On this day in history : 18th May 1830 – Engineer Edwin Beard Budding signs an agreement to go into partnership for the production of and to secure a patent for his invention….the lawn mower….
Budding had got the idea for his grass cutter after seeing a machine in a cotton mill with a cylindrical blade which was used to cut cloth…. He initially designed the mower for use at sports grounds and large manicured gardens that required a smooth finish to their grassed areas and lawns…. It was intended as a superior method to the scythe…. It is said he tested his invention under cover of darkness so as not to be seen – incase people thought he had gone mad…!
He signed an agreement with fellow engineer John Ferrabee, who was to pay for development costs to improve the existing design and to obtain a patent….
The pair went into partnership and started manufacturing lawn mowers in a factory at Thrupp, near Stroud…. On the 31st of August 1830 a patent was granted…. Two of the earliest models of the lawn mower were sold to Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens and the Oxford Colleges….
Budding is also credited for the invention of the adjustable spanner in 1842….
On this day in history : 17th May 1916 – The Summer Time Act 1916 is passed in Britain, introducing Daylight-Saving Time….after a campaign by builder William Willett….
It is often said Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, first came up with the idea of daylight saving when visiting Paris in 1784…. There could be more than a grain of truth in this as he had joked that if people got up earlier on the lighter mornings then they could save on candles….
English builder, William Willett, obviously thought it a good idea as he campaigned tirelessly for it – publishing a leaflet in 1907 entitled ‘The Waste of Daylight”, in which he encouraged people to rise earlier in the mornings and take advantage…. Being a person who enjoyed the outdoors he liked to go riding early in the morning – and couldn’t help noticing how many people still had their curtains drawn closed…. Also being a keen golfer he would be frequently frustrated at not being able to finish his evening game as dusk had fallen…. However, he wasn’t the first to petition for change….
British born New Zealander, George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist and astronomer, first proposed modern Daylight-Saving Time in 1895…. His work schedule allowed him free time to collect and study insects and so he valued his spare daylight hours…. He presented a paper to Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two hour shift in the time…. It took New Zealand until 1927 before they finally passed their Summer Time Act….
The British government discussed whether to introduce Daylight-Saving on several occasions…. Willett’s idea had been to make the clocks go forward by 80 minutes in 20 minute increments, on four successive Sundays in April – to be reversed in September…. A serious debate took place in Parliament in 1908 but the idea proved unpopular and so nothing happened….
It was the outbreak of World War I that suddenly made it important to act….due to the need to save coal – Germany had already introduced the idea…. On the 17th of May 1916 the Bill was finally passed – to be put into practice the following Sunday, the 21st of May…. Nowadays the clocks go back one hour on the last Sunday of October and forward on the last Sunday of March…. As for poor William Willett – who was incidentally the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin – he never did get to enjoy the benefit, as sadly he died from influenza in 1915….
On this day in history : 16th May 1983 – The Metropolitan Police Force begin to clamp illegally parked cars – in the ‘Central London Wheel Clamp Experiment’….
Between its introduction in May and mid-November 1983 – 22,430 vehicles had been clamped, giving a gross revenue of £431,418…. When it was first introduced in the Knightsbridge area of London it proved popular with residents – who were finally able to claim their parking spaces back from those who were using them without authorisation…. There were problems that needed ironing out, such as when tradesmen and service engineers needed to park in order to carry out their work….
From the late 1980s local councils began to introduce stricter rules around parking….as a result drivers began to look for places to leave their cars where the traffic wardens wouldn’t find them…. Residential and private property became a target…. Understandably the owners of such properties were not happy….but the supply and maintenance of prohibitive equipment, such as barriers, proved expensive…. Wheel clamping, being self-funding, was an easy and often lucrative solution….it would effectively cost a landlord nothing to call out a wheel clamping company – and sometimes a commission would be paid to the property owner….
From 1990 onwards a steady rise of wheel clamp operatives was seen across the whole of the UK – with sometimes questionable practices…. However, the clampers did not always get things their own way….some motorists resorted to using bolt cutters or even angle grinders to remove clamps – meaning the operators lost not only the release fee but their clamp as well….
One of the best known wheel clamps used in the UK is the ‘London Wheel Clamp’…. Its designer, Trevor Whitehouse, filed for its patent in 1991 – originally it was to be named the ‘Preston’ after his hometown…. In the beginning it was used on private land but was introduced on public roads under the ‘Road Traffic Regulations Act of 1991’….and the wheel clamp became notorious…. The first areas to use it were 33 boroughs in London – hence the name change….
For many, especially those who had experienced having their car clamped, the practice became extremely controversial…. In 2012 the ‘Protection of Freedom Act 2012’, criminalising some wheel clamping on private land, came into force on the 1st of October…. It prohibited clamping in places such as supermarket car parks and effectively made it an offence for a private individual or company to act on its own behalf and have a car clamped…. Scotland had banned clamping and towing away in 1992….
It is still legal in the UK in some instances, such as by the police, DVLA or local authorities….and you are allowed to clamp your own car to prevent it from being stolen….
On this day in history : 15th May 1536 – The trial of Anne Boleyn takes place; she is accused of adultery, incest and plotting to kill her husband, King Henry VIII….
Henry had gone to great lengths to make Anne his wife, having made himself the head of the English Church in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon…. Now Anne had fallen from favour – she had failed to provide a male heir and after suffering a second miscarriage in January 1536 Henry was beginning to look elsewhere – and needed to find a way to end his second marriage….
What better way than to cite adultery – an act that would have been regarded as treason…. He enlisted the help of his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell – who detested Anne…. An enquiry was made into Anne’s behaviour – both her personal and sexual conduct….she had never been a popular Queen and several accusations were brought against her….
A commission was established to investigate the rumours and on the 2nd of May 1536 Anne was arrested, accused of committing adultery with five men – one of them her own brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochfield…. It was claimed she’d had intimate relations with him on the 2nd of November and 22nd & 29th of December 1535…. Also named were four members of Henry’s Court whom she had supposedly slept with: Henry Norris, on the 12th & 19th of November 1533; Sir William Bremerton, the 16th & 27th of November and 3rd & 8th of December 1533; Sir Francis Weston, the 8th & 20th of May and 6th & 20th of June 1534; and Mark Smeaton, a musician of the Court, on the 13th & 19th of May 1534…. If that sounds excessive, Henry actually believed she’d had over 100 lovers…. No doubt this was all lies fabricated by Thomas Cromwell….
On the 12th of May 1536 Smeaton, Norris, Bremerton and Weston were brought to trial… Cracking under the strain Smeaton admitted guilt but the others all protested their innocence…. To add to their plight all of the men, with the exception of Norris, were also accused of sodomy…. The four were found guilty of all charges and executed at Tyburn on the 17th of May….
Anne and her brother were brought to trial at King’s Hall, the Tower of London on the 15th of May….the trial was presided over by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk…. Despite having alibis for at least twelve of the occasions on which she had been accused her pleas fell on deaf ears…. The court was obsessed with ‘her frail and carnal sexual appetites’….
In addition to the charges of adultery and incest Anne was accused of plotting the death of Henry with her ‘lovers’…. It was claimed she intended to marry one of the traitors after his demise….
Both Anne and her brother were found guilty….George Boleyn was executed along with the other men two days later…. Anne herself was executed four days after the trial…. All were victims of Thomas Cromwell’s fiction….but as they say ‘what goes around, comes around’…. Thomas Cromwell was himself beheaded just four years later….
On this day in history : 14th May 1894 – Blackpool Tower opens to the public; after a visit to Paris Mayor John Bickerstaff wanted Blackpool to have an Eiffel Tower that it could call its own….
Bickerstaff had taken his family to Paris on holiday and had fallen in love with Gustav Eiffel’s tower…. Blackpool was fast becoming one of the top resorts in Britain and the Mayor was intensely proud of it; being the owner of a luxurious hotel on Blackpool’s ‘Golden Mile’ he thought a tower such as the one in Paris was just what the resort needed….
On arriving home he set to work establishing a committee and in February 1891 the Blackpool Tower Company was formed…. Two architects, Messrs Maxwell and Tuke from Manchester were commissioned – and plans drawn up….
Bickerstaff was informed that the total cost of the project would be in the region of £290K (that’s over £40m in today’s terms)….some serious fund-raising needed to be done…. He approached the owners of some of Lancashire’s largest cotton trade businesses and managed to secure the money that was needed….
The Tower, which stands at 518ft 9ins high, took three years to build; it used 2,500 tons of steel and 5 million Accrington bricks…. On opening some 3,000 visitors paid 6d (sixpence) to use the lift to ascend the Tower – that was after paying a 6d entrance fee….those wishing to attend the circus performance were charged a further 6d….
The circus and ballroom were designed by Mr Frank Matchum…. The circus, situated on the ground between the four legs of the base has never missed a season since its opening…. The fabulous ballroom, with its intricate artwork, was nearly lost in 1956 due to a carelessly discarded cigarette…. Extensive damage was caused but thankfully some of the original workmen were still alive and the ballroom was restored to its former glory….at a cost of £500K and taking two years to complete…. Many of us will remember when it was home to the BBC’s ‘Come Dancing’ – and even more of us will be familiar with its appearances on ‘Strictly’….
A previous fire in 1897, which broke out at the top of the Tower, could be seen from fifty miles away…. Built on four levels, three are open to the public; the ‘Eye’ with its panoramic views of the seafront, through big glass windows and then a further two levels above which are outside…. The upper of which has a roof garden and from here 563 steps lead to the very top of the Tower and these are used for maintenance work….
For the first thirty years the construction was not painted on a regular basis and became so badly corroded that demolition was considered…. However, the decision was taken to rebuild and between 1920 and 1924 all of the steelwork was replaced…. Nowadays it takes a team, known as ‘Stickmen’ seven years to paint it in its entirety…. In 1973 it was designated as a Grade 1 listed building….
When the wind gusts above 70mph the Tower can sway by up to an inch….but when gusts reach 45mph it is closed for safety…. Five miles of electrical cable power 10,000 bulbs to illuminate the Blackpool Tower….