‘The London Book of Days’ is a wonderful new memoir documenting noteworthy daily events in the capital from over the last few hundred years. Author Peter de Loriol has compiled a year’s worth of memorable moments from our city’s past; some you’ll recognise, others will surprise you. We like it so much that we’ve decided to post our fave weekly highlights from the vaults of time which we think might raise a smile and even ruffle some dusty feathers! Here’s what happened this week in London…
April 22 1760: The first recorded use of roller skates was in 1743, but the details are lost to history. On this day, however, Jean-Joseph Merlin of Huy in the province of Liège, an instrument maker and inventor, attended a masquerade in central London on a pair of roller skates, playing a violin, to publicise his invention. Unfortunately he had not mastered how to stop and, trying to avoid the crowds, crashed into a large wall mirror. (John H. Lienhard)
April 23 1898: On this Saturday the maiden journey of the first motorised double-decker bus, with a top speed of 12mph, ran from Gravesend to the City of London. ‘Every man, every woman and child in Long Acre and along Piccadilly stopped and stared at the vehicle as it thundered past…’. (the Times)
April 24 1678: On this day the first recorded execution on Kennington Common took place; ‘the day of execution Sarah Elston all dressed in white, with a vast multitude of people attending her. And after very solemn prayers offered on the said occasion, the fire was kindled, and giving two or three lamentable shrieks, she was deprived of both voice and life, and so burnt to ashes.’ Elston had murdered her husband.
April 25 1682: A severe storm on this day flooded St James’s Park and inundated river neighbourhoods. The Brentford Vestry noted in its minutes that a skiff could be rowed up its main street.
1921: On this day the first motorcycle police patrols went on duty in London. (Police Archives)
1928: The Duke of York, the future King George VI, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, were married at Westminster Abbey. (The Times)
April 27 1928: The Piccadilly Theatre, designed by Bertie Crewe ,opened today. It was almost immediately taken over for films, but reverted to drama at the end of 1929. (Variety)
April 28 1772: The world’s most well-travelled goat died today in London. She has circumnavigated the world twice, once with Capt. Wallis in the Dolphin, then on Cook’s Endeavour. The Admiralty had signed a document vouching for her travels and longevity. (Minutes of the Royal Society)
For more info about ‘The London Book of Days’ (£9.99), see thehistorypress.co.uk.