November 28th 1919: Astor elected
On this day in 1919, Nancy Astor was elected as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, making her the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. Lady Astor represented the Conservative Party and was the wife of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor. She sat in Commons from 28th November 1919 to 5th July 1945. She worked to bring more women into the civil service, the police force, education reform, and the House of Lords.
November 23rd 1963: Doctor Who debuts
On this day in 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast by the BBC. The original series starred William Hartnell as the protagonist known only as ‘the Doctor’, a Time Lord who travels through time in his blue police telephone box called the TARDIS with his companions. Since Hartnell, there have been 10 other actors who have played the iconic role, the current being Matt Smith. Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction drama in the world. It remains an immensely popular show, and an integral part of British culture. Today at 7.50pm on BBC One a 50th anniversary special will air.
50 years ago today
October 29th 1618: Sir Walter Raleigh executed
On this day in 1618, English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded. Raleigh is best known for his exploration of North America which paved the way for English colonisation. In 1594 he set off to find the fabled ‘City of Gold’ in South America and his writings contributed to the legend of ‘El Dorado’. Despite having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1585, Raleigh was not liked by James I and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged conspiracy against the King and executed.
October 25th 1760: George III becomes King
On this day in 1760, George III became King of Great Britain upon the death of his grandfather George II. George III’s reign saw the union of Britain and Ireland in 1801 and several military conflicts. These conflicts included the Seven Years’ War (where Britain defeated France), the American War of Independence (which saw Britain lose its colonies in North America) and the Napoleonic Wars against revolutionary France. George III suffered from mental illness towards the end of his life, which led to a regency being established with his son George, Prince of Wales as Prince Regent. Upon George III’s death in 1820, his son succeeded him and became George IV.
"Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Britain"
- George III in his accession speech to Parliament
October 16th 1854: Oscar Wilde born
On this day in 1854 the famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin. Wilde studied the classics at Oxford and whilst there became engaged in philosophy and literature. Wilde is best known for his works including his novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and his play ‘The Importance of the Being Earnest’. He is one of the greatest personalities in literature, as a very witty and flamboyant man. Wilde was a homosexual, and was arrested and sentenced to two years of hard labour for ‘gross indecency’. He died in November 1900 in Paris aged 46.
October 6th 1892: Alfred, Lord Tennyson dies
On this day in 1892, the famous British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson died aged 83. Tennyson was Poet Laureate under Queen Victoria from 1850 until his death. His poems include ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘In Memoriam’. The latter poem coined the famous phrase “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all”. Upon his death he was buried in Westminster Abbey in Poets’ Corner alongside notable figures like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling.
September 25th 1066: Battle of Stamford Bridge
On this day in 1066 the Battle of Stamford Bridge occurred between the English, led by King Harold Godwinson, and the invading Norwegian forces led by King Harald Hardrada and Godwinson’s brother Tostig. The battle was a decisive English victory, seeing the deaths of thousands of Norwegians including Hardrada himself. However in mid-October that same year Godwinson was defeated by the Normans, led by William the Conqueror, at the Battle of Hastings. Stamford Bridge is often considered the last battle of the Viking age.
September 19th 1970: First Glastonbury
On this day in 1970 the first Glastonbury Festival was held in Michael Eavis’s farm in Glastonbury, England. The festival was inspired by the hippie and free festival movements. Eavis decided to host his own festival after seeing Led Zeppelin at the Bath Blues Festival. He hoped the event would help him pay off his mortgage. Tickets to the first Glastonbury cost £1 and 1,500 tickets were sold. It was headlined by T-Rex, who replaced original headliners The Kinks. Glastonbury remains one of the world’s most famous music festivals.
November 24th 1859: ‘On the Origin of Species’ published
On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published his ground-breaking book ‘On the Origin of Species’. The book introduced the idea that organisms evolve through natural selection. Darwin included evidence he gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s, where he traveled widely recording his encounters. The concept of evolution revolutionised science, and was very unpopular at its time for its supposed ignoring of God’s role in man’s history. His ideas were widely ridiculed and satirised, however now his theory is the foundation of modern scientific thinking.
November 16th 1272: Henry III dies
On this day in 1272 the King of England, Henry III, died. He took the throne in October 1216, the son and successor of King John (known for signing the Magna Carta in 1215). King Henry III reigned for 56 years from 1216 until his death in 1272. He spent much of his reign fighting the barons over the Magna Carta and the royal rights, and was eventually forced to call the first ‘parliament’ in 1264. He was succeeded by his son King Edward I of England, who ruled from 1272 to July 1307.
October 28th 1704: John Locke dies
On this day in 1704, the English philosopher John Locke died aged 72. Locke is notable for his political writings, which have led to him being considered the father of ‘classical liberalism’. Locke’s work was greatly influential, and was widely read amongst the revolutionary leaders of the American Revolution. Some of Locke’s major writings include ‘Two Treatises of Government’ and ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’.
October 22nd 1910: Dr. Crippen convicted
On this day in 1910 Dr. Crippen was convicted of poisoning his wife. He was then hanged at Pentonville Prison in London. Crippen was an American doctor who killed his wife in order to be with his mistress. Upon being questioned about her disappearance he fled with his lover to Brussels. The police then searched his house and found human remains under the basement floor. The captain of the ship taking the fugitives to Brussels recognised them and sent a telegram to the police. Crippen was confronted by disguised police officers on the ship and arrested.
October 8th 1967: Clement Attlee dies
On this day in 1967, former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee passed away aged 84. He was Deputy Prime Minister under Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the wartime coalition government. Attlee’s Labour Party then defeated the Conservative Party in the 1945 election. He led the country in post-war recovery, most famously creating the National Health Service (NHS). He left office in 1951 after losing to Churchill and the Conservatives. Attlee died of pneumonia at Westminster Hospital in 1967.
September 29th 1829: Metropolitan Police founded
On this day in 1829 the Metropolitan Police of London was founded as part of the Metropolitan Police Act. The institution was pushed for by Home Secretary Robert Peel who wanted an official and accountable police force, as opposed to the shambolic and ineffective law enforcement of the day. His involvement gave police officers the nicknames ‘peelers’ and ‘bobbies’. The police took some time to come into its own, as it was initially regarded with suspicion by many Londoners. However it has become a respected and effective institution.
September 21st 1866: H.G. Wells born
On this day in 1866, the English science fiction writer H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent. Sometimes called ‘the father of science fiction’, Wells is best known for his works ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’. Wells was also a socialist and a pacifist, and his political views colored much of his later work. In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast his radio play of ‘The War of the Worlds’ as a series of news bulletins which led many Americans to fear a Martian invasion. H.G. Wells died in London in 1946 aged 79.