This Month in UK History - January

11 January 1569


The World's First National Lottery

Lotteries had been around since Roman times, possibly even earlier, but in Europe they began to play a significant role in fund raising for practical purposes such as raising money for a town’s fortifications or the poor. England however was the first country to have a truly national event.

Elizabeth I needed money for  projects such as the repair and improvement of harbours. The government chose to hold a lottery instead of an unpopular tax though Henry Fielding wrote more than a century later: A lottery is a taxation, upon all the fools in Creation.

The ticket price was 10 shillings, with 400,000 tickets to be sold. The top prize was £5,000, but to ensure greater participation other prizes were offered including a get-out-of-jail free card, giving immunity from arrest for a week.

15 January 1559


Elizabeth 1 crowned Queen of England

Elizabeth I crowned Queen of England upon the death of Queen Mary. Her mother, Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her father Henry VIII when she was two and she was imprisoned when her Catholic half-sister Mary came to the throne in 1553. When Elizabeth became queen she set about restoring the protestant faith in England so when Mary Queen of Scotts landed in England in 1568 to claim the throne for the Catholics she was imprisoned for twenty years before being beheaded. Following Mary’s Execution, the Spanish attempted to invade England with a massive armada but a combination of strategy and luck with the weather saw nearly all the Spanish ships destroyed. Elizabeth was known as the virgin queen as she never married or had children though some say she had a lover, Robert Dudley. She died after reigning for 43 years.

19 January 1915


First British town to be bombed by a Zeppelin raid

When Kaiser Wilhelm gave his agreement to the bombing of civilians by Zeppelin airships, following attacks on German cities by French bombers, it was decided to test the machine’s capabilities with a coastal raid, the intended target being the port of Hull. Navigational problems meant that the raid missed Hull, instead reaching land further south at Great Yarmouth. Two Zeppelins were used for the trial. These massive aircraft were 190m long, 13m in diameter and carried crews of up to 40 men.

The Royal Flying Corps attempted to intercept the Zeppelins with their first night time flights, but were unable to do so. Great Yarmouth became the first British town bombed in WWI, the town would suffer attacks later in the war, this time from the sea, with naval bombardments in 1916 and 1918.

28 January 1671


Henry Morgan Sacked Panama

Sir Henry Morgan was a Welsh privateer, who fought for the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660’s and 1670’s. He is remembered as the greatest of the privateers, amassing huge fleets, attacking prominent targets and being the worst enemy of the Spanish since Sir Francis Drake. Privateers were different to pirates in that they had been authorized by the government to attack Spanish ships. Though to the Spanish, a privateer and a pirate were the same thing. Although he made numerous raids all along the Spanish Main, his three most famous exploits were the 1668 sack of Portobello, the 1669 raid on Maracaibo and the 1671 attack on Panama. He was knighted by King Charles II of England and died a rich man on Jamaica.

Famous Birth


JRR Tolkien - 3 January 1892

Tolkien was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon English at Oxford University and later professor of English at the University of Leeds. He soon resigned and returned to Oxford where he remained for 20 years. It was during this time that he started telling his children bedtime stories about a strange world called Middle Earth inhabited by creatures such as Hobbits, Dwarfs, Orcs, Goblins and dragons. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has now been made into three films which broke all box office records and won a record number of Oscars, four for ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, two for ‘The Two Towers’ and eleven for ‘The return of the King”. The movie ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’ opened in December 2012

Famous Death


24 January 1965

Sir Winston Churchill Educated at Harrow, then went to the Military Academy at Sandhurst before five years in the army. On leaving the army he became a war correspondent and was captured during the Boer War but managed to escape making the headlines back home. He then engaged in a career in politics and by WW1 was First Lord of the Admiralty. He was blamed for the failure of the Dardanelles so rejoined the army and served on the Western front. He then reentered politics and became a national hero when he became Prime Minister shortly after the outbreak of WWII.  Churchill rallied the people with his rousing speeches and held the country together when Britain stood alone against the Germans. He organized the air defence that led to victory in the Battle of Britain. He opened a 2nd front in the Middle East, convinced that Hitler could never invade Britain with the RAF and the Royal Navy intact. When the Americans were finally forced into the War by the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour Churchill’s status as world statesmen was assured.