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A young Princess Victoria becomes Queen, slavery is abolished and Constable paints The Hay Wain

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1820: Cato Street conspiracy

This plot to assassinate cabinet ministers failed. Among the conspirators, Jamaican-born William Davidson is hanged.

1820: George III succeeded by George IV

The troubled relationship of George III and his son, the Prince Regent, is well documented in Alan Bennett's play, The Madness Of George III.

1821: Constable paints The Hay Wain

This picture sums up the ultimate nostalgic rural English ideal. Depicting an actual place in Suffolk, the painting shows a horse-drawn wagon (the hay wain) crossing the River Stour. A familiar scene on countless biscuit tins!

1821: Manchester Guardian founded

Initially a weekly paper, this newspaper went daily in 1855 and changed its name to The Guardian in 1959. It stopped being published in Manchester in 1961.

1818: Brighton Pavilion completed

John Nash was hired to turn Brighton's Marine Palace into a Royal Palace fit for even the Prince Regent's extravagant tastes. The exterior is heavily influenced by Indian architecture (think of the Taj Mahal) and the interiors by the "Chinese look".

1823: German Popular Stories translated

Edgar Taylor's translation introduces the fascinating, gory fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm to a generation of English children. Cruickshank did the illustrations.

1824: Byron dies, Don Juan incomplete

Don Juan was Byron's greatest satirical poem, re-working the story of the legendary love-machine. The poem attacks hypocrisy in all its forms, as well as parodying other famous poets and celebrities of the day.

1825: Turner paints Stonehenge

This watercolour dating from 1825-8 shows Stonehenge beneath a stormy sky, with a dead shepherd and his mostly dead flock in the foreground. It is a striking image, summing up the ominous power of the stones.


10 Aug 1826: First Cowes Regatta held

Cowes Regatta is the largest, longest-running regular yachting regatta in the world. Although there was a regatta in 1812, it was in 1826 that the Royal Yacht Squadron formally organised three days of racing in the Solent. Cowes "Week" runs for eight days and is a key event in the English social season.

1828: First script for Punch and Judy

John Payne Collier publishes the first transcription of a Punch and Judy script. The book is notable for its classic illustrations by satirical cartoonist George Cruickshank.

Punch and Judy

1828: London Zoo opens

The world's first "scientific" zoo – that is, intended for the scientific study of animals in order to increase our understanding of and respect for the natural world. It was opened to the public in 1847. The zoo is the site of many firsts: the first aquarium, the first reptile house and the first children's zoo. It is also where the black bear that Christopher Robin loved was kept - inspiring the Winnie The Pooh stories .

1829: Rocket wins the Rainhill trials

Stephenson's locomotive was an improvement on previous designs and won the trials to become the prototype engine on the Manchester-Liverpool railway, beginning the steam locomotive craze.

1829: London's first-ever bus

A horse-drawn carriage running from Paddington to Bank becomes London's first-ever "omnibus", meaning "for all". Although it was a little bit pricey at a shilling a time, the idea soon caught on and within ten years there were buses running on a number of routes.

The Routemaster Bus

1830: George IV succeeded by William IV

William was George's brother and had never expected to be King. He was forced to abandon his common-law wife of 20 years, the great comedy actress Dorothy Jordan, and behave more like a monarch. Dorothy died in France, penniless and alone, despite having borne the King ten children.

c.1830: Afternoon tea is all the rage

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, is credited with introducing afternoon tea to England. She began inviting friends over to her boudoir, the Blue Drawing Room, at Woburn Abbey, to share the little snack of tea, bread and butter that was to tide her over between lunch and dinner.

A Cup of Tea

29 Aug 1831: Electro-magnetic induction demo

Michael Faraday was one of the greatest experimental (rather than conceptual) scientists that ever lived. In this experiment he demonstrated the principle of induction, the idea which made possible the dynamo, or generator, which produces electricity by mechanical means.

1832: Reform Act

The Reform Act was one of three such acts over a period of years (1867, 1884) which eventually extended the vote to all males over the age of 18 and tightened up the electoral process. This Act abolished rotten boroughs such as Dunwich, which had been falling into the sea on the Suffolk coast for 400 years – by this time it had only eight constituents but still had the right to return two MPs!

1832: Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll born

Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Read more about him at the Alice Icon!

Alice In Wonderland

01 Jun 1832: Jeremy Bentham dies

After his death, this famous philosopher and legal and social reformer was mummified. This "auto-icon", as it is called, complete with wax head, is still on view at University College, London

1833: Factory Act

This important legislation prevents children under the age of nine from working in factories.

1834: Babbage's Analytical Engine

Babbage was an eccentric British mathematician who had begun working on a Difference Engine in 1822 that would automatically calculate mathematical tables. He abandons this project and produces the more sophisticated Analytical Engine, which is capable of making decisions based on previous calculations. It is considered to be the forerunner of the modern computer. Working on the Engine and writing programmes was Augusta Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, a mathematical genius in her own right and the inspiration for the character of Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia.

1834: Tolpuddle Martyrs transported

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six farm labourers from Dorset who were transported for trying to form a trade union to improve their working conditions. Although not successful in the short term, the Martyrs' cause was not forgotten and the trade union movement grew. See 1868.

01 Oct 1834: Palace of Westminster burns down

Architects Sir Charles Barry and his assistant, Pugin, are responsible for the Gothic style of the new Houses of Parliament. The buildings took more than 30 years to be completed - for example, the tower that houses Big Ben was not added until 1859.

1835: Harrods opens in Stepney

Harrods was originally a humble grocery store and tea merchant in the East End of London. It now occupies seven storeys in Knightsbridge and is possibly the most famous department store in the world.

1836: Constable paints Stonehenge

Constable's rendition of Stonehenge is in oils and once again shows the monument underneath a turbulent sky.


1837: Oliver Twist published

The unforgettable story of orphan Oliver by Charles Dickens. The novel gives a vivid portrayal of the underside of early Victorian society, showing thieves, gangs, prostitution and workhouses. Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! is a re-telling of this story.

20 Jun 1837: William IV succeeded by Victoria

Victoria was the niece of William IV. There is a waxwork tableau of the diminutive Victoria being given the news that she is now Queen in Madame Tussauds in London.

1838: Slavery abolished

Slavery is completely abolished, trading in slaves having been made illegal 30 years earlier.

SS Empire Windrush

1838: Turner's The Fighting Temeraire

This was recently voted the Nation's Favourite Painting in a poll by the National Gallery. It's full title is The Fighting Temeraire Tugged To Her Last Berth To Be Broken Up and depicts the sail ship, Temeraire, which had had a glorious Battle of Trafalgar and was an icon of English Naval strength, being ingloriously towed to her end by a belching steam tug. The picture takes considerable artistic licence with the actual events but makes its powerful political point.

1838: Great Western crosses the Atlantic

This giant steamship was the work of ground-breaking engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Her first journey to New York took just 15 days, whereas a ship under sail could take a month! This was the first of three great steamships that Brunel built.

May 1838: The People's Charter is published

This was a petition produced by the London Working Men's Association asking for the following changes in the political system: universal male suffrage (not votes for women); secret ballot; annual parliamentary elections; equal electoral districts; the abolition of the property qualification for MPs and wages for MPs (to make the profession accessible to those from all incomes). These ideas were too progressive for the parliament of the day and, despite the petition attracting more than one million signatures when it was presented, and more than five million by 1848 (many of which were proved to be forgeries), it was never accepted in this form. All but one of the demands have now been met. The Chartist Movement, as it was known, was a major focus for political unrest and historians argue over how and why a full-scale revolution, fanned by the Chartists, was avoided (when unrest was rocking Europe at this time).

1839: First Henley Regatta

Along with Cowes and Ascot, another vital fixture in the English social calendar. It takes place for five days each year in June and has the "ambiance of an Edwardian garden party", according to one observer. Straw boaters and striped blazers are de rigueur.

23 Aug 1839: Opium War with China begins

This first Opium War between Britain and China was sparked by the denial of a request by the Chinese Government to try six British sailors who had killed a man protecting a temple from looting. Bad relations between the countries were caused by Britain's promotion of the drug opium to the Chinese as a way of boosting trade with that country. The British won the war and established vital trading rights with China. See 1842.

A Cup of Tea