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.
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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.
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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