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30th April 1958. The Lords at Bay.

The Lords once they had wrested power from the monarch became the main legislative assembly, but as a result of Civil War the Commons gradually became the more powerful.

Today in 1958 the Life Peerage Act received its Royal Assent which in time was to dramatically change the constitution of the upper house.

Punch Magazine 1911. Asquith and Lloyd George prepare coronets for 500 extra Peers to threaten the Lords.

Inheritance of Titles in the past was in two ways: by Writ of Summons or by Letters Patent. The first was merely a summons to parliament and did not explicitly confer a peerage, and descent was to heirs of the body be they male or female. Letters Patent explicitly created a peer and names the dignity of the person.

The peerage descended normally, only to a male who was legitimate of the married parents, or who subsequently marry. There were anomalies with Scottish Peerages. Not surprisingly down the centuries inheritance has caused much litigation.

One of the aspects of peerage introduced in the 15thc by Edward IV was the ‘Writ of Acceleration’ which enabled the eldest son and heir apparent to attend the British or Irish Lords using one of his father’s subsidiary titles. This was a useful means of lowering the average age and increasing the talent of the Lords.

Queen Anne addresses the Lords c1708-14. Peter Tilleman.

Acceleration was abolished in 1999 by the House of Lords Act; the last to have Acceleration was given by Prime Minister, John Major to Robert Gasgoyne, Cecil Viscount Cranborne, eldest son of the 6th Marquis of Sele.

The same Act which received Royal Assent on 11th November 1999 reduced hereditary peerages in the Lords from 1330 to 90 with a total of 669, so now mainly composed of Life Peers. Further reform is promised! (1)

1) Reform of the Lords had been a constant theme with the Labour Party, as on Tuesday May 4th 1948 when Mr Herbert Morrison announced (to the surprise of none) that the talks between party leaders on the subject of the reform of the House of Lords had failed. It had discussed reconstruction of membership as well as a review of the powers of the Upper House. But all had come to nought.

Ref: Punch Magazine. Impression of Parliament. May 12th 1948.

Ref: Inheritance of Titles.

Ref: Debrett’s Com. Creation of Peers.

Ref: Royal Assent to 1999 Act 11.11.1999.





29th April 1905. BIG BEN.

Lord Grimthorpe, amateur horologist, died Today in 1905 and probably best known as the designer of the clock in St Stephen’s Tower at the end of the parliament buildings in Westminster. (1)

The clock known colloquially as ‘Big Ben’, in fact the name of the largest bell, the hands are made of anti-corrosive gunmetal comprising zinc, tin and copper. The minute hands are 14 feet in length and weigh 101 kg each. Automatic winding gear was installed in 1913.(2)

However all designers need someone to make their dreams come true and so it was with Big Ben which was constructed by the largely unknown E.J. Dent who didn’t live to see his piece adorn the Houses of Parliament, dying in 1853. Erected in 1859 it is rarely more than a second out on Greenwich Mean Time.

Old pennies are used as adjusting weights on the collar of the pendulum and the chimes can be heard up to four miles from Westminster. Big Ben is symbolic of Britain, particularly associated with the BBC news in occupied countries during World War II, when it was regarded as a reliable signal when listening-in to secret broadcasts.

There is dispute as to whom Big Ben is named after: either a Victorian prize-fighter called Big Ben, or after Sir Benjamin Hall, later Lord Llandover, the First Commissioner of Works who also established the Metropolitan Board of Works.

Originally the bell weighed 16 ½ tons when cast in 1856, but the following year a 4ft long crack appeared and the bell had to be re-cast losing 3 tons in the process.

In 1923 the first broadcast of Big-Ben was made to usher in the New Year and even the bombing of the building in May 1941 failed to silence the the bells. In August 1949 starlings perching on the minute hand caused the clock to slow by 4 ½ minutes.

1st Lord Grimthorpe by Spy (Leslie Ward), Feb.1889. Entitled ‘Bells’.

The bells were silenced for the funeral procession of Churchill on January 30th 1965 and they were frozen in the cold January of 1987.

Brian Davis, the Clock Tower Guide, was presented with a gift, on his retirement in 1999, incorporating the ‘old pennies used to regulate the pendulum; the addition of one penny caused a gain of 2-fifths of a second in 24 hours.

In 2009 the 150th anniversary was celebrated at Parliament, of the clock and bell, which involved a speech by the 5th Lord (’Teddy’) Grimthorpe, a descendant of E.B.Dennison.

In 2018 St. Stephen’s Tower is shrouded in scaffolding as like the rest of parliament is in desperate need of renovation, so Big Ben and the Westminster Chimes are silent… for the time being.

(1) Architect and barrister E.B.Denison later Lord Grimthorpe was also to restore St. Alban’s Abbey with his own money.

(2) The 330ft Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, at Birmingham University, is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.


28th April 1789. Mutiny.

The Mutiny on HMS Armed Vessel Bounty took place today in 1789.

Captain Bligh.

The ship which had sailed from Britain on December 23 1787 to collect breadfruit plants from Otaheite (Tahiti) to take to the West Indies as food for slaves.

Having arrived on October 26th the following year, after a six month stay, the ship headed back west on April 4th 1789 bound for the Cape of Good Hope and then to Jamaica in the West Indies carrying 1000 breadfruit.

However members of the crew, led by Fletcher Christian, the Master Mate, mutinied off Nomuka in the Friendly Isles, against their commanding Lieutenant, William Bligh.

It resulted in Bligh and eighteen companions being cast adrift in an open boat with only a few days supply of food. Managing to eke out their food, they succeeded after 40 days, in reaching Timor in the East Indies 4,000 miles away.

Meanwhile the mutineers returned to Tahiti, whilst some sailed on to Pitcairn Island, later a British Colony, where a settlement was founded, undiscovered until 1808.

Bligh suffered a mutiny for the second time as Captain of the 64 gun HMS Director, in the fleet mutiny at the Nore in 1797, the ship being the last to surrender.

Bligh however stood by his men after Vice-Admiral, Lord Keith had decreed that the 10 most guilty from each ship should be tried.

Fletcher Christian turning Bligh and 18 others adrift. 1790 painting by Robert Dodd.

He protested that ‘All but ten of my men and two deserters have a faith that they will receive His Majesty’s pardon’, which resulted in nineteen of those arrested being released.

Three times unlucky, in 1808 Bligh suffered his third mutiny as Governor of New South Wales after he was deposed in the ‘Rum Rebellion’, when he attempted to stamp out abuses, resulting in a two year confinement.

On returning to England Bligh was promoted to Vice Admiral; the remnants of the mutiny were not so lucky being brought back to Britain with three executed.

In the late 1990.s the wreck of HMS Pandora sent to bring the Bounty mutineers back to justice was being salvaged by divers on the Great Barrier Reef where it had foundered on August 29th 1791.

Captain Bligh much maligned as a harsh disciplinarian, has a blue plaque at 100, Lambeth Road, London erected in 1952.



27th April 1908. London Olympics.

Citius, altius, fortuis: farther, higher and stronger, the Olympic Motto, and relating to the 2012 London Olympics some would add greedier as even the torch relay was plagued by commercialism from sponsors.

Today in 1908 the London Olympic Games, at the White City Stadium opened, being the brainchild of W.H. Grenfell, Lord Desborough, who volunteered London as a venue after Italy had been forced to abandon hosting the games after Vesuvius had erupted in 1906.

The sponsors for the Marathon on Friday 24th July were Oxo,  the Indian Wawkphar, antiseptic military foot powder and Odol mouth wash, showing that commercialisation was alive and well.

Pietri helped over the line.

The race was notable in that Dorando Pietri was the first over the line, but disqualified as he was assisted after falling, and for the establishing of the route length from 25 miles to the over 26 thereafter.

The Games were opened by King Edward VII and of the 1001 athletes, 226 were British and all the participating countries apart from America and Canada, Australia and South Africa, were European. No government involvement took place and without an appeal by the Daily Mail would have foundered for want of cash. Categories included motor-boating, polo and tug-of-war.

City of London Police Tug-o-War Team.

Starting in April with the rackets event at the Queen’s Club in London, which was a flop as every single entry was British, the final between E.B Noel and H.M Leaf did not take place because Leaf had hurt his hand and Noel won gold without hitting a ball.

Rugby was equally farcical with only Australia turning out only to find that Britain’s top players had set off for a tour of… Australia.

The Times in an article on 18th July, ‘The Games of London’, itemised such people as Lord Montagu, Major General, the Lord Cheylesmore and Sir Lees Knowles as members of the Council for the Games: very democratic!

The 1908 Games closed on 31st October, just over 6 months, a record in the modern era, but was always a subservient activity to the British-French ‘White City’ Exhibition. (1)

(1) Britain last topped the medals league held at the 70,000-seat White City Shepherd’s Bush, erected in twelve months and cost £70,000 but was paid for by the organisers of the neighbouring Franco-British Exhibition. Unlike the previous two games which had been part of World Fairs, the games were held as a competition in their own right being a success with 100,000 attending.


26th April 1947. Match of the Day.

The first FA Cup-Tie, other than a Final, to be televised was the 5th round match featuring Charlton who beat Blackburn 1-0 in February 1947, before going on to win the Cup.(1)

The 1947 FA Cup Final was a game notable for a burst ball which also happened in the previous year’s Final; it was blamed on poor quality leather after the war.

The Charlton v Burnley FA Cup Final of 1947 also made another little bit of history as it was the first to be televised in its entirety. The result after extra-time, Charlton 1 Burnley 0, made up for Charlton’s defeat in the previous year’s Final when they were defeated 4-1  by Derby County.(2)

Duke of Gloucester meeting Burnley.

The BBC started TV in 1936 though it was nearly a year before the first TV football was screened in a specially arranged friendly between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves at Highbury on 16th September a year later.

It was followed, only on London BBC TV, by the first TV International between England and Scotland from Wembley on the 9th April 1938 when Scotland won 1-0. Commentators were George Allison and Thomas Woodroofe.

England v Scotland with players wearing black armbands owing to the death of SFA President.

The first FA Cup Final which saw televised excerpts of the game, followed on the 30th between Huddersfield who lost 0-1 to Preston North End.

Unbelievably to modern fans coverage of football TV didn’t expand for 2 decades except for the FA Cup Final along with the annual England and Scotland match.

Televised matches were broadcast only from London games in those early days for technical reasons thus the preponderance of Charlton and Arsenal games.

Charlton’s Peter Croker died December 2011 in his 90th year, the last surviving player of the 1947 Final.

Unofficial programme 1947 Final.

Official Programme.











(1) Played on 8.2.1947.

(2) Chris. Duffey scored in extra-time.



Television and Football. of Programmes.

25th April 1599. Lord Protector.

‘When all things were profaned did the best in the worst of times’, as the inscription says over the west door of Staunton Harold Church, Leicestershire.

The inscription was written about Royalist, Sir Robert Shirley and related to the profanation of the era of Oliver Cromwell whose birth was Today in 1599.

The church was started in 1653, the inside being richly Stuart in taste, but Shirley, later 1st Earl Ferrers, had risked the displeasure of Cromwell, by his open defiance of a despot who nearly became King Oliver I.

However on 8th May 1657 he decided not to accept the throne after all, for as Lord Protector he had all the power and he had got rid of a monarch, becoming, ‘more powerful than all the kings that have ever been in England’, according to the Venetian envoy.

West Door of Staunton Harold Church over which the inscription about Shirley is written.

Like all tyrants he feared for his life: the Venetian Ambassador reported: ‘Cromwell never slept in the same room, but frequently changed his bed, for fear of mines’.

Faced by widespread unrest the Protector divided the country into eleven zones under a Major Generals.

However Martial Law was disastrous and Cromwell was forced to recall Parliament, but not before rigging the elections.

Catholicism was the only religion banned in the Commonwealth, with one Catholic paying the price being John Southworth, a London priest, who had been arrested by a bounty hunter.

He was later hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn declaring that: ‘The Lord Protector lately fought for the liberty of the subject and the people of this nation were made believe there should be a general liberty of conscience and that no man’s life should be taken away for matters of religion’.

Jews fared better and tolerated after 1656 under the Lord Protector, not noted for his toleration, their resettlement being in the interests of trade. (2)

After the restoration of the monarchy Cromwell’s body was exhumed and mutilated on January 30th 1661, and subjected to posthumous execution along with John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, the son-in-law of Cromwell.

However Cromwell was later to be seen as the person who made parliament supreme in the British constitution, which saw, in remembrance, the erection of a statue outside Parliament, paid for by Liberal, Prime-Minister, Lord Rosebery in 1899, one of five statues in the UK.

Statue of Cromwell outside Parliament, by Hamo Thorneycroft.

Shirley never saw his church completed as Cromwell on hearing about it, asked why he couldn’t pay towards a ship for the Navy, when he could afford to build such a fine church.

Shirley was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower, dying at 27, the church being completed by the guardians of his son.

(1) The inscription was written after the Restoration by Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon to whom Shirley had offered refuge in the Civil War.

(2) The Jews had been expelled by Edward I from England in 1290, the first European monarch to do so.





24th April 1900. Daily Express.

‘I run the paper [Daily Express] for the purpose of making propaganda and with no other motive’. Lord Beaverbrook in 1948.

Today in 1900 the first Daily Express hit the streets. Published by C. Arthur Pearson, the second most powerful newspaper magnate after Alfred Harmsworth, he announced in the opening editorial that, ‘Our policy is patriotic; our policy is the British Empire’.

It was the first newspaper to carry gossip. sport and women’s articles and to carry news instead of adverts on the front page; in 1916 Beaverbrook bought out Pearson.

Soon establishing itself as a major player in the mid-market press, in 1931 it took possession of the new, distinctive, glass-fronted, art-deco premises in Fleet Street. 

Designed by Ellis and Clark, old Daily Express premises in Fleet St.

By 1936 the Daily Express had the largest circulation in the world at 2.25m under the long serving legendary editor, Arthur Christiansen, reaching  3m in 1944, peaking at 4m five years later, dominating mid-market newspapers and outselling his rival peer Lord Rothermere.

A staunch Tory, friend of Churchill and driving force as Minister of Munitions in World War II, in the 1945 elections Lord Beaverbrook attacked Labour with a headline ‘National Socialists’.

Two great assets at the time were ‘Giles’ the satirical cartoonist and Rupert Bear. The Author remembers going into Grandma’s pantry, to find Rupert which was dutifully cut and pasted.

Granny a feature in Giles’ Cartoons. Nov. 1947.

Beaverbrook believed in the power of the press as a ‘flaming sword’ to cut through political armour, and the paper still today, has a symbol of a Crusader at the top of the front-page, and wasn’t afraid to suppress news as with Edward VIII and his mistress and Churchill’s stroke in the early 1950.s. In 1962 the Express with a vendetta against the ‘Royals’ incurred the wrath of Prince Phillip.

After Beaverbrook’s death in 1964 his son Max didn’t enjoy the same success and successively went through 12 editors. The paper was vehemently opposed to the ‘Common Market’ as it was then known.

In 1977 the paper went tabloid and in 1985 was bought by United Newspapers. When institutions are in trouble they change names as did the Daily Express in 1996 when the ‘Daily’ was dropped and the Sunday Express became ‘Express on Sunday’.

Express Newspapers were bought by publisher Richard Desmond: in 2000 the old titles came back.

In 2005 UK Media Group Entertainment secured majority interest on the children’s feature ‘Rupert’ from the Daily Express, paying £6m for 66.6% control, with Express Newspapers retaining rights to publish in certain Express papers. In 2011 circulation was c 600,000.


Beers, Laura 2010. Harvard. P21. of Rupert.