton John – Elton Hercules John (Reginald Kenneth Dwight), composer extraordinaire, pianist and singer, was born in Pinner, London Borough of Harrow, on 25 March 1947.
Gerry Rafferty – Gerald Rafferty, singer-songwriter and musician with the band Stealers Wheel and as a solo artist, was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, on 16 April 1947. He died on 4 January 2011 in Stroud, Gloucestershire.
John Reid – John Reid, Labour politician, was a Member of Parliament and held a number of Cabinet positions including that of Home Secretary. He was born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, on 8 May 1947.
Jonathan Pryce – John Price, actor, was born on 1 June 1947 in the village of Carmel, Flintshire.
Ronnie Wood – Ronald David Wood, guitarist, notably with the Jeff Beck Group, Faces and Rolling Stones, was born in the London Borough of Hillingdon on 1 June 1947.
David Blunkett – David Blunkett, Labour politician, was a Member of Parliament and held a number of Cabinet positions including that of Home Secretary. He has been blind from birth in Sheffield on 6 June 1947.
Paul Young – Paul Young, singer, most notably with the bands Sad Café and Mike and the Mechanics, was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester, on 17 June 1947. He died suddenly on 15 July 2000 in Hale, Altrincham.
Mick Fleetwood – Michael John Kells Fleetwood is a musician, best known as drummer with and co-founder of the band, Fleetwood Mac. He was born on 24 June 1947 in Redruth, Cornwall.
Clarissa Dickson Wright – Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright, former barrister turned celebrity cook (one of the ‘Two Fat Ladies’, with Jennifer Paterson) and television personality, was born on 24 June 1947 in St John’s Wood, London and died in Edinburgh on 15 March 2014. She claimed to have had sex behind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons.
Richard Beckinsale – Richard Arthur Beckinsale, actor particularly known for 1970s TV sitcoms including ‘The Lovers’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Rising Damp’, was born in Carlton, a suburb of Nottingham, on 6 July 1947. He died on 19 March 1979 in Sunningdale, Berkshire and is the father of actresses Samantha and Kate Beckinsale.
Gareth Edwards – Gareth Owen Edwards, rugby player notably with Cardiff and the Welsh national team, was born on 12 July 1947 in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Swansea, Glamorgan.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – Camilla Rosemary Shand was born at King’s College Hospital, London, on 17 July 1947. She is the second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne.
Brian May – Brian Harold May, musician – notably guitarist with and co-founder of the rock band Queen – and an astrophysicist – was born in Twickenham, London on 19 July 1947.
David Essex – David Albert Cook, singer and actor, was born in Plaistow, London, on 23 July 1947.
Richard Griffiths – Richard Thomas Griffiths, actor, was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, in the historic county of the North Riding of Yorkshire, on 31 July 1947. He died on 28 March 2013 in Coventry.
Willy Russell – William Russell, playwright and screenwriter whose works include Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, was born on 23 August 1946 in Whiston, Merseyside.
Emlyn Hughes – Emlyn Walter Hughes, footballer, notably with Liverpool and the English national team (which he captained) was born in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria on 28 August 1947. He died at his home in Dore, near Sheffield, on 9 November 2004.
Tessa Jowell – Tessa Jane Helen Douglas Palmer, Labour politician, Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, was born in Marylebone, London, on 18 September 1947. She died at home on 12 May 2018 in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire.
Marc Bolan – Mark Feld, musician and glam rocker (notably with T Rex) was born in Hackney, London, on 30 September 1947. He died in a car crash in Barnes, London, on 16 September 1977.
Larry Lamb – Lawrence Douglas Lamb, actor (possibly best known for appearing in ‘Gavin & Stacey’), was born in Edmonton, north London, on 1 October 1947.
Ann Widdecombe – Ann Noreen Widdecombe, former Conservative politician, Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, later UK Independence Party/Reform UK, was born on 4 October 1947 in Bath.
Brian Johnson – Brian Francis Johnson, singer, notably with Australian rock band AC/DC, was born in Dunston, Gateshead, on 5 October 1947.
Dave Pegg – David Pegg, musician, notably with folk-rock band Fairport Convention, was born on 2 November 1947 in Acocks Green, Birmingham.
Jim Rosenthal – Jim Rosenthal, TV sports presenter, was born in Oxford on 6 November 1947.
Greg Lake – Gregory Stuart Lake, musician and singer-songwriter, notably with King Crimson, the prog-rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer and as a solo artist, was borne in Poole, Dorset, on 10 November 1947. He died in London on 7 December 2016.
1922 – 100 years ago
Transport and General Workers’ Union formed
The Transport and General Workers’ Union was formed on 1 January 1922 through the amalgamation of fourteen trade unions involved in the transport industry. Other unions joined over the years, making the T&G the largest trade union in Britain and, possibly, the free world. Its first General Secretary was Ernest Bevin, who went on to become Minister of Labour in Churchill’s wartime government and Foreign Secretary in Clement Attlee’s Labour Government. In 2007, the T&G joined with Amicus to form a new union – Unite.
First radio entertainment broadcasts
The world’s first regular radio entertainment broadcasts began by Station 2MT from a hut at the Marconi Company laboratories at Writtle near Chelmsford in Essex on 14 February 1922. They were made by Captain Peter Eckersley who went on to become the BBC’s first Chief Engineer. Eckersley used to broadcast the station’s call sign, “This is Two Emma Toc, Writtle testing, Writtle testing…”
The British Broadcasting Company, forerunner of the British Broadcasting Corporation, was formed on 18 October 1922 by a group of wireless (radio) manufacturers, including Marconi. The company was funded by royalties from the sale of the members’ radio sets and by a licence fee of ten shillings payable by the owner, introduced on 1 November. Daily broadcasting by the BBC began in Marconi’s London studio, 2LO, in the Strand, at 6pm on 14 November. Broadcasts from Birmingham and Manchester followed on 15 November. The first General Manager was a 33-year old Scottish engineer, with no knowledge of broadcasting, called John Reith. In 1927, the company received a royal charter as the British Broadcasting Corporation with Reith as Director General. One of Reith’s aims was much the same as A Bit About Britain’s – to inform, educate and entertain.
The BBC is the oldest national broadcaster in the world and possibly the largest in terms of employees. With a reputation for high standards and integrity, it maintained a monopoly over the legal radio airwaves until the first commercial radio station, LBC (London Broadcasting Company), swiftly followed by Capital Radio, came on air in 1973. The BBC launched the first public television service in Britain 1936; commercial TV began in 1955.
Discovery of Tutankhamen
Archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the entrance to the tomb of the 14th century BC Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings on 4 November 1922. He cabled the news to his sponsor, the Earl of Carnarvon, who arrived with his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, on 23 November. The following day, the entrance was cleared and Carter chiselled a small gap in a doorway. “Can you see anything?” Carnarvon asked. “Yes,” replied Carter, “Wonderful things!”
In March 1923, Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito, which turned septic, and he died in April. Stories have circulated for years about his death being brought about by the disturbed pharaoh’s angry spirit – the curse of Tutankhamen!
The story of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is told in the Egyptian Exhibition at Highclere Castle, home of the Earls of Carnarvon (and popularised as the fictional Downton Abbey).
The 1922 Committee is often mentioned in the news. The 1922 Committee is the powerful committee of all Conservative backbench Members of Parliament. It is often thought to have been formed by a meeting of Conservative MPs in the Carlton Club, who voted against remaining in Prime Minister Lloyd George’s coalition, thus bringing about the General Election of October 1922. That is not correct; it was actually set up in April 1923 by new Conservative MPs elected at that election.
The 1922 General Election is significant in Britain’s story, because it saw the Labour Party emerge as the second biggest in the House of Commons at the expense of the Liberals, which had split into two groups. The results (in seats) were: Conservative 344; Labour 142; Liberal 62; National Liberal 53; Others 14.
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State officially came into existence on 6 December 1922, following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and against a background of Civil War in Ireland between those who supported the treaty and those who opposed it. The Free State was a Dominion of the British Commonwealth with King George V as its monarch. Northern Ireland opted out of the Free State and remained part of the United Kingdom.
The famous Branston Pickle, a fruit-flavoured vegetable chutney, began production in 1922. It was made by the food firm Crosse & Blackwell at a factory in the Staffordshire village of Branston originally intended for the manufacture of machine-guns. The recipe is attributed to a Mrs Caroline Graham and her daughters, Evelyn and Ermentrude. I like a bit on a cheese sandwich – how about you?
Born in 1922
Remember some celebrities born 100 years ago:
Eric Heffer – Eric Samuel Heffer, left-wing Labour Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, was born in Hertford on 12 January 1922 and died on 27 May 1991.
James Hanson – James Edward Hanson, businessman with a reputation for company takeovers and co-founder of Hanson Trust, later simply Hanson, was born in on 20 January 1922 in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and died near Newbury, Berkshire, on 1 November 2004.
Paul Scofield – David Paul Scofield, actor possibly best known for his award-winning portrayal of Thomas More in ‘A Man for All Seasons’, was born on 21 January 1922 in Edgbaston, Birmingham. He died in Brighton, East Sussex, on 19 March 2008.
Raymond Baxter – Raymond Frederic Baxter, TV presenter perhaps best known for the BBC science programme ‘Tomorrow’s World’, was born in Ilford, Essex on 25 January 1922 and died in Reading, Berkshire, on 15 September 2006.
Michael Bentine – Michael James Bentin, comedian (including one of the original Goons), writer and presenter, was born in Watford on 26 January 1922 and died in London on 26 November 1996.
Patrick Macnee – Daniel Patrick Macnee, actor possibly best known as John Steed in TV’s ‘The Avengers’, was born in Paddington, London, on 6 February 1922 and died on 25 June 2015 in Rancho Mirage, California, USA.
Denis Norden – Denis Mostyn Norden, comedy script writer and raconteur, was born in Hackney, London, on 6 February 1922 and died in Hampstead, London, on 19 September 2018.
Hattie Jacques – Josephine Edwina Jaques, actress best known for her parts in the Carry On films (“Oooh, Matron!”) was born in Sandgate, Kent, on 7 February 1922. She died at her home in Earl’s Court, London, on 6 October 1980.
Francis Pym – Francis Leslie Pym, Conservative politician, Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister (including Foreign Secretary), was born on 13 February 1922 in Abergavenny, Wales and died on 7 March 2008 in Sandy, Bedfordshire.
Margaret Leighton – Margaret Leighton, actress, was born on 26 February 1922 in Barnt Green, near Birmingham, and died in Chichester, West Sussex, on 13 January 1976.
Michael Flanders – Michael Henry Flanders, actor, writer and performer of comic songs, famously in partnership with Donald Swann (1923-94) was born in London on 1 March 1922 and died in Betws-y-Coed, Wales, on 14 April 1975.
Tom Finney – Thomas Finney, footballer, famously with Preston North End and the English national team, was born in Preston, Lancashire, on 5 April 1922 and died there on 14 February 2014.
Kingsley Amis – Kingsley William Amis, prolific writer best known for his satirical novels (eg Lucky Jim, That Uncertain Feeling), and teacher, was born in Clapham, London, on 16 April 1922 and died in London on 22 October 1995.
Alistair MacLean – Alistair Stuart MacLean, fiction writer whose works included HMS Ulysses, The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare, was born in Shettleston, Glasgow, on 21 April 1922 and died in Munich, West Germany, on 2 February 1987.
Christopher Lee – Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, actor famed for his roles in horror movies and playing badies (such as Dracula), was born on 27 May 1922 in Belgravia, London. He died in Chelsea, London, on 7 June 2015.
Denholme Elliott – Denholm Mitchell Elliott, actor, was born in Kensington, London, on 31 May 1922. He died on 6 October 1992 in Santa Eulària des Riu, on the island of Ibiza.
Carmen Silvera – Carmen Blanche Silvera, actress – possibly best known for playing the part of Edith in the long running TV sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo! – was born on 2 June 1922 in Toronto, Canada. She died on 3 August 2002 in Denville Hall, a nursing home in Northwood, London.
Mollie Sugden – Mary Isobel Sugden, actress known to millions as Mrs Slocombe in the sitcom ‘Are You Being Served?’, was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on 21 July 1922. She died in Guildford, Surrey on 1 July 2009.
Len Murray – Lionel Hodskinson, influential trade unionist and leader of the Trades Union Congress from 1973 to 1984, was born in Hadley, Shropshire, on 2 August 1922. He died in Loughton, Essex, on 20 May 2004, or in London.
Bill Sparks – William Edward Sparks was one of just two surviving ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ from the infamous Operation Frankton, a Royal Marine Commando raid in 1942. He was born in Clerkenwell, London, on 5 September 1922 and died on 30 November 2002 in Alfriston, East Sussex.
Ursula Howells – Ursula Howells, actress, was born on 17 September 1922 in London. She died there on 16 October 2005.
Jock Stein – John Stein was a footballer, but mainly football manager, primarily of Celtic FC and the Scottish national team. He was born in Burnbank, Lanarkshire, on 5 October 1922 and died on 10 September 1985 at Ninian Park, Cardiff, at the end of a Wales v Scotland match. The result was a 1-1 draw.
Max Bygraves – Walter William Bygraves, singer, comedian, presenter with the catch phrase, “Wanna tell you a story”, was born on 16 October 1922 in Rotherhithe, London. He died on Hope Island, Queensland, Australia, on 31 August 2012.
Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington – Jean Alys Campbell-Harris, colourful Conservative politician, codebreaker and socialite, was born in London on 23 October 1922 and died in her sleep on 26 November 2018.
1897 – 125 years ago
Blackwall Tunnel opens
The Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames between London’s East End and Greenwich was opened by the Prince of Wales on 22 May 1897. Its purpose was to ease congestion in the populous East End and, in its day, it was the longest underwater road tunnel in the world, including approach roads a mile and a quarter in length, with 1,220 feet (372 metres) under the river. It was designed with several sharp bends to align with wharfs on either side and to avoid a sewer, though some say the bends were to prevent horses bolting at the sight of distant daylight. The contractor was S Pearson & Son, which subsequently evolved into Pearson plc – owners of the Penguin publishing group and the Financial Times. More than four million pedestrians and 335,000 vehicles used it in its first year.
Dracula, by Bram (Abraham) Stoker (1847-1912), one of the classic Gothic horror stories, was published on 26 May 1897.
National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was formed on 14 October 1897 by the amalgamation of various groups campaigning for women’s suffrage. Its president was Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929). The NUWSS sought to achieve its objectives by democratic and non-militant means – unlike the breakaway Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU, or ‘suffragettes’) which was formed in 1903 in Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928).
Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
On 22 June 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her accession to the throne in 1837, 60 years previously.
Born in 1897
Dennis Wheatley – Dennis Yeats Wheatley, prolific writer of thrillers and occult novels, was born in Brixton, London, on 8 January 1897 and died in Knightsbridge, London, on 10 November 1977.
John Laurie – actor John Paton Laurie began his career on stage in 1922, but is probably best remembered as Private Frazer in TV’s ‘Dad’s Army’. He was born on 25 March 1897 in Dumfries and died on 23 June 1980 in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. “We’re all doomed.”
Anthony Eden – Robert Anthony Eden, Conservative politician, Member of Parliament and Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary, Prime Minister 1955-57, was born on 12 June 1897 at Windlestone Hall, the family home in County Durham. Eden resigned on the grounds of ill-health following the debacle of the Suez Crisis in 1956. He died at his home, Alvediston Manor in Wiltshire, on 14 January 1977.
RJ Yeatman – Robert Julian Yeatman was the co-author (with Walter Carruthers Sellar 1898-1951) of the influential history book ‘1066 and All That’ – possibly the best history book ever until ‘A Bit About Britain’s History’. Yeatman was born in Oporto, Portugal, on 15 July 1897 and died on 13 July 1968 in South Kensington, London.
Enid Blyton – Enid Mary Blyton, prolific author of children’s stories, was born on 11 August 1897 in East Dulwich, London. She died on 28 November 1968 in Hampstead, London.
Aneurin Bevan – Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, trade unionist, Labour politician, Member of Parliament and Cabinet who, as Minister of Health, led the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent. He died on 6 July 1960 in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.
1872 – 150 years ago
The first FA Cup Final
The Football Association Challenge Cup, now known as the FA Cup, was first contested in the 1871-72 season and the first Final was played on 16 March 1872 between Wanderers and Royal Engineers at Kennington Oval, London. Wanderers won, 1-0. The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world.
Secret ballot introduced
The right to vote in privacy, away from the gaze of others, is one of the cornerstones of a democracy. That right in the United Kingdom was granted when the Ballot Act was passed in Parliament on 18 July 1872. It was put into practice soon after, at a by-election in Pontefract on 15 August. Britain’s first secret ballot box is on display at Pontefract Museum.
1847 – 175 years ago
London Zoo opens to the public
Regent’s Park Zoo, or ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zoo, is still generally known as London Zoo. It was the brainchild of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, opened on 27 April 1828 by the Zoological Society of London. Its collections were augmented by the additions of the menageries from Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. At that time, it was only accessible to fellows of the Society for the purposes of scientific study, but the zoo was opened to the public in 1847 to help funding.
The world’s first public park
The world’s first publicly funded public park, Birkenhead Park in Birkenhead, Merseyside, opened on 5 April 1847.
The birth of Booths
Northern England’s allegedly up-market supermarket chain, EH Booth, began in June 1847 when19-year old tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth secured a loan of £80 to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool. The debt was repaid three months later, with a profit of £50. EH Booth’s second shop opened in Chorley in 1855. The service is better than ASDA’s, for sure.
Published in 1847
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, under the pen name of Currer Bell, was published on 16 October 1847.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë’, under the pen name of Ellis Bell, was published in December 1847, along with Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë’, under the pen name of Acton Bell.
The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat (Frederick Marryat 1792-1848), the classic children’s tale of the Civil War, was published in 1847.
1822 – 200 years ago
Her Majesty’s Coastguard is known for its exemplary role in search and rescue around the shores of the United Kingdom. In fact, its origins are as a force to control smuggling, which was rife around Britain during the 17th/18th centuries. In 1809, the Board of Customs formed the Preventative Water Guard to fight smugglers, but the role naturally expanded to look after shipwrecks and their cargoes – as well as the crew and any passengers. A Treasury minute dated 15 January 1822 accepts a proposal to create a new force called ‘Coast Guard’, amalgamating three services set up to prevent smuggling – Revenue Cruisers (designated ships controlled by the Admiralty operating out to sea), Riding Officers (officers on horseback patrolling the coast) – and the Preventive Water Guard.
The Caledonian Canal opens
The Caledonian Canal is Scotland’s longest inland waterway, running 62 miles (100km) between Fort William in the west and Inverness in the east. It was designed as a safer route than the Pentland Firth, a hazardous strait between the Orkney Islands and Caithness. The engineer Thomas Telford was commissioned to run the project, which began in 1804 and finished in October 1822, 12 years over schedule and considerably over budget.
Last hanging for shoplifting
1772 – 250 years ago
The Somerset Case
The Somerset Case was a milestone legal case in the abolition of slavery. ‘James Somerset’ was born in Africa, captured, taken to Virginia, sold into slavery and bought by a Scottish merchant, Charles Stewart. Stewart brought Somerset to his London residence and had him baptised. Thereafter, Somerset left Stewart, but was recaptured and put on a ship destined for Jamaica. His godparents sought the help of abolitionist Granville Sharp and a legal case ensued. The judge, Lord Mansfield, could find no basis for slavery in English Law, so he ruled in Somerset’s favour on 22 June 1772, declaring that:
“The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law,…It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.”
This did not set slaves free, or abolish slavery, but it was a step in that direction. What Mansfield’s ruling did was provide slaves with the legal right not to be removed from Britain against their will.
1747 – 275 years ago
The last execution by beheading
The dubious honour of being the last person to be executed by beheading in Britain goes to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat. Lovat was Chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat, nicknamed ‘the Fox’ and seemingly an unpleasant, untrustworthy, violent individual who frequently changed sides. During the rebellion of 1745, he forced his son to fight with Bonnie Prince Charlie whilst himself declaring loyalty to King George. However, by the time of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he was firmly on the Prince’s side and, after the Jacobite defeat, he went on the run. He was tracked down, arrested, taken to London, put on trial, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. His beheading took place on Tower Hill on 9 April 1747 in front of a noisy crowd. The story goes that, just before the execution, a spectator stand collapsed, killing 20 people. This, apparently, amused the Old Fox who was still laughing when the axe fell, giving rise to the expression ‘laughing your head off’.
1672 – 350 years ago
The Third Dutch War
The Third Dutch War (sometimes referred to as the Third Anglo-Dutch War) was primarily a naval conflict between England, in alliance with France, against the Dutch Republic. It began on 7 April 1672 but was hugely unpopular in England and King Charles II was forced to withdraw. The French and Dutch carried on, but peace was proclaimed in England on 19 February 1674. One of the outcomes of the peace treaty was that New York, previously New Amsterdam and Dutch, but captured by the English in 1664 and retaken by the Dutch in 1673, reverted back to England.
1647 – 375 years ago
Scots sell the king
1647 was quite a year for King Charles I; he got sold and ended up on the Isle of Wight.
In the Civil Wars of 1642-51, the Royalist armies of Charles I had effectively been destroyed by 1645 and the King faced an uncertain future. In April 1646, he made his way in disguise from the Royalist City of Oxford to the town of Newark, which was under siege by an alliance of a Parliamentary force and a Scottish Covenanter (Presbyterian) army. Charles chose to surrender to the Scots at nearby Southwell. After months of failing to persuade the King to accept their religious demands, in January 1647 the Scots reached a deal with the English Parliament to exchange Charles for a substantial payment. The sum is usually given as £100,000, but at least one source quotes £400,000. The King was subsequently held in a variety of different locations in England, eventually ending up in Hampton Court – from which he escaped in November 1647. He then tried to negotiate with the Governor of the Isle of Wight, who took him into custody at Carisbroke Castle. On 26 December 1647, Charles concluded a secret agreement with the Scots by which they would invade England and restore him to the throne, in return for his agreement to establish Presbyterianism in England.
1572 – 450 years ago
Harrow School founded
Harrow School, one of Britain’s best-known public schools for boys, was founded by John Lyon, a land-owning farmer from the village of Preston in the London Borough of Brent, in February 1572. Lyon was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I to endow a parish school in Harrow on the Hill as a free grammar school for 30 local boys. He died in 1592 and the school took its first pupils in 1615. Old Harrovians include Lord Byron, Robert Peel, Winston Churchill and Richard Curtis. It is possible to tour Harrow School – details on Harrow School’s website.
Francis Drake raids the Spanish Main
Francis Drake, explorer, pirate, slave trader and more, set off with two small ships to raid Spanish possessions in the Caribbean – the Spanish Main. During the course of his jaunt, he became the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean. He returned famous and rich with plunder, though Queen Elizabeth I was unable to publicly acknowledge his piracy having just agreed peace with King Philip of Spain.
1547 – 475 years ago
Henry VIII dies
King Henry VIII, founder of the Church of England, dissolver of monasteries, father of the Royal Navy, collector of wives and tyrant, died in the Palace of Whitehall on 28 January 1547. Edward VI, Henry’s son by his third wife, Jane Seymour, succeeded him at the age of nine.
Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh near Musselburgh, Scotland, was the last pitched battle between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns in 1603. It took place on 10 September 1547 and was a disastrous defeat for the Scots.
1522-25 – 500 years ago
England at war with France
In 1521, Henry VIII entered into a secret treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, against France. Charles visited Henry in England in 1522 and, on 29 May, Henry declared war on France. English ships attacked the coast of Brittany in June and July and troops linked up with those of Charles in September. They achieved little and were back in Calais (which was then English) in October.
1497 – 525 years ago
Cabot discovers Newfoundland
Commissioned by King Henry VII of England, Venetian/Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto c1450-c1498) set sail from Bristol sometime in May 1497 with a crew of 18 aboard the ship Matthew. He came ashore in late June on Newfoundland, believing it to be China, and received a £10 reward and a pension from Henry. Cabot’s landing place is disputed, but generally believed to be Cape Bonavista. Newfoundland was previously ‘discovered’ by Norse Vikings in the 10th/11th centuries, who settled at L’Anse aux Meadows in the north of Newfoundland – thought to be the first European settlement in North America. The earliest European settlement in Newfoundland in modern times dates from the early 17th century.
1422 – 600 years ago
Death of Henry V
Henry V ruled England briefly, from 1413 to 1422. He left a fearsome reputation as a warrior king, famous for his campaigns in France, including victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, culminating with the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 and marriage to Catherine of Valois, daughter of the French king, Charles VI. The treaty also made Henry heir to the French crown on the death of Charles. Henry’s early death on 31 August 1422 made his 9-month old son, King Henry VI of England and, when the infant’s French grandfather died in October 1422, King of France too. The problems of Henry VI’s reign precipitated the awful dynastic conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Catherine of Valois went on to marry Owen Tudor – and their grandson was Henry VII.
1297 – 725 years ago
Battle of Stirling Bridge
Scotland’s Andy Murray and William Wallace defeated an English army at Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297. Following Scots support for the French, Edward I of England had invaded Scotland, deposed the King, John Balliol and left an army of occupation. Sir William Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray led a rebellion and met an English army outside Stirling. The English advanced over a narrow bridge over the River Forth. The Scots fell upon the English from the high ground on Abbey Craig, cutting the invading army in two. The narrowness of the bridge prevented the English commander, the Earl of Surrey, from reinforcing and the portion of his forces that had crossed the bridge were cut down, though some of managed to escape by swimming back across the river. The Scottish victory destroyed the myth of English invincibility. Legend has it that the hated English treasurer, Hugh de Cressingham, was flayed after the battle and that Wallace made himself a belt from the skin. The actual bridge of the battle was destroyed at the time. The current ‘old’ bridge was built downstream of it in the 16th century and is still in use by pedestrians.
1072 – 950 years ago
The Treaty of Abernethy
Under the Treaty of Abernethy of 1072, King Malcolm III of Scotland acknowledged King William I of England as his feudal overlord. Many Saxon nobles sought sanctuary in Scotland following the victory of William over King Harold at Hastings in 1066. These included Prince Edgar, the last male member of the Royal House of Wessex, his mother and two sisters. Legend has it they came ashore in Fife and were greeted by King Malcolm, who fell in love with Edgar’s sister, Margaret (later St Margaret) and married her. Malcolm invaded England in 1070, probably to grab land, but William eventually retaliated and beat Malcolm in battle at Abernethy, in Perthshire. Malcolm’s submission to William, accepting that he was “the English king’s man”, would haunt the Scots for centuries.
597AD – 1425 years ago
St Augustine converts the pagan English
St Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet, in the Kingdom of Kent, in 597 AD and reintroduced Christianity to southern Britain. By the end of the 4th century, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, but is not thought to have survived in Britain after the Romans left, except in Wales and the South West. The story of Augustine’s mission began, according to legend, when Pope Gregory the Great spotted some fair-haired youngsters in Rome’s slave market and asked who they were. “Angles”, came the reply. The Pope, blessed with an awful sense of humour, quipped, “They are not Angles, but angels”, and promptly dispatched Augustine, with a team of 30 or 40 monks, to shepherd the pagan Anglo-Saxons into the Christian fold. The King of Kent, Ethelberht, was a pagan, but his wife, Bertha, was daughter of a Frankish king and a Christian – and that must have given Augustine a head start. Even so, Ethelberht insisted on meeting the Christian missionaries in the open, just in case they decided to try their dodgy magic on him. As it happened, Augustine was soon given permission to preach, managed to convert the king within a year, went on to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury and is known as ‘the Apostle of England.’ His feast day is 26 May.
Christ Church Cathedral Canterbury was founded by Augustine, but today’s building is a much later medieval Romanesque and Gothic building. Close to the Cathedral is St Martin’s, the oldest church building in Britain still used as a church. It was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent before St Augustine’s arrival and, by tradition, a renovated Roman building. Between the cathedral and St Martins are the ruins of the Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Augustine. They stand on the site of the original Anglo-Saxon Abbey, founded in 598 AD by St Augustine and dedicated to St Peter and St Paul – traditionally on the site of King Ethelbert of Kent’s pagan temple.
397AD – 1625 years ago
St Ninian, Scotland’s first Christian missionary
The legendary St Ninian is said to have landed in the Isle of Whithorn, south-east Scotland, to preach to the southern Picts in 397 AD – almost two centuries before Columba established Iona in 563 AD and when Roman rule still prevailed further south. Frankly, we are unlikely to ever know for certain whether this is true. However, the remains of a chapel are close to where the saint is alleged to have landed and the small town of Whithorn a few miles away is traditionally where Ninian established his mission, known as Candida Casa from the Latin meaning ‘white house’ – from which we get Whithorn. Not far from the chapel is Ninian’s Cave, said to be used by the saint when he needed some time to himself. There are various dedications to Ninian in Scotland, and Northern England. His feast day is 16 September.
122AD – 1900 years ago
The Romans build Hadrian’s Wall
The construction of Hadrian’s Wall, the defensive barrier that stretched 73 miles (118 km) from the Solway Firth in the west to Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east, began in 122AD. The Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction when visiting Britain, to defend the north-west border of the Empire. Troops were stationed at milecastles along its length and forts were later built at 5-mile (8 km) intervals. It was abandoned in the late 4th century. Much of it remains and it is possible to walk the entire length, if you’re that way inclined. There are multiple sites that can be visited, many of them in the care of English Heritage. The best preserved site along the wall is Housesteads Fort. At Vindolanda, where there is also a fascinating museum, excavations are ongoing and can be observed. To the far east, at Wallsend, is the site of Segedunum – which lay underneath Wallsend’s modern shipbuilding community until the houses were demolished to expose the foundations of the fort.
If you can think of any more significant ‘Anniversaries 2022’ (other than your own), please drop me a line via the contact page.