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First sightings of The Ashes, The Oxford English Dictionary, Sherlock Holmes and Blackpool Rock

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1880: Dan Leno World Champion Clog Dancer

Clog-dancing developed during the Industrial Revolution. In the mills wooden-soled shoes were necessary because the floors were always wet to keep the air humid and leather shoes rotted. Dancers took their inspiration from the clatter of weaving machines and used their working shoes on the newly paved streets. Clog-dancing competitions and music hall performances spread the popularity of the new dance form. Musicians accompany the dance with a variety of instruments, including accordion, concertina, melodeon, violin and whistle. They play traditional British tunes.

July 1880: Carroll gives up photography

Quite suddenly Carroll gives up photography altogether. He had been something of a celebrity snapper of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Michael Faraday, Tennyson, etc.

Alice In Wonderland

1881: Andrew Watson plays against England

The first black international footballer was Andrew Watson, a native of Demerara, in British Guyana. Watson was an immensely talented player as well as an able administrator. He played for Scotland against England three times between 1881 and 1882. In 1882 he became the first black player in the FA Cup, playing for the London Swifts who, unfortunately, did not make it to the final that year.

The FA Cup

18 Apr 1881: Benjamin Disraeli dies

The first and only Jewish Prime Minister (Conservative), Disraeli was a flamboyant politician whose head-to-heads with Liberal politician Gladstone during Victoria's reign defined English politics.

29 Aug 1882: "Ashes" born

After a disastrously poor show by the English cricket team against Australia, this obituary appeared in The Sporting Times the next day: "In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket Which Died At The Oval on 29th August 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP, NB: The body will be cremated, and the ashes taken to Australia." An Australian female fan later had the idea to present an urn of ashes to the English team. The Ashes series was born.

1884: First instalment of the OED

In the end the project took 70 years from its inception to publication of the final part! The dictionary is special because it traces the origins and meanings of English words based on their appearance in quotations collected by a vast army of volunteers.

1885: Westminster Cathedral built

This Catholic Cathedral is designed in the Byzantine style by John Francis Bentley. Although the interior is still a work in progress, it has stunning mosaics, distinctive marble floors and columns, and boasts a fine series of the Stations of the Cross carved in stone by the sculptor Eric Gill.

1885: First Home Rule Bill defeated

Gladstone tried to introduce a Bill that would set up a Parliament in Dublin with control over Irish domestic affairs. The Bill was defeated despite the high number of Irish nationalist MP's sitting at that time.

1885: Jewish "Temporary Shelter" opens

Opened in Leman Street, London, the shelter was designed to give Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe somewhere to stay for their first 14 days in England. The need for such a shelter is a testament to the growing Jewish community in the East End of London and the difficult conditions they encountered when they first arrived.

1885: The Mikado first performed

Possibly the most famous of the comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan, The Mikado pokes fun at English bureaucracy but is set in Japan. Mike Leigh's film Topsy Turvy has some brilliant behind-the-scenes re-creations of the Savoy Theatre and the first production.

26 Jan 1885: General Gordon murdered

General Gordon was sent by the British to help the Egyptians retain control over the Sudan against troops led by the Muslim Mahdi. Gordon is speared to death by dervishes in Khartoum. The painting Gordon's Last Stand by GW Joy became the defining image of heroic self-sacrifice in the cause of the Empire, a good example of art being used to popularise a political myth. In the days before television, such paintings were powerful propaganda.

11 Dec 1886: Arsenal play their first match

Arsenal Football Club is formed by workers at the Woolwich Arsenal Armaments Factory but their team name at this time is Dial Square. They win this match against the Eastern Wanderers by a resounding 6-0.

1887: Blackpool Rock invented

Ben Bullock invents the idea of having the name "Blackpool" running through a stick of rock

1887: First Sherlock Holmes mystery

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson first appear in Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study In Scarlet

21 Jun 1887: Victoria's Golden Jubilee

The celebrations for Victoria's 50 years on the throne start at a local level with village fairs and street parties and go as high as official ceremonies attended by politicians from all over the world, confirming Britain's status as a giant among nations. The celebrations also bring Victoria out of her shell a little more; after many years of mourning she engages with her subjects once again.

31 Aug 1888: Mary Ann Nicholls murdered

Jack the Ripper claims his first, of at least five, victims in the East End.

1889: First purpose-built mosque opens

The Shah Jehan Mosque opens in Woking; there are now approximately 1,500 mosques in Britain

1889: Three Men In A Boat published

Jerome K Jerome's delightful story of three friends and their dog, Montmorency, who take a rowing trip up and down the Thames. A brilliantly funny picture of late Victorian England, complete with bumbling Englishmen.

1891: Tess Of The D'Urbervilles published

Stonehenge's most famous appearance in fiction. Tess is arrested as the sun comes up over Stonehenge for the murder of her former lover. The description of Tess and her true love, Angel Clare, stumbling upon the stones in the dark is unforgettable.

1892: First Indian MP wins seat

Dadabhai Naoroji is elected MP for Finsbury Central, London

1892: Diary Of A Nobody published

This fictitious diary introduces the world to Mr Pooter, the epitome of English suburban anxiety and surely a forerunner to the TV charachter Hyacinth Bucket. A very funny picture of life in Holloway in late Victorian times.

1892: Royal Opera House named

On the basis that it had been performing opera from all over the world for some years, the Royal Italian Opera Theatre in Covent Garden is re-branded as the Royal Opera House.

1893: Second Home Rule Bill fails to pass

This time the measures were defeated in the House of Lords

1893: JFS has record number of pupils

The Jews' Free School in Bell Lane, Spitalfields, was founded in 1817 to educate the children of Jewish immigrants. By 1893 it has 3,900 on its roll which made it the largest school in the world.

1893: Eros unveiled at Piccadilly Circus

A small statue, the Angel of Christian Charity by Alfred Gilbert, is erected in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in memory of the Victorian philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury. Today, however, the statue is commonly regarded as depicting Eros, the Greek god of love and is not only a popular meeting point but on the banner of London's Evening Standard newspaper.

1894: Tower Bridge opens

“The most monstrous and preposterous architectural sham that we have ever known,” The Builder magazine reports on the opening. The Bridge is not only a symbol of London beloved by American film producers for setting the scene, it is also a remarkable feat of engineering.

14 May 1894: Blackpool Tower opens

England's answer to the Eiffel Tower, this famous seaside landmark was designed only two years later and was deliberately made to look like it. It would originally have cost you sixpence to enter the building and then sixpence to go up the Tower. The Tower now forms part of Blackpool's famous illuminations.

1895: Spitfire designer born

Reginald Mitchell was born in Talke, near Stoke-on-Trent. He joined the Supermarine Aviation works in 1917 and it was there that he designed the famous Spitfire plane.

The Spitfire

14 Feb 1895: The Importance Of Being Earnest

Begetter of many immortal lines ("A handbag?"), this "trivial comedy for serious people" - as it called itself - is probably Oscar Wilde's most famous play.

1895: First "proms" concert, Queens Hall

The brainchild of Robert Newman, the idea of the promenade concerts was tp reach a wider classical music audience by keeping the atmosphere informal. Ticket prices were kept low and eating, drinking and smoking during concerts was allowed. The aim was to develop popular taste in music by mixing the familiar with more challenging work. The Last Night of the Proms is renowned for being a sing-a-long feast of patriotic music.


11 Sep 1895: Original FA Cup trophy stolen

The "Little Tin Idol", as it was known, was stolen from a football outfitter's shop window in Birmingham during the night of September 11 and was never recovered. It cost £20 originally. The trophy teams compete for today is the fourth in the competition's history.

The FA Cup

1896: Dan Leno signed to Drury Lane Pantomime

Dan Leno was the performer to create the character and look of the pantomime dame as well know her. In 1887 he was hired by Augustus Harris (the "Father of Modern Pantomime") to play at Drury Lane in Jack And The Beanstalk, Babes In The Wood and Mother Goose. He remained there for the next 16 years as the star of the pantomime.

1896: Locomotive Act

Restricts the speed of "horseless carriages" to two miles an hour for safety reasons, but is repealed two years later for obvious reasons!

The Routemaster Bus

1896: Vigilance Committee summons Lloyd

Music hall performer Marie Lloyd is summoned to appear before the Vigilance Committee so it can decide whether her songs are a threat to public morality. She sings two of her most famous songs (with none of her usual winks or gestures) and the committee is forced to acquit her. She then performs Tennyson's lyrical Come Into The Garden, Maud, a popular drawing room ballad, with obscene accompanying gestures!

1897: Bram Stoker's Dracula

In the dramatic opening scene of Dracula, the vampire's coffin is wrecked on the shore and he runs, in the form of a black dog, up the moonlight steps in the cliff to the ruins of Whitby Abbey above.

1897: Tate Gallery opens

Henry Tate, of Tate and Lyle fame, offers his art collection to the nation and then buys the land to build the gallery on. The Tate is commissioned to be the national gallery of British art.

1898: Lewis Carroll dies

The author of the Alice stories dies at the family home, The Chestnuts, in Guildford, Surrey.

Alice In Wonderland

1898: The War Of The Worlds published

HG Wells' story of the earth being invaded by Martians has been re-told many times in different formats. Perhaps most famously, Orson Welles did a radio adaptation in the US (in 1938) which many people thought was real news, causing a national panic! Wells was the early master of the science fiction novel, writing many other classics such as The Time Machine and The Invisible Man.

1898: Folk Song Society founded

The Society was founded to preserve and keep alive traditional folk songs. Songs were collected, recorded and published by team of enthusiasts which included Cecil Sharpe and Ralph Vaughan Williams. They focussed mainly on the songs of Britain and Ireland and without their work we would have lost touch with much of England's popular musical heritage.

1899: Indian captains English Cricket

Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji is the first Indian to become Captain of the English cricket team, leading them on a tour of America. Ranjitsinhji was a sporting hero and a worldwide celebrity.