1663 The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, built by Thomas Killigrew, opened under a charter granted by Charles II.
1765 HMS Victory, the ship which became the flagship of British Admiral Horatio Nelson, was launched at Chatham. The ship is now preserved at Portsmouth.
Faultless to Fault
1812 The birth of Robert Browning, English poet and one of the foremost Victorian poets.
The Elephant Man
1860 The birth of English freak showman Thomas Noakes, (later known as Tom Norman). In 1884, he took over management of Joseph Merrick, otherwise known as the ‘Elephant Man’ and exhibited him for a few weeks until police closed down the show. Over the next few years, Norman’s travelling exhibitions featured Eliza Jenkins, the ‘Skeleton Woman’, a ‘Balloon Headed Baby’ and a woman who bit off the heads of live rats—the ‘most gruesome’ act Norman claimed to have seen. Other acts included fleas, fat ladies, giants, dwarfs and retired white seamen, painted black and speaking in an invented language, billed ‘savage Zulus’.
1915 World War I – The Cunard liner Lusitania, bound for Liverpool, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland with the loss of almost 1,200 lives. The loss of 128 US citizens brought the USA to the verge of war with Germany.
The Golden Era
1916 The birth of Huw Wheldon, former BBC broadcaster, and Controller of BBC1. In 1968 he became Director of BBC television, a position he held until compulsory retirement in 1975. The period of his administration came to be known as ‘the Golden Age of British Television’ and included programmes such as Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad’s Army and Alistair Cooke’s America.
1928 The voting age for women in Britain was reduced from 30 to 21.
The Norway Debate
1940 The ‘Norway Debate’ began in the House of Commons. It led to the replacement of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the formation of a widely-based National Government led by Winston Churchill which was to govern Britain until the end of World War II.
Six Years Later
1945 Germany signed an unconditional surrender in a small school in Rheims (France) when General Jodl, German Army Chief of Staff, signed his name on documents that formally ended six years of war in Europe.
1965 White voters in the African colony of Rhodesia backed Prime Minister Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front which was demanding independence from the UK.
1997 Glasgow Rangers won their 9th successive Scottish League title – to equal the record held by their closest rivals, Celtic.
300 Years Later
1999 The first Scottish Parliament for 300 years was elected.