this is the week that was

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The Independent Online
4 December

1154: Nicholas Breakspear becomes Adrian IV, the last English pope.

1934: UK rail fares cut to a penny a mile.

1937: First appearance of Desperate Dan in the Dandy.

1961: Contraceptive pills become available on the NHS.

1988: Lorin Maazel conducts all nine Beethoven symphonies in a single day.

5 December

1697: The new St Paul's Cathedral has its first Sunday service.

1766: James Christie holds his first auction in London.

1839: Postage rates cease to be dependent on distance as a standard charge of 4d per half-ounce is adopted.

1933: Prohibition ends in US.

1958: The Queen telephones the Lord Provost of Edinburgh to inaugurate the new STD service of direct dialling.

6 December

1557: A pig at the Commune of Saint Quentin, France, is condemned to be "buried all alive" for having devoured a child.

1774: Austria becomes the first country to introduce a state education system.

1877: Edison records "Mary had a little lamb".

1926: Mussolini approves the introduction of a tax on bachelors.

7 December

1817: Death of Captain William Bligh, once captain of the HMS Bounty.

1907: At the fight between Gunner Moir and Tommy Burns, Eugene Corrie becomes the first referee to officiate inside a boxing ring.

1911: China outlaws the pigtail.

1982: Charles Brooks Jr is the first to be executed by lethal injection in the US.

8 December

1863: Tom King becomes the first world heavyweight boxing champion, beating John Heenan for the title.

1934: The London-Australia air mail service begins.

1981: Arthur Scargill is elected President of the NUM.

9 December

1783: First executions at Newgate Prison.

1814: Death of Joseph Bramah, inventor of the beer pump.

1960: The first episode of Coronation Street is screened.

10 December

1844: "A Grand Exhibition of the Effects Produced by Inhaling Nitrous Oxide, Exhilarating or Laughing Gas" is held in Hartford, Connecticut.

1845: Robert Thompson invents pneumatic tyres.

1868: The first traffic lights come into operation off Parliament Square. Three weeks later they blow up, killing the policeman operating them.

1917: The first slogan appears on postmarks: "Buy British War Bonds Now".

1927: Greyhound racing begins at Wembley Stadium.

1928: Piccadilly Circus tube station opens.

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