British History
Random collection of interesting and unusual stories from British history.

Also visit our articles on Your Ancestors and Essex History

Did Prince Albert really save Queen Victoria from assassination?
The truth behind the film and television series.

The Window Tax
When letting in sunshine could cost you money.

How did Scotland Yard get its name?
The origin of the name of the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London.

Who first said 'Lead on Macduff'
Using archives to track down the misquote.

In which order were the main railway stations in London built?
A look at the railway stations of London.

The Guinness Toucan
The story of the designing of the famous Guinness Toucan.

Trying to stop the body snatchers with a mortsafe.
A look at the attempts to prevent the resurrection men taking away dead bodies.

When German U-Boats sailed into British ports
The day a U-Boat was moored by the Tower of London.

Just how militant were the Suffragettes?
A look at the Suffragettes campaigns which involved arson, malicious damage and even bombs.

Famous people listed in the 1881 British census?
From Queen Victoria to Bram Stoker.

Picking Junk and Oakum
Why your workhouse and criminal ancestors picked oakum.

Who was Marks and Spencer?
The story of the two men who founded the famous store.

Who founded Burberry's?
The story of Thomas Burberry, founder of the clothing company.

Why do some English churches have round towers?
How local building materials dictate building style.

What were Church Briefs?
How money was raised for rebuilding a church or freeing captured slaves.

Which nationalities fought in Nelson's Navy?
A suprising number of different nationalities fought in Nelson's navy.

Could a hanged criminal cure cysts and warts?
When sufferers of a medical ailment would flock to public executions..

The first terrorist attack on London's Underground.
The tube has been a target for terrorists for over 100 years.

When was the RSPCA founded?
A look at the first steps on the road to animal welfare.

The Spanish Prisoner Swindle
A look at a 19th century swindle, perhaps the origin of our modern Nigerian 419 fraud.

Who was the first British monarch to travel by rail?
Queen Victoria found the whole event quite charming.

What was the King's Evil?
When touching a monarch was believed to be a cure for illness.

Why was Wellington called the Iron Duke?
We discover the true origin of the nickname.

The railway navvy: reckless, desperate, violent characters?
Why the arrival of the railway would create panic in a neighbourhood.

The first road traffic lights
Traffic lights are everywhere, but when was the first one placed on Britain's roads?

The Clerkenwell Explosion
An unsuccessful prison escape in which twelve bystanders were killed.

Building sand castles
When was the first sand castle built at the seaside?

The first Atlantic telegraph message
What were the first telegraph messages sent across the Atlantic Ocean?

How did your ag labs ancestors harvest a wheat field?
The teamwork involved in harvesting a field of wheat.

How fast did news travel?
A look at how long news of great events took to travel.

What was known as a 'Tax on Knowledge'?
The campaign against a tax on newspapers.

Coin clipping
When our currency was undermined.

Fire Marks: the first logos of insurance companies
A look at the history of Fire Marks.

The lions in Trafalgar Square
A story of delay and financial problems.

The jigsaw craze
When the world went mad over the humble jigsaw puzzle.

What would you find in Madame Tussaud's in the 19th century?
A look at the famous waxworks in London.

The greatest ice skating tragedy in Britain
The sad story of a tragic accident in Regents Park.

Who designed the National Trust's symbol?
Oak leaves are the logo of the National Trust.

What was the first National Trust property?
The story of the saving of the Clergy House.

The Daily Mail air races
When pioneer pilots risked their lives.

Taking a bribe in cricket
A look back in time to see if bribery in cricket is a new problem.

The early history of British Petroleum
How British Petroleum was founded by a German company.

Vindolanda
A look at the fascinating Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall.

Stoolball
The history of the game of Stoolball.

The first General Assembly of the United Nations
The historic first General Assembly was held in London.

Why are there Welsh street names in Patagonia?
A little known story of emigration.

The Lungs of London
Who coined this well known phrase?.

How many signatures by Shakespeare are there?
Probably the most valuable signature in the world..

Did 221b Baker Street exist?
The home of Sherlock Holmes.

Ironbridge Gorge
At the heart of the industrial revolution.

A Bow Street Runners raid in 1822
How the London law enforcers carried out raids.

The Peelers
The origin of the nickname for the first police officers in London.

The Glass Church
A charming church with decoration by René Lalique.

Smash and Grab
When was the first Smash and Grab?

War of the Worlds
Where did H.G. Wells get his idea for war of the Worlds?.

What is the old lady of Threadneedle Street
A look at the nickname of the Bank of England.

The earliest account of the Battle of Trafalgar
Where to read the first report of the Battle.

The London landmark derived from an Arabic name
The origin of the name Trafalgar.

The American high diver
The story of a great showman who met his death in the Thames.

What servants would you find in a Victorian household?
Did your ancestor work below stairs? From butler to scullery maid.

Britons made slaves
When pirates raided the coasts of Britain looking for slaves.

Britain's greatest wartime civilian tragedy
The tragic story of a crush in a tube station.

When Cleopatra's Needle was almost lost at sea
How an ancient obelisk nearly sank to the bottom of the ocean.

The first artificial ice rink
Skating in 19th century London.

For how long has the word 'Jackboot' been used to mean oppression?
A look back at the origin of the word.

The first demonstration of street lighting using gas
Lighting the dark streets of London.

The night Parliament to burnt down
Enthusiastic labourers create an out-of-control fire.

The first British casualties of war in 1939
A sad story for animal lovers.

Why did Pepys bury his Parmesan Cheese?
It's surprising what people will bury.

Which English King was shot in the face with an arrow when he was sixteen?
The young warlike harry.

The first University Boat Race
Oxford and Cambridge meet for the first time.

The first Big Ben
A cracking story of the famous bell.

The first car tax discs
Taxing the British car drivers.

Which British Prime Ministers took part in duels?
A question of honour.

Dial 999 for help
When 999 emergency calls were introduced.

The first driving tests
When order was brought to the British roads.

Who were the original Hooligans?
When street roughs made a name for themselves.

The connection between Bedlam and the Imperial War Museum
Perhaps some would say war is bedlam.

Was vinegar and brown paper really used to treat injuries?
Would Jack recover using this as medical treatment?

What is Shoddy?
A good example of early recycling.

Where was Cottonopolis?
The nickname of a powerful and wealthy city.

When was London's Underground nicknamed the Tube?
A trip down the tube.

The last Frost Fair on the River Thames
Take a cold walk on the Thames.

The last reading of the Riot Act on mainland UK
When a police strike caused a riot.

Where did the name Jack the Ripper come from?
The origin of the murderer's nickname.

Mapping Tudor London
A look at the Agas map of 1560.

What was on BBC television 40 years' ago today?
Much shorter viewing times and the latest Doctor Who.

When was the first spam postcard sent?
Spam is not a new idea.

Charles Dickens' brush with death
Why it left the author with what he called "railway shaking".

Queen Victoria's rat catcher
Even Buckingham Palace had rats.

Execution Dock
Paying the price for murder and piracy on the high seas.

Is there an Empress, Princess, Duchess, Countess or Lady on your roof?
The historic titled names given to slate tiles.

Lacock and Lacock Abbey
Why the historic village of Lacock is so popular with film makers.

The early history of Barclays Bank
From its founding by Quakers to a worldwide banking giant.

Carisbrooke Castle
The impressive castle on the Isle of Wight.

The Needles Battery
The impressive Victorian batteries protecting the Solent.

The early history of Harrods
The foundation of the great department store.

Roget's Thesaurus
The story of Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus.

What is a Ha-Ha and a Folly?
Exploring the landscape of country houses.

Who was Lobby Lud?
The mystery men competitions in the newspapers.

Highgate Cemetery
The resting place of many notable Victorians.

Grimes Graves
Ancient flint mines which left a lunar landscape.

The Mud-Lark
Scavenging on the Thames foreshore to survive.

Tower Bridge
The installing of lifts in the famous Tower Bridge.

Bull and Bear Markets
The origin of these stock market terms.

The last British steam locomotive to be built in Britain
The passing of an age.

What would you find in a Police Box?
The secrets of the Police Box revealed.

The Monument
How the memorial to the Great Fire of London was used as a telescope.

The UK's first Indian restaurant and take-away
'Going for a curry' is older than you think. Even an Indian take-away could be ordered.

Coastal Erosion: how land much has been lost?
Coastal erosion is a concern for many communities, but historically, how much land has actually been lost?

Also visit our articles on Your Ancestors and Essex History

Find your Ancestors in the Newspapers

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Essex Standard Newspaper

Newspaper archives are now a very important source of information for researching your family tree.

Find your ancestors in the newspapers.
Try our example search to discover if your ancestors are in the British Newspaper Archive.

Also look at other newspaper archives and learn how they can help you research your ancestors. >>more

Looking for pictures to add to your family tree album?

Southminster

Ebay is a good source of old images of Essex towns and villages. If you're looking for pictures to add to your family tree album, then try one of the auctions, or there are several 'Buy It Now' shops offering postcards which have been touched up and improved - so if you're unsure about bidding, try these. Link already formatted for Essex Postcards. Browse through or type the name of the location in the Ebay search box.