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31st July 1910. Murders Most Foul.

Marconi’s transmitting station was set up overlooking the famous Needles at Alum Bay and his technological wonders are recorded on a memorial in the car park .

Today in 1910 Dr. Crippen was arrested at sea by use of the new technology of Marconi,  and he also proved to be the first criminal to be arrested with the aid of the new medium, whilst sailing on the SS Montrose.

Captain Kendall had ‘smelt a rat’ and contacting England by wireless soon had Inspector Drew on his way by a faster ship and boarded the Montrose as a ‘pilot’ to make his arrest.

The good doctor was escaping to Canada with his companion, actress, Ethel Le Neve who happened to be disguised as a male, after killing his oppressive wife Cora, whose remains were found in Crippen’s cellar.

After a trial and conviction at the Old Bailey, London, Crippen was executed at Pentonville on 23rd November 1910, by an executioner who happened to be a York barber, John Ellis. Le Neve was exonerated.

The first to be arrested, by ‘wire telegraph’, was John Tawell, forger of banknotes and murderer in 1845. He was seen getting on the Paddington train; the telegraph clicked to Paddington recording: ‘A murder has just been seen committed at Salt Hill and the suspect was seen to have taken a first class ticket to London by the train that left Slough at 7.42 pm’.

It went on, ‘he is in the garb of a ’Kwaker’ (Quaker as the telegraph had no ’Q’ and used the phonetic ‘K’), with a brown great-coat on, which reached his feet. He is in last compartment of the second 1st Class carriage‘.

Tawell was publically hanged at Aylesbury and broadsheets about the murderer were handed to the people around the scaffold.

Another who fell foul of scientific development was Dr. George Henry Lamson known as the Wimbledon (aconite) poisoner who had moved to Bournemouth c 1878 to become a GP.(1)

It appeared that Lamson had a brother-in-law, Percy Malcolm who was resident at a private school who happened to be an invalide. Lamson on a visit had showed him a new capsule which could be used for his medication.

However this had been injected with Aconite, the ‘Queen of Poisons’, before Lamson departed by train; by the time he was home, Malcolm had died a violent death. (2)

Lamson’s motive, as old as time, was his desire to profit by the death, at a time when he was particularly strapped for cash due to his morphine addiction and love of the high life.

Lamson had been taught as a student that Aconite was undetectable, so in 1882 he had assumed that the poisoning wouldn’t be diagnosed.

However developments in science had shown otherwise. His defence attempted to blame Ptomaine, a now discredited theory, that death can result by alkaloid toxins from decomposing foods. Lamson’s end came from the skills employed by the well known William Marwood in April 1882.

The development of science, in particular the discovery of DNA, has caused descendants of the Crippen familly in America to suggesti that the ‘slide’ used in evidence by pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury didn’t relate to Cora’s DNA, but tends to fall down as Cora never had a birth certificate to prove maternity.

(1) The Greeks called aconite ( ‘without struggle’) as the ‘Queen of Poisons’; Cerberus was supposed to drool aconite. Also known as wolf bane and monkshood and supposedly used by witches of old. It featured in Wilde’s 1891 ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’.

Aconitum ferox (ferocious) or Indian aconite a root called ‘Bish’ was not known to be used again until an Indian lady poisoned a relative in 2009. It is known to be the most horrendous poison in that victims remain conscious throughout.

(2) Lamson had won the Legion of Honour for his work in the French Ambulance Corps in the Franco-Prussian siege of Paris 1870 and rumoured to have saved lives in the Rumanian War of Independence.  Becoming part of Bournemouth life he obtained a commission in the Bournemouth and Hants Artillery Volunteers.

References: Martin Hodgson. 17.10.2007. Stephen Bailey. Article re DNA.

historytoday. R. Cavendish. 29.7.2010.



30th July 1948. University Seats.

Ramsay MacDonald MP., was the great betrayer of the Labour Party when he formed a National Government in 1930, for which action he was never forgiven. Forever the opportunist, on losing his seat in 1935 he accepted one of the Scottish Universities, an example of plural voting which he had previously sought to abolish. (1)

University seats originated in Scotland where representatives of the ancient universities sat in the unicameral Estates of Parliament and when James VI (I) inherited the English throne in 1603 the system was adopted by the Parliament in England, continued by the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and in the UK Parliament to 1950.

Thus Oxbridge from 1603 until 1950, each university had two seats applicable to all graduates whether resident or not. London University from 1868 was similarly enfranchised. Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Reading (from 1928) and Sheffield as Combined Universities were granted two between them from 1918 to 1950.

The Combined Scottish Universities had three between them, Queen’s, Belfast and University of Wales one each. Under Northern Ireland Legislation, Queen’s became an anomaly in having four members to 1969. The Single Transferable Vote was used for these elections.

So apart from Queen’s, Belfast, all other university seats were abolished by the Representation of the People Act March 16th 1948, receiving its Royal Assent Today on the 30th July of the same year.

It also meant that with effect from the Parliamentary Dissolution in 1950 that all plural voting was abolished by which anyone could vote in a University seat, in the place where he had property, and where he/she lived, if different; in effect three votes.

Cigarette Card of Herbert.

One notable holder of a university seat was humourist, playwright and novelist, Sir Alan Herbert CH (1898-1971). He held the seat of Oxford from 1935-1950.

(1) MP.s in the early years included Pitt the Younger, Palmerston, Robert Peel and Gladstone.


29th July 1800. Bradshaw’s.

The first continental guide book  was written by the physician and traveller Andrew Borde who died in 1549.

Bradshaw time-table for Whitby.

However guide-books were not to become really popular until British and Continental travel increased by the mid-19th century and destined to become synonymous with George Bradshaw cartographer, printer and publisher who was born Today in 1800. (1)

Bradshaw had started his publishing career with his British Maps of Inland Navigation of the canal of Lancashire and Yorkshire, to be followed soon after with his compilation of railway timetables.

His first one-volume Guide came out in December 1841 and despite religious scruples, was dated ‘For December 1841’, the only extant copy being in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. (2)

1891 Continental Guide.









The publications were esteemed by the prestigious Punch Magazine which in 1865 said, ‘seldom has the gigantic intellect of man been employed upon a greater utility’.

The Guides helped create some order out of the chaos of 150 companies each with its own timetables and whose lines criss-crossed the whole of the country.

At first only the main railway stations were listed but with the increase in lines from 1856 all stations were shown in the index.

The original price was 6d and by attracting adverts the price was held until 1916 when it became a shilling. Front covers saw Lea & Perrins Sauce, Stephens’ Ink, Martell Brandy, Chubb’s Safes and Waring & Gillow furniture.

By 1939 it was 7s 6d and 10 shillings in 1955. By 1961 the Guide was dead as British Rail produced its own standard timetable, but by then there were no minor lines and idiosyncrasy was gone.

Sept-Oct 1937 Railway Guide.

Bradshaw’s main rival was the Alphabetical Railway Guide (ABC) which began in 1853 and to feature in Agatha Christie’s ‘ABC Murders’, others like the Intelligible Railway Guide followed.  Sometimes Bradshaw’s precision failed as when it dropped the howler in 1936 when it noted that the 10.45 from Paddington had a ‘Buffer Car’.

Bradshaw’s was so typical of Victorian and Edward times that the name became an eponym for travel guides and was one of the representative articles sealed in the pedestal of Cleopatra’s Needle on London’s Embankment.

The Guide was a fund of information, apart from tables, and used much by Sherlock Holmes, though it was usually left to Watson to consult it. In the ‘Copper Beeches’ for example Holmes tells Watson: ‘Just look up the trains in Bradshaw’. (3)

After the reduction of railway companies to four in 1923 there was less need for a Bradshaw, but it still continued with a wide range of titles until publication ceased in 1961.

It is ironic that George Bradshaw was to die from travelling abroad, in Oslo, on 6th September 1853 from cholera.

(1) The publisher was W.J.Adams, London.

(2) Bradshaw being a Quaker objected to the pagan names of the month.

(3) Other novels referring to Bradshaw: Conan-Doyle’s, Valley of Fear; Christie’s, Death in the Clouds, 1935 and Secret Adversary, and Rebecca, 1938, by du Maurier.


28th July 1981. Justice.

Today the Royal Assent was granted to the Senior Courts Act 1981 which came into effect on the first day of the next year. 

This Act effectively prescribed the structure of jurisdiction of the Senior Courts, in England and Wales, previously known as Superior Courts. These Senior Courts now comprised the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice, the Employment Appeal Court and the Crown Courts.

Stafford Assizes.

Ten years earlier the 1971 Courts Act had created permanent Crown Courts by abolishing, among other things, the periodic Assize Courts, divided into Circuits, held in County towns, and the quarterly, Quarter Sessions, (lower courts), of the County Boroughs and Counties.(1)

Procession of Stirling Assizes 1873.

It also abolished the antique Courts, of Chancery of the County Palatine of Lancashire (controlled by the Duchy as opposed to the monarch), and of Durham, the Tolzey and The Liverpool Court of Passage.

Certain anomolous areas had their own Quarter Sessions until the 1850 Liberty Act transferred these to County authorities. One such was the Liberty adjoining the Tower of London including the Minories which in 1855 was administered by the Whitechapel Board of Works, not  abolished until June 1894.(2)

Over the years much tradition was associated with the Courts. However the 8th Baronet, Harpur Crewe, when High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1821, did away with the local Assize Ball which he regarded, ‘as cruel and heartless that any person should be found engaged in a world of mirth when so many were trembling on the eve of their trial’.

White Hart, Taunton residence of the late 17thc ‘Bloody Assize’ of Judge Jeffries.

The Assize was a periodic criminal court referring to ‘Sittings of Assises’ when Justices of Assize travelled seven Circuits on Commission of ‘oyer and terminer’ (hear and determine) for treasons felonies and misdemeanours, with records up to 1733 being mainly in Latin.

These sittings dated from Henry II’s 1166 Assize of Clarendon, which established ‘Trial by Jury’ by an Assize of twelve knights which provided justice in land disputes. Prior to the Magna Carta, Writs of Assize were tried at Westminster or had to wait for Septennial Circuits of ‘Justices in Eyre’.

From 1559 the Assize Courts dealt with the more serious cases, but by Victorian times it was obvious that the increased workload resulting from an increased population required reform. Also these courts had taken on many civil cases, including divorce which saved litigants the journey to London.

In 2009 The Constitutional Reform Act established a Supreme Court, replacing the Appellate Committee of the Lords.

(1) The Assizes were abolished in the Court Act which received the Royal Assent on 12th May 1971.

In 1956 Assizes and Quarter Sessions had been replaced by the Crown Court in Manchester and Liverpool. Quarter Sessions survived in Scotland, (which has a different legal system to England and Wales,) until 1975.

(2) The Minories was named after the nuns of the Abbey of Minoresses of S. Mary of the Order of S. Clare (The Poor Clares) which dissolved in 1539 and came under the King’s jurisdiction.




27th July 1849. Hopkinson and Chance.

Hopkinson’s Law in physics is the magnetic counterpart of Ohm’s Law of electrical resistance.

Apart from inventing the 3-phase system for the distribution of electric power, physicist and engineer John Hopkinson FRS born Today in 1849 invented a system of rotating optics which allows adjacent lighthouses to be distinguished by the number of times per revolutions that the light flashes. (1)

Working on a prism at the old Chance factory.

Original optics at Nash Point Lighthouse.





Hopkinson a brilliant mathematician, he was Senior Wrangler (top in the Tripos Exams) at Cambridge, spurning an academic career joined his father’s engineering works and in 1872 moved to the Smethwick, Birmingham, pioneering glass company, Chance Brothers, as Engineering Manager of the Lighthouse Engineering Department where he invented rotating optics.

Original, now dilapidated factory of Chance Bros. at Smethwick.

Nash Point Lighthouse, South Wales, with Chance Bros prisms.






From 1851 Chance Brothers became a major engineering company producing optical components, machinery  and other equipment for lights.

James Timmins Chance pioneered placing lights inside a cage surrounded by ‘fresnel lenses’ .to increase the available light output. Known as optics they were to revolutionize lighthouse glass design.

Chance Brothers developed into many new areas in the use of glass, being responsible for the 300.000 panes of the 1851 Crystal Palace (see below), the glass of Parliament’s ‘Big Ben’ and novelty items.

Hopkinson died tragically with three of his children in a Swiss mountaineering accident on  27th August 1898, a sad end for one who rowed and was a miler for his university, and with so much potential unrealized.

Chance Bros. was acquired by Pilkington’s, glass, but the name lives on as a limited company.

(1) The patent for his 3-phase system was awarded in 1882.


References: Riyah Collins. 24.10.2017.

Pictures by Mark Davies and Chris. Williams of Chance Bros.

26th July 1609. Thomas Harriott: Genius.

Thomas Harriott (Hariot or Heriot: 1560-1621) through his theory and practice proved to be a true Renaissance scientist.

Few know that Galileo wasn’t the first to use a telescope and turn it to the stars as it was the largely unknown Harriott at Syon House, Isleworth who made sketches of the moon as early as Today in 1609 with a Dutch telescope; he also observed sunspots in December a year later. 

Old picture of Syon House, home of Thomas Percy.

Harriott mathematician, astronomer and polymath founded the English School of Algebra and was described by Fauvel and Goulding as the greatest mathematician Oxford produced.

Harriot is little known as he published nothing in his lifetime, but left numerous papers, so when the prestigious Royal Society was founded in 1660, it quickly launched a seven year search for the lost papers.

Sunspots by Harriott.

The moon through Harriott’s telescope.







However the quest failed until a century later when they were discovered and found to include symbolic algebra, workable binary numbers and detailed observations of the moon, sunspots and the moons of Jupiter.

After graduating from Oxford, Harriott lived and worked in the London house of the courtier, Sir Walter Raleigh, where he tutored sea-captains on navigation and importantly calculated the progressive increase of the distances between Latitude which Mercator’s maps had left unresolved.(1)

On returning from Virginia in the 1580.s where Harriott had developed a phonetic alphabet for the Indians, he worked under the patronage of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, at his southern home, Petworth House, where he became a prolific mathematician.

However his association with the Percy Family, in particular Henry’s brother Thomas, who was associated with the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, which caused Harriott to be incarcerated for a time in the Tower of London.

It was Halley’s Comet in 1607 which turned Harriott to astronomy, early in 1609, after buying a Dutch Trunke (telescope), having been invented the previous year.

It was by accident that Harriot’s papers were discovered much later at Petworth, which had ensured their survival, and in 1810 most were deposited in the British Museum, whilst some remained at Petworth, monuments to a true polymath.(2)

Harriott was buried at St. Christopher le Stocks, which suffered in the Great Fire, on the site of the present Bank of England where a plaque records his life.

Thomas Harriot plaque. Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) was a British mathematician and astronomer. He graduated from Oxford University and was hired by Sir Walter Raleigh as a mathematics tutor. After an expedition to the Americas, he worked on the theory of refraction. Halley’s Comet in 1607 turned his attention to astronomy and Harriot made the first telescopic observations of the Moon on 26th July 1609, predating those of Galileo. He was the also the first man to observe sunspots, in December 1610. Photographed in the foyer of the Bank of England, London, UK.

(1) English cartographer Edward Wright was to publish these list Tables of Latitude in 1599.

(2) Now at Sussex County Record Office.

References: Max Alexander Science Photo Library. harriott. Anna Faherty. Harriott a Lost Pioneer.

25th July 1914. Winds of Change.

The ‘Great War’ through momentous sacrifice, more than any other, brought momentous social change; the world would never be the same again.

On 25th July 1914 King George V wrote in his diary:‘We are on the verge of a general European war, a very serious state of affairs: Harold Macmillan (later Prime-Minister), an Oxford undergraduate, in that long hot summer, remembered how suddenly the world changed.

‘The World War burst like a bombshell on ordinary people’, Macmillan recalled in his Winds of Change. ‘It came suddenly and unexpectedly, a real bolt from the blue, there seemed more certainty about a civil war in Ireland’.

Britain changed as the army became the citizen army; conscription coming in January 1916 after much press agitation, particularly from the Harmsworth Press newspapers such as The Times and Daily Mail. War also took to the air with the fledgling RAF growing from nothing to 300,000 airmen..

It was a time when the general health of the nation revealed that a considerable number of service recruits were suffering from malnutrition and unfit to ‘take the King’s shilling’..

Despite this the army’s strength including Empire troops was to rise from 164.000 in 1914 to over five million by 1918. This was the same year as the age limit was raised to fifty, and when Ireland was included for the first time, later abandoned after protests.

Change came with the eventual abandonment of sport and initially professional footballers were reluctant to enlist until the Bishop of Chelmsford visiting Bethnall said there was a need for professional footballers to join-up.

The Stratfield Express on 2nd December 1914 reported that the Bishop stressed ‘Duty’ and that he couldn’t understand men who had any feeling any respect for their country…taking large salaries…for kicking a ball about’.

In fact it was amateurs who joined up first, the likes of the well-regarded Vivian Woodward and Evelyn Lintott which resulted in many recruits wanting to serve with them. The Football Association eventually worked with the War Office to encourage clubs recruiting drives.(1)

The War made us realise the existence of people of other ethnic backgrounds in our midst, but prejudice abounded in the War Office which stated that, ‘blacks of any rank are not desired’ and Military Regulationss stated: ‘No negro or persons of colour are capable of being an officer’, This didn’t stop fooballer Walter Tull being commissioned in May 1917. On 25th March 1918 2nd Lt. Tull on being ordered to attack was killed.

After the War-1914-18-it was assumed there would be no conflict in Europe for the foreseeable future. In 1920 Winston Churchill, War Secretary, said, ‘conscription would give way to an army of 220,000 volunteers’.

(1) However the sports paper the Athletic News was vehement in its agitation as it said, ‘nothing less than attempt by the ruling class to stop recreation on one day in the week of the masses, what do they care for poor man’s sport. The poor are giving their lives…in thousands. In many cases they have nothing else’.


In 2002 Albert Alexandre died at 100 the last veteran of WWI, while resident in the Chelsea Royal Hospital. He had enlisted at 15 after being taunted about not being in uniform.

In July 2009 Henry Allingham died at 113, to be followed a week later on the 25th by the 111 year-old Harry Patch who had joined up in 1917, thus severing our links with anyone who saw service in WWI.


George V Diaries.

Macmillan. H. Winds of Change. Biog. Macmillan Pub.