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This Day in History - 31st December


1384 The death of John Wycliffe, the first translator of the Bible into the English language. He was rector of St. Mary's Church, Lutterworth for the 10 years prior to his death. 


1695 The window tax was imposed in Britain. It resulted in many being bricked up, evidence which remains to this day. An example is here at the house in Market Weighton where William Bradley, the world's tallest Englishman was born. 


1720 The birth, in Rome, of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), also known as the ‘Young Pretender’. He landed in Scotland, with his followers, in 1745, capturing Edinburgh and setting up court at the Palace of Holyrood.


1738 The birth of Charles Cornwallis, the British soldier whose surrender to George Washington (1781) ended the War of Independence.


1892 The first hostel for homeless men, Rowton House, opened in Bond Street, Vauxhall. There was strict discipline, with rules against cooking, card playing, etc.


1923 The chimes of Big Ben were broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC.


1948 Malcolm Campbell, British racing driver, died, after a series of strokes. He was one of the few land speed record holders of his era to die of natural causes. Campbell broke nine land speed records between 1924 and 1935. He set his final land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on 3rd September 1935, becoming the first person to drive an automobile at more than 300mph.


1960 The British coin, the farthing, in use in Britain since the 13th Century, ceased to be legal tender at midnight.


1973 The three-day week began in Britain as a result of power strikes. It led to the downfall of Prime Minister Edward Heath and his government.


1987 A total of 31 people received New Year's Honours for helping to save an estimated 350 passengers when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, near Bruges, on 6th March, claiming 193 lives. The George Medal, one of the highest civilian awards for gallantry, was awarded to head waiter Michael Skippen who died trying to get passengers to safety.


2014 Neil Brittlebank (from Redditch) and Kevin Beresford (from East Ardsley in Yorkshire) won the dubious honour of being two of the dullest men of the year, as awarded by the Dull Men's Club. Mr Beresford produces books and calendars about roundabouts, while Mr Brittlebank, collects bricks.


2014 The death (aged 99) of Arthur Valerian Wellesley, the 8th Duke of Wellington, whose ancestor won the Battle of Waterloo. His death came a day before the bicentenary year of the Battle of Waterloo.


2017 More than 1,300 cars were destroyed when the multi-storey car park at the Liverpool Echo Arena burst into flames during the final event of the Liverpool International Horse Show. Fire investigations revealed that a 16-year-old Land Rover that had been converted to a 'different fuel arrangement' had caught fire on the third floor. Claims of more than £20m were paid out to insurance customers.