Anniversaries in 2024

Last updated on January 30th, 2024 at 08:03 am

Anniversaries in 2024, in Britain

Which anniversaries will be marked in Britain in 2024?  Below is a selection of more than 80 noteworthy anniversaries for your interest and amusement, from the Millennium Bug to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.  Each one is on someone’s calendar for 2024 – and each one offers a fascinating insight into Britain’s story.  This is a long piece – scroll to have a browse, or click/tap a heading in the Table of Contents, below.

A Bit About Britain only highlights significant anniversaries – centenaries, half centuries and quarter centuries – otherwise we would be here all night.  That said, we should note that the 80th anniversary of D-Day will be marked in the United Kingdom on 6th June 2024.  Therefore, this feature covers years ending in 99, 74, 49 and 24.  Other anniversaries that fit the bill include Britain’s first McDonald’s, the arrival of Noddy, the first Labour Government, founding of the RNLI and the execution of Charles I.  Also mentioned are almost 100 British celebrities whose 125th, 100th, 75th or 50th birthdays might be celebrated or commemorated in 2024.

You might also be interested in the history timelines featured on this site, which provide a summary of events from prehistoric times to the 21st century.

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

Table Of Contents
  1. 1999 – 25th anniversary of:
  2. 1974 – 50th anniversary of:
  3. 1949 – 75th anniversary of:
  4. 1924 – what happened 100 years ago?
  5. 1899 – what happened 125 years ago?
  6. 1849 – 175th anniversary of:
  7. 1824 – 200th anniversary of:
  8. 1799 – 225th anniversary of:
  9. 1774 – 250th anniversary of:
  10. 1674 – 350th anniversary of:
  11. 1649 – 375th anniversary of:
  12. 1624 – 400th anniversary of:
  13. 1549 – 475th anniversary of:
  14. 1399 – 625th anniversary of:
  15. 449AD – 1575th anniversary of:

1999 – 25th anniversary of:

Tornado GR1, dramatic AI image

The Euro

The Euro currency was launched on 1 January 1999.  Although a member of the European Community at the time, the British Government decided to retain the pound.

The Kosovo Crisis

In February 1999, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) assembled a force, KFOR (Kosovo Force) to restore peace to Kosovo, part of former Yugoslavia, where there was conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Serbian government.  A policy of ethnic cleansing of Albanians was pursued by the Serbs.  By the end of the month, over 4,000 British troops, including special forces, had been committed.  The Serbs continued their activities, resulting in a refugee crisis.  In response, NATO launched a controversial bombing campaign, without the approval of the United Nations, which resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.  The RAF contributed to the campaign, which ran from 24 March to 10 June 1999.

The Lawrence Report

The Lawrence Report into the murder of black London teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 was published on 24 February 1999.  It condemned the Metropolitan Police as being “institutionally racist”, as well as claiming that investigating officers made “fundamental errors”.

NATO enlargement

Former Warsaw Pact members, the Czech Republic (Czechia), Hungary and Poland, joined NATO on 12 March 1999.

The Minimum wage

A minimum wage was introduced on 1 April 1999.  It applied throughout the United Kingdom and was set at £3.60 an hour for workers aged over 21 and £3 for workers under that age.  Firms could be fined up to £5,000 for each worker not paid the minimum.

The murder of Jill Dando

Popular television presenter Jill Dando was shot dead outside her Fulham home on 26 April 1999.  She was 37 years old.  A local man, Barry George, was convicted and imprisoned for her murder, but was later acquitted.  As of January 2023, the murder remains a mystery and no motive has been established for the crime – although it has been suggested that there may have been a link with the TV programme, Crimewatch, which Jill co-presented, or some sort of revenge for Britain’s part in the war in Kosovo.

Elections to Scottish and Welsh parliaments

Elections to the new Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales took place on 6 May 1999.

Footballing treble

Manchester United became the first English club to win the treble of Premier League champions, FA Cup and European Cup on 26 May 1999, when they beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League final in Barcelona. Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored United’s goals.  The FA Cup Final took place at Wembley on 22 May, when Manchester beat Newcastle United 2-0 with goals from Sheringham and Paul Scholes.  Runners-up in the League were Arsenal with 78 points, just one behind Manchester United.

The wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones

The wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 19 June 1999.  Prince Edward, the third son of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, was created Earl of Wessex just before the ceremony – which, at the couple’s request, was not a state occasion.  Edward was given his father’s title, the Duke of Edinburgh, by his brother, King Charles III, in 2023.

Solar eclipse 1999

A solar eclipse took place on 11 August 1999.

The millennium bug

There was worldwide concern that the approaching new millennium would cause near apocalyptic damage due to computer systems being unable to distinguish between the date 1900 and 2000.  One nickname was the Y2K problem.  In October, the UK Government distributed a booklet, “What everyone should know about the Millennium Bug”, to every household.  In the event, there were few glitches and most people were not aware of any at all.

The Millennium Dome

The Millennium Dome on London’s Greenwich Peninsula opened on 31 December 1999 as part of the celebrations to mark the start of the third millennium.  The Dome housed a major exhibition for the whole of 2000 and was subsequently redeveloped and opened as a concert venue in 2007, renamed the O2 Arena.

1974 – 50th anniversary of:

Anniversaries of two election in 1974. 
 Edward Heath and Harold Wilson were both Prime Ministers.

New public holidays

New Year’s Day was celebrated as a public holiday for the first time in England and Wales in 1974.  It had been a public holiday in Scotland since 1871. 1974 was also the first year that Scotland enjoyed Boxing Day as a public holiday.
See ‘High Days and Holidays’

The 3-Day Week

The Government introduced a 3-day week on 1 January 1974 to conserve electricity during a miners’ strike.  The restriction applied to commercial premises, with the exception of services deemed essential – eg hospitals.  Television broadcasts had to end at 1030pm.  The restrictions were lifted in March.

M62 coach and other terrorist atrocities

On 4 February 1974, a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army on a coach carrying off-duty service personnel and family members exploded on the M62, murdering 12 people.  It was the first of several bombings carried out by the IRA that year, including:
17 June – A bomb at the Houses of Parliament in London on 17 June;
The Guildford pub bombings on 5 October, which killed 5 people;
The Birmingham pub bombings on 21 November, which killed 21 people.

On 17 May 1974, the so-called ‘loyalist’ Ulster Volunteer Force exploded bombs in Dublin and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland, murdering 34 people.

Grenadian independence

Grenada became independent of the United Kingdom on 7 February 1974.

Two general elections

Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath called a general election in an effort to win support for ending the miners’ strike.  The result of the election, held in February 1974, was a hung parliament.  The Liberals declined to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives and on 4 March Heath resigned.  Labour formed a minority government and Harold Wilson returned as Prime Minister.  In September, Wilson called a second general election, held on 10 October, which resulted in Labour gaining a narrow majority of 3 seats in the House of Commons. Heath’s defeat led to a leadership challenge early in 1975, which was won by Margaret Thatcher.
See Britain’s Prime Ministers

Turkish Airlines Flight 981

On 3 March 1974, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 of Turkish Airlines, Flight 981, en route from Paris Orly Airport to Heathrow, crashed into the Ermenonville Forest outside Paris.  All 346 people on board perished, including 177 Britons. The cause of the disaster was a faulty cargo door.

Russian cars on Britain’s streets

In April 1974, the former Soviet Union’s Lada motor cars began to appear on Britain’s streets.  Sales ended in 1997.

The arrival of Abba

Swedish group Abba were the winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, held in Brighton on 6 April.  The competition was hosted by Katie Boyle (1926-2018).  Abba’s successful entry, Waterloo, shot to the No 1 slot in the UK pop charts.  The group eventually achieved 18 consecutive Top Ten singles in the UK, nine of which were No 1s.  The United Kingdom’s entry for Eurovision in 1974 was Long Live Love, sung by Olivia Newton-John, which came 4th.

The Local Government Act 1972

The Local Government Act of 1972 came into effect on 1 April 1974.  It was driven by a desire for efficiency, which involved a significant reduction in the more than 1,200 local authorities in England and Wales to 457.  And it was hugely controversial.  The Act established some new counties (eg Avon, Cleveland, Humberside); merged some smaller counties with their neighbours (eg Huntingdonshire, Rutland, Herefordshire); and introduced new metropolitan counties covering England’s large urban areas (eg the West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Tyne and Wear).

The Flixborough disaster

The Flixborough disaster was a massive explosion at a chemicals site in Flixborough, Lincolnshire, in the afternoon of Saturday 1 June 1974.  The explosion, one of the largest in peacetime, killed 28 people, injured 36 more and caused property damage 3 miles away.  An enquiry put the cause down to human error.  Many believe the disaster encouraged a step change in process safety management.

The Red Lion Square disorders

The Red Lion Square disorders are a euphemism for violent clashes in London’s West End on 15 June 1974 involving the National Front, an extreme right-wing racist organisation, a coalition of opponents that included liberals as well as left-wing Marxist extremists and the Metropolitan Police deployed in an effort to keep the peace.  During the course of events, Kevin Gateley, a 20 year-old maths student at the University of Warwick, was killed – possibly by a blow to the head.

Turkish invasion of Cyprus

Turkey invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974 in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup that had the aim of uniting the island with Greece.  The result of the invasion, ultimately, was the division of the island into Northern Cyprus, occupied by Turkey, and the official ethnic Greek government based in the south.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, often referred to as ‘HASWA’, received Royal assent on 31 July 1974.  The Act lays down wide-ranging duties on employers to protect, “so far as is reasonably practicable” the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, as well as others on their premises, including indirectly employed workers, visitors and the general public. The Health and Safety Executive, which owes its existence to the Act, describes it as “the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain”.

The disappearance of Lord Lucan

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, disappeared on 8 November 1974, having apparently bludgeoned Sandra Rivett, his children’s nanny, to death in the Lucan family home and attacked his wife, Lady Lucan.  The case received extensive interest, but Lucan has never been found.  He was declared dead in 1999 (aged 64) and an official death certificate was issued on 3 February 2016, when he would have been aged 81.

Britain’s first McDonald’s

The first McDonald’s in Britain was in Woolwich, south east London, and opened on 13 November 1974.  Some sources say it was October – take your pick.  A cheeseburger cost 0.21p and a Big Mac was 0.45p.

The Good Beer Guide

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) published the first printed edition of the Good Beer Guide in 1974.

Also in 1974 – football hooliganism, present in the game for years, begins to reach its height in the 1970s, leading to segregated crowds and fences at football stadia.

Born in 1974 – happy 50th birthday to:

Melanie Jayne Chisholm, singer, former member of the girl group, the Spice Girls and also known as ‘Melanie C’, ‘Mel C’ or ‘Sporty Spice’, was born on 12 January 1974 in Whiston, Merseyside.

Kate Moss – Katherine Ann Moss, model, was born in Croydon (formerly Surrey, now a London Borough) on 16 January 1974.

Christian Bale – Christian Charles Philip Bale, actor, was born on 30 January 1974 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Olivia Colman – Sarah Caroline Colman, actress, was born in Norwich on 30 January 1974.

Robbie Williams – Robert Peter Williams, singer, initially with the band Take That, was born on 13 February 1974 in Stoke-on-Trent.

James Blunt – James Hillier Blount, singer-songwriter and former soldier, was born on 22 February 1974 at Tidworth Military Camp, Wiltshire

Chris Moyles – Christopher David Moyles, radio presenter, was born on 22 February 1974 in Leeds.

Dominic Raab – Dominic Rennie Raab, politician (Conservative party) and former lawyer, was born on 25 February 1974 somewhere in Buckinghamshire.

Guy Garvey – Guy Edward John Garvey, musician and songwriter, primarily known as being the frontman for the band Elbow, was born in Bury, Lancashire, on 6 March 1974.

Tobias Menzies – Tobias Simpson Menzies, actor, was born in Hammersmith, London, on 7 March 1974.

Ash Regan – Sarah Jane Regan, politician (Scottish National and Alba Parties), was born on 8 March 1974 in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Victoria Beckham – Victoria Caroline Adams, singer (formally with the Spice Girls, when she was known as ‘Posh Spice’) and fashion designer, was born in Harlow, Essex, on 17 April 1974.

Denise van Outen – Denise Kathleen Outen, singer, dancer and actress, was born on 27 May 1974 in Basildon, Essex.

Bear Grylls – Edward Michael Grylls, adventurer and television presenter, was born in Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland on 7 June 1974.  His older sister gave him the nickname ‘Bear’ when he was a baby.

Jo Cox – Helen Joanne Leadbeater, politician (Labour Party) was born on 22 June 1974 in Batley, West Yorkshire.  As MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox was about to hold a constituency surgery in the village of Birstall on 16 June 2016, when she was fatally shot and stabbed multiple times by a right-wing extremist, Thomas Mair. Jo Cox died of her wounds that day.

David Mitchell – David James Stuart Mitchell, comedian, actor, writer and game show panellist, was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 14 July 1974.

Maxine Peake – Maxine Peake, actress, was born on 14 July 1974 in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Gareth Thomas – Gareth Thomas, former professional and Welsh international rugby player, was born in Sarn, Mid Glamorgan, Wales, on 25 July 1974.  He is also known as the first openly gay professional rugby player.

Emilia Fox – Emilia Rose Elizabeth Fox, actress, was born on 31 July 1974 in Hammersmith, London.

Tim Henman – Timothy Henry Henman, tennis player, was born in Oxford on 6 September 1974.

Sol Campbell – Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell, footballer with (mainly) Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth and the England national team, was born on 18 September 1974 in Plaistow, London.

Lucy Powell – Lucy Maria Powell, politician (Labour party) was born in Moss Side, Manchester on 10 October 1974.

Matthew Macfadyen – David Matthew Macfadyen, actor, was born on 17 October 1974 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Michael Vaughan – Michael Paul Vaughan, cricket commentator and former player with Yorkshire and the England national team, was born in Eccles, Greater Manchester, on 29 October 1974.

Sara Cox – Sarah Joanne Cox, radio disc jockey, television presenter and author, was born in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on 13 December 1974.

1949 – 75th anniversary of:

George Orwell published 1984 in 1949

The British Nationality Act

The British Nationality Act 1948 came into effect on 1 January 1949.  It conferred the status of British citizen on all Commonwealth subjects and recognised their right to work and settle in the United Kingdom and to bring their families with them.

First British Best Picture Oscar

Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1948) became the first British film to win a ‘Best Picture’ Oscar at the award ceremony on 24 March 1949.  Olivier also won ‘Best Actor’.

Naming of Big Bang

The term ‘big bang’, to describe a theory about how the cosmos was created, was first used in public by astronomer Fred Hoyle on BBC radio on 28 March 1949.  However, apparently, he was just trying to illustrate a point, because his own belief was that the cosmos had no beginning and new galaxies were formed as others moved apart – the ‘steady state’ theory. You understand that, don’t you?

Creation of NATO

On 4 April 1949, 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty, sometimes called the Washington Treaty, in Washington DC, USA.  This led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – NATO – a defensive military alliance based on the principle that an armed attack against one or more of the signatories shall be deemed an attack against them all and that the other members shall come to the aid of those under attack.  The original members of NATO were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The current (as of January 2024) 31 members of NATO and the years they joined are: Albania (2009), Belgium (1949), Bulgaria (2004), Canada (1949), Croatia (2009), Czechia (1999), Denmark (1949), Estonia (2004), Finland (2023), France (1949), Germany (1955), Greece (1952), Hungary (1999), Iceland (1949), Italy (1949), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Luxembourg (1949), Montenegro (2017), Netherlands (1949), North Macedonia (2020), Norway (1949), Poland (1999), Portugal (1949), Romania (2004), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2004), Spain (1982), Turkey (1952), United Kingdom (1949) and the United States (1949).  Sweden is expected to join shortly.

Here is NATO’s website

The Yangtze River Incident

On 20 April 1949, during the Chinese civil war between the Communist People’s Liberation Army and Nationalist Kuomintang forces, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst was ordered up the Yangtze River to evacuate or protect the British Embassy in Nanjing.  Whilst heading up river, Amethyst came under heavy fire from communist forces on the north bank and ran aground.  Seventeen members of the crew were killed in the incident and ten wounded, including the captain, who later died.  Attempts by the frigate HMS Consort, then the cruiser HMS London and frigate HMS Black Swan, to come to Amethyst’s aid, failed.  Eventually, the crew managed to refloat her. Lt Commander John Kerens, assistant naval attaché in Beijing, was able to join the ship and assume command. A truce was negotiated with the local communist forces, but food was running low.  In darkness in early July, Amethyst slipped anchor and headed back downstream to Shanghai.  Despite coming under fire once more and having to avoid physical obstacles, HMS Amethyst got to Shanghai and rejoined the British Far East Fleet.  The ship’s cat, Simon, was wounded in the initial shelling, but managed to recover and gained a reputation for keeping the rat population down whilst the ship was stranded.  On arrival back in Britain, the PDSA presented Simon with the Dickin Medal for gallantry.  Sadly, Simon died shortly afterwards.  He was buried in an animal cemetery in Ilford, Essex, and the crew of Amethyst attended his funeral.

The first Badminton Horse Trials

The first Badminton Horse Trials, an annual 3-day event, began on 20 April 1949.  They were organised by the 10th Duke of Beaufort at Badminton House in Gloucestershire.

Nationalisation of gas

The Gas Act 1948, which nationalised the production and supply of gas in Britain, came into effect on 1 May 1949

The Ireland Act 1949

The Ireland Act of 1949 received Royal Assent on 2 June.  It guaranteed the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom for as long as a majority of its citizens want it to be. It also recognised the Republic of Ireland as a sovereign state.  The Act was largely in response to the Republic of Ireland Act passed in Ireland, which declared Ireland an independent republic and ended its membership of the Commonwealth.

Publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four

The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair (1903-50), was published on 8 June 1949.

The first passenger jet

The de Havilland DH106 Comet, the world’s first commercial jet airliner, had its maiden flight on 27 July 1949, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.  It entered service in 1952, but there were tragic problems with early models. However, the aircraft developed into the Comet 4, which continued in service until 1997.

The first disposable nappy

Valerie Hunter Gordon (1921-2016) was fed up with washing nappies and invented the first ‘Paddi’ after having her third child in 1947.  It was a two-part garment, initially made out of old nylon parachutes, tissue wadding and cotton wool.  A UK patent was granted in October 1949.

The first TV broadcasts outside London

Sutton Coldfield transmitting station began transmitting BBC Television to the English Midlands, the first TV broadcasts to be seen outside London and the South East, on 17 December 1949.

Hello, Noddy

The world is introduced to children’s character Noddy in 1949, with the publication of the first book ‘Noddy goes to Toyland’ by Enid Blyton (1897-1968).

Born in 1949 – happy 75th birthday to:

Mick Taylor – Michael Kevin Taylor, rock and blues guitarist, probably most famously with the Rolling Stones (1969-74) and, before that, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (1967-69) was born on 17 January 1949 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Robert Palmer – Robert Allen Palmer, singer and songwriter, was born on 19 January 1949 in Batley, West Riding of Yorkshire.  He died of a heart attack in Paris on 26 September 2003.

Dennis Taylor – Dennis Taylor, former world champion snooker player, was born in Coalisland, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, on 19 January 1949.

John Cooper Clarke – so-called ‘punk poet’, or performance poet, was born in Salford, Lancashire, on 25 January 1949.

Paul Nurse – Paul Maxime Nurse, geneticist, former President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, Director General of Cancer Research UK and Nobel Prize winner, was born in Norwich on 25 January 1949.

Lyn Paul – Lynda Susan Belcher, singer and actress who initially found fame with the New Seekers in the 1970s, was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester, on 16 February 1949.

JPR Williams – John Peter Rhys Williams, former international rugby player for Wales, and surgeon, was born in Bridgend, Wales, on 2 March 1949. He died in Cardiff on 8 January 2024.

Trevor Sorbie – Trevor John Sorbie, hairdresser, was born on 13 March 1949 in Paisley, Scotland.

Stuart Rose – Stuart Alan Ransom Rose, businessman, perhaps most notably with Marks & Spencer and Ocado, was born in Gosport, Hampshire, on 17 March 1949.

Alex Higgins – Alexander Gordon Higgins, known as ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, was a world champion snooker player.  He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 18 March 1949 and died in the city on 24 July 2010.

Nick Lowe – Nicholas Drain Lowe, musician, singer, songwriter, was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 24 March 1949.

Richard Thompson – Richard John Thompson, musician (mainly guitar), singer, songwriter, perhaps most notably with the folk-rock band Fairport Convention and his ex-wife, Linda, was born on 3 April 1949 in Notting Hill, London.

John Miles – John Errington, musician, songwriter, vocalist, was born in Jarrow, County Durham, on 23 April 1949.  He died in Newcastle upon Tyne on 5 December 2021. If anyone knows about the change of name, please get in touch!

Anita Dobson – Anita Dobson, actress and singer, was born on 29 April 1949 in Stepney, London.

Alan Titchmarsh – Alan Fred Titchmarsh, gardener, writer, radio and television presenter, was born in Ilkley, West Riding of Yorkshire, on 2 May 1949.

Zoë Wanamaker – Zoë Wanamaker, actress, was born in New York City, USA, on 13 May 1949.

Rick Wakeman – Richard Christopher Wakeman, keyboard player (notably with the bands Strawbs, Yes, in his own right and as a famous session player) songwriter and broadcaster, was born in Perivale, Middlesex, on 18 May 1949.

Andrew Neil – Andrew Ferguson Neil, journalist and political broadcaster, ex-editor of the Sunday Times, was born on 21 May 1949 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Jim Broadbent – James Broadbent, actor, was born in Holton cum Beckering, Lincolnshire, on 24 May 1949.

Jeremy Corbyn – Jeremy Bernard Corbyn, socialist politician and leader of the Labour Party from 2015-20, was born on 26 May 1949 in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Francis Rossi – Francis Dominic Nicholas Michael Rossi, guitarist and singer songwriter (mainly with Statius Quo) was born in Forest Hill, south London, on 29 May 1949.

Bob Willis – Robert George Dylan Willis, cricketer, including with the England national team, particularly renowned for his bowling, was born on 30 May 1949 in Sunderland, County Durham.  He died in Wimbledon, south London, on 4 December 2019.

Jim Lea – James Whild Lea, musician mainly known as the bass and violin player with 1970s group Slade, was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire on 14 June 1949.

Alan White – Alan White, musician primarily known as the drummer with prog rock group Yes for 50 years.  White also played with other well-known musicians, such as John Lennon – including on the Imagine album.  He was born on 14 June 1949 in Pelton, County Durham, and died on 26 May 2022 in Newcastle, Washington state, USA.

Brian Leveson – Brian Henry Leveson, barrister and judge, was born in Liverpool on 22 June 1949.  He is known for chairing the Leveson Enquiry from 2011-12, which examined the culture and ethics of the press following revelations of phone hacking.

Trevor Horn – Trevor Charles Horn, musician with the Buggles, Yes, the Trevor Horn Band and record producer, was born on 15 July 1949 in Hetton-le-Hole, Sunderland.

Roger Taylor – Roger Meddows Taylor, drummer with the rock band Queen, was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on 26 July 1949.

Simon Kirke – Simon Frederick St George Kirke, drummer with the bans Free and Bad Company, was born on 28 July 1949 in Lambeth, London.

Mark Knopfler – Mark Freuder Knopfler, virtuoso guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, best known for his work with Dire Straits, was born in Glasgow on 12 August 1949.

Martin Amis – Martin Louis Amis, novelist and writer, was born on 25 August 1949 in Oxford.  He died on 19 May 2023 in Lake Worth Beach, Florida, USA.

John Curry – John Anthony Curry, world champion figure skater, was born in Birmingham on 9 September 1949.  He died on 15 April 1994 in Binton, Warwickshire.

Mo Mowlam – Marjorie Mowlam, politician (Labour party), particularly known for her work as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, on 18 September 1949.  She died in Canterbury on 19 August 2005.

Peter Shilton – Peter Leslie Shilton, footballer, a notable goalkeeper who played mostly for Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Derby County and has 125 caps for England (as of January 2024 the most capped England player to date), was born in Leicester on 18 September 1949.

Twiggy – Lesley Hornby, model, actress and face of the ‘60s, ‘Twig the Wonderkid’ was born on 19 September 1949 in Neasden, Middlesex.

Peter Ackroyd – Peter Ackroyd, novelist, biographer and historian, was born in Acton, London, on 5 October 1949.

Arabella Churchill – Arabella Spencer-Churchill, charity founder and fundraiser perhaps best known for her work with the Glastonbury Festival, was born in London on 30 October 1949.  She died on 20 December 2007 in Glastonbury, Somerset.

Gerald Ratner – Gerald Irving Ratner, businessman and former Chief Executive of Ratner’s Jewellers, whose products he famously described as “total crap”, was born in London on 1 November 1949.

Peter Willey – Peter Willey, cricketer, including with the England national team, was born on 6 December 1949 in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Bill Nighy – William Francis Nighy, actor, was born in Caterham, Surrey, on 12 December 1949.

Robert Lindsay – Robert Lindsay Stevenson, actor and performer, was born on 13 December 1949 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Stephanie Lawrence – Stephanie Lawrence, theatrical actress and singer, was born on 16 December 1949 in Newcastle upon Tyne (some sources say Hayling Island, Hampshire, but this seems to be where she was brought up).  She died in London on 4 November 2000.

Paul Rodgers – Paul Bernard Rodgers, musician, primarily known as the vocalist with rock bands Free and Bad Company, was born in Middlesbrough on 17 December 1949.

1924 – what happened 100 years ago?

The Shipping Forecast

The first shipping forecast

The first shipping forecast, a quintessentially British institution, was broadcast on 1 January 1924 as ‘Weather Shipping’.  It was first broadcast by the BBC in October 1925.  The Shipping Forecast is produced by the Meteorological Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The first Labour government

The general election of December 1923 produced a hung parliament and when the Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), resigned having lost a vote of no confidence in January, Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) became the first Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government, on 22 January 1924.  Baldwin and the Conservatives returned nine months later with a large majority of 209 seats at the general election of 29 October 1924.

The first ‘pips’

The first Greenwich Time Signal – the six ‘pips’ – from Royal Greenwich Observatory was broadcast on 5 February 1924.  It followed the successful broadcast of the chimes of Big Ben to usher in the New Year.  In 1990, the Greenwich Time Signal transmitted its last pips. Since then the BBC has originated its own pips.

The first aircraft carrier

The keel of the world’s first purpose-designed aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes, was laid down on 15 January 1918 at Armstrong Whitworth’s works on Tyneside.  However, due to design changes and other delays, Hermes was not the first aircraft carrier to go into service – that was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Hōshō, in 1922.  HMS Hermes became the Royal Navy’s first purpose-designed aircraft carrier when it was commissioned on 18 February 1924.

1924 Paris Olympics

The 1924 Olympics were held in Paris between 4 May and 27 July.  Great Britain won nine gold medals, including those of Harold Abrahams (1899-1978) in the 100m and Eric Liddell (1902-1945) in the 400m – events depicted in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.

Mallory and Irvine disappear on Everest

Climbers George Mallory (b 1886) and Andrew Irvine (b 1902) were lost making for the summit of Everest, the world’s highest mountain, sometime on or after 8 June 1924. They were last seen by their teammate, Noel Odell “going strong for the top” at 1250 pm, but were never seen alive again.  There is speculation as to whether they achieved their goal.  Mallory’s body was discovered on 1 May 1999, but Irvine’s has yet to be found.

When We Were Very Young

When We Were Very Young, a book of children’s poetry by AA Milne with illustrations by EH Shepard was published in 1924.  It features the first appearance of the bear that would become Winnie-the-Pooh, though he is not named.
Here is a bit about Pooh

Huddersfield Town were champions

 English Football League champions for the season 1923-24 were Huddersfield Town.  The FA Cup was won by Newcastle United, who beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Wembley, watched by a crowd of 91,695.

Born in 1924 – marking the 100th birthdays of:

Ron Moody – Ronald Moodnick, actor and singer (possibly best known for playing the part of Fagin in the 1968 musical Oliver!) was born in Tottenham, Middlesex on 8 January 1924.  He died in London on 11 June 2015).

Benny Hill – Alfred Hawthorne Hill, popular comedian and actor, known for his slapstick and slightly risqué style that, today, some would consider inappropriate, was born on 21 January 1924 in Southampton, Hampshire.  He died on 20 April 1992 at his home in Teddington, London.

Brian Rix – Brian Norman Roger Rix, best known as a producer of theatrical farces and long-time campaigner for disability causes, was born in Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, on 27 January 1924.  He died on 20 August 2016 in Northwood, London.

Angela Morley – Walter ‘Wally’ Stott, composer and conductor, whose work included music for the Goon Show and Tony Hancock as well as film was born on 10 March 1924 in Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire.  He transitioned in 1972, thereafter living as a transgender woman, and died on 14 January 2009 in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.

Freddie Bartholomew – Frederick Cecil Bartholomew, best known as a child actor in the 1930s, was born on 28 March in Harlesden, London.  Moving to the USA when he was still a boy, he remained there and died in Sarasota, Florida, on 23 January 1992.

Mary Warnock – Helen Mary Wilson, academic, educationalist and philosopher best known for her 1978 report Special Educational Needs and 1984 report on Human Fertilisation and Embryology, was born in Winchester, Hampshire, on 14 April 1924.  She died on 20 March 2019.

Leslie Phillips – Leslie Samuel Phillips, actor, achieved particular fame from the 1950s in comedy roles with his slightly leering drawn-out catchphrases of ‘Ding dong’ and ‘Hello’ catchphrases.  He also undertook more serious roles and my younger reader will know him as the voice of the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films.  He was born on 20 April 1924 in Tottenham, Middlesex, and died in London on 7 November 2022.

Jack Slipper – Jack Kenneth Slipper, detective, known as ‘Slipper of the Yard’ (referring to Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police) was born on 20 April 1924, in Ealing, London.  He had a varied career, ending as Chief Superintendent, but is possibly best known for his role in investigating the Great Train Robbery of 1963.  He died on 24 August 2005.

Clement Freud – Clemens Rafael Freud, chef, TV and radio personality and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, on 24 April 1924.  He died in London on 15 April 2009.  After his death, allegations of sexual abuse emerged.

Tony Hancock – Anthony John Hancock, comedian and actor, was born on 12 May 1924 in Hall Green, Birmingham.  He committed suicide on 25 June 1968 at Bellevue Hill, Sydney, Australia.

Tony Britton – Anthony Edward Lowry Britton, actor, perhaps best known for his roles in 1970s TV sitcoms.  He is the father of presenter Fern Britton (born 1957).  Tony Britton was born in Erdington, Birmingham, on 9 June 1924.  He died in London on 22 December 2019.

Arnold Weinstock – Arnold Weinstock, businessman particularly known for making the conglomerate General Electric Company so successful, up to his retirement in 1996.  He was born in Stoke Newington, London, on 29 July 1924 and died on 23 July 2002).

Kenneth Kendall – Kenneth Kendall, news anchor and game show presenter, was born in India on 7 August 1924 and died on 14 December 2012 at home in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Robert Bolt – Robert Oxton Bolt, playwright and screenwriter, best known for his original play A Man for All Seasons (and a film in 1966) and screenplays for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr Zhivago (1965), was born in Sale, Cheshire, on 15 August 1924.  He died at home near Petersfield, Hampshire, on 20 February 1995.

Peter Parker – Peter Parker, businessman probably best known as Chairman of the publicly owned British Rail from 1976 to 1983, was born in France on 30 August 1924  He died on 28 April 2002.  The actor Nathaniel Parker (born 1962) is his son.

George Sewell – George Sewell, actor, probably best known for his roles in TV crime dramas, was born in Hoxton, London, on 31 August 1924.  He died in London on 2 April 2007.

Norman Bird – John George Norman Bird, prolific film and TV actor, was born on 30 October 1924 in Coalville, Leicestershire.  He died on 22 April 2005 in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.

1899 – what happened 125 years ago?

Boer War Army Surgeon at work

Lynmouth’s lifeboat hauled overland to a drifting ship

A great storm battered the Bristol Channel on the night of 12 January 1899.  A 1900-ton ship, ‘Forrest Hall’, under tow to Liverpool, lost its cable and rudder and began to drift dangerously in Porlock Bay.  The Lynmouth lifeboat, ‘Louisa’ was called to assist, but the waves were too high to launch in Lynmouth (lifeboats were rowed in those days).  However, there was a sheltered beach at Porlock Weir.  So it was decided to haul the Louisa 13 miles across an Exmoor hill, which was done with the aid of 100 people and a team of 18 horses.  Along the way, a wheel came off the carriage and had to be repaired, the road need to be widened to accommodate the boat (which included demolishing a wall) and a tree had to be felled.  Eleven hours after setting off, and despite being exhausted, the 14-man crew launched the boat into the mountainous waves. They came upon Forrest Hall, by now anchored but drifting, put crew aboard and awaited the arrival of tugs at daybreak.  The Louisa was then rowed across the Bristol Channel to Barry to assist the recovery.  After a meal and some rest, they then rowed back to Lynmouth.
Here is the full story.

The first motor accident to kill a passenger

On 25 February 1899 at Grove Hill, Harrow, Mr E R Sewell was demonstrating a Daimler Wagonette to a prospective buyer, Major James Stanley Richer, a department head at the Army & Navy Stores.  They crashed.  Mr Sewell died instantly – the world’s first driver of a petrol-driven vehicle to be killed.  Major Richer, his passenger, died three days later.

The world’s first wireless distress signal

The first radio distress signal was transmitted from the East Goodwin Lightship on 17 March 1899 when the merchant vessel Elbe ran aground on the Goodwin Sands. The message was received by the radio operator on duty at the South Foreland Lighthouse, who summoned help from the Ramsgate lifeboat.

First international radio transmission

On 27 March 1899, Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi transmitted a radio signal from Wimereux, France, across the English Channel to the South Foreland Lighthouse at Dover.

Premier of Elgar’s Enigma Variations

Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations were first heard in public on 19 June 1899 at St James’s Hall in London.  The orchestra was conducted by renowned Austro-Hungarian conductor, Hans Richter.  A revised version was heard at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 13 September 1899, with Elgar (1857-1934) conducting.

Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act

The Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act 1899 received Royal Assent on 9 August.  The Act empowered school authorities to ascertain the number of ‘defective’ or epileptic children in their areas, and to make appropriate educational provision for them.  Further, it required the parents of such children to ensure that they received appropriate elementary education to the age of 16.

Seats for Shop Assistants

The Seats for Shop Assistants Act 1899 aimed to provide a respite for workers, primarily women, who had to stand for long periods of time and whose working days could easily exceeded 12 hours.  The basic provision was at least one seat per three workers.  Astonishingly, some opposed the measure – including the Prime Minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury.

Second Boer War

South Africa in the late 19th century comprised four territories: the two British colonies of Cape Colony and Natal and the two Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic, commonly referred to as the Transvaal. The Boers (‘Boer is Dutch for farmer) were the oldest settlers and resented British settlers on in the Transvaal, known as uitlanders.  The Boer War of 1899-1902 essentially broke out in October 1899 due to unresolved conflict between the United Kingdom and the Boers.  The Boers adopted hit and run guerrilla tactics and, despite superior arms, the war initially went very badly for the British.  It was only by employing overwhelming force, which included a scorched earth policy and the use of concentration camps for displaced women and children, that negotiations finally ended the war.  The British lost 22,000 men and the Boers 6,000 – but an additional 4,000 Boer women and 16,000 children died in the appalling conditions of the badly run camps.  The war was unpopular at home. British conduct was also heavily criticised around the world and this was a contributory factor in Britain ending its policy of ‘splendid isolation’ and concluding an alliance with Japan in 1902 and the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904.

Aldeburgh lifeboat tragedy

On 8 December 1899, the Aldeburgh lifeboat in Suffolk was struck broadside by two huge waves and capsized, trapping six of her eighteen crew.  Despite efforts to free them, they, and another crew member, died.
There’s a bit about Aldeburgh in this artice

Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building

The Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928), was completed in two phases between 1899 and 1909.  The official opening was on 15 December 1899.

Blackpool Tower Ballroom

The current Tower Ballroom, designed by Frank Matcham opened in 1899. It replaced a smaller ballroom, which opened in 1894.  The ballroom will be familiar to fans of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Its floor measures 120’ x 102’ (37m × 31m) and is made up of 30,602 blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut.  Above the stage is the inscription “Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear” (Shakespeare).  Among the Ballroom’s one-time strict rules were, “Gentlemen may not dance unless with a lady” and “disorderly conduct means immediate expulsion”.

Liquorice Allsorts

The sweets Liquorice Allsorts were first sold in 1899 by George Bassett & Company Limited of Sheffield.

Born in 1899

Jack Beresford – Jack Beresford-Wiszniewski, rower who won five medals at five Olympic Games in succession – gold at Paris in 1924, Los Angeles in 1932 and Berlin in 1936, silver at Antwerp in 1920 and Amsterdam in 1928.  His record in Olympic rowing was not matched until 2000 when Sir Steve Redgrave won his sixth Olympic medal at his fifth Olympic Games in Sydney.  Beresford was born on 1 January 1899 in Chiswick, London and died on 3 December 1977 in Shiplake, Oxfordshire.

Nevil Shute – Nevil Shute Norway, novelist and aeronautical engineer, was born in Ealing, London, on 17 January 1899.  He died on 12 January 1960 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Doris Speed – Doris Speed, actress best known for playing the part of Annie Walker in Coronation Street from 1960 to 1983.  She was born in Chorlton, Lancashire on 3 February 1899 and died in Bury, Manchester, on 16 November 1994.

Billy Cotton – William Edward Cotton, musician, bandleader and entertainer, was born in Westminster, London, on 6 May 1899.  He died on 25 March 1969 in Wembley, London.  His son, Bill Cotton, became controller of BBC 1.

Charles Laughton – Charles Laughton, actor of stage and screen, was born on 1 July 1899 in Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire.  He died on 15 December 1962 in Hollywood, California, USA.

Alfred Hitchcock – Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, writer and film director known as ‘the master of suspense’ was born in Leytonstone, Essex, on 13 August 1899.  He died on 29 April 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

C S Forester – Cecil Louis Troughton Smith, author, was born in Cairo, Egypt, on 27 August 1899.  He died on 2 April 1966 in Fullerton, California, USA

Billy Butlin – William Heygate Edmund Colborne Butlin, holiday camp entrepreneur, was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 29 September 1899.  He died in St Johns, on the island of Jersey on 12 June 1980.

John Barbirolli – Giovanni Battista Barbirolli, born in Holborn, London, on 2 December 1899, was a cellist and orchestral conductor who, from 1943, rebuilt Manchester’s Halle Orchestra and supported it for the rest of his life.  He died in his London home on 29 July 1970).

Arthur Leslie – Arthur Leslie Scottorn Broughton was an actor best known for playing the part of Jack Walker in TV’s Coronation Street from 1960 to 1970.  He was born on 8 December 1899 in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire and died on 30 June 1970 in Cardigan, Wales.

Harold Abrahams – Harold Maurice Abrahams, athlete, barrister and journalist, was born in Bedford on 15 December 1899 and died on 14 January 1978 in Enfield, London.  He won Olympic gold in the 100 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, a story depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.

Noël Coward – Noël Peirce Coward, actor, singer, entertainer, prolific playwright and composer, was born on 16 December 1899 in Teddington, Middlesex.  He died at his home, Firefly Estate, in Jamaica on 26 March 1973.

1849 – 175th anniversary of:

The British conquer the Punjab

The 1848 murder of a British civil servant and army officer in Multan (now in Pakistan) was followed by a rising of Sikh troops again the British East India Company. This resulted in inevitable conflict, and the eventual defeat of the Sikh army at the Battle of Gujrat on 21 February 1849.  The Sikh army surrendered at Rawalpindi, and the East India Company annexed the Punjab (modern-day East Pakistan and North West India).

David Copperfield

Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield was first published in 1849, in serial form. Some say it was Dickens’ favourite work.

Marx moves to London

Karl Marx (1818-83), political theorist and father of communism author of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, was expelled from Germany as a dangerous revolutionary in 1849 and moved to London, where spent the rest of his life. He died in 1883 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery where his grave is, famously, a communist plot.

1824 – 200th anniversary of:

RNLI has its 200th anniversary in 2024. 
 Here it is in action.


The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) was founded by Sir William Hillary (1771-1847) at a public meeting in the London Tavern, Bishopsgate, on 4 March 1824.  Initially the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, it became the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck shortly after and changed its name to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on 5 October 1854.  According to its website, the organisation – which is a charity, independent of government, has saved more than 144,000 lives as of the end of 2023. You may think it very strange that such a vital organisation receives no money from the government.

Here is a link to the RNLI’s website.

The National Gallery

The National Gallery was founded on 2 April 1824 when the British government bought 38 paintings from the collection of businessman John Julius Angerstein (1735-1823) for £60,000, with the purpose of establishing a National Gallery.  It opened on 10 May at Angerstein’s house at 100 Pall Mall but has been on the north side of Trafalgar Square since 1838.
There’s a bit about Trafalgar Square here

Here is a link to the National Gallery’s website.


The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was founded as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Old Slaughter’s Coffee House, on St Martin’s Lane, London on 16 June 1824.  It was granted royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840.  Its early successes saw the banning of bull baiting in the 1830s and of cockfighting in the 1840s.
It is a particular quirk that the charity dedicated to preventing cruelty to children, the NSPCC, remains merely ‘national’.
Here is a link to the RSPCA’s website.

Imperial weights and measures

Attempts to standardise units of measurement had been made for centuries, but there was a chaotic collection of local standards.  The Weights and Measures Act 1824 (17 June) lay the foundations for the Imperial system, established through a number of successive acts, until the metric system began to creep in during the 1970s.  Measurements of weight and length were determined in 1878.  A new ‘imperial’ gallon of 277.4 cubic inches introduced in 1824 replaced two existing gallons, a wine gallon of 231 cubic inches (still used in the USA) and an ale gallon of 282 cubic inches.

First municipal fire brigade

The first public fire brigade in Britain was established by Edinburgh Town Council on 10 October 1824.  It was led by James Braidwood (1800-1861) as ‘Master of Engines’.  The force faced its first challenge on 15 November when what became known as the Great Fire of Edinburgh broke out.  It lasted until 21 November, killing 11 residents, 2 firemen and leaving 400 families homeless.  Braidwood went on to become the first Chief of the London Fire Engine Establishment in 1833.  Tragically, he died in 1861, fighting a fire in Tooley Street, SE1.  I used to work in Tooley Street.

Born in 1824:

Wilkie Collins – William Wilkie Collins, author (works included The Woman in White and The Moonstone) was born in Marylebone, London, on 8 January 1824.  He died in London on 23 September 1889.

Samuel Plimsoll – Samuel Plimsoll – Liberal politician and social reformer after whom the Plimsoll Line on ships is named, was born on 10 February 1824 in Bristol.  He died in Folkestone, Kent, on 3 June 1898.

William Thomson – William Thomson, mathematician and physicist known for his work on electrical and magnetic forces and thermodynamics.  He was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow and was knighted and created Baron Kelvin for his work.  The Kelvin temperature scale is named for him and he shares the honours with the scientist James Prescott Joule (1818-1889) for the Joule–Thomson effect (sorry, no idea).  He was born in Belfast on 26 June 1824 and died in Largs, Ayrshire on 17 December 1907.

1799 – 225th anniversary of:

Publication of Travels in the Interior of Africa

Travels in the Interior of Africa is the Scottish explorer Mungo Park’s (1771-1806) account of his journey through Senegal and Mali to the central portion of the Niger River, the first Westerner known to have reached that region. The journey took two years, including four months imprisoned by a Moorish chief, and seven months in a simple hut of a man who had taken him in when he had fallen ill. Park returned to Scotland on 22 December 1797. He was thought to have been dead – and his book was a best seller.

Robert Owen bought New Lanark Mills

Robert Owen 1771-1858, factory owner and social reformer mostly associated with New Lanark Mills, married the owner, David Dale’s, daughter Caroline in 1799 and in the same year formed a partnership to buy the mills.  Robert and Caroline set up home in New Lanark and went on to have seven children.  Owen sold New Lanark Mills in 1825.

The Combination Acts

Fuelled by fear of revolution, the Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800 made it illegal for workers to join together to press their employers for shorter hours or higher pay.  Offenders faced imprisonment or hard labour.  Consequently, gatherings were driven underground and trade unions were effectively banned.  Although the acts were repealed in 1824, restrictions continued and trade unions only became fully legalised with the protection of the law in Britain in 1871.

1774 – 250th anniversary of:

The Intolerable Acts

The Intolerable Acts of 1774 were a series of coercive acts passed by the British Government in reaction to the Boston Tea Party of the previous year.  The legislation included closing the Port of Boston, bringing Massachusetts under the control of the British Government and requiring colonists to provide quartering (food and shelter) for British soldiers.  The acts unsurprisingly caused considerable resentment and contributed toward the American War of Independence breaking out in 1775.

Discovery of oxygen

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is generally credited with the discovery of oxygen, in Wiltshire on 1 August 1774, though some claim it was discovered previously by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Sweden.  However, Priestly called the gas ‘dephlogisticated air’ and did not recognise oxygen as an element.  The credit for that goes to the Frenchman, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier in 1788.

1674 – 350th anniversary of:

The Treaty of Westminster

The Treaty of Westminster of 1674 ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A key provision was the return of the colony of New Netherland, or New York, to England.

1649 – 375th anniversary of:

Charles I - AI image. The King was executed in 1649.

The trial and execution of Charles I

King Charles I was trial in Westminster Hall by a specially convened commission on 20 January 1649.  The charge was treason.  He was declared guilty on 27 January and sentence to death by “the severing of his head from his body.”  The date for the execution was set for just three days later.  The King spent his last days destroying papers, in prayer and saying goodbye to his youngest children, Henry, aged 9, and Elizabeth, aged 11. He told them not to grieve and to obey their elder brother Charles, the lawful sovereign.  Elizabeth was distraught.  “Sweetheart, you will forget this,” her father is alleged to have told her.

Tuesday, 30 January 1649 was a bitterly cold day.  The King is said to have worn an extra shirt for warmth, so that people did not mistake his shivering for fear.  At 10am, he walked from St James’s Palace across the park to Whitehall Palace, wrapped in a black coat and surrounded by guards.  A special scaffold had been erected outside the Banqueting House and, three hours after his arrival, the King was summoned.  A huge crowd awaited.  Charles walked into place, his hair bound in a white cap, removed his cloak, laid down, said a short prayer and motioned to the executioner that he was ready.

The King, believing in the Divine Right of Kings, never accepted the validity of the process that took his life with just one blow.  As the executioner held up the head and announced, “Behold, the head of a traitor!” one eyewitness remarked that “there was such a groan by the thousands then present, as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again.”

Abolition of the monarchy and declaration of a republic

There was no unified plan for what to do after King Charles had been executed.  Some, indeed, favoured some form of constitutional monarchy.  On 7 February 1649, Parliament set up a new executive body, to perform the functions hitherto undertaken by the king.  An act was passed for “the sale of the goods and personal estates of the late king.”  The monarchy and the House of Lords were eventually abolished in mid-March and, finally, in early May, England was declared “a commonwealth and free state”.  The full text of the act was incredibly brief:

“Be it declared and enacted by this present parliament, and by the authority of the same, that the people of England, and of all the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, are and shall be, and are hereby constituted, made, established and confirmed, to be a commonwealth and free state, and shall from henceforth be governed as a commonwealth and free state by the supreme authority of this nation, the representatives of the people in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as officers and ministers under them for the good of the people, and that without any king or House of Lords.”

Cromwell sacked Drogheda and Wexford

The Army was fearful of an invasion from royalist Ireland, supported by the Irish Catholic Confederation.  Oliver Cromwell, as Commander in Chief of the Army, was dispatched to ensure this did not happen.  He landed in Dublin in August 1649 and headed to the city of Drogheda, where he called upon the royalist garrison to formally surrender.  Not receiving this, he attacked the following day, overwhelmed the defenders and instructed that all members of the garrison, including clergy, were to be executed – some 3,500 people.  From Drogheda, Cromwell travelled to Wexford, which had opened its main gate.  There, his soldiers ran amok, killing both armed troops and defenceless civilians, and burning the town.  Cromwell returned to Britain the following year to counter the threat from royalist supporters in Scotland, where Charles I’s son, Charles II, had landed.
You can visit Cromwell’s House in Ely.

1624 – 400th anniversary of:

War with Spain

Like many wars, the Anglo-Spanish War of 1625-1630 had earlier roots.  However, it could be said to have begun in 1624 when Parliament approved money for it, on condition that it should be a naval war.  King James VI and I refused to formally declare war and, dying in March 1625, left it to his son and successor, Charles I, to do so.  It has to be seen against the background of the devastating Thirty Years War (1618-1648), a European power struggle with the added spice of religious conflict between Protestant and Catholic states, the latter including the Spanish Empire. Many in England wanted to intervene in support of the Protestant cause.  James in fact went out of his way to avoid being drawn in and favoured alliance with Spain, cemented by marriage between his son, Charles, and the Spanish Infanta (‘the Spanish Match’).  When the prospect of that evaporated (following a bizarre and humiliating personal adventure to Spain by Charles), the voices in favour of war would not be silenced.

1549 – 475th anniversary of:

Thomas Cranmer, author of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549

The Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer, the official liturgical book of the new Church of England, was established through the First Act of Uniformity passed by the English Parliament on 21 January 1549.  This determined that the Book of Common Prayer should be the sole legal form of worship in England, in English and replacing the Catholic mass.  It was largely the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) and was first used on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549.  Many believe the beauty of the prose – much of which was based on other works – had a lasting impact on the English language.  However, was considered too traditional (ie Roman Catholic) by many Protestants and a revised version was produced in 1552.  The final version dates from 1662.

The Prayer Book Rebellion

The introduction of the Book of Common Prayer was a factor, along with poor economic conditions and the enforcement of the English language, which led to open rebellion in South West England. The rebels were met with military force, which developed into open warfare.  In July 1549, Cornish and Devonshire rebels laid siege to the city of Exeter. The siege lasted for 5 weeks.  Pitched battles took place at Fenny Bridges, Woodbury Common and Clyst St Mary and, finally, at Sampford Courtenay on 17 August.  The rebels, outnumbered and outgunned by professional troops – including contingents from Italy and Germany – were defeated.  Thousands died and many of the rebels were executed.

Kett’s Rebellion

The Kett Rebellion in Norfolk took place between July and August 1549.  It was mostly in protest against landlords’ enclosures of common land and involved some 16,000 insurgents, who camped on Mousehold Heath overlooking Norwich on 16 July.  The rebels captured Norwich, England’s second city, but were eventually routed by Government forces in open battle at a place called Dussindale on 27 August.  Thousands of rebels died.  Their leader, Robert Kett, escaped but was captured later, along with his brother. Both were tortured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. After their inevitable convictions, they were hanged in chains, Robert from the battlements of Norwich Castle and his brother from the walls of Wymondham Abbey, where the rebellion had begun.

1399 – 625th anniversary of:

King Richard II, king of England, deposed in 1399

Deposition of Richard II

Richard II, was the son of Edward the Black Prince and Joan of Kent.  Aged 10, he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III, to the throne of England in 1367 because his father had died the previous year.  Whilst he presided over a cultured court, his reign is also characterised by power struggles.  In 1398, Richard banished his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and then, on the death of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, confiscated the vast properties of the Duchy of Lancaster.  In 1399, while Richard was in Ireland, Bolingbroke returned – ostensibly to claim his inheritance.  Richard, recognising the forces arraigned against him, surrendered to Henry and, on 1 October, was formally deposed.  Henry became king and imprisoned Richard in Pontefract Castle. Likely concerned about plots to restore Richard to the throne, Henry probably had him murdered.  He is thought to have starved to death in Pontefract sometime in February 1400.

449AD – 1575th anniversary of:

Saxon warriors - AI image. Bede says the English arrived in Britain in the year 449.

The arrival of the Saxons

In Bede’s History of the English Church and People, a best-seller since the 8th century, Bede writes

“In the year 449, Marcian became co-emperor with Valentinian.  He reigned seven years, during which time the English came to Britain at the invitation of the Britons.”

What Bede was referring to were a number of Germanic tribes, particularly the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, often collectively referred to as ‘Anglo-Saxons’, the ancestors of the English. See ‘Dark Age Britain’ for more about this.

So – that’s a selection of significant anniversaries for 2024, at intervals of 25 years.  If you believe anything vital has been missed, or spot any errors, please drop details by email via the contact page.

50 thoughts on “Anniversaries in 2024”

  1. Hi Mike – AMAZING … brilliant – what a fun ‘summary’ and work of love and patience – thank you so much – cheers Hilary

  2. A fascinating post, Mike and must have taken you ages to compile.
    I will add (as a useless bit of information) that I used to work with Slipper of the Yard’s second wife. He had retired by then but was still a ‘force’ to be reckoned with!

  3. What a huge post Mike, and I absolutely loved it. I can’t believe it was 25 years ago since Jill Dando was murdered, it doesn’t feel like that at all. The Millennium Dome as well and all the faff over its cost. I think that also means it’s 25 years since the first ever Big Brother, but we can forget about that one haha!

        1. There was a slightly creepy Trump spokesman on TV the other night who claimed that, if Trump had been in office, Russia would not have invaded Ukraine, Hamas would not have committed its vile atrocities and Israel would not be slaughtering innocent civilians in Gaza. What an amazing guy he must be.

  4. Wow, Mike! No wonder we haven’t seen a post from you in a while — this one had to take ages to compile and enter. It’s quite a list and while I didn’t read it all, I was fascinated by some of them. I need to look for late May/early June to see if there will be anything worth celebrating when we visit! AND, mining your site for even more ideas!

  5. I’m going to have to stop reading your anniversary posts, because they’re making me feel old. I remembered most of the events from 1974, to the extent that I can remember what my family did on that first New Year’s Day Bank Holiday. I also remember the fuss when some of Hampshire became part of Dorset and the three day week.

    It’s a great post.

  6. Wow there’s some considerable research gone into this, Mike. It’s going to be my swimming pool this week – I’ll keep dipping in every now and again. But for now, give me liquorice allsorts over a carpet burger any time!

  7. Thank you for this post, which must have cost you a lot of time and effort to put together.
    It’s funny, isn’t it, how we perceive the events and people mentioned. Some of them I could have sworn are much younger or older than 50 or 75, and with some events, they feel much more distant than the 1970s, or much more recent than 1949.
    Time is a funny thing.

  8. Helen Webberley

    I have visited Blackpool only once and went on every tour, agreeing that the city must have been wonderful at its peak. Thank you for reviving the excitement.

    I had not heard that Frank Matcham designed Blackpool’s Grand Theatre earlier, using the cantilever design to support the tiers. No wonder Matcham’s Tower Ballroom was terrific. I noted that Blackpool was clearly a firm holiday favourite for sea bathing and for amusements, but asked how many grand ballrooms could this small northern city accommodate.

  9. A very interesting post Mike, many events which I remember. I’ve skimmed through some of the sections but will come back and re-read when I have more time 🙂

      1. Try Costa Rica! Pipes and wood in inches, weights in metric, land in varas – length and similar to a yard – and manzanas – area, and equivalent to 10,000 vsq….

  10. Wow, this one is so large I can’t read it all, Mike! Great information! I’m sorry about McDonald’s invading the UK, yuck! It seems to this American that it was a solid decision to stay with the British Pound. The idea of a Euro sounds ridiculous to me.

    1. Thanks, John – it’s not really designed to be read in one go, but it’s a bit of fun and gets hits all year round. I was completely unaware of McDonald’s until moving to London after university. Ah – I think the decision on the GB£ was right for the UK at the time, but the Euro makes sense too and is obviously doing well.

      1. Fast food is just not good for humans but I do cheat once in a while and have a Mc Burger. Or, a Burger King. Or, a Wendy’s! Honestly, I’m not sure if I should have any opinion on the Euro -vs- the Pound but it still makes sense for me that the Pound should be the UK official currency. The Euro does seem to be doing well but that name is kinda funny.

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