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The Georgian Age begins: with pictures by Hogarth, music by Handel, novels by Defoe and Optics by Newton

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1701: Bevis Marks Synagogue built

This is the oldest synagogue in use in Britain and was built for the Sephardic community (Spanish and Portuguese). The architect was Quaker Joseph Avis and the design owes much to Christopher Wren's designs for churches after the Great Fire.

08 Mar 1702: William III succeeded by Anne

William had become King of England because he was the grandson of Charles I and married to James II's daughter, Mary. The couple died childless and Anne, James II's second daughter, assumed the throne. Anne's reign was marked by in-fighting over the succession between the Whigs and Tories. Anne was eventually forced to side with the Whigs, against her own Stuart heritage, and settle on the Hanoverian, George I.

Nov 1703: Eddystone Lighthouse collapses

Henry Winstanley designed Eddystone Lighthouse to be indestructible. It shone out from the treacherous rocks south of Plymouth. When a huge storm hit the south coast in November, Winstanley went out to the lighthouse to prove his faith in it. The next morning, Winstanley and the lighthouse were gone. Daniel Defoe wrote about this freak weather in The Storm.

1704: Isaac Newton publishes Optics

This book sets out Newton's observations that white light can be separated by prism into a spectrum of different colours. It also propounds basic ideas of chemistry, that the elements are made of atoms, made up of particles. Newton was a great mind but a highly eccentric man (the work of his latter years was all about alchemy and dating events in the Bible). Not all of his discoveries are credited because he often did not publish, allowing others to pip him to the post.

Aug 1704: Battle of Blenheim

The Duke of Marlborough crushes the Franco-Bavarian troops in the Battle of Blenheim. Marlborough is considered a great war hero and a magnificent palace at Woodstock in Oxfordshire is built for him to commemorate the victory. His wife, Sarah Churchill, is Queen Anne's main favourite and exerts a great deal of power over the Queen until she gets too bossy and falls from favour. The Churchill family (think Winston) remain a force to be reckoned with in politics and society.

1706: Twinings tea shop opens

Thomas Twining opens his tea shop on the Strand in London. You can still go and pay it a visit!

A Cup of Tea

1707: Fortnum & Mason opens

William Fortnum becomes a partner in Hugh Mason's grocery business. Nowadays, Fortnum's on Piccadilly sells more than 60 varieties of tea, as well as many other delicious groceries.

A Cup of Tea

01 May 1707: Act of Union

This Act joins England and Scotland under the name of Great Britain. Ireland joins the Union in 1801. They are to be ruled by one Parliament but with separate legal systems and Churches.

1709: First inter-county cricket match

This match is played between Kent and Surrey.

11 Aug 1711: First race meeting at Ascot

Royal Ascot, as it is known, is the world's most famous horse racing meeting. It is a social occasion as well as one of great sporting prowess, and your choice of hat requires careful consideration if you are a lady - the more flamboyant the better! Nothing epitomises the elegance of the occasion better than Cecil Beaton's famous staging of the Ascot Gavotte song in the film My Fair Lady.

1714: Rape Of The Lock published

This mock-heroic poem by Alexander Pope tells the story of the cutting off of a lock of Belinda's hair. A masterpiece of overblown rhetoric, the style was much admired and widely copied.

01 Aug 1714: The Georgian era begins

Queen Anne dies childless and is succeeded by her German cousin, George I (the first of four George's in a row). George was not all that happy in his adopted country and refused to speak English for much of the time.

1717: Handel composes the Water Music

This famous piece is commissioned for a party on George I's royal barge and is instantly popular. Handel had been court composer for George back in Hanover but was one export who proved to take to England very successfully.

1719: Robinson Crusoepublished

The most famous of Daniel Defoe's works, Robinson Crusoe tells the story of a shipwrecked man's survival on a deserted island. Although inspired by true accounts of such events, this has claims to be the first English novel.

1719: 19 Princelet Street built

Huguenot silk merchant Peter Abraham Ogier builds a house for his family at 19 Princelet Street. The story of the house and its inhabitants is the story of immigration to the East End of London. This house is now a Museum of Immigration and Diversity in Britain.

1720: South Sea "Bubble" crisis

This delicate-sounding financial crisis has been called the "Enron of England". A massive stock market crash is brought about by the failure of the South Sea Company and panic selling of its vastly overvalued shares. Jonathan Swift and Sir Isaac Newton are among those who lose a fortune. It was to take the economy nearly a century to fully recover (trading in shares became illegal until 1825).

1721: Walpole administration begins

Sir Robert Walpole was Britain's first Prime Minister (to 1742).

1723: Workhouse Test Act

This Act enabled workhouses to be set up by each parish to provide in-house relief for the poor. Workhouses became one of the most hated and feared institutions in England, with terrible abuses of their inhabitants occurring regularly. The opening chapters of Oliver Twistcontain a harrowing picture of workhouse life.

24 May 1725: Hanging of Jonathan Wild

Wild was a notorious thief and receiver of stolen goods, the model for Peachum in The Beggar's Opera (see 1728).

1727: George I succeeded by George II

George was the only son of George I and Sophia. A small, irascible man, he was kept in check by his indomitable Prime Minister, Walpole, and his devoted wife, Caroline. He was the last King to personally lead his troops in battle.

1728: The Beggar's Operafirst performed

John Gay's satirical musical uses Newgate criminals as its heroes and popular folk songs as its melodies. Hugely successful and enjoyed even today, it inspired Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Operawith the song Mac the Knife sung about its principal character, the highwayman Macheath.

01 May 1729: Tornado in Sussex and Kent

A tornado tears ts way through Sussex and Kent, destroying buildings and causing havoc. In more recent years it has been the Midlands that has played host to England's very own "tornado alley".

1733: Hogarth's The Rake's Progress

The satirical artist Hogarth worked in oils and by engraving his images. It was the latter that made them famous as they could be mass produced. The Rake's Progress tells the story of a dissolute young man's journey into debt and death in a series of narrative pictures. These pictures were the inspiration for Stravinksy's opera of the same name, with libretto by WH Auden and a famous production designed by David Hockney.

1735: Walpole moves to 10 Downing Street

This becomes the home of every British Prime Minister, and has one of the most famous front doors in the world!

1735: Roast Beef Of Old England written

"When mighty roast beef was the Englishman's food/ It ennobled our hearts and enriched our blood/ Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good./ Oh! the roast beef of England./ And Old England's roast beef." by Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones.

1739: Methodist Movement founded

John Wesley founds the Methodists in response to the apathy of the Church of England. Through frequent and enthusiastic open-air preaching they spread their message of a methodical approach to Bible study and Christian living. Charles Wesley wrote many hymns which are sung today, including Hark,The Herald Angels sing.

1740: Rule Britannia written

Thomas Arne sets James Thomson's poem Rule Britannia to music

1740: Stonehenge built by Druids!

So William Stukeley would have us believe… Stukeley published twice on the matter of stone circles and druids – Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd To The British Druids (1740) and Aubrey: A Temple Of The British Druids (1743) but his theories are now completely discredited.


1744: Laws of Cricket issued

The first known version of the Laws of Cricket are issued, by the London Club, formalising the pitch as 22 yards long.

1744: Publication of God Save the King

The song had been popular for some years in various versions before this definitive appearance in Thesaurus Musicus.

1745: The "Forty Five" rebellion

This famous rebellion is led by Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender to the throne. Charles was the grandson of James II and marches as far as Derby before being forced to retreat. He is defeated at the Battle of Culloden Moor.

1749: Tom Jones published

Very long but very funny, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding was one of the first English novels.