Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments


The death of Queen Victoria, Land of Hope and Glory is played, Dairy Milk bars go on sale and Peter Pan refuses to grow up

See all time periods

1901: Peter Rabbit is published

The story of Peter Rabbit began in a letter Beatrix Potter wrote to the son of her former governess. Potter lived in the Lake District, which was the inspiration for her stories and equally famous water colour illustrations. Five of the characters also inspired a ballet (1971) which was filmed as Tales Of Beatrix Potter and is also a live stage show.

1901: First radio transmission

Italian inventor Marconi transmits radio signals across the Atlantic from Cornwall.

23 Jan 1901: Victoria dies, succeeded by Edward

Edward VII was the eldest son of Victoria. Possibly due to his mother's overbearing treatment of him as a child, he was a notorious womaniser, gambler and drinker. He threw himself into the role of King with equal gusto and proved an excellent asset to the diplomatic service due to his extensive foreign travel.

July 1901: First electric trams in London

The London United Tramways (LUT) begins operating an electric-powered tram service between Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith, Acton and Kew. Within five years, six other cities have electric trams.

The Routemaster Bus

1902: Just So Stories published

Rudyard Kipling's fanciful stories explain to children how the world came to be the way that it is, including How the Leopard Got his Spots. Kipling also wrote The Jungle Book and numerous works and poems for adults.

1902: Education Act

This Act provides for subsidised secondary education for all children.

1902: Lord Kitchener created Viscount

Kitchener's ruthless tactics in the Boer War brought England victory and Kitchener personal glory. It is his face on the famous "Your country needs you" recruitment poster from 1914.

June 1902: Land Of Hope and Glory premiere

Clara Butt performs the premiere of Land Of Hope and Glory. Clara is one of the foremost singers of her day, specialising in popular ballads, and Elgar wrote his Sea Pictures especially for her.

1903: Bolsheviks form in London

The Bolshevik Group comes into existence at a meeting of exiled radicals in London. It later leads the Russian Revolution of 1917 that changes the world.

1903: "We're clearly soldiers in petticoats…"

Suffragette Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst forms the Foundation of the Women's Social and Political Union with the aim of securing the vote for women. The song quotation is taken from the 1964 film of Mary Poppins, where Mrs Banks is an ardent suffragette.

1904: First performance of Peter Pan

This wonderful story of the boy who never grew up was a play before it was a book (Peter And Wendy, 1911). The premiere was at London's Duke of York's Theatre. The life of JM Barrie, the writer, and the story of the creation of Peter Pan is told in the 2004 film Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

1904: Ealing Studios established

The Lady Killers, Kind Hearts And Coronets and Passport To Pimlico are just some of the comic masterpieces to emerge from this studio - all with a distinctively dark English sense of humour.

1905: Aliens Act passed

The Act established immigration controls and registration for aliens for the first time in England. This was a response to greatly increased immigration over the preceding decades.

1905: First bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk

The introduction of liquid milk to the recipe is what revolutionised the Cadbury's recipe. Until this time the Swiss had dominated the chocolate market but George Cadbury Junior and his colleagues at Bourneville, Birmingham, beat them at their own game. Cadbury was the official suppliers of chocolate to Scott's Antarctic expedition.

24 Aug 1905: Druid ceremony at Stonehenge

This is the first visit of the Ancient Order of Druids to Stonehenge. They hold a banquet and mass initiation ceremony for 258 novices.


1906: The English Hymnal published

This was a collection of the best hymns in the English language and was published for the Church of England but became one of the most influential hymnals in the world. Vaughan Williams was the musical editor of this collection and wrote settings for some of the hymns, e.g. For All the Saints. Vaughan Williams was the quintessential English composer, being steeped in the traditions of English music and culture. He wrote Job - A Masque for Dancing based on the poem by William Blake, an opera based on The Pilgrim's Progress, collected folk songs and the score for the film Scott Of The Antarctic. He was related to both the Wedgwood and Darwin families.


1906: HMS Dreadnought launched

The first modern battleship is launched.

24 May 1906: Ritz Hotel opens its doors

One of the main features of the Ritz in London is the splendid Palm Court, known to be "the place for tea".

A Cup of Tea

1907: Scouts' honour

Robert Baden-Powell forms the Boy Scout movement.

1908: Alice translated into Japanese

Such is the popularity of this book that it travels even as far as Japan.

Alice In Wonderland

1908: J Barbour and Sons' first catalogue

The green Barbour jacket is an English classic. John Barbour's business flourished in South Shields, where he began by supplying oilskin and other garments to protect the growing community of sailors, fishermen, rivermen and dockers from the North Sea weather. Soon, anyone who worked outdoors was after them, including farmers and shepherds. The first catalogue was produced in response to growing demand for his high-quality weather-proof wear from all over the Empire.

1908: Room With A View published

Now possibly most famous as the first success for film-makers Merchant/Ivory, and for introducing Helena Bonham Carter's charms to the world, this is a story of the English love affair with Florence and escaping the petty morality of middle class society.

1908: The Wind In The Willows published

The stories of Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad and their life by the river are not an instant success but gradually become a staple of children's literature.

Oct 1908: British Army Aeroplane No 1

American Samuel Cody produces the first-ever flying machine for the UK armed forces.

The Spitfire

25 Jul 1909: Blériot flies the Channel

Frenchman Louis Blériot wins the prize of £1,000 offered by The Daily Mail for the first flight across the English Channel. The French were delighted, the English were petrified.

The Spitfire

12 Aug 1909: Inaugural journey of the X-type bus

The X-type was designed by Frank Searle and was 34-seat double decker.

The Routemaster Bus

25 Sep 1909: First trolleybus demonstration

Demonstrated in Hendon, the trolleybus proves to be non-polluting, quiet and comfortable. A cross between a tram and a bus, these red, double-decker vehicles are powered by electricity via poles attached to overhead wires and run on tyres, not rails.

The Routemaster Bus