May Day – originally a Roman festival which began on 28th April and lasted several days to mark the commencement of summer. In England, middle and lower classes would gather flowers – ‘go a maying’ – and the prettiest village maid was crowned Queen of the May, celebrated with dancing around the maypole.
The State of Scotland
1328 The Wars of Scottish Independence ended. England recognized the Kingdom of Scotland as an independent state.
‘Evil May Day’
1517 In ‘Evil May Day’ riots in London, London apprentices attacked foreign residents. Wolsey suppressed the rioters, of whom 60 were hanged.
The Act of Union
1707 The Act of Union joined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The Darwins and the China
1759 Josiah Wedgwood founded the Wedgwood pottery company in Burslem, Staffordshire. Wedgewood was a prominent abolitionist of slavery. He mass produced cameos depicting the seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and had them widely distributed. He was also the grandfather of Charles Darwin and Emma Darwin.
The Iron Duke
1769 The birth of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, in Ireland. Known as the Iron Duke, he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. He was Tory Prime Minister from 1828-30, becoming unpopular when he conceded Roman Catholic emancipation. His London house had its windows smashed by an angry mob on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo
1840 The first British Penny Black stamp went on sale. Invented by Rowland Hill, it was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp and it became valid for postage on May 6th.
Eight Miles of Technology
1851 Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. Over 10,000 exhibitors set up eight miles of tables. Although technological wonders from around the world were on display, the exposition was dominated by Britain which was the premier industrialized nation and workshop of the world.
1875 Alexandra Palace reopened after a fire in 1873 burnt it down. It was designed to be ‘The People’s Palace’ and was later nicknamed ‘Ally Pally’. In 1936 it became the headquarters of the world’s first regular public television service, operated by the BBC.
May Day Strike
1973 More than a million workers joined a one day strike in protest at the pay restraint policy and price rises by the Conservative government under Edward Heath.
1982 British planes attacked two airstrips near Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands to rid the islands of Argentine forces.
1997 A landslide victory for the Labour Party in the General election brought an end to the Conservative Party’s 18 years in power. The new Prime Minister was Tony Blair.