On this day in history….2nd December 1697

On this day in history : 2nd December 1697 – The opening of the new St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren following the destruction of the old St. Paul’s in the Great Fire of London….

Image credit : Mark Fosh via Flickr

The old St. Paul’s, which had been consecrated in 1240, had been gutted by the fire…. It could have been reconstructed but the decision was made to rebuild a new and more modern style cathedral…. Christopher Wren was appointed to design the new building on the 30th of July 1669…. In all Wren was responsible for the design of more than 50 of the city’s new churches….

Reconstructed image of the old St. Paul’s – Public domain

He was asked to make sure that the new St. Paul’s was ‘Handsome and noble to all ends of it and to the reputation of the city and the nation”…. The design took him several years and the result was the second largest church in Britain, with its dome proclaimed the finest in the world….

The cathedral was financed by a tax on coal and took 35 years to complete – although the first service was held 22 years into its construction…. It was finally declared complete on Christmas Day 1711…. By 1716 the cost of the build had accumulated to £1,095,556 (over £165m in today’s terms)…. The new St. Paul’s was consecrated on the 2nd of December 1697, 31 years and 3 months after the Great Fire….

Image credit : Diliff – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….1st December 1960

On this day in history : 1st December 1960 – Paul McCartney and Pete Best are deported from Hamburg after being arrested following accusations of arson….

When the Beatles first travelled to Hamburg they were still very young…. In fact so young that George Harrison, at just 17 was not old enough to be participating in the late night sets the band were performing…. When the German authorities discovered his age he was shipped back to England….

Image credit : Michael Donovan via Flickr

The boys were staying in a room at the Kaiserkeller and when the club owner terminated their contract they had to move out…. They found lodgings in an attic room above a cinema – finished their final set at the club and moved their gear out immediately…. It was late at night and when they arrived at their new lodgings the place was in total darkness…. Once inside, to cast some light on the situation, they decided to improvise – and one of them hung a condom from a nail on the stone wall and set light to it (as you do)! They might of briefly gained some light to see what they were doing – but they also managed to scorch the wall….

The cinema owner, obviously furious, went to the police and reported McCartney and Best for trying to burn his building down…. The pair were arrested and held in the cells over night and the following day were escorted from the country….leaving behind John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe…. Lennon made his way back to the UK ten days later but Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg until the beginning of 1961…. Once Harrison had turned 18 the band headed back to Germany again….

On this day in history….30th November 1982

On this day in history : 30th November 1982 – A letter bomb, sent by animal rights activists, goes off at No.10 Downing Street – injuring a member of staff….

Image credit : Number 10 via Flickr

The bomb had been addressed to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was in her study at No.10 at the time of the blast – but was not hurt….

The bomb had arrived in a padded envelope and had immediately aroused suspicions…. It was whilst it was being examined by office manager Peter Taylor that the package ignited, burning his hands and face…. He was taken to nearby Westminster Hospital but thankfully had suffered only minor injuries and was soon back at work….

A forensic examination of the device showed it to be gun powder based and designed to flare up and burn rather than fully explode…. Four more letter bombs were intercepted, addressed to Labour’s Michael Foot, SDP’s Roy Jenkins, Liberal’s David Steel and Timothy Raison of the Home Office….

Mrs Thatcher told all MPs that they should be on their guard – “Letter bombs anywhere are most distressing and I’m afraid we are all vulnerable”….

On this day in history….29th November 1975

On this day in history : 29th November 1975 – British racing driver Graham Hill is killed in an aircraft crash at Arkley in Hertfordshire….

Graham Hill – Image credit : Lothar Spurzem CC BY-SA 2.0

The two times Formula One World Champion (1962 and 1968) had retired from racing four months previously…. Hill was piloting his Piper PA-23 Aztec twin engined light aircraft back from a car testing session in the South of France…. He had on board five passengers, all from the Embassy Hill team : manager Ray Brimble, mechanics Terry Richards and Tony Alcock, designer Andy Smallman and driver Tony Brise….

It was a night flight and they were due to be landing at Elstree Airfield…. Visibility was appalling on account of thick fog….and just before 10pm the aircraft struck a row of trees on Arkley golf course…. All on board were killed….

At the later inquest it emerged that Hill had been flying at only 60ft above the ground – because of the poor visibility he had not realised…. The verdicts on all of the deaths was accidental….

3,000 mourners attended Hill’s funeral in St. Albans, Hertfordshire…. He left behind his wife Bette, two daughters, Brigette and Samantha – and a 15-year-old son, Damon – who was to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming Formula One World Champion in 1996….

Graham Hill – Image credit : Anefo CC0

On this day in history….28th November 1990

On this day in history : 28th November 1990 – A tearful Margaret Thatcher makes her last speech as Prime Minister outside No.10 Downing Street….

Mrs Thatcher had formally tended her resignation to the Queen earlier that morning…. John Major had been elected as her successor by the Conservative party the previous day – after a leadership challenge had been mounted by Michael Heseltine on the 14th of November…. Mrs Thatcher reportedly regarded her ousting as a betrayal….

As she appeared outside No.10 it was to applause from the gathered Press…. She addressed the reporters : “Ladies and Gentlemen”….her voice cracking on the ‘Gentlemen’….”We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven-and-a-half years ago”….

Mrs Thatcher went on to thank the staff who had supported her and to say what a privilege it had been to serve the country…. She finished by wishing John Major all the luck in the world – adding “He’ll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister”….

After her speech she and husband Denis were driven to Buckingham Palace where they had a half hour meeting with the Queen – and then returned to their home in Dulwich, South London…. Margaret Thatcher remained MP for Finchley until 1992….