On the 12th January 1895, the National Trust was founded by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. Describing itself as “a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone” the National Trust is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom and is therefore able to protect numerous beauty spots, historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and social history sites.
Octavia Hill, arguably the leading founder of the trust, spent much of her life developing social housing. Her time within London’s housing estates encouraged her to seek protection for the capital’s remaining green spaces for ‘the enjoyment, refreshment, and rest of those who have no country house’. This led to her role in setting up the National Trust.
The National Trust now controls over 985 square miles of Britain. This accounts for nearly 1.5% of the total land mass of England, Wales and Northern Ireland over which it has the power to impose bylaws that apply to anybody visiting the land. These statutory powers were granted through six separate Acts of Parliament between 1907 and 1971 that are collectively known as the National Trust Acts.
The National Trust is an independent charity, and many of its country houses and gardens were donated in lieu of death duties. It is supported by a huge team of over 61,000 volunteers and gets most of its income from annual subscriptions, which allow members to access all the trust’s properties for free. With a membership of around 4 million, it is now the largest fee-paying membership organisation in the United Kingdom.
The concept of a lottery, in which lots were drawn to determine a winner, had been around for centuries before Queen Elizabeth I chartered a prize draw to raise money for the “reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good works”. The scheme itself was announced in 1566, at a time when England was seeking to expand its international trade. Income from the lottery was therefore used to fund improvements to the country’s coastal infrastructure and the construction of new ships.
Unlike most modern lotteries, which seek to produce a profit, the value of Elizabeth’s prize fund equalled the money raised through ticket sales. Each ticket was also guaranteed to win one of the available prizes, which ranged from silver plate and tapestries to a jackpot of £5,000. However, the fact that the draw didn’t take place until nearly three years after the scheme’s introduction effectively meant that the Crown benefited from a 3 year interest free loan.
400,000 tickets were put on sale at the cost of 10 shillings each, a cost that was far out of the reach of most ordinary people at the time, and which led to some forming syndicates in which they purchased a share of a single ticket. To entice purchases, all ticket holders were promised that they would be exonerated from any crimes they had committed other than murder, felonies, piracy or treason.
The draw itself was made outside the west wing of the old St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Sadly the name of the grand prize winner has been lost, but ultimately the lottery paid off for Elizabeth. She was able to invest heavily in her navy and coastal defences, which proved vital in 1588 and the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada.
On the 6th January 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned king of England. Harold II was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, but reigned for barely nine months before being killed at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October by Norman invaders led by William of Normandy.
The day before Harold’s coronation, Edward the Confessor died. He had suffered a series of strokes in late 1065 and lay in a coma for much of the remainder of his life. He died without an heir, and this sparked a succession crisis that culminated in the Norman invasion of England later that year.
The Normans claimed that Edward had promised the throne of England to William. Reported by various Norman chroniclers, the Bayeux Tapestry shows that Harold even swore an oath on sacred relics to support William’s claim to the English throne after becoming shipwrecked in 1064. The reliability of this story is debated by historians, especially since it goes against the English tradition that the new king would be chosen by the Witenaġemot – the “meeting of wise men”.
Whatever the truth of Edward’s promise and Harold’s meeting with William, Edward apparently regained consciousness and entrusted his kingdom to Harold for “protection” shortly before he died. When the Witenaġemot met on the 6th January they elected Harold as king, and his coronation took place the same day. Historians generally believe that this took place in Westminster Abbey, which had been built by Edward and had been consecrated just a few days earlier on the 28th December 1065. Hearing of Harold’s accession to the English throne, William soon began preparing to invade.
On the 4th January 1642, Charles I attempted and failed to arrest the Five Members of Parliament, prompting the English Civil War and his own eventual execution for treason.
Charles ascended to the throne in 1625, but as a believer in the divine right of kings ruled without Parliament for eleven years of personal rule. During this time his policies – particular those regarding taxation and religion – were met with hostility from his subjects.
His religious policies towards Scotland culminated in the outbreak of the Bishops’ Wars in 1639, which saw a Scottish army invade England in August 1640. Charles became convinced that the Scots had been encouraged in some way by the Five Members: John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Arthur Haselrig and William Strode. Charles was afraid of them turning the London mob against him, and had heard rumours of a plan to impeach the Queen, so he charged them with treason.
The Five Members failed to respond to a summons on the 3rd January. Therefore on the afternoon of the 4th the King himself entered the House of Commons chamber – an act that was a huge violation of Parliamentary privilege – and sat in the Speaker’s chair to demand the men be handed over to him.
The Five Members had already left the building for safety, and when asked for their whereabouts the Speaker announced that he wouldn’t tell the king their location as he was a servant of Parliament, not the crown. Exclaiming that “the birds have flown,” Charles soon fled the capital. The English Civil War began just a few months later.
On the 2nd January 1981, serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – otherwise known as the Yorkshire Ripper – was arrested by police. Found guilty of murdering 13 women over a six-year period, and of attempting to murder a further seven, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1981. In 2010 the High Court issued him with a whole life tariff which means that he is likely to stay in jail until his death.
Although Sutcliffe first assaulted a woman in 1969, his famous series of attacks began in 1975. Many theories exist regarding his motive, with some focusing on a hatred of prostitutes after he was conned out of money by one. Despite the connection between Sutcliffe and prostitutes, not all his victims were sex workers. However, it was after police stopped him with a prostitute in his car on the 2nd January 1981 that he was finally arrested. He was taken into custody as his car had false number plates, but while in Dewsbury Police Station the similarities between him and the Yorkshire Ripper’s profile led him to be questioned about the case.
Sutcliffe admitted to being the Ripper two days later, on the 4th January, and while in custody claimed that he heard the voice of God commanding him to kill prostitutes. The prosecution wanted to accept his plea of diminished responsibility after four expert psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. However, the judge rejected the plea and therefore the case went to full trial. Since he had already admitted guilt as part of his plea, the jury were asked to determine his mental state rather than his guilt.
On the 29th December 1170, Thomas Becket – the Archbishop of Canterbury – was murdered in front of the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. He had been appointed by Henry II to the most important religious position in England in 1162, but was slain after some of the king’s men interpreted one of their ruler’s angry outbursts as the desire to have Becket killed.
Thomas Becket was appointed Chancellor by Henry in 1155. In this job he proved himself to be a loyal member of the king’s court and so when Theobald, the existing Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry saw his chance to dominate the church by appointing Becket to succeed him.
Having a loyal friend in the most senior religious position in England made sense to Henry. However, as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket’s allegiance quickly switched to siding with the church. This frustrated Henry, who asked Becket to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164 to extend the king’s authority over the clergy. Becket refused, and shortly after being summoned to the king to explain his actions fled to France.
Becket returned in 1170 but, after excommunicating members of the clergy for supporting Henry, found himself the target of an angry outburst by the king – which almost certainly wasn’t “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Whatever Henry did say, however, it was enough to encourage four knights to travel to Canterbury and kill him inside the Cathedral. It is said that the fatal blow split his skull. Becket was canonised by the Pope barely two years after the murder, and in 1174 the king himself walked barefoot to Canterbury in penance.
On the 25th December 1066, William of Normandy was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. The event ended in chaos as Norman guards outside mistook the sounds of the cheering crowd inside for the start of a riot.
William, having defeated the English king Harold at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066, was forced to fight on after a number of English nobles nominated Edgar the Ætheling as the new king. When he crossed the Thames at Wallingford in early December he was met by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who just a few weeks earlier had elected Edgar as king. However, he immediately abandoned Edgar and submitted to William, who soon marched to Berkhamsted where Edgar himself gave up his claim to the throne.
William’s coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day saw both Norman and English nobility in attendance. Norman troops were stationed outside the abbey and in the surrounding streets in case of trouble while the coronation itself was conducted by Geoffrey, the Bishop of Coutances, and Ealdred, the Archbishop of York. The account of Orderic Vitalis, the Anglo-French chronicler of Norman England, tells how the assembled nobles cheered loudly when asked if they agreed to William becoming King of England.
The troops outside mistook these cheers for a fight between the Normans and English inside the church, so set fire to some of the English houses nearby before charging into the Abbey itself. The arrival of the troops panicked the coronation guests, many of whom fled the Abbey while the bishops frantically finished the ceremony amongst the commotion.
The worst fire in the history of the London Underground killed 31 people at Kings Cross St Pancras station.
King’s Cross St Pancras is a major intersection on the London Underground network. Numerous deep platforms serve the Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines in addition to the Thameslink service. At the time many of these platforms were reached by wooden escalators that had been in place for many years, inside which large amounts of combustible waste had accumulated.
At approximately 7.30pm, passengers reported a fire on one of the Piccadilly Line escalators. The official inquiry later determined that it had been started by a lit match being dropped, which caused the fire to break out beneath the escalator in an area that was difficult to reach with a conventional fire extinguisher. Although water fog equipment was present in the station the staff had not been trained on how to use it so the fire brigade was called instead.
The decision was soon made to evacuate the station using the Victoria Line escalators, and just a few minutes later the fire brigade arrived to find a small fire that soon engulfed the entire escalator. Superheated gases rose to the ceiling of the tunnel, where layers of old paint absorbed the heat that caused a devastating flashover at 7.45pm. Due to the construction of the escalator and the 30° angle of the shaft, a jet of flames and smoke burst into the ticket hall in what scientists now refer to as the ‘trench effect’.
The intense heat of the flashover killed or seriously injured the people who were still in the ticket hall, while hundreds more were trapped below ground and were forced to escape on trains. London Underground were later criticised for failing to train staff effectively on how to deal with fires and evacuate passengers.
On the 17th November 1558, Elizabeth I succeeded her half-sister Mary to become queen of England. The last of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth’s reign is seen by many as a ‘golden age’ in English history. A period of relative political and religious stability, her reign saw unprecedented foreign exploration and expansion, while at home the English Renaissance brought about enormous cultural developments and the rise of one of the greatest playwrights ever to have lived – William Shakespeare.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and, despite being declared illegitimate following the annulment of her parents’ marriage, came to the throne as the next in line behind her Catholic half-sister under the terms of the Third Succession Act. Having become queen when she was 25 years old, Elizabeth relied heavily on a group of advisers led by Robert Cecil and is generally seen as providing stability through her long reign, in comparison to her two siblings.
Soon after assuming power she introduced the Elizabethan Religious Settlement consisting of two Acts of Parliament which resolved much of the Protestant/Catholic divide that had characterised the years before and after her reign. However, this did little to appease the Catholic Philip II of Spain who famously launched the Spanish Armada against England in 1588 but was defeated.
Elizabeth never married nor had any heirs, leading to her becoming known as the Virgin Queen. When she died, the lack of an heir led to the end of the Tudor dynasty and the beginning of the Stuarts after James VI of Scotland became James I of England.
On the 13th November 1002, the St Brice’s Day Massacre took place when king Æthelred the Unready “ordered slain all the Danish men who were in England”. Although it is believed that there was considerable loss of life, actual numbers of Danes who were killed following the order are unknown. However, recent archaeological excavations including two mass graves have begun to shed some light on the mystery.
Æthelred came to the throne when he was just 10 years old, following the assassination of his half-brother Edward the Martyr, who he succeeded. Suspicions over Æthelred’s involvement led to distrust of the new king, and meant that he did not secure the full loyalty of all his subjects.
By this time Danes already dominated large areas of northern and eastern England in a region known as the Danelaw, where Danish settlers had practised self-rule since 878. Some Danes later settled in Æthelred’s kingdom, of which a portion exploited the existing divisions among the king’s subjects by raiding towns on the south coast. Combined with raids by new arrivals from Scandinavia, Æthelred found his kingdom under attack every year.
The king paid significant amounts of silver and gold to the new Danes as Danegeld (‘Dane-payment’) in an attempt to stop the attacks but, in 1002, received information that the Danes planned to “beshrew him of his life, and afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any resistance.” In response, Æthelred ordered the killing of all Danes in England, although it is unlikely that the killing extended into the Danelaw. For Æthelred, the massacre had little effect but to provoke a brutal retaliation by Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, who invaded the following year.