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On This Day - 4th December

1154 The only Englishman to become a pope, Nicholas Breakspear, became Adrian IV.


1586 Queen Elizabeth I conferred the death sentence on Mary Queen of Scots after discovering a plot to assassinate her and bring about a Roman Catholic uprising. Queen Mary stayed at this house in Jedburgh (see ©BB picture) in 1566 to hold a Circuit Court. She fell gravely ill and almost died there. As her later troubles closed in, she is said to have remarked "Would that I had died in Jedburgh."


1791 The Observer, Britain’s oldest Sunday newspaper, was first published.


1795 The birth of Thomas Carlyle at this house in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. See ©BB picture and also the interior ©BB picture. The philosopher, writer, historian and teacher was considered one of the most important social commentators of his time.


1798 British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger announced the introduction of Income Tax to help finance the war against France.


1865 Birth of Edith Cavell at Swardeston ( 4 miles south of Norwich). An English nurse in Brussels 1914-15, she was accused of helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium over the Dutch border and was executed by the Germans. There is a statue of her (see ©BB picture) outside Norwich Cathedral.


1872 Crew from the British brigantine Die Gratia boarded a deserted ship drifting in mid Atlantic. The captain's table was set for a meal aboard the US ship Marie Celeste but the Captain, crew and passengers were all missing.


1930 Ronnie Corbett, comedian partnered with Ronnie Barker, was born.


1937 The first issue of the Dandy comic. With a fan club of over 350,000, Desperate Dan proved a durable character. A copy of this first edition is worth between £850 and £1,000. The closure, on 4th December 2012, coincided with its 75th anniversary and the final print edition included a pullout reprint of the very first edition of the comic.


1948 George Orwell completed the final draft of the book Nineteen Eighty Four which was published on 8th June 1949.


1952 At least 4,000 people died in a week, from breathing difficulties, during a severe London smog.


1961 Birth control pills became available on the NHS.


1976 Benjamin Britten, considered to be Britain's leading composer, died aged 63. He had been fighting ill health after a heart operation in 1973. This memorial window to him (see ©BB picture) is in Aldeburgh Parish Church, Suffolk. The Aldeburgh Festival of music was started in 1948 by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Every year the Aldeburgh Festival has many of its concerts at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall (see ©BB picture), 5 miles from Aldeburgh where Britten and Pears lived.


1980 English rock group Led Zeppelin officially disbanded, following the death of drummer John Bonham on 25th September.


1997 Europe's health ministers voted to ban tobacco advertising throughout the European Union although they agreed that motor-racing, which relied heavily on sponsorship and advertising by tobacco companies, should be exempt for another 8 years.


2008 The Bank of England cut interest rates by one percentage point, from 3% to 2% - the lowest level since 1951. The move followed a dramatic cut in November in an attempt to help the slowing economy.


2008 Karen Matthews, the mother of nine-year-old Shannon, was convicted of kidnapping her own daughter. Matthews, 33, and her co-accused Michael Donovan, 40, were found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. The trial at Leeds Crown Court heard that the pair kept Shannon 'drugged, subdued and hidden from the public' so that they could claim £50,000 in reward money.


2012 The highest lottery prize ever to remain unclaimed (£63.8m) eventually went to good causes as the winer did not come forward by the deadline of 23:00 GMT.


2013 One of Edinburgh’s new trams (No. 264) completed the first test run along Princes Street, flanked by teams of engineers. It was the first time since 1956 that a tram had run on Princes Street. Council bosses said that it was another indication that they were back in control of the troubled project.


2014 Knutsford council, in Cheshire, approved plans to widen the town's pavements. 220 years previously, spinster Lady Jane Stanley had paid for narrow pavements to be laid in the town, to prevent lovers from strolling arm in arm.


2014 The death, aged 85, of Jeremy Thorpe, former Liberal partyleader.