Anniversaries in 2023

Last updated on January 5th, 2024 at 12:53 pm

Which anniversaries were marked in Britain in 2023?  Below is a selection of fifty or so noteworthy occasions for your interest and amusement, from the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 to the Battle of Falkirk in 1298.  Each one was on someone’s calendar for 2023 – and each one offers an insight into Britain’s story.  Have a browse or click/tap a year to go to it.  Apologies – some of these internal links are no longer working – simply scroll to the year you want.

A Bit About Britain only highlights significant anniversaries – centenaries, half centuries and quarter centuries – otherwise we would be here all night.  So, this feature covers years ending in 98, 73, 48 and 23.  Other anniversaries that fit the bill include the founding of the NHS, Britain’s first chocolate egg and the Boston Tea Party.  Also mentioned are more than 70 British celebrities whose 125th, 100th, 75th or 50th birthdays might be celebrated or commemorated in 2023.

You might also be interested in the history timelines featured on this site. 

If you feel anything or anyone has been left out, please be polite and get in touch via the Contact Page.

1998 – 25 years 1898 – 125 years

1798 – 225 years

 1698 – 325 years
1973 – 50 years 1873 – 150 years 1773 – 250 years 1673 – 350 years
1948 – 75 years 1848 – 175 years 1748 – 275 years 1648 – 375 years
1923 – 100 years 1823 – 200 years 1723 – 300 years 1348 – 675 years
      1298 – 725 years


1998 – 25th anniversary of:


The Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement, officially the Belfast Agreement, was signed on 10 April 1998.  It followed the Downing Street Declaration of 1993 and three decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.  The conflict was taken to mainland Britain by terrorist republicans.  The Agreement created a new power-sharing arrangement, including an executive and assembly, and was based on a series of fundamental principles including:

  • The parity of esteem of both Protestant and Catholic communities;
  • The principle of consent underpinning Northern Ireland’s constitutional status;
  • The right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify and be accepted as British or Irish, or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship.


DVDs – Digital Video Discs or Digital Versatile Discs – arrived in Britain in 1998, having been developed in Japan. 

The Omagh bombing

The Omagh bombing occurred on 15 August when the Real Irish Republican Army exploded a car bomb in the Northern Irish market town of Omagh, County Tyrone.  It killed 29 people and injured about 220 others and is the worst terrorist atrocity in the history of The Troubles.  Victims included Catholics, Protestants, children, a pregnant woman and tourists.

1973 – 50th anniversary of:


The United Kingdom joining the EEC

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1973.  Ireland and Denmark joined at the same time.

Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, their eighth studio album on 1 March 1973.  It is playing as I type and is one of the most successful music albums ever, with sales estimated at over 45 million copies.

The IRA planted four bombs in London

Two of the Irish Republican Army’s bombs exploded on 8 March 1973, outside the Old Bailey and the Ministry of Agriculture.  Between 180 and 220 people were injured.  The two other bombs were found and made safe. It was the first of many attacks by the IRA on Britain and the British people.


VAT (Value-added tax) came into effect in the UK on 1 April 1973 at a single rate of 10%

The Cod War

The Cod War with Iceland escalated on 20 May, when the Royal Navy dispatched three frigates – HMS’s Cleopatra, Plymouth and Lincoln – to protect British fishing trawlers in disputed waters off Iceland.

Sunderland won the FA Cup

The 1973 FA Cup Final took place on 5 May at Wembley Stadium.  The contest was between lowly Second Division Sunderland and mighty First Division Leeds United, the previous season’s winners.  Sunderland had beaten both Manchester City and Arsenal to reach the final and won the final 1-0.  The goalscrorer was Ian Porterfield (1946-2007).  (Thanks to Colin Harrison for the nudge on this one!)

Tubular Bells

Tubular Bells, the debut studio album by 19-year old Mike Oldfield, was released on 25 May 1973, launching Oldfield’s career and Richard Branson’s Virgin Record label.

Bahaman Independence Day

The Bahamas gained independence from the United Kingdom on 10 July 1973.

Princess Anne’s first wedding

HRH Anne, the Princess Royal, married Lieutenant Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey on 14 November 1973.

Concorde’s first transatlantic crossing

The Anglo-French supersonic passenger aircraft made its first non-stop flight across the Atlantic on 26 September 1973, from Washington in the USA to Paris, in a time of three hours and 32 minutes.  A Boeing 747 took more than seven hours for the same trip.

Commercial radio in Britain

The BBC’s domestic monopoly of legal broadcasting in Britain ended on 8 October 1973, when LBC – (London Broadcasting Company) Britain’s first legal commercial radio station, began broadcasting.  This was followed on 10 October by Capital Radio in London, Britain’s first legal music-themed commercial radio station. Others followed. By the early 1990s, there were almost 100 local radio stations across the country.

Films released in 1973 included The Wicker Man, Live and Let Die (the eighth James Bond movie and the first to star Roger Moore) and The Exorcist (featuring music from Tubular Bells).


Born in 1973

Peter Andre, singer, born in Harrow, London, on 27 February. My daughter met him once and said he was very nice.

Penny Mordaunt, Conservative politician, born in Torquay, Devon, on 4 March 1973.

Scott Mills, radio disc jockey and TV presenter, born in Eastleigh, Hampshire, on 28 March 1973. 

Simon Farnaby, actor, writer, TV presenter and comedian, born in Darlington, Co Durham, on 2 April 1973.

Alice Roberts – Alice May Roberts, academic specialising in biological anthropology, author and TV presenter (Coast, Digging for Britain and others), was born on 19 May 1973 in Bristol.

Noel Fielding, comedian and TV presenter, born in Westminster, London, on 21 May 1973. 

Dermot O’Leary, TV presenter and radio disk jockey, born in Colchester, Essex, on 24 May 1973. 

Tom Tugendhat, Conservative politician, born in Westminster, London, on 27 June 1973.

Peter Kay, comedian, born in the Bolton area of Lancashire on 2 July 1973.

Fran Healy, musician, primarily with the band Travis, born in Stafford on 23 July 1973.

Kate Beckinsale, Kathrin Romany Beckinsale, actress, born in Chiswick, London, on 26 July 1973.

Banksy, unidentified street artist, might have been born in Yate, Gloucestershire, on 28 July 1973 (according to Wikipedia). 

Stephen Graham, actor, born in Kirkby, Merseyside, on 3 August 1973.

Ryan Giggs, footballer, born in Canton, Cardiff, on 29 November 1973.

Paula Radcliffe, athlete, born in Davenham, Cheshire, on 17 December 1973.

Lucy Worsley, museum curator, historian, TV presenter and author, born in Reading, Berkshire on 18 December 1973.

NHS hospital bed

1948 – 75th anniversary of:


British Railways

British Railways, the UK’s nationalised railway industry, came into being on 1 January.

Burmese independence

Burma (later renamed Myanmar) became independent of the United Kingdom on 4 January.

Britain’s first supermarket

The London Co-operative Society opened a self-service store in Manor Park, London, on 12 January.

Sri Lankan independence

Ceylon (later renamed Sri Lanka) became independent on 4 February.

Nationalisation of electricity

The Electricity Act 1947 came into effect, creating a nationalised electric supply.

Polo mints launched

Confectionary company Rowntree’s introduced ‘the mint with the hole’ on 15 April.

The first Land Rover

The Land Rover was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show on 30 April.

Windrush Day

The HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury on 22 June having sailed from Jamaica.  The ship carried 1027 passengers and 2 stowaways, of which more than 800 gave their last country of residence as somewhere in the Caribbean.  The event is seen by many as the start of mass immigration from Britain’s former imperial possessions.

The Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift began on 24 June following the Soviet Union’s blockade of the Allied sectors of the German city.  The Allies, predominantly Britain and the US, undertook to supply the city with essential supplies by air.  The USSR lifted the blockade on 12 May 1949.

Israeli independence

The declaration of a Jewish state was made by David Ben-Gurion on 14 May, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine.  Ben-Gurion was Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and later Israel’s first Prime Minister.  The first Arab-Israeli war began the following day.

Birth of the NHS

The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July, establishing a national public health system for the United Kingdom, free at the point of delivery. 

End of bread rationing

Bread had never been rationed during the Second World War, but rationing was introduced afterwards, on 21 July 1946.  It ended on 25 July 1948.

London Olympics

The Olympic Games were held in London from 29 July to 14 August 1948.  Great Britain and Northern Ireland won 3 gold, 14 silver and 6 bronze medals. 

The end of penal servitude and flogging

The Criminal Justice Act 1948 received Royal assent on 30 July.  It abolished penal servitude, hard labour and judicial corporal punishment (birching and flogging) in Britain, abolished the right of peers to be tried in the House of Lords and provided for remand centres for defendants aged 18–20 years old.

Nationalisation of gas

The Gas Act 1948 received Royal assent on 30 July, paving the way for the nationalisation of the industry in 1949.

Polo mints, launched in 1948

Born in 1948


Happy 75th birthday to:

Anthony Andrews, actor Anthony Colin Gerald Andrews was born on 12 January 1948 in Finchley, London.  One of his best-known roles was that of Sebastian Flyte in the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited.

Dennis Waterman, actor and singer perhaps best known for his roles in TV’s The Sweeney, Minder and New Tricks, was born in Clapham, London, on 24 February 1948.  He died in Madrid on 8 May 2022.

Jonathan Sacks, Jonathan Henry Sacks, Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, was born in London on 8 March 1948.  He died in London on 7 November 2020.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer, was born in Kensington, London, on 22 March 1948.  His works include the musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Matthew Corbett, actor, puppeteer and presenter, took over the Sooty Show from its creator, his father Harry Corbett.  He was born Peter Graham Corbett on 28 March 1948 in Guiseley, West Yorkshire.

Derek Thompson, actor probably best known for the role of Charlie Fairhead in the television soap Casualty, was born in Belfast on 4 April 1948.

Jeremy Beadle, writer, presenter, curator of oddities, was born on 12 April 1948 in Hackney, London.  He died in London on 30 January 2008.

Terry Pratchett, fantasy and science fiction author (creator of the Discworld series of books) was born Terence David John Pratchett on 28 April 1948 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.  He died on 12 March 2015 in Broad Chalke, Wiltshire.

Brian Eno, musician and record producer, aka ‘Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno’ was born Brian Peter George Eno in Melton, Suffolk, on 15 May 1948.  He first came to prominence as a member of the influential glam rock group, Roxy Music.

John Bonham, the drummer with rock group Led Zeppelin, was born John Henry Bonham in Redditch, Worcestershire, on 31 May 1948.  He died in Clewer, Berkshire, on 25 September 1980.

Ian McEwan, novelist, was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, Hampshire.

Ray Clemence, football goalkeeper most famously with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and the England national team, was born Raymond Neal Clemence on 5 August 1948 in Skegness, Lincolnshire.  He died on 15 November 2020.

Jeremy Irons, actor who came to prominence in the TV series Brideshead Revisited and the film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, was born on 19 September 1948 in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Olivia Newton-John, singer who by some will be forever known for the role of Sandy in the musical Grease, was born on 26 September 1948 in Cambridge.  She died on 8 August 2022 in the Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA.

Gerry Adams, Irish republican nationalist politician, was born in Belfast on 6 October 1948.

Rick Parfitt, guitarist and singer-songwriter with the group Status Quo, was born Richard John Parfitt in Woking, Surrey, on 12 October 1948.  He died on 24 December 2016 in Marbella, Spain.

Chris de Burgh, musician and singer-songwriter, was born Christopher John Davison in Venado Tuerto, Argentina, on 15 October 1948.

Lulu, singer and entertainer, was born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in 3 November 1948 in Lennoxtown, in East Dunbartonshire.  She first achieved success in 1964 at the age of 15 with her hit, Shout.

King Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as of 14 other Commonwealth states, was born in Buckingham Palace, London, on 14 November 1948.

Alan Parsons, musician, songwriter, producer and sound engineer, was born in Willesden, London, on 20 December 1948.

Peter Robinson, Democratic Unionist politician who served as First Minister of Northern Ireland 2008-16, was born in Belfast on 29 December 1948.

Austin 7, National Motor Museum

1923 – centenary of:

The Austin 7
The Austin 7 motor car, unveiled in 1922, went on sale in 1923. Specifically designed as a smaller car for younger families, it was nicknamed ‘the Baby Austin’ and, in production until 1939, was one of the most popular British production cars ever.  It was also licensed and copied by companies all over the world.

The first outside broadcast in Britain
The first outside broadcast in Britain by the British Broadcasting Company, forerunner of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was a British National Opera Company production of The Magic Flute from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 8 January 1923.

The executions of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters
Lovers Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters were executed simultaneously at 9am on 9 January 1923 at Holloway and Pentonville prisons respectively.  They were both found jointly guilty of the murder of Edith’s husband, Percy.  29-year-old Edith Thompson became hysterical at the prospect of being hanged.  She was heavily sedated and carried from her cell to her death on the gallows.  Some believe she was pregnant at the time.   20-year-old Frederick Bywaters admitted he had killed Percy, but his consistent protests of Edith’s innocence fell on deaf ears.  Almost one million people signed a petition against the death sentences, and Mrs Thompson’s mother wrote directly to the king, pleading with him to stop her daughter’s execution.

Welsh gold in Royal wedding rings
The tradition of using Welsh gold for Royal wedding rings began with the marriage of the future King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in Westminster Abbey on 26 April 1923.

Introduction of an annual licence fee for radios
The first wireless licence was issued in November 1923 for ten shillings (50p – a day’s wages for a skilled man in the 1920s, equivalent to about £30 today (sources National Archives and This is Money’s inflation calculator).  By the end of 1923, 200,000 licences had been issued and by 1928 this had risen to 2,500,000.

Tutankhamun’s burial chamber openedArchaeologist Howard Carter had discovered the entrance to the tomb of the 14th century BC Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings on 4 November 1922.  On 16 February 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway to the burial chamber, containing the boy pharaoh’s sarcophagus.

In March 1923, Carter’s patron, Lord Carnarvon, was bitten by a mosquito.  The bite 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 Tutankhamun!

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).

Born in 1923

Jack Watling, an actor who appeared in an enormous number of films from the 1950s onward, and later on television.  He was born on 13 January 1923 in Chingford, Essex, and died in Chelmsford, Essex, on 22 May 2001.

Ivor Cutler, often offbeat poet and musician, was born Isadore Cutler in Govan, Glasgow, on 15 January 1923.  He died in London on 3 March 2006.

Dora Bryan, prolific actress of stage, film and television (including Philadelphia cream cheese adverts) was born Dora May Broadbent on 7 February 1923 in Southport, Lancashire.  She died on 23 July 2014 in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex.

Joy Lofthouse was one of 168 ‘Attagirls’ of World War II – young women who joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) as trainee pilots flying aircraft from factories to RAF bases.  Joy flew bombers as well as Spitfires.  She was born Joyce Gough on 14 February 1923 in Cirencester, Gloucestershire and died on 15 November 2017.

Norman Smith, a former RAF glider pilot, was an EMI sound engineer who worked on early Beatles’ records, went on to become a record producer (including for Pink Floyd) and, as ‘Hurricane’ Smith, had a couple of hits himself.  John Lennon called him ‘Normal’.  He was born on 22 February 1923 in Edmonton, Middlesex, and died in East Sussex on 3 March 2008.

Ted Briggs, Albert Edward Pryke Briggs, was a career sailor with the Royal Navy and the last of three survivors from the crew of 1,418 when HMS Hood was sunk in 1941. He was born in Redcar, North Riding of Yorkshire on 1 March 1923 and died on 4 October 2008 in Portsmouth.

Basil Hume, Cardinal Hume was born George Haliburton Hume in Newcastle upon Tyne on 2 March 1923 and died in London on 17 June 1999.

Patrick Moore, astronomer, author, television presenter and personality.  He was born Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore in Pinner, Middlesex, on 4 March 1923.  Patrick Moore presented the BBC’s programme The Sky at Night from 1957 to 2013, the last episode being recorded before his death on 9 December 2012 in Selsey, West Sussex.

Terence Alexander was a film, television and stage actor, possibly best known for his role as Charlie Hungerford in the TV detective series, Bergerac.  He was born Terence Joseph Alexander on 11 March 1923 in Islington, London, and died in London on 28 May 2009.

Joan Joslin, Joan Winifred Glover, was born on 11 March 1923.  She was one of the last surviving Bletchley Park codebreakers, unable to talk about their work until the 1970s.  She died in Essex on 8 February 2020.

Peter Vaughan, an actor known for a variety of character roles on television – his final part was in HBO’s Game of Thrones – was born Peter Ewart Ohm on 4 April 1923 in Wem, Shropshire.  He died on 6 December 2016 in Mannings Heath, West Sussex.

John Mortimer, barrister and writer who created the series Rumpole of the Bailey, was born John Clifford Mortimer in Hampstead, London, on 21 April 1923.  He died on 16 January 2009 in Turville Heath, Buckinghamshire.

Eric Sykes was a prolific writer and performer of comedy from the 1950s, but also undertook serious acting roles – notably in The Others and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.  He was born in Oldham, Lancashire, on 4 May 1923 and died on 4 July 2012 in Esher, Surrey.

Muriel Young was a TV presenter, particularly of children’s programmes in the 1960s, and producer.  She was born on 19 June 1923 in Bishop Middleham, Co Durham, and died on 24 March 2001 in Stanhope, Co Durham.

Michael Medwin, ubiquitous actor from the 1940s to the noughties, was born in London on 18 July 1923 and died on 26 February 2020 in Bournemouth.

Larry Grayson, television comedian and game show host famous for his suggestive camp catchphrases, was born William Sulley White on 31 August 1923 in Banbury, Oxfordshire.  He died on 7 January 1995 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Richard Attenborough, actor and director, was born in Cambridge on 29 August 1923 and died in Northwood, London, on 24 August 2014.  His credits as a film director include Oh! What a Lovely War, A Bridge Too Far and Gandhi.

Marmaduke Hussey was born on 29 August 1923 and died on 27 December 2006.  He was chief executive and managing director of Times Newspapers, but is most famously known as Chairman of the BBC from 1986-1996, during which period he had serious disagreements with Director-Generals Alasdair Milne, then John Birt.

Donald Swann, Donald Ibrahim Swann was born in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, on 30 September 1923.  He was a composer, musician, entertainer and one half of the Flanders and Swann act (with Michael Flanders 1922-75).  He died in London on 23 March 1994.

Glynis Johns, actress, was born Glynis Margaret Payne Johns on 5 October 1923 in Pretoria, South Africa.  Her career spanned the 1930s to the 1990s. She died in Los Angeles, California, USA, on 4 January 2024.

Donald Sinden, one of the most respected actors of his generation, was born in Plymouth on 9 October 1923 and died on 12 September 2014 in Wittersham, Kent.

Nicholas Parsons, actor, but most famously presenter (radio’s Just a Minute and TV’s Sale of the Century), was born Christopher Nicholas Parsons on 10 October 1923 in Grantham, Lincolnshire.  He died on 28 January 2020 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Murray Walker, motorsport commentator, was born Graeme Murray Walker on 10 October 1923 in Hall Green, Birmingham.  He was the voice of Formula One television commentary from 1976 to 2001 and died on 3 March 2021 in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

Robin Day, born in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London on 24 October 1923, was a political journalist perhaps best known for his bow ties, slightly abrasive manner and as the host of TV’s Question Time from 1979-89.  He died in London on 6 August 2000.

Gordon Jackson, Gordon Cameron Jackson, actor, was born in Glasgow on 19 December 1923.  He is possibly best remembered as the butler Mr Hudson in TV’s Upstairs, Downstairs, George Cowley in The Professionals and MacDonald, ‘Intelligence’, in the film of The Great Escape.  He died in London on 15 January 1990.

Peregrine Worsthorne, born Peregrine Gerard Koch de Gooreynd in Chelsea, London, on 22 December 1923, was an outspoken political journalist and newspaper editor with the Daily and Sunday Telegraph.  He died in on 4 October 2020 in Buckinghamshire.

1898 – 125th anniversary of:

The Battle of Omdurman
One feature of the Battle of Omdurman was what is often said to be the last cavalry charge of the British army*, made by the 21st Lancers.  Among those present was a young soldier-reporter, Winston Churchill.  The battle was fought on 2 September 1898 as part of the Sudanese, or Mahdist War.  British and Egyptian troops commanded by the Sidar, Major-General Horatio Herbert Kitchener defeated a numerically superior force of Sudanese ‘Dervish’ tribesmen led by Khalifa Abdullah al-Taashi, thus establishing British-Egyptian dominance in the Sudan.  The Sirdar’s army comprised 8,200 British and 17,600 Egyptian (including Sudanese) troops; the Khalifa’s army numbered around 50,000.  However, the tribesmen faced modern rifles, machine guns and artillery.  Estimates of casualties vary, but it is thought that the Sirdar’s army suffered some 480 killed and wounded, against Dervish losses of some 9,700 dead and around 12,000 wounded.

* Given that neither Britain’s involvement in wars, nor use of cavalry, came to an end in 1898, I have often wondered about this claim.  I know Britain used cavalry in the opening stages of WW1, before the fighting became static.  A quick consultation with Dr Google revealed other candidates for ‘the last cavalry charge of the British army’ – at Huj in Palestine in November 1917, Syria in June 1941 and Toungoo in Burma (Myanmar) in 1942.

The Fashoda Incident
The Fashoda Incident could have resulted in war between Britain and France; history would have taken a different path.  A small French expedition heading north up the Nile and led by soldier-explorer Jean-Baptiste Marchand, occupied an abandoned Egyptian fort at Fashoda (now Kodok, in South Sudan).  A much larger, more powerful, British force commanded by Horatio Herbert Kitchener arrived on 18 September with the aim of occupying the fort, but discovered the French already there.  A reasonably amicable standoff ensued, during which neither side wanted to give way but, equally, both wanted to avoid a military confrontation.  Both governments were frantically consulted.  Eventually, a compromise was reached, spheres of influence agreed and the French withdrew.  In 1904, the two countries agreed the Entente Cordiale.

Britain’s first escalator
French company Piat installed England’s first escalator – or ‘moving staircase’ as we Brits used to call them – in Harrods, Knightsbridge, in 1898. It opened on 16 November, a 40 feet high inclined leather belt with plate glass sides and mahogany handrails.  Apparently, customers were offered brandy and smelling salts at the top as a restorative after the adventure of the ascent.

War of the Worlds
HG Wells’ sixth novel, War of the Worlds, was published in book form in 1898, having previously been serialised in a magazine.  It forms part of a genre of invasion literature that was popular at the time, but has never been out of print and has inspired various adaptations, including several film versions and a musical album.  In 1938, Orson Welles’s realistic radio adaptation in the USA caused havoc when listeners assumed the country was being invaded.

Born in 1898


Happy 125th birthday to a few people you may have heard of:

Gracie Fields, ‘Our Gracie’, music-hall performer, singer and comedian, was born Grace Stansfield on 9 January 1898 – famously over a fish and chip shop in Rochdale, Lancashire.  She died at La Canzone Del Mare, Capri, Italy, on 27 September 1979.

Mary Adams, Britain’s first female television producer, was born Mary Grace Agnes Campin in Hermitage, Berkshire, on 10 March 1898.  She died on 15 May 1984 at University College Hospital, London.

Henry Hall, bandleader who led the BBC Dance orchestra from 1932 and became a national figure, was born in Peckham, London on 2 May 1898.  He died in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on 28 October 1989.

Ninette de Valois, born Edris Stannus, was the founder of the Royal Ballet in 1931.  She was a professional ballet dancer, born in Blessington, County Wicklow, Ireland on 6 June 1898.  She died on 8 March 2001 in Barnes, south west London.

Donald Healey, motor engineer, rally driver and founder of the Donald Healy Motor Company, was born on 3 July 1898 in Perranporth, Cornwall.  He died in Truro on 15 January 1988.

Gertrude Lawrence, singer and actress known for her stage performances in the West End and Broadway, was born Gertrude Alice Dagmar Klasen on 4 July 1898 in London.  She died in New York City, USA, on 6 September 1952.

Henry Moore, the internationally renowned sculptor and artist, was born Henry Spencer Moore in Castleford, West Riding of Yorkshire, on 30 July 1898.  He died on 31 August 1986 in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire.

Mildred Creak, child psychologist known for her pioneering work on autism, was born Eleanor Mildred Creak in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport on 1 August 1898.  She died on 25 August 1993 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Violet Carson, was an actress and pianist, now best known for playing the hair-netted role of Ena Sharples in the TV soap, Coronation Street.  She was born in Ancoats, Manchester, on 1 September 1898 and died in Blackpool on 26 December 1983.

C S Lewis, Charles Staples Lewis was an academic at Oxford and Cambridge, author and theologian, born in Belfast on 29 November 1898.  He is most famous for the Chronicles of Narnia series of children’s books, but also produced academic works such as The Allegory of Love and wrote about his faith.  He was good friends with other authors, including J R R Tolkien, who met in Oxford pubs as an informal literary group, The Inklings.  (See Aslan and Gandalf go for a pint). Lewis died on 22 November 1963 – the same day as Aldous Huxley and the murder of John F Kennedy.

W C Sellar, Walter Carruthers Sellar was a teacher and writer – he wrote for the magazine, Punch – and was the co-author (with Robert Julian Yeatman 1897-1968) of the influential history book 1066 and All That – possibly the best history book ever until A Bit About Britain’s History, which includes at least three more dates. Sellar was born in Golspie, Sutherland, on 27 December 1898 and died on 11 June 1951.


1873 – 150th anniversary of:


The first chocolate egg

Chocolate eggs apparently originated in France and Germany in the early 19th century.  The confectionary company J S Fry & Sons produced the first chocolate egg in Britain, 1873.  Unlike the eggs made elsewhere, which were made of solid chocolate, Fry’s made hollow eggs using moulds.  The idea caught on and Fry’s rival, Cadbury’s, began mass producing chocolate eggs in 1875. 
See a bit about Easter.

Walter de la Mare

Poet, short story writer and novelist, renowned for an inclination toward the supernatural, Walter John de la Mare was born on 25 April 1873 in Charlton, then in Kent.  He died in Twickenham, Middlesex on 22 June 1956.

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,  
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses  
Of the forest’s ferny floor: – who can forget The Listeners?


1848 – 175th anniversary of:


1848 Public Health Act

The 1848 Public Health Act allowed each municipal area to create a local health board, appoint a chief medical officer, organise refuse removal, build sewage systems and enable public access to clean water.  Unfortunately, though an important first step in improving public health, the Act was voluntary and required 10% of local ratepayers to establish a local health board.

WH Smith’s first railway station bookstall

WH Smith opened its first railway station bookstall at Euston Station, London, on 1 November.

1848 – year of revolution
In a wider context, 1848 was a year of revolution in mainland Europe, with widespread, seemingly disconnected and spontaneous, demonstrations in favour of increased democracy and liberalism in countries that included France, the Netherlands, German and Italian states, the Austrian Empire, Hungary, Poland and Denmark.

1823 – 200th anniversary of:

Rugby 1823


There used to be rival forms of football, some of which allowed handling of the ball.  One such form was played at Rugby School, in Warwickshire, founded in 1567.  There is an inscribed stone at the school that “Commemorates the exploit of William Webb Ellis, who, with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game. AD 1823.”  That is the legend, but there were no standard rules for football at that time.  It was in 1871 that the Football Association banned the use of hands during a match, apart from by the goalkeeper and for taking throw-ins, – the same year that the Rugby Football Association was formed.

1748 – 275th anniversary of:

End of the War of the Austrian Succession

The War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48 involved all major European powers, with Prussia, France and Spain pitted against Austria, Britain and Hanover.  Peace was agreed at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1748, the main outcome from Britain’s point of view being French recognition of the Hanoverian succession.  However, it was an uncertain peace, leading to the Seven Year’s War (1756-63).

1773 – 250th anniversary of:

Boston Tea Party 1773

The Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party was an event on 16 December 1773, during which American colonists dumped a cargo of more than 92,000 pounds of Chinese tea from three ships of the East India Company into Boston Harbour as a protest against taxes levied by the government in London. Some of the protestors were disguised as indigenous Indians.  The act was intended as an affront to authority and is seen by some as a step toward the War of American independence – though there were other factors in this.

The British government had introduced a series of clumsy taxes to raise money from all of its colonies, including a tax on sugar in 1764 and a stamp duty in 1765, which caused particular resentment in America, provoking the slogan – “no taxation without representation” (the colonials had no seats in Parliament).  After furious protests, most of the taxes were repealed – except for a duty on tea.  The government’s reaction to the Boston Tea Party was to pass a series of draconian acts, the Intolerable Acts, which included closing the port of Boston – and, not surprisingly, that just made matters worse.  Why they don’t play cricket much…

1798 – 225th anniversary of:

Income tax

Tax is said to be one of life’s certainties. Great Britain has the dubious honour of being the first country to levy direct income tax.  It was introduced by William Pitt the Younger in his budget of December 1798 to pay for war with France, at a rate of 10% per annum on incomes exceeding £200.  There were reduced rates for lower incomes and an exemption below £60.  The tax was lifted after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, but reintroduced in 1842 and has been with us ever since.

1723 – 300th anniversary of:

George Frideric Handel being appointed Composer to the Chapel Royal

George Frideric Handel, born in Halle in the Duchy of Magdeburg, Germany, in 1685, moved to Britain in around 1712 and became a British subject in 1727.  His anthem Zadok the Priest was one of four composed for the coronation of George II and has been played at every coronation since. I wonder if it will be played at the next one?

1698 – 325th anniversary of:

European men examining slaves at the slave market in Rio de Janeiro.

The English Parliament opening up the slave trade

The Trade with Africa Act 1697 came into effect on 24 June 1698.  It ended the monopoly over English trade with West Africa previously enjoyed by the Royal African Company (RAC).  This included the brutal transportation of thousands of enslaved people to English colonies in America.  The company had been set up by the royal Stuart family and London merchants, originally to trade in African gold and ivory.  However, Historian William Pettigrew has stated that the RAC “shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade”. Of the 187,697 people transported by the company between 1672 and 1731, 38,497 – more than 20% – died en route.

The Act of 1697 enabled other merchants to get involved in the slave trade, on payment of a 10% tax to the company.

The Colony of New Caledonia

The Scottish Parliament established the Company of Scotland with a view to establishing a trading colony, New Caledonia, in Central America, at Darien – now part of Panama.  Settlers set sail from Leith on 18 July 1698 and arrived at Darien in November.  It was a disaster. Most of the settlers died, the scheme was abandoned twice and, ultimately, was a catastrophic failure.  Reasons for failure included the unsuitable location, poor planning and English and Spanish opposition.  The human losses were tragic, the financial losses crippling.  The failure of the Darien project is often cited as one of the reasons for the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707.

1673 – 350th anniversary of:

The Test Act

The Test Act of 1673 required anyone entering public service in England to take the sacrament in the Anglican manner, to take an oath denying transubstantiation and to accept the supremacy of the monarch – the Head of the Church of England.  In other words, it excluded Roman Catholics from any public appointment. Further provisions were made in 1678.  Restrictions were gradually removed during the 19th century.

1648 – 375th anniversary of:

First Battle of Preston

The Battle of Preston brought about the end of the 2nd phase of the Civil War, a last-ditch attempt by Royalists and other anti-parliamentary forces to challenge Parliament.  It was fought mainly in Walton-le-Dale, on the south bank of the River Ribble.  A Royalist and Scottish army under the command of the Duke of Hamilton had crossed the border and marched south through modern-day Cumbria.  The New Model Army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, advanced from Skipton through the Ribble Valley.  The battle took place between 17-19 August 1648 and was a decisive victory for Cromwell.  Royalist losses are estimated at 2,000 killed and 9,000 captured and Cromwell’s army is estimated to have lost 100 at the most. Many of the captured Royalists were sent for servile labour in the New World.

1348 – 675th anniversary of:

The Danse Macabre, dance of death, Michael Wolgemut (1493).

The Black Death

The Black Death or Great Pestilence swept through Europe between around 1346–1353, where it eventually killed between 30-60% of the population – maybe 25 million people, though some historians estimate twice that figure.  The disease originated ‘somewhere in the east’ and arrived in southern or southwestern England in the spring or summer of 1348.  Some sources say that plague got into the country via the port of Bristol, others specify the Melcombe Regis dock area of Weymouth in Dorset; in reality, it probably arrived in various locations on ships carrying goods or returning soldiers from France.  From the south, infection spread rapidly north and east, reaching London, East Anglia, the Midlands, Wales and the North.  The Scots, perhaps keen to capitalise on England’s misfortune, raided Durham – which probably assisted the spread of contagion to Scotland, though doubtless it would have got there in its own good time anyway.  Infection crossed the water to Ireland.  It is thought to have begun to subside in Britain, where it is reckoned to have eventually killed about a third of the population – perhaps as many as 2 million people – from about 1350.

Read more about the Black Death here.

1298 – 725th anniversary of:

Wallace Monument, Robroyston

William Wallace’s defeat at Falkirk

Following the Scottish victory over the English at Stirling Bridge in September 1297, William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland, embarked on a series of raids across the north of England.  The English King, Edward I, was not going to tolerate this for long and assembled a force to advance into Scotland.  It is thought that Wallace drew his forces up south of Falkirk, with Callendar Wood to their rear and marshy ground in front.  He then divided his infantry into armed schiltrons, circles or squares of men with kneeling front ranks and pikes bristling all around like porcupine quills to deter attack.  Archers were placed in between and cavalry to the rear.  Edward’s army, which outnumbered Wallace’s, attacked in a pincer movement, defeating the Scottish horsemen and archers.  Edward then deployed his longbowmen against the schiltrons before sending in the heavy cavalry.  The military historian William Seymour maintained that Falkirk was the first battle of importance in which the power of the longbow – an English terror weapon until the advent of handguns – was felt.  The Scots scattered.  William escaped and evaded capture until 1305.  You can read about that here.


So – that’s a selection of significant anniversaries for 2023, at intervals of 25 years.  If you believe anything has been missed, or spot any errors, please drop details by email via the contact page.

47 thoughts on “Anniversaries in 2023”

  1. A wonderful, fascinating and enjoyable post Mike – so many people and events I remember well. 1923 was the year my mum was born so I was interested to learn that Hurricane Smith was also born that year – Don’t Let It Die was one of my favourite songs in 1971 and the words are still so true today. Thanks for the memories 🙂

  2. Hi Mike – crumbs … is all I can say – what a brilliant post. So pleased you posted about 1948 … I’m still here! Lots of memories … and as the others have said – cleverly presented for us – just great: thank you … cheers and a Happy New Year – Hilary

      1. Hi Mike – thanks for the like and reply … yes 1948 must have been special, I personally can’t remember – I don’t have a Mensa genius brain! PS can’t like – it won’t take … and I’m not faffing – easier to let you know I’ve been … cheers H

  3. I loved Tubular Bells. A mercy to be drugged before being hanged I think… 1973 you missed out 50th anniversary of me arriving back at Heathrow from Australia on Xmas morning – for a ‘six month’ working holiday that has become the longest working holiday ever…

  4. Can’t believe you missed 1973…the year I walked out of the school gates, stuck two fingers up at the teaching profession, threw my blazer into a stream and left the God awful experience called school behind me forever!! Well, OK, it may not make the Potted History Of Britain list but for me it was one of the best days EVER!!!

  5. artandarchitecturemainly

    1948 was a huge year, freeing small distant nations from colonial control. Burmese, Sri Lankan and Israeli independence were magic moments, even when they weren’t as smooth as citizens had hoped. And Bahaman Independence later on.

  6. What a fantastic post Mike, so very interesting, and what a good selection of music to help you write it. I find that I can remember far too many of these events! I wonder if, 75 years on, there may be a determined move to re nationalise utility and transport services?

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