This Month in UK History - April

April 23


St George's Day

St George is the patron saint of England and known for slaying a dragon. Though this is obviously a myth, George, a Christian, was actually a soldier in the Roman army. He disagreed with the Emperor's persecution of the Christians and after sticking true to his beliefs under torture was dragged through the streets of Nicomedia before being beheaded by the Romans.

St George’s red cross, which forms part of the UK flag, became synonymous with the crusaders from England after he was said to have appeared before them during a battle in Palestine years long after his death.

It is still traditional to sing Jerusalem in the public schools across England on this day.

April 15 1753


English lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary

Dr Johnson took nine years to write his dictionary and when it was published it had a great impact on modern English. It was described as "one of the single greatest achievements of scholarship". Until the Oxford English Dictionary was published 150 years later, doctor Johnsons was veiwed as the eminent dictionary.

He died in 1784 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Famous Dr Johnson Quote - When a man is tired of London he is tired of life!

April 24 1858


Big Ben hung in the Clock Tower at Westminster

Big Ben is really just the name of the bell that chimes the hours but these days it has come to mean the whole clock tower at Westminster Palace.

When Big Ben was made it was the biggest bell in the world and the clock in the tower was the largest four face clock in the world.

Big Ben gets its name from the the person in whose honour it was made - Sir Benjimen Hall. His name is inscribed on the bell.

April 28 1770


Captain Cook is the first European to arrive in Botany Bay, Australia

Captain James Cook was a British Explorer, navigator and cartographer. He was in the Merchant Navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755.

He came to attention of the admiralty during the Seven Years War with the French when he mapped the entrance to the St Lawrence River while laying siege to Quebec.

He was given a commission and went on to lead three voyages over thaousands of miles of unchartered territory. He mapped lands with great detail from Australia and New Zealand up to Hawaii where he was eventually killed by the locals.

Famous Birth


April 9 1806 English engineer and inventor Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an English civil engineer who built bridges, dockyards and the first rail network in the UK, the Great Western Railway.

He also built a series aof steamships including the first propeller driven transatlantic steamship, the SS Great Britain. Not only was this the first iron clad ship but also, at the time, the largest ship ever built.

Brunel University in West London is named after him.

Famous Death


William Shakespeare April 23 1616

William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright to ever live died on this day. He wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two long poems.

Among his most famous plays were Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and King Lear from which lines are still used in common speech even today. Phrases such as “the lady doth protest too much”, “fool’s paradise”, “all that glitters is not gold” and “love is blind” were all coined by William Shakespeare.

And a fitting quote from one of his plays Henry V - as he died on St Georges Day.

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and St George!’