The industrial revolution, combined with the first of the Enclosure Acts, had seen the earnings of poor farmers plummet. With the radicalism of the French Revolution still fresh in people’s minds, the Swing Riots of the early 1830s had seen agricultural workers turn to violent protest. Adding to tensions between land owners and workers, the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1825 effectively legalised the creation of trade unions.
By 1834 farm workers in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle were being paid just 7 shillings per week, three shillings less than the average agricultural labourer’s wage. Six men consequently formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers under the leadership of George Loveless, in protest at the reduction in pay.
Part of the society’s initiation ceremony involved swearing a secret oath, something that was illegal under the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797. Local magistrate and landowner James Frampton was consequently able to take the six men to court, where they were convicted by a jury of 12 landowners and sentenced to seven years transportation by Judge Sir John Williams on 18 March 1834.
The sentence was greeted with uproar from the British public who collected 800,000 signatures calling for their release. 100,000 people took part in a march calling for the same and two years after their conviction the new Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, granted them pardons. The Tolpuddle Martyrs eventually returned home, but five of six soon left England and emigrated to Canada while the sixth, James Hammet, stayed in Dorset until his death in 1891.
Jews first began to arrive in England following the Norman conquest. Primarily serving as moneylenders due to strict Catholic laws about usury, anti-Jewish sentiment had begun to grow by the time of Richard I’s coronation on 3 September 1189.
That day witnessed anti-Semitic rioting that led to the deaths of around 30 Jews after they were denied entry to the coronation banquet. Although Richard later explicitly stated that Jews in England should not be harmed, violence surfaced again and slowly spread north after he departed for the Holy Land on the Third Crusade.
In March the anti-Semitic attacks reached York. In the midst of a raging fire, the cause of which is unknown, a mob looted the house and killed the family of Benedict, a wealthy Jew who had been mortally wounded in the London pogrom. Fearing for their lives, the rest of the Jewish population of the city, numbering in the region of 150 people, fled to the well-defended Clifford’s Tower.
Having been granted access by the warden, the fearful Jews later locked him out while an armed mob surrounded the tower. Trapped inside, and faced with either forced conversion to Christianity or death at the hands of the angry crowd, most of the Jews chose to die at their own hand. Many fathers killed their wives and children before committing suicide. The tower was then set on fire.
Although some Jews took up the offer of safe passage in return for their conversion, they were all killed by the crowd. Led by Richard Malebisse and other members of the local gentry, the mob then moved to York Minster where they burned the records of loans made to local residents by the Jews, effectively cancelling their debts.
On the 13th February 1689, William and Mary became co-regents of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland after agreeing to the Declaration of Right. On the 5th November the previous year William, the head of state of the Dutch Republic, landed at Torbay after being invited by a group of English Parliamentarians to invade England. His Dutch fleet and army went on to oust the Catholic King James II, his wife Mary’s father, in the so-called Glorious Revolution. James was allowed to flee the country and later took up exile in France.
The Declaration of Right, which became a Bill after it was formally passed on the 16th December, joined other documents such as Magna Carta and the Petition of Right as a central part of the uncodified British constitution. The Declaration placed limits on the monarch’s power and confirmed Parliament’s own rights, ensuring that it was free to function without royal interference. Furthermore, it banned Catholics from the throne.
Parliament originally only wanted to offer the crown to Mary, with William as Prince Consort, but the couple pressed for co-regency. Parliament agreed, and so on the 13th February the couple was declared king and queen. Their coronation took place on the 11th April.
The Glorious Revolution was not seen as such by everyone. The Bill of Right was both politically and religiously divisive, laying the foundations for generations of conflict. Beginning with the Williamite–Jacobite War that confirmed British and Protestant rule in Ireland, the Protestant Ascendancy established political, economic and social domination of the country for over two centuries.
John Rogers became the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I after he was burnt at the stake.
John Rogers was educated at Cambridge, after which he became a Catholic priest. As the Reformation began to take hold, Rogers questioned his vocation and subsequently resigned his ministry. He moved to Antwerp in 1534 where he met William Tyndale who had published his English translation of the New Testament a few years earlier.
Tyndale was instrumental in converting Rogers to Protestantism, after which he married Adriana de Weyden with whom he had a number of children. Just a few months later his friend Tyndale was arrested and executed for heresy, and Rogers continued his friend’s work to produce a complete edition of the Bible in English. Rogers combined Tyndale’s New Testament with the parts of the Old Testament that he had been able to translate before his arrest, and used the translation of Myles Coverdale for the remaining books of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.
The completed Bible was published in 1537 under the pseudonym Thomas Matthew, and immediately gained the support of Thomas Cranmer who managed to persuade Chancellor Thomas Cromwell to secure a license for it from King Henry VIII. Rogers stayed in Europe, including time at the University of Wittenberg, for a number of years afterwards.
He returned to England in 1548 but, following the accession of the Catholic Mary I, he became an outspoken proponent of Reformation principals. Having been sent to Newgate Prison in 1554, Rogers was sentenced to death the following January. He was burned at the stake at Smithfield, the first victim of the Marian persecutions.
On the 30th January 1649 King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland was executed outside the Banqueting House in London. Shortly after Charles’ failed attempt to arrest the Five Members the English Civil Wars began, but by the end of 1648 the royalists had been defeated. Charles was found guilty of committing high treason and sentenced to death by beheading.
Charles’ trial began on the 1st January 1649, where he was accused of “a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people of England.” He was also held personally responsible for all the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, which had resulted in an estimated 6% of the entire population losing their lives.
Charles, as a believer in divine right, refused to recognise the authority of the court. However, on the 27th January the sentence was passed. Charles was executed on the 30th January, having requested to wear two shirts as protection from the cold so that the crowd wouldn’t think he was shaking from fear. Six days later, Parliament abolished the monarchy.
On the 30th January 1661, the year after the restoration of the monarchy and exactly twelve years after Charles’ execution, the body of Oliver Cromwell was exhumed from his grave in Westminster Abbey. Cromwell, who was one of the regicides who had signed Charles’ death warrant and went on to become Lord Protector during the Interregnum, was then posthumously executed and his head placed on a spike.
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.