On this day in history….19th October 1991

On this day in history : 19th October 1991 – Performances at London’s Royal Opera House are cancelled due to a pay dispute with orchestra members….

Royal Opera House at night
Royal Opera House – Peter Suranyi CC BY-SA 3.0

The 118 members of the orchestra argued that they were the only performers at Covent Garden who were expected to supply their own clothing and instruments…. They sought a 24% pay increase….

At the time the state-subsidised Royal Opera House was having acute financial difficulties…. On becoming Chairman in 1991 Sir Angus Stirling had inherited a £2.5 million accumulated deficit – because of this the ROH could only offer a 5.5% increase….

The orchestra retaliated by refusing to wear the required evening dress and dinner jackets for performances and turned up wearing jeans and casual clothing…. To take their protest even further they announced plans to observe all intermissions called for in the original score of any ballet or opera….thus ignoring the artistic discretion of the conductor and director…. For example: an upcoming production which was to start that coming week would have a total of ‘four’ intermissions instead of the proposed ‘one’ – and one of those breaks was to occur after an act of just eight minutes long….

As a result it was decided all performances would be cancelled until the orchestra ended its protest and the matter be resolved….

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User FAZO10 – Public domain

On this day in history….18th October 1922

On this day in history : 18th October 1922 – A group of leading wireless manufacturers, which includes Marconi, form the British Broadcasting Company….

The first live public broadcast had taken place in June 1920 at the Marconi factory in Chelmsford…. It had featured Dame Nellie Melba, the famous Australian Soprano – and the British public loved it…. However, military and government organisations were concerned that such broadcasts would interfere with the airwaves and disrupt important military and civil communications…. The General Post office was responsible for issuing broadcasting licences – and bowing to pressure from the authorities they banned any more broadcasts from the Chelmsford factory….

But by 1922 the GPO had received almost 100 applications for broadcasting licences…. To keep control it decided to issue one single license – to one company, formed by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufacturers, among them Marconi….

Daily broadcasting began on the 14th of November 1922 at Marconi’s London studio, ‘2LO’, in The Strand…. John Reith was appointed General Manager of the BBC on the 14th of December 1922; having no rules or guidelines to adhere to he effectively began to ‘write the rule book’….

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Sir John Reith – Photo courtesy : Howard Coster – Public domain

September 1923 saw the first edition of The Radio Times and in February 1924 the Greenwich Time Signal – or the ‘Pips’ – was introduced, marking the precise start of every new hour on BBC radio….

It was in January 1927 that the BBC became known as the British Broadcasting Corporation and is established by Royal Charter…. Sir John Reith becomes the very first Director-General….

John Logie Baird began to experiment with the first television broadcasts using BBC frequencies in November 1929…. Seven years later, in the November of 1936 the BBC Television Service began – (Black and white of course, colour didn’t become readily available until the ’60s) – bringing a mixture of programmes to include sport, drama, news and cartoons….

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John Logie Baird (photographed in 1917) – Public domain

In May 1932 the purpose designed and built Broadcasting House opens….and in December of the same year King George V makes the first radio broadcast by a British monarch….

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King George V giving the annual Royal Christmas message in 1934 – Andy Dingley (scanner) – Public domain

The BBC may no longer have the monopoly over broadcasting – we now have a vast choice for our listening and viewing options (some may say too many) – but what a long way things have come….

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Broadcasting House (with the modern extension to the side) – Photo courtesy : Stephen Craven CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….17th October 1814

On this day in history : 17th October 1814 – A bizarre accident in a brewery on the Tottenham Court Road causes what was to become known as the London Beer Flood….

The Horse Shoe Brewery of Meux and Company was situated in a densely populated area in the Parish of St. Giles…. It was a run-down slum district, vastly over-crowded and full of poverty….

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Horseshoe Brewery C1800 – Public domain

The brewery housed several large vats in which the beer was brewed…. One of the vats, which stood 22 feet high, ruptured, when one of the iron rings encircling it and holding it together snapped – allowing its contents of over 135,000 gallons of hot fermenting Brown Porter Ale (rather like Stout) to gush out…. In a knock on effect other vats around it also ruptured with the force….resulting in over 323,000 gallons of beer being released and causing the rear wall of the brewery to collapse….

The beer now poured on to the streets, destroying two homes and knocking down the wall of the Tavistock Arms Public House, killing Eleanor Cooper, a 15 or 16-year-old employee….

The river of beer soon reached neighbouring George Street and New Street, killing two people and injuring another…. It also surged through the venue of a wake, claiming five more lives…. Out of the eight known confirmed deaths, three of them were children under the age of five years….

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Map of the location of the brewery and surrounding area – Image courtesy : Richard Horwood – Public domain

People scooped up the liquid in whatever was to hand – some just resorted to drinking it as it flowed around them…. There were reports a further victim died some days later from alcohol poisoning….

The brewery was sued but the judge ruled it was an ‘Act of God’ and it was put down to being a terrible accident…. The total cost to the brewery was a hefty £23,000 (over £1.25 million in today’s money) – but the company was able to claim back excise duty which saved it from bankruptcy….

The brewery was eventually demolished in 1922…. Part of the site is now occupied by the West End theatre – ‘The Dominion’….

London Beer Flood of 1814
Image courtesy : ap. via Flickr

On this day in history….16th October 1834

On this day in history : 16th October 1834 – The Medieval buildings of the Palace of Westminster are largely destroyed by fire….

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J.M.W. Turner – Public domain

The original construction dated back to the early 11th Century and had been built as a royal palace ~ additions were made over time and it had become the home of the British Parliament….

Up until 1826, as part of the accounting system of the Exchequer, small wooden tally sticks had been used ~ these carved, notched pieces were usually made from willow…. Now obsolete the tally sticks needed disposing of; two Irish labourers, Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong, were given the task….

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Tally sticks, as used by the Treasury – Image courtesy : Winchester City Council Museums CC BY-SA 2.0

Work commenced at dawn ~ the pair began to burn the piles of sticks in two furnaces situated beneath the House of Lords…. Although the two claimed they had taken care, a witness said he had seen them piling the wood in…. Heat from the furnaces melted the copper lining of the flues, which in turn started a chimney fire…. With the furnace doors open oxygen was drawn in, making the fire burn more fiercely….

Just after 4pm Cross and Furlong had finished the job; they threw on the last sticks, closed the furnace doors and retired to the pub…. About an hour later sparks from the chimney fire set surrounding woodwork alight…. The first flames were spotted at around 6pm ~ panicked staff tried to put the fire out but failed to alert others in the buildings or call for help…. At 6.30pm a huge fire ball swept through the buildings and the whole interior became an inferno…. The burning roof lit up the sky and could even be seen by the Royal Family 20 miles away at Windsor Castle….

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Unknown artist – Public domain

Two hand-pump fire engines arrived but were of little use; at 6.45pm 100 soldiers from the Grenadier Guards joined them…. Shortly after 12 more engines arrived at the scene accompanied by 64 firemen…. Hoses were run down to the River Thames ~ but the tide was low ~ it was too late to save the Palace…. Miraculously, despite the ferocity of the fire, there were no deaths ~ although 9 people needed hospital treatment….

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After the fire – Unknown artist – Public domain

King William IV offered Buckingham Palace as a replacement building for Parliament ~ but MPs declined ~ saying it was too ‘dingy’!!! So the roof was replaced on the Lesser Hall, the Chamber painted and the buildings restored ready for the State Opening in February 1835….

A competition was opened in to which 97 competitors entered to design a new building ~ which was to incorporate the surviving Westminster Hall, the Undercroft Chapel and the cloisters of St. Stephen’s…. The winning design was by architect Charles Barry ~ with his new Gothic-Revival palace…. In 1840 the first stone was laid by Barry’s wife….in 1847 the Lord’s Chamber was completed; Big Ben was installed in the Clock Tower in 1839….and in 1870 the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster was completed….

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Image courtesy : Berit from Redhill, Surrey CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….15th October 1666

On this day in history : 15th October 1666 – Samuel Pepys records in his diary that King Charles II intends to make the waistcoat part of the correct formal attire of English noblemen….

Pepys wrote…. “the King hath yesterday in council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest”….

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English man’s waistcoat, circa 1760 – Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Public domain

King Charles had recently been restored to the English throne and wanted to distance his Court from the 17th Century French style…. Travellers returning from Persia brought back with them the idea of the ‘vest’…. The warmer Eastern climate did not require a full jacket – a similar kind of vest called a ‘Bandi’ was worn in India…. The fashion for men in Britain at the time was for long coats but was to become influenced by Eastern styles with stiff collars, vests and doublets….

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Coat and waistcoat circa 1750 – Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Public domain

The term ‘waistcoat’ most probably came about as the new style was quite literally cut to the waist…. The Americans still refer to the garment as a ‘vest’….

Men’s clothing was very elaborate during the Renaissance period – silk, satin, lace and trimmings…. Colour was vibrant; dye being incredibly expensive meant the richer the hues the wealthier the wearer…. Waistcoats were often the centre of the outfit – brightly coloured and highly decorated…. This trend continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries – but towards the end of the 1800s it began to evolve into becoming part of the business suit – rarely would a businessman be seen without one…. From the mid 20th century it essentially became an optional part of the business suit and so to some extent its popularity declined….

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Man’s court coat and waistcoat, circa 1800 – David Jackson CC BY-SA 2.0

Nowadays, although still worn when dressing to impress, or at formal occasions such as weddings, the waistcoat is often worn with more casual clothing – such as jeans and a t-shirt….

It is also customary to wear a waistcoat with the bottom button left undone…. Another King can be attributed for this particular trend…. Edward VII was so chubby that he was unable to do the button up – thus setting a fashion that is still with us today….

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Image via Pinterest : Source Gentleman’s Gazette