When it comes to April, people usually think of playing jokes, but there are lots of unusual firsts that happened in this month over the centuries.
12 April. James I of England orders a new flag for English and Scottish ships, combining the red and white crosses of St George and St Andrew, to fly at sea. It’s the ancestor of the Union Jack. (We stock all sorts of flags.)
4 April. The country gets it first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. This despite the fact that he’d been impeached for corruption and did time in the Tower of London. (Are we holding politicians to account?)
15 April. Samuel Johnson publishes his dictionary. According to the British Library, it took him eight years, listed 40,000 words and was more extensive and complex than any before it. We extend our contrafribularities to his memory.
15 April. The Bank of England issues the first £5 notes. They were white and printed with black ink. Amazingly, the design went largely unchanged until 1957. That’s when blue £5 notes were introduced.
28 April. Wembley Stadium opens to the public for the first time, for the FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham. The stadium was built in 300 days and cost about £40m in today’s money. (Wanderers won 2-0.)
21 April. BBC 2 goes live. The first programme it broadcasts isn’t kitchen-sink drama or political discussion – it’s Play School. Does anyone else want to go through the round window?
1 April. VAT comes into effect in the UK. It was invented in France. Before it was introduced here, we taxed goods according to how luxurious they were. VAT changed all that with flat 10% rate. The good old days, eh?
21 April. The modern £1 coin is introduced in England and Wales (though it traces its roots to the Henry VII’s sovereign in 1489). It was meant to last longer than paper notes and be better for vending machines.