On this day in history….23rd March 1861

On this day in history : 23rd March 1861 – Horse drawn tramcars begin operating on London’s streets for the first time…. They were introduced by an American, Mr. George Francis Train…

America had been introduced to tramcars (streetcars) by George Francis Train some thirty years before he brought them to Britain…. The very first line he opened here was at Birkenhead in 1860…. Three demonstration lines were then installed in London; one along the Bayswater Road between Marble Arch and Porchester Terrace, another at Victoria and a further one between Westminster Bridge and Kennington….

The trams proved popular with many; thousands attracted by their novelty came to see them and ride upon them…. However, not everybody was happy….

Train had chosen fashionable, elite parts of London to trial his trams…. The wealthy residents had no need for public transport, as most owned their own carriages…. They complained of the crowds who got in their way, the noise and having to share the roads with this new form of transport…. Then there was the problem with the actual rails, which stood proud to the road surface causing difficulties for other road vehicles….

(London Tramways two-horse tram circa 1890)

The ‘sticking-up’ rail – or ‘step-rail’ – was actually designed in a way (with a wide bottom plate some 5 inches wide) to take any width of carriage wheel….which at the time came in several different gauges…. The idea was that they could accommodate all vehicles, not just Train’s trams…. Unfortunately many carriages had accidents trying to use them…..numerous complaints were made to the transport commissioners, so that eventually on the 4th of October 1861, after six months in operation, Train was told to remove his tramway….

The advantages of the tramway had not gone unnoticed by the planners…. Nine years later, in 1870, the first tram service began between Brixton and Kennington…. This time the steel rails lay flush to the road surface….

Being on rails meant the tramcars were easier than the omnibuses for the horses to pull…. This in turn meant more passengers could be carried at one time using the same amount of horses…. As a result the fare, which worked out at 1d per mile, was cheaper than that of the buses…. With the addition of the railways’ cheaper early morning workers’ tickets public transport became accessible to everyone…. Another advantage was that the tram travelled slightly faster at 6mph, compared to the bus at 4mph…. Workers began to travel further to work, many moved out of the crowded city to the suburbs…. The tramway network had grown considerably, connecting new housing developments on the outskirts to the city centre….

Initially tram services were operated by private companies, such as the Pimlico, Peckham and Greenwich Street Tramways or the North Metropolitan Tramways…. London County Council could see the social benefits of the system, the cheap fares, accessibility and reliability…. The council saw it as an important part of their policy and during the 1890s made compulsory purchases on many of the horse tram routes….

The tramways still had their problems; the installation and maintenance of the lines caused disruption, derailments were a hazard….and then there was the horsepower….

A single bus or tram needed a team of twelve horses to keep it on the road for twelve hours a day…. Horses were rotated every 3-4 hours….they needed stabling, feeding, watering, veterinary and blacksmith services…. 55% of the operators’ fees went on the cost of caring for the horses – an average of £20,000 was collectively spent per year on horseshoes alone…. 50,000 horses were used to keep the public transport system going on London’s streets….horses that ate the equivalent of a quarter of a million acres worth of foodstuff and produced 1,000 tonnes of droppings per year…. Much of this was collected up and dumped in poorer areas of the city….

Eventually the electrification of trams and the arrival of the motor bus just before World War I meant the demand for the working horse became less and less…. The last horse drawn trams were withdrawn in 1915….

On this day in history….22nd March 1744

On this day in history : 22nd March 1744 – The first book of English nursery rhymes, called ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book’ is published – featuring many rhymes that are still well-known today….

The full title of the book was actually ~ ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book for all little Masters and Misses; to be sung to them by their Nurses ’till they can sing themselves…. By Nurse Lovechild’….

The book was published by Mary Cooper of London. She was the widow of publisher Thomas Cooper – and after his death she continued the business…. A few weeks after the book was published a sequel followed – ‘Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book’….

The first page of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ – from an 1815 edition

No copy of the first volume remains – but a copy of the second is held at the British Library….for years it was thought to be the only one in existence…. However, in 2001 another copy surfaced – it sold for £45,000….

The book contains forty nursery rhymes, many of which we still teach to our children today….

‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, ‘Little Tommy Tucker’, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’….img_2608

‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, ‘Little Robin Redbreast’, ‘Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross’….


‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, ‘Boys and Girls Come Out to Play’, ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’….


‘Ladybird Ladybird’, ‘Mary Mary Quite Contrary’, ‘Oranges and Lemons’….

Internet Archive Book Images via flickr

Such lovely childhood memories…. Ironically, the engraver who did the illustrations for Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, was one George Bickham Jnr….who was sued by the government of the time for selling pornographic prints….

On this day in history….21st March 1556

On this day in history : 21st March 1556 – Thomas Cranmer, England’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, is burnt at the stake as a heretic under the orders of Queen Mary I…

Thomas Cranmer by Gerlach Flicke – Public domain

Thomas Cranmer served as Archbishop of Canterbury between 1533 and 1556 and was a leader of the English Reformation…. It was he who dissolved the first marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn….

It was also he (along with Thomas Cromwell) who supported the translation of the Bible into the English language…. And in 1549 he helped to complete the Book of Common Prayer….

After King Henry died his only son, Edward VI came to the throne….but was to die at the  age of 15-years-old…. Before his death he made it known that his wish was for his Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, to succeed him – even though he had a half-sister, Mary – but who was a Catholic…. Thomas Cranmer supported this decision….

Lady Jane Grey was to reign for just nine days before she and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, were executed…. Mary took her place as Queen, determined to restore the Catholic Church….she also had an intense dislike for Cranmer, holding him responsible for the annulment of her parent’s marriage and effectively making her illegitimate….

On the 13th of November 1553 Cranmer was tried and found guilty of treason….he was condemned to die…. He was imprisoned in Bocardo Prison, Oxford – held alongside him were two others, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley…. On the 12th of September 1555 all three men went on trial for heresy….Ridley and Latimer were found guilty at the trial and were burned at the stake on the 16th of October…. Cranmer’s case had to be referred to Rome – and their decision was delivered in the December of 1555…. Cranmer had been stripped of his position as Archbishop and the authorities had permission to decide his fate….

The Trial of Thomas Cranmer – Public domain

Although Cranmer made a total of five recantations renouncing his Protestant theology and declaring that he was returning to the Catholic Church, Mary – wanting revenge – set a date for his execution….

On the day of the execution Cranmer was forced to make one last public recantation…. It was a wet day and it was decided to use the church of St. Mary’s in Oxford…. From high in the pulpit, for all to hear, he gave the prayer and swore to obey the Crown…. It was then in a last act of defiance – he no longer had anything to lose – that he renounced all of his previous recantations….

“And for as much as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire, it shall first be burned”….

“And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy, and antichrist, with all his false doctrine”….

“And as for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester, which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand in the last day before the judgement of God, where the papistical doctrines contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show their face”….

True to his word, once at the stake, as the fire ignited and the flames took hold, Cranmer thrust his right hand into them – holding it there as it charred – it was a long time before the fire engulfed the rest of his body….

Cranmer’s Martyrdom, from John Foxe’s book (1563) – Public domain

Today Cranmer is remembered, along with Ridley and Latimer, as a Protestant martyr…. A memorial stands in Oxford – the inscription reads….

“To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLIimg_2606

On this day in history….20th March 1974

On this day in history : 20th March 1974 – An attempt is made to kidnap Princess Anne as she and her husband Captain Mark Phillips are being driven down Pall Mall….

Princess Anne 1974 – Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museum via Flickr

The 23-year-old Princess and her husband were being chauffeur-driven back to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event…. It was around 8pm when a white Ford Escort blocked their way, forcing the Rolls Royce to stop…. A man got out of the Ford, brandishing two handguns…. The Princess’s body-guard, Inspector James Beaton and the chauffeur, Alex Callender attempted to apprehend the man – but both were shot…. Despite his injuries Inspector Beaton got to his feet to try and stop the gunman again – and again….in total he was shot three times…. Also shot was a passer-by who tried to help – tabloid journalist, Brian McConnell….

The gunman then forced his way into the Rolls Royce…. He ordered Princess Anne out – to which she replied….“not bloody likely”…. She did eventually get out though and as the gunman followed after her another passer-by, former boxer Ron Russell, who had positioned his car to stop the Ford from escaping, struck the gunman on the back of the head…. Russell was then able to lead the Princess to safety….

Meanwhile, after hearing gun shots PC Michael Hills had rushed to the scene – he tried to detain the gunman – but was himself to be shot in the stomach…. The gunman attempted to run but was pursued by Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who brought him to the ground and managed to disarm him….

The gunman was Ian Ball, a 26-year-old unemployed labourer, who suffered from a mental illness…. When his car was searched handcuffs, tranquillisers and a ransom note were found…. The note was addressed to the Queen and demanded that £2 million be paid to the National Health Service…. Ball later claimed he did it to highlight the lack of mental health care available…. He was prosecuted for attempted murder and received a sentence of life imprisonment – and was placed in a psychiatric hospital…. His remains the closest attempt anyone has ever made on abducting a member of the royal family….

All four men who were shot thankfully recovered…. Inspector James Beaton later received the George Cross….whilst PC Michael Hills and Ron Russell were given the George Medal…. Chauffeur Alex Callender, journalist Brian McConnell and Detective Constable Peter Edmonds were all awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for their bravery….

Russell later revealed that the Queen had said to him as he received his award….“The medal is from the Queen, the thank you is from Anne’s mother”….


On this day in history….19th March 1965

On this day in history : 19th March 1965 – An article is published in the Tailor and Cutter magazine asking the Rolling Stones to start wearing ties – to save the tie makers from financial ruin….

The Rolling Stones at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – 1964

“With position comes responsibility. It is a thought we recommend to the Rolling Stones…. We would urge pop stars everywhere to give at least passing consideration to the financial straits in which the manufacturers are likely to find themselves if the next generation goes eternally open-necked”…. ~ Tailor and Cutter magazine….

Mick Jagger responded with the quip ~ “The trouble with the tie is that it could dangle in the soup”….

Taylor and Cutter was a dedicated magazine for the tailoring world and had been started by a passionate, wild haired and bearded Scotsman named John Williamson in 1866…. The first edition of the publication demanded better working conditions for the craftsman of the industry….

Williamson moved to London later that same year and saw there was an opportunity for a regular publication….communicating current trends and technical information to the tailoring community and its associated trades…. Two publications were launched ~ ‘The Tailor’ and ‘The Cutter’ ~ covering news from the world of tailoring, pictures of the latest fashions and creations, articles and advertisements – from tailor’s chalk to cloth merchants…. Williamson launched his magazines in September 1866 with the financial backing of wealthy benefactor Angelica Patience Fraser…. Soon the two publications merged into one….

Via Wikimedia – A file donated by Nordiska Museet as part of the Europeana Fashion Collaboration – Public domain

With the belief that tailors should strive to better themselves Williamson wrote in 1869…. “Our mission is to put a superior class of literature dealing with the science and art of the trade into the hands of every tailor”…. From 1884 a separate journal for women’s tailoring was published….

By the 1960s men’s attire had become far more casual….suits, collars and ties tending to be kept for the office and formal occasions…. An even bigger threat to the tie being the popularity of the polo neck and the leisure shirt…. Ready to wear, off the peg tailoring meant there became a large drop in readership of Tailor and Cutter…. So it was in 1972 that the final edition was printed…. Meanwhile the tie still has its place in nearly every man’s wardrobe….

1960s Neckties – Made of silk or Dacron polyester…. Image credit: CG Hughes via Flickr