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This Day in History - 5th September


1174 Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed by fire.

1646 Following Cromwell's victory in the English civil war, the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury was abolished.


1666 The end of the Great Fire of London, that had started on 2nd September at the bakery of Thomas Farriner on Pudding Lane. 10,000 buildings including St. Paul's Cathedral had been destroyed, but only 6 people are known to have died.


1800 Following a blockade by Admiral Horatio Nelson, French troops surrendered the Mediterranean island of Malta to Britain.


1887 A fire at the Theatre Royal in Exeter killed 186.


1914 The First Battle of the Marne began. German, British and French troops fought for six days. Half a million people were killed.


1935 The birth of the actor Johnny Briggs. He is best known for his role as Mike Baldwin in the soap opera Coronation Street, in which he appeared from 1976 to 2006. He received a lifetime achievement award at the 2006 British Soap Awards for his thirty years of contribution to the show.


1939 At the start of World War II in Europe, American President Roosevelt declared the United States to be neutral.


1946 The birth (in Stone Town, Zanzibar) of the British musician, singer and songwriter Freddie Mercury. As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Don't Stop Me Now' and 'We Are the Champions'. He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24th November 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging that he had the disease.


1959 The first trunk dialling system from a public call-box was launched during a ceremonial phone call from Bristol to London.


1963 Christine Keeler, one of the women involved in the Profumo scandal in Britain, was arrested and charged with perjury.


1969 The British commercial television channel, ITV, began broadcasting in colour.


1969 The death of Gavin Maxwell, Scottish naturalist and author, best known for his book Ring of Bright Water, about how he brought an otter back from Iraq and raised it in Scotland. The book sold more than a million copies and was made into a film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna in 1969. This bronze otter, sculpted by Penny Wheatley, stands as a memorial to Gavin Maxwell.


1975 Two people were killed and 63 injured as a suspected IRA bomb exploded in the lobby of the Hilton hotel in central London.


1979 The Queen led the nation in mourning as the body of her husband's uncle (Lord Mountbatten) was buried after a day of pageantry in London.


1982 Douglas Bader, British fighter pilot died.


1988 No Sex Please We're British, the longest running comedy, closed in London (after 6,671 performances over 16 years).


2008 £20,000 of petrol was given away in north London to promote a computer game. Traffic was gridlocked outside the Last Stop garage in Finsbury Park as drivers queued for £40 worth of free fuel each.


2013 More than 130 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes in thick fog on the Sheppey crossing in Kent. The A249 bridge was closed for more than nine hours. Police found enough evidence to prosecute 32 motorists, but offered to send them on a driver alertness course instead. Eight people suffered serious injuries and 200 others were treated at the scene following the crash, which started at around 7.15am.


2014 Channel 4's game show Countdown achieved a Guinness World Record for the 'most series broadcast for a TV game show' when it reached its 6,000th episode On This Day. The programme was launched in 1982, with the late Richard Whiteley at the helm.