19th September 1879. Ready for a Paddle.

The Blackpool illuminations were switched on for the first time Today in 1879, however the lights as we know them came in 1912 to celebrate the first visit to Blackpool by a member of the Royal Family.

1925 postcard view from North Pier.

The first permanent electric street lighting on London’s Victoria Embankment in 1878 were steam-powered by a Gramme dynamo, lighting carbon arc-lights, to be followed the following year by similar lamps giving the first illuminations on Blackpool promenade.(1)

Blackpool was in the forefront of the introduction of electricity, apart from lights, as it was the first municipal authority to have electric trams by 1885, with Frank Matcham’s, Grand Theatre one of the first electric theatres. Within 30 years piers and promenades arrived.

The coming of the railway in 1846 put the resort on the map helped later by the Burton-on-Trent based, Bass Brewery Rail Excursions, when 10,000, in 17 trains, would invade the town, eight times from 1885  to 1914. Revived in 1925 they went on until 1939. (2)

1911 Bass Trip arriving at Blackpool Station.

Workers travelled free and received a day’s pay and pocket money also getting free access to all venues with relatives travelling at reduced rates.

Then the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, with its cotton workers’ ‘wakes weeks’, boosted Blackpool’s prosperity, sweetened when seaside rock came in 1876.

Blackpool’s golden-age came pre-and post-war, with the 1938 Statutary Pay Act which saw paid holidays treble within five years to fifteen million; Holiday Camps proliferated.

1920’s view of Blackpool.

In the early days boarding-houses or ‘digs’ was manned by dragon-like landladies with use of cruet for an extra 6d,  with no entry except at meal times, at the many popular workers’ resorts which apart from Blackpool included Rhyl, Cleethorpes, the delights of Skegness, publicised by Hassall’s 1908 ‘Jolly Fisherman’ and ‘so bracing’, or ‘Magical Margate’ where the first ladies’ bathing machine (a hut on wheels) which required climbing a ladder, whilst emerging into the sea down another. (3)

Liverpool and New Brighton was a regular venue for the Bass Excursions.

New Brighton no longer exists as a sea-side resort, but was once one of the most popular for northern holiday-makers.


(1) 13th December 1878.

(2) Last trip to Blackpool pre WWI was in 1911.

(3)  Invented by a local Quaker called Benjamin Beale (mixed bathing was illegal until 1901).



search.staffspasttrack.org.uk/Pic of trip.




18th September 1714. The Riot Act.

It was the Great Grandson of James I (VI of Scotland), under the 1701 Act of Settlement and Hanoverian succession who was to rule as George I. So it was Today in 1714 that George, Elector of Hanover, sailed up the Thames and landed at Greenwich to claim his kingdom, a dynasty, which ended with the death of Queen Victoria.

George I didn’t exactly enamour himself with the British as he couldn’t speak English, didn’t care for England, divorced and imprisoned his wife, and took at least two mistresses, and as a Protestant was inimical to the High Church Tories.

Then in a country with many Catholic followers of the deposed James II (Jacobites), it is unsurprising that people rebelled against this Protestant king, which erupted into violence requiring the enactment of the 1714 Riot Act. (1) 


However George became king by a fluke as his mother the Electress Sophia was nominated in the 1701 Act of Settlement, to succeed William III if he had no issue, but by her death Sophia, grand-daughter of James I, missed becoming queen, by three months, as she died just before Queen Anne.

The Act sought to guarantee a Protestant succession through Sophia, but ignoring there were many Catholics with a stronger claim.
The Hanoverian Age was to see many uprisings forcing the Whig Government to use the Riot Act  on many occasions, an Act which stated, ‘that if riotous assemblies of twelve or more didn’t disperse within one hour after a Magistrate had read a royal proclamation to do so, would be guilty of a capital felony’.

They would be guilty of a felony without ‘benefit of clergy’, and it was important to read the Act as written to be valid, because at least one conviction was nullified when ‘God Save the King’ was omitted.(2)

However the Whig Administration used the Riot Act as a ‘catch all’, to prosecute the High Church Tory, Reverend Henry Sacheverell regarding his sermons which were highly critical of the Whigs, who were to be in office for the next half-century.

Sacheverell’s sermons had been regarded as volatile back in 1710 provoking riots, repeated in 1714 at George’s coronation, when there was unrest around the country in support of Sacheverell and the Jacobites. In Birmingham there were cries of, ‘Kill the old rogue [meaning the king], kill them all’.

Sacheverell was tried and imprisoned for three years and two sermons were publicly burnt after the so called ‘Sacheverell riots’.

The 18th century witnessed many upheavals for apart from the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite insurgencies, there were the 1743 Gin Riots against its taxation, the St  George Massacres in May 1768 after John Wilkes was imprisoned for his article in the North Briton against George III, and the more serious Gordon Riots of 1780 against concessions to Catholics.

The Riot Act (latterly no longer punishable by death) had to await until 8th July 1973 to be finally repealed, though rioting is still a feature of protest.

(1) which came into effect on August 1st next year.

(2) Benefit of Clergy absolved many from some prosecution.







17th September 1944. ‘Market Garden.’

Today was the first day in the Battle of Arnhem, a battle which would have been impossible but for the new nylon parachute developed by the Pioneer Parachute Company in Manchester.

In June 1940 Churchill had ordered the War Office to investigate the possibility of creating 5,000 parachute troops and a year later the Central Landing Establishment came into existence at Ringway Airfield (later Manchester Airport), with later Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire overseeing the training of over 25,000 paratroops during the war.

Deaths of parachutists who had ‘Roman-Candled’ resulted in a review of packing procedures which were undertaken by lady packers in large sheds, being suitably reminded by notices; ‘that a man’s life depends on you’. Lady-driven ‘blood wagons’ stood by in case of the frequent casualties.

They jumped from converted Whitley bombers from a hole in the floor, which posed the problem of hitting the other side on descent, later changed to exiting from side-doors with the arrival of Americans Dakotas.

Churchill had envisaged a force of 5,000 for his new parachute force and it was Number 2 Commando chosen for the first training as paratroops. Later the 11th Special Air Service it became The Parachute Regiment in August 1942.

83 Airborne Division near Grave, showing gliders being towed. National Archives.

Eventually towed gliders such as the Hotspur, Horsa, Hamilcar and Hengist were to ferry paratroops and in 1942 The Glider Pilot Regiment came under the control of the Army Air Corps using gliders which were to prove their worth in Operation ‘Market Garden’, the 1944 Arnhem landings in the Netherlands, which constituted the largest airborne operation of all time, 

Under Montgomery, The First Airborne Division intended, now that the French were liberated, to secure a bridgehead over the lower Rhine, after capturing roads, rail and pontoon bridges, and with the Germans in retreat, to sweep through Belgium and break through the Siegfried Line.

However troops were left stranded by the lack of speed and urgency of the advancing tanks, and the shooting down of an American glider carrying landing instructions meant the Germans knew the Allies plans. Troops were over-run on the 21st and evacuated on the 25th of September.


Later, questions have been asked whether the eventual successful invasion after D-Day could have been avoided, if contact had been made through Canaris and the Schwarz Kapelle, the anti-Nazi resistance movement? After the war Churchill expressed regret that the Anglo-American alliance had ignored those who ‘represented the social political and even military conscience of Germany’. But these are the thoughts of hindsight.



army.mod.uk/infantry regiments.



16th September 1847. Shakespeare’s Houses.

The half-timbered house was the supposed birth-place of Shakespeare in Henley Street, Stratford, before its 19thc restoration.

In 1556 John Shakespeare, glover and whittawer (leather worker), farmer and sometime alderman, bought part of a house in Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon. John was to become a notable local citizen taking up key civic positions, including that of ale-taster, weights and measures tester in inns, bakers and butchers. About a year later he married Mary Arden daughter of a Wilmcote farmer. (1)

1864 after restoration.

It was Today in 1847 that the premises in Henley Street, known as Shakespeare’s birthplace, were purchased at auction for £3,000 by the Shakespeare Trust with the intention to restore its 16thc glory.(2)

If little is known about his antecedents, less is known about William the poet and dramatist himself, as in 1780 a Mr. George Steevens wrote: ‘All that is known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakespeare is that he was born at Stratford-on-Avon, married and had children there, went to London, where he commenced acting, and wrote poems and plays. Returned to Stratford, made his will, died and was buried’. All the rest as Hamlet said, is silence.

We do know from his untidy will, with numerous crossings out, that he bequeathed his wife his second best bed (the best was for visitors), and furniture, and the bulk of his estate to his elder daughter Susanna and £300 to his younger daughter Judith.

As a dramatist he would have sold his plays to the actors’ companies staging them, (who would have been wary of having them printed which facilitated piracy), such as the prestigious Lord Chamberlain’s Men of which Shakespeare was a partner, actor and house dramatist.

Artist’s View from Chapel Street. Shakespeare’s New Place would have stood, on the corner, to the right of the half-timbered building.

The business must have flourished as it has been estimated his income was £100-160 (pa) (£50,000-£80,000 today), being one of a syndicate which owned the Globe Theatre in Southwark, London, which opened in 1599.

Two years before he had purchased New Place in Chapel Street, Stratford, described as a, ‘pretty house of brick and timber’, for his wife and two daughters, Judith and Susanna, whilst he spent most of his time in London. (3)

However in 1759 the then owner the Rev Gastrell, reportedly fed up with tourists and after a dispute with the local town authorities, pulled it all down, chopping the famous mulberry tree for firewood.

All we can see now is a vacant space devoted to a garden as in Shakespeare’s day. (see picture above).

1940 picture by Arthur James Dudley. annexgallery.com

19thc view of Anne Hathaway’s cottage by Henry Sylvester Stannard. hubpages.com.







If we know little about Shakespeare the dramatist, we know even less about his wife Anne Hathaway, daughter of a farmer at nearby Shottery, except that she was older and died after William.

Certainly the house of her birth bears little external resemblance to the original, as over time like her husband’s they have changed over centuries, so what the tourists see today is a chocolate-box image of reality. 

(1) Ale-taster (Conner), Carniters (meat tester), and bread weigher were all employed in assessing the probity of local suppliers.

(2) The money was raised with the help of notables such as Charles Dickens.

(3) New Place was bought in Easter term 1597 for £60. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust MS.


britain-magazine.com/artist’s impression.

alamy.com/stock images.

alamy.com/ILN 1847/Pic.


shakespeare.org.uk/saving shakespeare’s birthplace.

15th September 1890. Queens of Crime.

Detection a species of popular fiction bears the same relation to actual crime as pastoral poetry to the realities of rural economy, said Micheal Innes, one of many male, crime writers who over the years have included Edgar Wallace and Carter Dickson, but it is Agatha Christie, of the old traditional writers of the genre who maintains her popularity. 

Newspaper account Daily Herald.

Born Today in 1890 to wealthy parents in Torquay this gave Christie time to indulge her fancy for crime, represented by her eighty novels, short story collections and plays, surpassed in sales only by the Bible and Shakespeare, by selling four million books world wide every year.

She was thus set to become the ‘Queen of Crime’, but in 1926 became the subject of a mystery herself by disappearing, only to be tracked down at a Harrogate hotel after a maid identified a newspaper picture.

The cause appears to resulted from domestic problems with her husband Colonel Christie from whom she separated, later to marry the archaeologist Sir Arthur Mallowan, who was to be the inspiration for many of her plots.

Daily Mirror article 1926 on disappearance.

Many find her characters are pale and lacking in depth and emotion, used as pawns to be moved to her purposes, her plots artificial and her prose flat and superficial. Many early books were xenophobic and anti-Semitic and unfeeling, but she was a creature of her time.

In the The Girdle of Hyppolita’ 1939) we read, ‘Those miserable idiots of the unemployed’, then  her maids are usually stupid with adenoids, whilst murder was regarded as a mere parlour game.








Christie emerged as a crime writer alongside three other women, in a golden-age for crime fiction, which included Dorothy L. Sayers (born 1893) and Ngaio Marsh (born 1895).(1)

The third Margery Allingham (born 1904) was married to Peter Youngman-Carter who finished her last book ‘Cargo of Eagles’, after her death, but is better known as the illustrator of many of the crime novel, dust-covers of the era.

One thing all these writers had in common was that they were leisured girls, who starting writing to restore family finances, but it was a genre which created memorable and legendary private investigators such as Christie’s Hercule Poirot who was obsessed with Motivation to solve the crime.

The Belgian refugee and egg-headed, Poirot, dapper and pernickety in appearance and behaviour yearned to retire to cultivate vegetable marrows, in the early novel the Murder of Roger Akroyd, and made his appearance in her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).(2)

Sayers’ Lord Wimsey stressing the notion of ‘How’ a crime was committed to track down its perpetrator, was loosely based on friends she had met at Somerville College and later, and Bunter his manservant was also based on a friend’s gentleman’s gentleman. He and Allingham’s Albert Campion and Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn were to map out a new direction for English murder mysteries.

But then came a lady, in Christie’s fluffy, Miss Marple of St. Mary Mead making her main entry in 1930 in Murder at the Vicarage where she is described as ‘that terrible Miss Marple’, however when she appeared in the 1942 Body in the Library she had mellowed into; ‘a fluttering fluffiness and clouds of knitting wool, living in the evocative generic village, and rigid in pursuit of truth and justice, untroubled by pity’.

Marple was based on Christie’s Granny and her elderly lady visitors in Ealing, London.(3)

(1) Sayers was one of the volunteers who helped to search Newland’s Corner the remote Surrey beauty spot where Christie’s car was found, after her disappearance.

(2) The publishers Hodder and Stoughton sent it back as did Methuen and finally it was John Lane at the Bodley Head who published it two years later.

(3) The Marple name was taken from the now demolished Marple Hall in Cheshire and is the most famous old lady in literature, since Dickens’ Miss Haversham, after making a discreet appearance in a 1927 magazine story. It was at this time when investigator Miss Climpson appeared in Sayer’s ‘Unnatural Death‘.


Daily Herald 15.12.1926. Article on Disappearance.

flavorwire/Pic A murder is Announced.

Daily Mirror December 1926.

loyal books/Pic/ Whose Body?

vulpeslibres.word press.com/Pic/9 Tailors.



14th September 1964. Heralding the Sun.

The Sun shines on its first day, the 15th Sept., in 1964, after the Herald folded the previous day.

How the Herald saw the first day of war.

Today the Daily Herald ceased publication to be replaced, the following day, by the Sun then in its broadsheet format, before being bought by Rupert Murdoch 5 years later when it went tabloid.

Letter from Arthur Quiller-Couch to Siegfried Sassoon, Literary Editor, requesting a post as writer.

The Herald’s birth went back to 1910 at a time when the Printers’ Union, the London Society of Compositors was involved in an industrial struggle to establish a 48 hour week and produced a daily strike bulletin The World on 25th January 1911.

It was renamed the Daily Herald having a circulation of 25,000 by the end of the strike in April 1912 and organized by dockers’ leader Ben Tillett and Labour politician, George Lansbury, as The Daily Herald Company, with the Daily Herald League based on local reader control.

The paper was syndicalist, supporting worker control social revolution, trade unions and anti-colonial especially regarding home-rule for Ireland.

One of its earliest issues was concerned with the sinking of the Titanic, in 1912, where the disproportionate loss of the crew and 3rd class passengers was all too obvious.

Early writers were of the calibre of G.C. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, however in June the Herald Company was liquidated to be revived by its Editor Lapwood and Lansbury along with rich friends such as Henry Devenish Harben, whose grandfather founded Prudential Insurance.(1)

In World War I the Herald was published weekly and by 1919 became again a daily, but as revolutionary fervour declined so did the fortunes of the paper which was sold to the TUC in 1922.

Then Frederic Salusbury (2) once editor of the Daily Express became Editor in Chief and attracted a more up-market readership. However in 1930 the TUC sold 51% of its holding to Odham’s publisher of the Sunday People who wanted to use its presses in the week, the TUC also wanted the expertise of Odham’s in running a newspaper.

By 1933 the Daily Herald was the world’s best selling paper at 2m copies, but competition was soon to come from the Daily Express.

Post-war competition came from its stable-mate, The Mirror and IPC acquired Odham’s in 1961. Five years after the Herald’s closure its final circulation was still more than The Sun’s in 1969, until Murdoch changed its format and appeal: remember Page 3?

(1a) The new company was called the Limit Print and Publication Coy.

(1b) Chestertom wrote the Fr. Brown Stories.

(1c) Harben was a supporter of Labour and set up The New Statesman.

(2) Salusbury came from a wealthy Welsh Family.







13th September 1886. Alkaloids.

[Sir] Robert Robinson who was born Today in 1886 had an illustrious career as an organic chemist, for apart from his work on Dyes and Alkaloids he discovered the molecular structure of Morphine, Penicillin and Strychnine.(1)


A Nobel Laureate for his research into plant dye-stuffs (Anthocyanins) and Alkaloids, he famously synthesised Tropinone a precursor of Cocaine in 1917 which constituted a big step forward in Alkaloid Chemistry.

Tropinone was also synthesised as a precursor to Atropine a member of the Nightshade Family which treats types of nerve agent, which was scarce during WWI. It is used against pesticide poisoning. (2)

Alkaloids, Tropinone, Cocaine and Atropine all share the Tropane core structure. Its Conjugate Acid is Tropiniumone (pH 7.3).

The structure of Strychnine, a colourless crystalline Alkaloid used as a pesticide, was first determined by Robinson in 1946 and constituted a famous and remarkable example of resolving a complex molecular puzzle.

Strychnine has classically been a means of poisoning, in life and fiction, and so used by Agatha Christie in her early crime-novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the victim being Mrs Emily Inglethorp.(3)

(1) Robinson died 8.2.1975.

(2a) Tropinone (C8 H13) (NO) decomposes before boiling.

(2b) Atropine slows heart rate and salivation.

(3) Strychnine (C21 H22) (N2 O2) Boiling Point 270c.




gettyimages/Pic of strychnine.

googleimages/Pic of atropine.