[Although it wouldn't be officially opened by Queen Victoria until May 21st (not coincidentally her birthday) the Manchester Ship Canal opened to traffic on this day in 1894; the 36-mile (58 km) long waterway - known in the charming local patois as the 'Big Ditch' - made the rivers Irwell and Mersey navigable for seagoing ships from the Mersey Estuary to Salford Docks, transforming what was then a landlocked industrial powerhouse into an international port.]
1651 - England's exiled King Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone.
1772 - The first traveler's cheques - which could be used in 90 European cities - went on sale at the London Credit Exchange Company in London, more than a century before Thomas Cook made a name for himself doing that very thing; American Express, now the largest issuer of traveler's cheques, was a latecomer to the game, beginning operations only in 1891.
1788 - The first edition of The Times of London - previously The Daily Universal Register - was published.
1818 - Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously by the publishing firm of Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones of London.
1877 - England's Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.
1894 - The Manchester Ship Canal opened.
1901 - The British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia; Edmund Barton was appointed the new country's first Prime Minister.
1906 - British India officially adopted Indian Standard Time.
1948 - British railways were nationalized to form British Rail.
1957 - An Irish Republican Army unit attacked the Brookeborough barracks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in one of the most famous incidents of the IRA's Operation Harvest.
1973 - The United Kingdom joined the European Union.
1978 - South African Donald Woods, former editor of the East London Daily Dispatch, arrived in London having fled the apartheid regime after he and his family were targeted for his controversial friendship with Steve Biko; he was later portrayed by Kevin Kline in Sir Richard Attenborough's 1987 film Cry Freedom.
1984 - The Sultanate of Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
1985 - Britain's first mobile phone call was made by television comedian Ernie Wise - out of Morecambe and Wise - to Vodafone.
1995 - Gloucester builder turned serial killer Fred West was found hanging in his cell at Winson Green prison near Birmingham.
share on: facebook