January 22. Victoria, Queen and Empress of India, died
aged 81 at her favourite retreat on the Isle of Wight. It was
the end of a 63-year reign which had utterly transformed Britain
and the world.
Union Flag flew over a quarter of the globe. From the Australian
Outback via the African jungle to the remotest parts of Canada,
Victoria was the mother-figure of the Empire. She had been in
poor health and was deeply distressed by the sudden death of her
son, Alfred, and the terrible loss of life in the far-off Boer
Victoria's reign had not started with much promise. She was madly
in love with her husband, Prince Albert, and when he died she
went into years of solitary mourning.
The monarchy became almost irrelevant; a powerful republican
movement grew (one of its products was the Express & Star, founded
and financed by the Scottish-American republican Andrew Carnegie).
But in the later years of the 19th century Victoria emerged from
her seclusion to become arguably the most popular monarch ever.
Her golden and diamond jubilees brought huge public celebrations.
Her strict views, coupled with a sweeping religious revival,
set the tone for decency and high moral standards in public life,
even if the appalling conditions in factories and rampant vice
in the big cities told another story.
October 2. The first Royal Navy submarine, Holland 1,
was launched at Barrow. Sixty feet long, she was powered by a
petrol engine while on the surface and used an electric motor
when submerged. As with so many novel inventions, the military
were at a loss what to do with Holland and her new-fangled torpedoes.
Some still considered that attacking ships from below the waves
was not so much warfare as a criminal act. Holland 1 may have
been primitive but she should have given Britain advance warning
of the notorious U-boat campaigns of both world wars.
Dudley. Verdict of accidental death was returned on four-year-old
Annie Rose Bellingham who died of burns after her clothes
caught fire while sitting on a cinder mound.
Wednesfield Council sent a delegation to press for the electric
tramway to be extended from Wolverhampton into the town.
Brierley Hill. A report showed that girls were flocking
to work in the previously all-male brickworks, lured by
wages of "as much as 15 shillings (75p) a week."
First Wolverhampton "Economic" Building Society made its
first loan, to Mr W. Parsons of Kimberly Street.
Brierley Hill magistrates fined 25 loaders for "neglect
of work" during a colliery dispute.
First Nobel prizes awarded in Sweden. December 12. First
transatlantic wireless signal was sent from Cornwall and
received by Marconi in Newfoundland.