Things that happened from 6th to 12th July in years gone by

Saturday 06 July 1907 was the first competitive day on the Brooklands motor racing track. The Western Daily Press, reporting on Monday 8th, recorded that ‘Keen interest was taken not only in sporting circles, but by the general public in the opening race meeting at the great motor track at Brooklands near Weybridge on Saturday. The fine weather, which prevailed throughout, had the effect of enticing thousands of persons to the races, and an hour before the opening of the competition the vantage points around the track were well filled with spectators. The programme was an excellent one, the chief competition being for the Montagu Cup, of 2,100 sovereigns, for which some dozen competitors entered. Eight took part with J E Hutton on (yes that’s how everyone is described – ‘on’ not ‘in’ their motor) a Mercedes winning. In total over £4,000 in stake money was competed for.’

A different view was expressed by the Evening Telegraph and Post with the by-line ‘Daily News’. It tells us that: Only two cars caught fire during the afternoon. A tyre was ripped off and leapt along for many yards with the impetus of its speed. A car lost over a thousand pounds in prizes by taking a wrong turning. Two competitors made a dead heat at ninety miles an hour. This is a poor sensation after the competitors for the Gordon-Bennett Cup, with their long lists of explosions and casualties. Most decent and quiet persons would be very content if the majority of high-speed motors would occupy themselves exclusively with the Brooklands track, and spend the remainder of their days in driving furiously round that concrete construction with occasional collisions and collapses to give vivacity to the proceedings’.

On Thursday 7th July 1927 Christopher Stone became England’s first radio disc jockey with his Record Round-up programme on BBC Radio from Savoy Hill. Educated at Eton, Stone later served in the Royal Fusiliers. In 1906 he published a book of Sea songs and ballads and in 1923 had written the history of his old regiment. He became the London editor of The Gramophone, a magazine started by his brother-in-law Compton Mackenzie. From this base he approached the BBC with an idea for a record programme. Their first response was to dismiss the idea but Stone was determined and finally convinced them that it was a worthwhile idea. It was on this Thursday 7 July 1927 that he started playing records on air. His relaxed, conversational style was exceptional at a time when most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal, and his programmes became highly popular as a result. He ‘conformed’ to the rules though in that he wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented! In 1934 he was attracted away from the BBC and joined the commercial station Radio Luxembourg at a salary of £5,000 a year – a considerable sum at that time

Wednesday 8th July 1840 – John Henry Newman was an evangelical Oxford academic and Church of England priest who, in 1845, left the Church of England and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He was in a ‘betwixt & between’ situation when he wrote the following to Mrs Thomas Mozley (the wife ofThomas Mozley, an English clergyman and close friend of Newman): ‘While I was sitting in my surplice at the altar in Margaret Chapel on Sunday during the first lesson, a large black cat fell from the ceiling down close to my feet.narrowly missing my head. If I am not mistaken, it fell on its back. Where it came from, no one I have met can tell. It got up in no time, and was at the end of the chapel and back again before anyone knew what the matter was. Then it lay down thoroughly frightened. I had heard a mewing since the beginning of the service. Mrs Bowden, who observed a large cat at St. Mary Maggiore at Rome, suggests that the Record may note it is an additional proof that, in the Clerk’s words, the Chapel in Margaret Street ‘goes as near as ever it can to Roman Catholics’.”

Monday 9th July 1877 saw a Lawn Tennis championship take place at Worple Road Wimbledon. Records of the time record Worple Road, and the streets on the southern slopes of Wimbledon Hill, as ‘highly respectable’. Until about 1875 ‘Walpole Lane’ as a map of the time named it, had been a narrow track leading to fields. In 1868 the self-styled All-England Croquet Club had leased a field between the road and the railway line. The Club doesn’t seem to have developed much until the members decided to add the new game of Lawn Tennis to its activities. As a result the club was renamed The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. The members held their first Tennis Championship on this day in 1877 – a championship consisting of just gentlemen’s singles matches. That first championship is recorded as attracting twenty-two competitors and a crowd of about two hundred. The popularity grew rapidly and by 1884 they had permanent stands for the spectators built around the Club’s Central Court. Thirty years later the Championships had totally outgrown the ground in Worple Road and, in 1922, they moved to the Club’s present site in Church Road. The old ground then became the Girls’ High School playing field.

On Monday 10th July 1916 Raymond Asquith wrote to his wife Katherine from the Western Front: ‘I agree with you about the utter senselessness of war, but I do not think about it even so often as one day in seven: one of its chief effects being that one is more callous and unimaginative than one is by nature. It extends the circle of one’s acquaintance, but beyond that I cannot see that it has a single redeeming feature. The suggestion that it elevates the character is hideous. Burglary, assassination, and picking oakum would do as much.’

Thursday 10th July 1958 was the day Britain’s first parking meters were installed. They had been put up in Grosvenor Square, near the US Embassy in Westminster. Then, parking for one hour cost six shillings, compared with £4 in the same place today. Fines too were less draconian – overstaying your time, or actually forgetting to pay, led to a £2 penalty! Today in central London fines can cost up to £130 with towing away costs adding an extra £200.

Tuesday 11th July 1754 is the birth date of one Thomas Bowdler. He became a doctor and finally retired in 1818. He then set about producing a version of the works of William Shakespeare that excluded ‘those words and expressions …. which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family’ In other words anything remotely indecent or inappropriate for the listeners to hear or the readers to read were left out. He did the same with many other published works. These books were described as having been ‘bowdlerized’ – a descriptive word still used in certain circles today. I wonder how he would get on with some of the books of today!

Sunday 12th July 1953: In her diary for today Violet Bonham Carter expressed her frustration and annoyance at the on-going matter of Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend. After serving with distinction in the RAF during the war Townsend was equerry to both King George VIth and Queen Elizabeth. Shortly before the Queen’s coronation he and Princess Margaret had made it known to her that they loved each other. The problem was that he had been married in 1941 and divorced in 1951. By the standards of the day he was the innocent party in that divorce but it created a difficult situation and they were asked to ‘wait a while’. In the interim Peter Townsend took a post as air attaché in Brussels. In her diary Lady Bonham Carter notes ‘A horrible campaign has been raging in the Press during the last fortnight – led by the ‘People’ – hotly followed by the ‘Daily Mirror’ and the ‘Sunday Express’ about Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend’. The ‘decent’ papers like the N.C. (News Chronicle) have, alas, limped – or scurried as the case may be – after the indecent ones. It is a gross outrage and very cruel. What must she be feeling on her Rhodesian tour (Margaret was on a State Visit with her mother) I shudder to think. Mark (Lady Violet’s son) says the Palace has behaved very clumsily and that Peter Townsend had said that posting him to Brussels would produce an explosion of gossip, rumour, speculation etc., which has in fact happened.’   On 31 October 1955 Margaret issued the following statement: ‘I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.’

 

In compiling these blogs I use many sources and merge them into what I hope becomes a meaningful whole. Sometimes I include verbatim or near-verbatim quotations. These are all in the public domain and if any reader of this blog wishes to know these sources for their further personal research I am happy to provide what information I can. talkinghistory@msn.com will find me.

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