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The first lottery in England and some strange facts



The first lotteries date back to antiquity both the Romans and the Chinese had them, but they weren’t quite like modern ones. The first true national lottery was created in the Netherlands in 1400, other European countries soon followed. 

The first national lottery of England and Wales was held in 1569. The papers promoting it were also hung in churches,  St Paul’s Cathedral had one on the door.

The lottery was created to pay off state debts, particularly the cost of ships and ports. It was Queen Elizabeth I who developed both the commercial and war fleets.

It is not clear the purpose though, in fact the prize money was exactly equal to the sum of the proceeds from the tickets. Let’s say they were beginner’s problems.

There were other oddities in this Elizabethan lottery, everyone who bought tickets could not only win a prize, but were automatically exonerated from all crimes that weren’t particularly violent.

The other odd thing was that Queen Elizabeth I herself was in charge of drawing the winning numbers. But she wasn’t on television.

The grand prize was £ 5000, but not all cash, some of it was carpets and plates.  The cost of a ticket was 10 shillings which was really very expensive for most people.

The government subsequently continued to sell the rights to the lottery tickets to intermediaries, who then hired agents to sell them. These intermediaries or brokers eventually became the modern day stockbrokers.

If you are curious you can see a poster promoting this national lottery. You can also enlarge it and read it all if you are really interested. You can find it here on the British Library website.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – a pub with a literary history



Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade 11 listed building at 145 Fleet Street, City of London. There has been a public house at this location since 1538, when Henry V111 was the monarch.  It was called the Horn and like many city pubs burnt down in the Great Fire of London 1666,  but was swiftly rebuilt the following year. The pub is a short walk (about 700 yards) away from both St Pauls Cathedral and Blackfriars tube station. 
Photo: © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
There is a single narrow entrance to a building that is deceptively small as it extends up to four storeys. The lack of natural light is evocative of its past history, as a cosy meeting place for famous literary figures.  Charles Dickens liked to sit at a table right of the fireplace on the ground floor, opposite to the bar. The pub is thought to have been referred to in “A Tale of Two Cities” as a dining place for Charles Darnay.   Robert Lewis Stevenson, Antony Trollope, and P. G Wodehouse all referred to the pub by name.  In “The Dynamiter”  Stevenson writes that ‘a select society at the Cheshire Cheese engaged my evenings”.  In Anthony Trollope’s novel “Ralph the Heir”,  one of the characters, Ontario Moggs, is described as speaking “with vigour at the debating club at the Cheshire Cheese in support of unions and the rights of man…”
P G Wodehouse on at least one occasion preferred to dine there, rather than at his club The Garrick. Agatha Christie wrote that her fictional detective Poirot dined with a new client at the Cheshire Cheese in her 1924 story, “The Million Dollar Bank Robbery” adding a description of “the excellent steak and kidney pudding of the establishment.” Oysters and Larks were also on the menu served up in pies. 
The Rhymers Club was a group of London-based poets, founded in 1890 by W. B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. They met as a dining club at the Cheshire Cheese, producing anthologies of poetry in 1892 and 1894.
The founding meeting of the Medical Journalists Association took place at the Cheshire Cheese on 1 February 1967. At that time, doctors who wrote articles under their own name could be reported to the General Medical Council. From an initial membership of 48, the MJA now represents around 500 journalists, broadcasters and editors.
Last by not least, the pub had a famous parrot, whose death on October 30th 1926 was marked by worldwide obituaries.  Polly, a grey parrot, of unknown gender, passed out on Armistice night in 1918, exhausted from imitating the popping of champagne corks.  The bird was in the habit of addressing customers as “Rats” and placed orders with instructions to “Hurry Up!” Deservedly Polly holds pride of place as a Stuffed Parrot in the Bar. 

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Spanish Flu in London 1918-1919



As I was born a Londoner,, my thoughts have been turning in the pandemic, to how Londoners coped with Spanish Flu in 1918. My grandfather returned from WW1, having been gassed in the trenches. He resumed running his grocery business in Hampstead High Street. My grandmother, who was asthmatic, gave birth to her youngest son in 1918.

Whatever their personal circumstances, no word of Spanish Flu causing any problems or deaths, has been passed down through the generations in my family. The Imperial War Museum has a collection of documents bequeathed to the museum by historian and journalist Richard Collier. The collection was made in the 1970s and comprises approximately 1,700 accounts of first hand witnesses of the pandemic. In 1918 half of the population of London was infected with the disease and 2.5% of the population died of it. 

As I researched it, gradually it became clear that Londoners went about their business much as usual.  The flu was not mentioned in Parliament until October 1918 and central plans for dealing with it throughout Britain were not in place.
There was no NHS to protect and hospitals were overwhelmed.  There was some disinfecting of public places and some mask wearing, but no instructions on social distancing, compulsory face covering and general lockdowns in force in 1918. This was despite the horrific effects of the flu, on those who were terminally ill, who turned blue and finally black through suffocation.
 Schools were kept open, unless forced to close through the absence of teachers. Public transport was running, with advice to catch later trains, and Churches were open for services. It is unlikely therefore, with this lack of Government action, that my grandfather was wearing a mask while serving his customers,  or restricting the numbers of people from entering his shop at any one time. 
Perhaps he went to some public celebrations of Victory of the War, which were held, with no thought to the certainty of spreading the virus.  As was the case in 2020, the Prime Minister of the day, Lloyd George caught the virus and survived. 
Throughout the country, more women died than men, ascribed to it being women who nursed the sick. The Nursing profession suffered heavy losses.  Younger people in their twenties and thirties had more fatalities from the disease than older people, which was thought to be caused by continuing to work when ill.  It is possible though that H1N1A, the Spanish Flu virus provoked an overreaction in the strong immune systems of the young, which led to their deaths. (With Covid 19, the elderly population is the most vulnerable group for contracting severe illness and women have a higher survival rate than men).
 The first published cases in the BMJ came in the form of a case series of the first fifty cases at the Central Royal Air Force Hospital, Hampstead from July 1918. By 1919 228,000 people in Britain had died from H1N1A. Gravediggers throughout the country, worked twenty-four seven to bury the dead. For whatever reason, there was no public memorial in the UK to the 1918-1919 pandemic.
In 2021 Covid 19 has already killed over 117,000 people, despite lockdowns, mask wearing and social distancing. The hope is that the vaccines will enable us to overcome it. 

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The Roman walls of London, a great architectural feat



The walls were built relatively late for a Roman city, around the year 200.

How were the Roman walls of London built?

London did not offer the right stone for this construction and therefore had to come from the Maidstone area by navigating the Thames, where there was a a type of clay mixed with limestone that was strong enough for the walls.

Furthermore for the Romans it was a great architectural and logistical feat. One of the boats that was used to transport the material sank and was found in 1962 near Blackfriars Bridge. London’s Roman walls incorporated all gates and a fort, Moorgate being the only gate added in the Middle Ages. The walls were almost 3 km long and 5 and a half metres high, the width varied. On average it was around 2.5 meters. There was also a 2.5 meter moat around it.

In 400 AD the walls were reinforced and about 20 bastions were added, just before the Romans withdrew. For a long time the walls were abandoned, but they were still able to defend the city as for example against the Saxons in 457.


They were later repaired and maintained and only after 1500 did the city become too big for the walls. In the second half of the 1700s the Roman walls of London became a problem with increasing traffic and were slowly demolished along with the medieval gates.

The walls can still be seen in several places in London, mainly the City. You can still see pieces from the Barbican, near the Tower of London, Cooper’s Row, Noble Street and in the Museum of London garden.

The surprising thing when you think of the city walls and gates is how small London was then compared to London now. Areas that are very central to us now, were very far from the walls and considered countryside even a few centuries ago.

Close to the walls of London is the Barbican district. The name Barbican comes from the Latin Barbecana, here there was in fact a Roman fortress that was used for centuries until its destruction in 1500.

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