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Harry Beck designs a map for the Tube, Aldous Huxley devises his Brave New World, Alice dies and the country goes to war

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1930: First performance of Private Lives

The archetypal Noel Coward comedy, Private Lives, starred Coward himself and Gertrude Lawrence in the roles of Elyot and Amanda in the first production.

May 1930: Amy Johnson flies solo to Australia

The first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, Amy Johnson was a national heroine. She was killed flying a mission for the ATA in January 1941.

The Spitfire

1930: Monte Rosa launched

The German ship that was to become the Empire Windrush is launched as a passenger cruiser.

SS Empire Windrush

1931: League of Coloured Peoples formed

Dr Harold Moody founds the League of Coloured Peoples to fight against racial discrimination and support immigrant families

The Routemaster Bus

1931: Tube map designed by Harry Beck

This was a revolutionary piece of graphic design, being based on the properties of an electrical circuit diagram rather than having a geographical relation to its subject.

1931: Birth of the Royal Ballet

Dame Ninette de Valois persuades Lilian Baylis to give her ballet company (later to become the Royal Ballet) a home in Sadler's Wells

16 May 1931: First London trolleybus route

Runs between Twickenham Junction and Teddington. A Royal Commission this year recommends that trolleybuses replace trams and by 1940 more than half of London's trams have been scrapped.

The Routemaster Bus

1932: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

This vision of the future by brilliant satirist Huxley captures the public imagination. Huxley became involved in mysticism later in life and experimented with drugs such as LSD and mescalin. His book on the subject, The Doors Of Perception, takes its title from William Blake's writings.


1932: The splitting of the atom

British scientists John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split an atom of lithium in a Cambridge laboratory.

Oct 1932: Bodyline series against Australia

This scandal involves English bowlers being instructed to aim directly at the bodies of the Australian batsmen - definitely "not cricket".

19 Dec 1932: BBC Empire Service begins

This is re-named the less colonial "World Service" in 1988.

1933: Bus company merger

All the London bus companies merge to become the London Passenger Transport Board, otherwise known as London Transport.

The Routemaster Bus

1933: Alice gets the Hollywood treatment

This early version of the Alice stories stars WC Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Gary Cooper as the White Knight and Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle.

Alice In Wonderland

1934: The Morris Ring formed

This organisation is founded to encourage the performance of Morris Dancing.

16 Nov 1934: Death of Alice Liddell

This Alice was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Alice In Wonderland

1935: Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps

This black and white thriller is a classic English adventure story based on John Buchan's novel.

26 Feb 1935: Radar detects airplanes

Robert Watson-Watt demonstrates the detection of aircraft by radar, a vital piece of technology in the war to come.

1935: First paperbacks published

Penguin is the publisher behind this innovation, making reading a cheaper, very portable affair.

1936: Edward VIII abdicates

Merely 11 months after succeeding his father, Edward chooses to abdicate rather than mar the image of the monarchy. The problem is caused by his passionate love for American Mrs Simpson who, as a divorcee, was censured by the Church of England and refused a title by Parliament. Edward chooses love and the succession passes to his shy brother, George VI.

1936: Crystal Palace destroyed by fire

The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition (see 1851).

1936: BBC Television begins

After a short announcement by the governors, broadcasting begins with the news followed by a variety programme.

05 Mar 1936: Maiden flight of the Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire was designed by Reginald Mitchell in response to a request from the Air Ministry for a new generation of faster and more effective planes. The Spitfire was highly manoeuvrable, speedy and heavy on firepower.

The Spitfire

June 1936: An All English Wimbledon champ

Fred Perry wins the Men's Singles title at Wimbledon for the third time

04 Oct 1936: Battle of Cable Street

This "battle" occurred when communists and East End residents combined to prevent a march by Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts, who had been disseminating anti-Semitism. After putting up makeshift barricades in surrounding streets, the final confrontation took place in Cable Street and Mosley was forced to retreat back into the City of London. This is regarded as a popular triumph against English fascism and you can still visit the celebratory mural today.

1938: Spitfires ready for action

The first operational Spitfires are delivered to the RAF.

The Spitfire

1938: Brighton Rock published

Graham Greene's novel shows the seedy underside of Brighton, complete with protection rackets and gang warfare. One of the best-ever British film noir, the 1947 adaptation features Richard Attenborough in chilling psychopathic form as teenage gangster, Pinkie.

1938: Rebecca published

A very popular romantic novel with the spooky housekeeper Mrs Danvers terrorising the second Mrs de Winter in a rambling house in Cornwall. Famous opening line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again, but the way was barred to me." Filmed with Laurence Olivier as Max de Winter by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940.

1938: Beano comic starts

Dennis the Menace is introduced in 1951.

June 1938: Freud arrives in London

Celebrated psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is one of more than 50,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi dominated Central Europe. Freud settled, along with many others, in the Swiss Cottage area of London. Bus drivers arriving at the stop would yell "passports, please!" on arrival and it was said you could walk from Finchley Road Tube Station to West Hampstead without hearing a word of English spoken.

1939: Airfix founded by Nicholas Kove

Airfix originally made air-filled rubber toys but the name was more famously associated with the model aircraft kits you could assemble at home, introduced in the 1950s. The first Spitfire kit was issued in 1953. There was also a scale model of Henry VIII available in 1960!

The Spitfire

1939: The Dancing Years opens

Ivor Novello wrote and starred in this musical in the West End. He was a fantastically popular entertainer and song writer (you may know Keep The Home Fires Burning), charming, Welsh and terribly handsome. The Ivor Novello Award is given in his honour each year to a songwriter of merit, in any genre.

1939: Sutton Hoo ship burial discovered

At Sutton Hoo a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon artefacts is discovered. A Viking-style ship burial dating from about 620 is almost completely preserved. See 620.

03 Sep 1939: Britain declares war on Germany

Start of second world war.