1953: Countless smokers in the Swindon area, along with many pub landlords and club stewards, were found to have fallen for an unfounded rumour. They had been saving cigarette packets of a well-known brand, thinking that by gathering enough and handing them in to the manufacturer they would help to fund the training of a guide dog. The truth emerged after the wife of Ferndale Club’s steward wrote to the company and asked for confirmation that the scheme existed.

1953: Work started on Penhill Junior School. The building project was projected to cost £79,057, a large sum for the time. We said: “Ultimately the school will provide education for 480 children between seven and 11. Until the neighbouring infants’ school is built, children between five and seven will be admitted.”

1963: The chairman of Swindon Downs Protection Committee, Mr TS Turner, said the committee had decided to continue campaigning for a route which did not take the planned new motorway through countryside near the town. He added that it would be nice if the officials in charge of making the ultimate decision took the ongoing groundswell of public opinion into account.

1963: A permanent memorial to a former headmaster was dedicated at Walcot Secondary School during a service attended by the Mayor of Swindon, Coun AE Cockram, and members of Swindon Education Committee. Mr John Brazier, who had died a little over a year earlier, was headmaster from 1958 and chaired Walcot Co-ordination Council, an early community movement in what was then a new estate. The memorial included vases, a cross and a Bible.

1973: Swindon learned it was to lose an old cinema screen and gain three new ones. The ABC in Regent Street - now the site of the Savoy pub - was to close in March for conversion into what was termed a three-in-one cinema centre. They were to seat 606, 410 and 148 patrons. The cinema would remain open in various guises until the 1990s, when a new multiplex opened at Shaw Ridge.

1973: Wroughton Parish Council attacked a Wiltshire County Council plan to create a car park and picnic area at Barbury Castle. One member of the public who spoke at a meeting said: “It could mean the destruction of all we want to preserve there.” Some feared that adding even the most basic amenities would destroy what they saw as a truly unspoiled ancient space.


1542: “I die a Queen but I would rather have died the wife of Culpepper,” - said to be the last words of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, before she was beheaded on Tower Green.

1692: The Glencoe massacre took place in the Scottish Highlands, when the MacDonalds were murdered by their traditional enemies, the Campbells.

1867: Johann Strauss’s waltz The Blue Danube was first performed at a ball in Vienna.

1945: Hundreds of Allied planes bombed Dresden, devastating one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The bombing led to huge firestorms and killed at least 20,000 people. It also prompted a debate - which is carried on by certain historians to this day - over whether the action was militarily justified.

1958: Dame Christabel Pankhurst, British suffragette and daughter of Emmeline, died.

1974: Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union. His works exposing the brutality of life under the nation’s regime had earned him praise in the West and harassment and imprisonment in his homeland.

1987: London was in the midst of a property boom, with prices spiraling as people clamored to invest and trade their way up the housing ladder. The latest manifestation of the phenomenon saw a broom cupboard opposite Harrods being offered for sale at £36,500. The space measured 11ft by 5ft6ins.


Kim Novak, actress, 86; George Segal, actor, 85; Stockard Channing, actress, 75; Jerry Springer, talk show host, 75; Peter Gabriel, singer, 69; Liam Brady, former footballer, 63; Peter Hook, musician, 63; Henry Rollins, actor and rock singer, 58; Robbie Williams, singer, 45.