On this day in 2012 the Shard was officially inaugurated, replacing One Canada Square as the UK's tallest building. At 1016 feet the Shard was also the tallest building in Europe (outside of Russia) until February 2021 - when it was surpassed by the Varso Tower in Warsaw, which is just a single foot taller. The Shard contains a twenty-six floor office complex, three restaurants, the five-star Shangri-La hotel, ten residential apartments, and the UK's highest viewing gallery.
The Shard [image credit: hotels.com]
On this day in 2005 fifty-two people were murdered and over seven-hundred injured in London's most deadly terrorist attack. At 08:49, three Islamist suicide bombers detonated explosives near-simultaneously on packed Tube trains near Aldgate, Edgware Road, and Kings Cross Stations; almost an hour later at 09:47 a fourth bomb exploded on a bus in Tavistock Square. On the four-year anniversary of the attack a memorial was unveiled in Hyde Park consisting of fifty-two columns: one for each of the victims.
The destroyed bus in Tavistock Square
On this day in 1955 nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis was hanged at Holloway Prison. Ellis was in an open, and physically- and mentally-abusive relationship, with racing driver David Blakely; on 10th April that same year she shot at Blakely six times outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead, hitting him with four bullets (the 'bullet holes' in the wall of the Magdala were actually drilled by the landlady in the 1990s). Ellis was immediately arrested and found guilty of murder at her trial in June. A high profile campaign began for her death sentence to be commuted, but the appeal was denied; Ellis herself told her solicitors she did not want a reprieve. Ellis's execution did become a cause célèbre however, and capital punishment for murder was effectively abolished ten years later in 1965.
On this day in 1897 the National Gallery of British Art - later known as the Tate Gallery and now Tate Britain after its founder, sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate - opened on the site of the former Millbank Prison. It originally housed sixty-five paintings, which has since grown to around seventy-thousand works held over four sites, including the Tate Modern inside the old Bankside Power Station on the South Bank. Since 1984 the Turner Prize, the most publicised award for British artists, has been awarded biennially at the Tate Britain.
Tate Britain [image credit: Tony Hisgett on Flickr Commons]
On this day in 1803 the world's first public railway opened between Wandsworth and Croydon. The nine-mile Surrey Iron Railway was designed to transport coal, building materials, corn and seeds along the route of the River Wandle using horse-drawn carriages. It was originally planned that the railway would reach Portsmouth on the south coast of England, but it was only ever extended as far as Merstham (where the M25 now runs). Although initially commercially successful, the railway was victim firstly to Croydon's canal and later to steam locomotives. The SIR closed in 1846, but today's Croydon Tramlink uses much of its old route.
The Surrey Iron Railway plaque [image credit: insidecroydon.com]
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