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4th July 1865: Curiouser and curiouser. Three years to the day after the boat-trip that sparked the story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is published in London by Macmillan and Co.

The History of July

From Sir Walter Raleigh to underage drinking to Top of the Pops; Jeremy Smith explores the significant dates associated with the month of July
9th July 1877:

"The first 999 call was from a London number: Mrs Beard of Hampstead reported a burglary at about 4.20am on July 8 1937"

1st July 1858: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape..."

British scientist Charles Darwin presents a paper to the Linnean Society in London, on his theory of the evolution of species and natural selection. Sacrilege!

4th July 1584: "Gee, hi y'all"

Sir Walter Raleigh may never have set foot on the northern American continent, limiting his trans-Atlantic travels to South America, but it was he who presided over the attempt to establish a settlement in what became the colony of Virginia.

In March 1584 Raleigh was granted seven years to achieve that feat, but hastened by the dreamt of riches of that new land, his first exploratory party left Plymouth the following month. Conveniently coincidentally for historians they made landfall on July 4 at what was subsequently named Roanoke Island, now part of North Carolina.

Having made initial peaceful contact with the local tribes and gathered intelligence about the local situation, the party returned to England with two of the native Americans who provided further details to Raleigh. An English settlement was established in 1585.

4th July 1829: "Is that a return?"

The two vehicles Omnibus designer George Shillibeer made for the world's first bus service were described as being van-like, with windows each side and at the rear.

Shillibeer’s service ran from Paddington to the Bank of England via New Road, Somers Road, and City Road. There were 22 seats in the wagon drawn by three bay horses in line abreast. Shillibeer advertised his service as being in “the Parisian mode”, but in case the racy image of the French capital might put people off, he staffed it with ex-navy personnel and stressed their respectability. He ran four services a day with takings of £100 a week.

4th July 1776: Shame...

Congress accepts the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, formally ending American links with Britain.

4th July 1865: Curiouser and curiouser

Three years to the day after the boat-trip that sparked the story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is published in London by Macmillan and Co. Though inauspiciously this edition was promptly withdrawn from sale because of objections by Sir John Tenniel, its illustrator, all but 15 copies being recovered, the book has never been out of print since that date.

The author was, of course, Oxford mathematics lecturer and clergyman Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who perhaps to protect his academic reputation published the nonsensically logical work under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

On a boat trip with his colleague Robinson Duckworth and the three young children of Oxford University’s vice-chancellor Henry Liddell – who was also Dean of Christ Church where Dodgson was based - Dodgson told the youngsters an impromptu tale which featured Alice as its heroine – 10-year-old Alice Liddell was the middle sister of the three.

Dodgson’s story was a success on the trip, and he wrote it up for Alice; a friend prompted him to seek a publisher, and the rest is history.

6th July 1895: A fledgling Jeremy Clarkson...

The Hon Evelyn Ellis had to purchase and import a French Panhard-Levassour in order to become Britain's first motorist. His car was taken by train to Micheldever in Hampshire from where the owner and his friend Frederick Simms drove to Datchet on July 6 1895.

Ellis was not just breaking new ground, he was determined to break the law, specifically that restricting motor-vehicles to a maximum speed of 4mph with a red-flag bearer before them. Ellis the speed fiend reached a daring 20mph, and only according to Simms frightened two of the 133 horses they encountered.

6th July 1535: "And you are...?"

Former favourite of King Henry VIII Sir Thomas More is executed after refusing to recognise the King as the head of the Church.

8th July 1822: Oops!

Leading romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Bay of Spezia, when his boat sinks in a storm.

8th July 1937: "It's our cat - it's shot up a birch and won't come down"

For decades alerting the emergency services by telephone had required dialling ‘0’ and going through the operator. In 1935 a tragedy that might have been averted had the fire service been contacted sooner occurred in Wimpole Street, London, when five women died in a house-fire. A caller had tried to phone for help, but the operator was busy.

Originally the 999 system was just for calls made within a 12-mile radius of Oxford Circus , so naturally the first 999 call was from a London number: Mrs Beard of Hampstead reported a burglary at about 4.20am on July 8 1937, her husband trying to apprehend the perpetrator. Thankfully, as a result of swift police action, Thomas Duffy, a 24-year-old criminal, was apprehended.

9th July 1877: "Advantage Gore"

Lawn tennis was still in its infancy when the first Wimbledon tennis tournament was held. Real tennis (as opposed to lawn tennis) developed from the courtyard games played by medieval monks, using walls and inner roofs as part of the playing area, but the game as it is more or less played now was the brainchild of retired cavalry major Walter Clopton Wingfield. The inaugural Lawn Tennis Championship was played on top of the croquet lawns at Wimbledon, with Spencer W Gore taking the men's singles title.

11th July 1859: "Dong!"

After the fire which destroyed the old Parliament buildings in 1834, Charles Barry designed a new complex, including an elegant tower in which a Great Clock would be housed.

The Great Clock was to be accurate - the revolutionary design by MP Edmund Denison.

The first bell was made in the North East, by Warners at their works near Stockton-on-Tees : it was cast on August 6 1856, but cracked beyond repair on testing in October the following year.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry won the contract for the replacement: almost 14 tonnes in weight, 2.2m high, 2.7m at its broadest, striking a deep E note when hit by the 200kg hammer in the mechanism, which was first used in situ on July 11 1859.

And even this bell went wrong, cracking after a few years, though it was repaired.

12th July 1212: So where was Health and Safety back then?

The Great Fire of London is generally referred to as the inferno which struck London in 1666. However, the fire of 1212 started south of the Thames, in Southwark. Southwark’s Cathedral church was destroyed along with most of Borough High Street and the blaze reached London Bridge, rebuilt in stone following the 1135 disaster. It appears people fleeing northwards from Southwark, and brave souls heading in the opposite direction to fight the fire, were trapped on the bridge when embers carried by strong southerly winds ignited timbers at the northern end, the southern side already ablaze.

13th July 1923: "Now do you want an umbrella in your Pina Colada?"

The British parliament passes a law banning the sale of alcohol to under-18s.

14th July 1858: "Happy birthday to you!"

Birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst, English suffragette who suffered imprisonment in order to gain the vote for women.

16th July 1557: Unbelievable but true...

Death from natural causes (yes, you read that right) of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII.

17th July 1761: The birth of narrowboat holidays

The first canal vessels travelled on the Bridgewater Canal. Manchester’s industry boomed and ‘canal mania’ began in Britain.

18th July 1536: "It's like this, Your Worshipfulness..."

Henry VIII’s split with Rome was linked to his need for funds to pay for improved defences for his kingdom (the destination of much of the money seized from the smaller monasteries which were the first to be closed). In 1536 the core beliefs and doctrines of the new Church of England were made public and in July of that same year, Henry’s Parliament passed an act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome. Not surprisingly, it was a step that for Henry’s reign at least ended all possibility of reconciliation with Rome (interestingly, and in spite of this, Henry would not be excommunicated until December 17 1538).

18th July 1920: Due respect...

750,000 war dead are commemorated with the unveiling of a new national monument in Whitehall, London. The Cenotaph takes its name from the Greek words kenos and taphos meaning empty tomb.

19th July 1545: Heads will roll!

King Henry VIII looks on as his newly refitted flagship the Mary Rose sinks in the Solent, off England's south coast, with the loss of 700 lives.

22nd July 1946: "And now Mary Berry will share with us her recipe for sliced loaves"

More than a year after the end of World War Two, bread is rationed in Britain. The shortage is blamed upon a poor harvest and drought.

23rd July 1940: "Don't tell him Pike!"

The Local Defence Volunteers changes its name to the Home Guard. The one million-strong force, which includes many World War One veterans, is intended to form Britain's last line of defence against the expected German invasion.

24th July 1704: "Look, it's ours now, okay?"

The tiny territory of Gibraltar has been a point of diplomatic and at times military conflict between Spain and Britain ever since it was captured by a combined British and Dutch force in the summer of 1704. At the time of its seizure, however, the peninsula, with its poor anchorage, was of little strategic importance, and was selected as a target by the admiral and general whose forces took it from Spain because it offered them a relatively easy victory after a series of bungled efforts elsewhere. A British fleet of 22 ships led by Admiral Sir George Rooke bombarded the rock for several hours, after which a landing force of 1800 English and Dutch marines led by the Austrian Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt was able to go ashore with ease.

24th July 1567: "Mary... has left the building"

Mary Queen of Scots abdicates after defeat by the Protestants at Carberry Hill.

25th July 1814: No 'wrong' kind of snow in those days...

The chief engineer at the Killingworth colliery, George Stevenson, unveils Blutcher, a steam powered locomotive that can haul eight carriages loaded with 30 tons of coal at the break-neck speed of 4 mph.

26th July 1978: "It's a girl!"

The world's first test-tube baby is born in Oldham General Hospital near Manchester. Gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and physiologist Dr Robert Edwards are credited with this pioneering work.

28th July 1540: Chop and tie

A busy day for King Henry VIII as he beheads Thomas Cromwell and then marries Catherine Howard.

29th July 1981: "And do you take Charles Phillip Arthur George?"

'Fairytale wedding’ is probably the best way to describe the wedding of Charles and Diana.

Indeed, there were many fairytale aspects to the ceremony, including an unfeasibly large number of crowned heads, princelings and royalty among the 3500 guests at the ceremony.

It was estimated that more than half a million turned up in London to line the route of the royal procession – one reason St Paul’s rather than the more usual Westminster Abbey had been selected was to allow a longer route – and that perhaps 750 million watched the day’s events on television.

Interestingly, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials were watched by around two billion people.

30th July 1966: "They think it's all over... It is now!"

England win the Jules Rimet trophy, football's World Cup, at Wembley Stadium in London after beating Germany 4-2 in extra time.

30th July 2006: TOTP...the end

"And at Number 1..." That was the thrill of Top of the Pops for those of a very young persuasion. The show first was broadcast on New Year’s Day 1964, from a studio in Rusholme, Manchester. For decades TOTP was a must see on a Thursday night (though it later moved to Friday) - its mix of chart rundown, hits and new releases were the foundation of the programme, though it was also wonderful in other ways: terrible dancing by girls in big glasses and teenage boys with acne. Shakira’s 'Hips Don’t Lie' was the last ever song played on the show.


- Jeremy Smith


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