History of England
When, what and how...
Neolitihic and Bronze ages
6500 BC: Rising sea levels flood the English Channel, cutting us off from the French and creating the British Isles.
3000-2500 BC: Stonehenge is finished. Who built it and why they did so is still not proven, but the various theories are explored at the English Heritage Visitor Centre onsite in Wiltshire.
500BC The Celtic people, or ‘Celts’, arrive and spread out over Britain. Harborough Museum details their migration.
43AD Though Julius Caesar first invaded England in 55BC, the first real wave of Romans really arrived in 43AD. The Roman Baths in Bath , Somerset are the perfect place to experience life as a Roman. Or try the many Roman museums around England, such as the Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum in Tyne and Wear, The Cotswold’s Corinium Museum , in Cirencester, or the Museum of London’s Roman collection. The Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport, Cumbria is home to the oldest Roman artifacts in England, while the Fishbourne Roman Palace near Lewes in Sussex, the Verulamium Museum in St Albans and the Canterbury Roman Museum are just a selection of the institutions detailing the 400 years of Roman occupation in England.
122AD The Roman Emperor Hadrian builds a wall across Northumberland defining the most northern border of the Roman Empire. Visit the Vindolanda Site and Museum , where it’s possible to join a team for the day and help excavate.
410 AD As the Romans withdraw from England, they are replaced by waves of invaders from Denmark, Germany and Holland. They divide Britain up into seven kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent. Today, the treasures and sites left by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (combined they are known as the Anglo Saxons) are best discovered at Suffolk’s incredible National Trust-run Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre .
Vikings and Anglo-saxons
866-77 AD Though the first Viking Invasion occurred in 793AD, the first wave from the Great Danish Army arrives in 866. Learn about Viking life at the impressive JORVIK Centre in York.
1055 As Christianity strengthens its hold in Britain, Westminster Abbey is completed. Those who have their final resting place there include Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Charles Dickens, Darwin and Isaac Newton.
1066 Two battles define England in this year: King Harold leads a Saxon victory over the Vikings near East Riding in Yorkshire in what is known as The Battle of Stamford Bridge. Though Harold had seen off the last of the Viking invaders, just three weeks later he met his own death - tradition has it by an arrow through the eye - when a force led by William of Normandy invaded near Hastings in East Sussex. The success of the Norman Invasion marks the beginning of the Middle Ages in Britain, a period of castle, abbey and fort building that lasted until the beginning of the 1500s.
1070 Builders lay the first stones of Canterbury Cathedral
1078 Work starts on The Tower of London
1086 The Domesday Book - a complete inventory of Britain - is compiled for William of Normandy. Visit the book in Kew, London.
1154 Work starts on York Minster , the biggest Gothic Cathedral North of Rome.
1558 Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England. Her childhood home at Kenilworth Castle has some of the finest gardens in England.
1570 Sir Francis Drake sets sail for his first voyage to the West Indies. A working replica of his ship The Golden Hinde is docked at Clink Street, London.
1591 Is the year it is believed that William Shakespeare’s first play Henry VI was first performed. The lovingly-restored Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank is the place to see his best work. Or visit the Bard’s birthplace in Stratford and see five houses that have connections to the world’s most famous writer.
Civil war and revolution
1603 -1714 Britain enters a period of civil war
1605 Gunpowder plot is discovered to assassinate James I, leading to the still popular Bonfire Night , still celebrated across England today.
1629 Charles I dissolves parliament.
1652-54 Tea first arrives in Britain from China (via Portugal), and is taken up by King Charles II and his hot-beverage-loving wife Catherine of Braganza. It quickly catches on. Try England’s (reputed) best cuppa and learn its history through the steam at The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee in Central London.
1666 The Great Fire of London starts in Pudding Lane. Find out how it started at the Museum of London or visit The Monument: Sir Christopher Wren’s newly-restored 61-metre tower, said to be on the exact spot it started. Dare you climb to the top?
1804 Richard Trevithick builds the first steam locomotive, followed soon after in 1825 by the world's first railway, running between Stockton and Darlington, Durham . Visit York’s National Railway Museum for a full run down on the invention that kick-started the industrial revolution, and changed the world forever. Or take a trip on the steam train that doubles as the Hogwart Express in the Harry Potter films.
The World Wars
1914 - 1918 First World War. Visit the Imperial War Museum to see what life was like in the trenches.
1939 - 1945 The Second World War - See working Spitfires and learn about the Battle of Britain at Duxford’s Aviation Museum in Cambridgeshire.
Psst... Handy Hints
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology
In Oxford Is the oldest museum in England.
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge frequently tops ‘best of’ polls due to its ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese artifacts.