Know your history
WHERE do you think the atom was first split: Cambridge, Manchester, California or Geneva? If you have just answered Geneva, you’d be in good company—but you’d be wrong.
A Yougov poll carried out in April found that only a few people know where important events in England’s history actually took place. For example, just 20% of the respondents realised that the Newington Green Unitarian Church in London was the cradle of feminism, only 10% were aware that Bolton, in Greater Manchester, was the birthplace of trainers and virtually no one— a meagre 7%—knew that the ironframing technology used to build skyscrapers was developed in Shrewsbury.
‘All across the country, there are buildings and places that have witnessed key moments in our national story, indeed in world history, but this survey shows that many of us don’t know the significance of these places—or, worse, assume the events they represent happened in other countries,’ says Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England.
To address this, the charity is launching a new campaign, Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places. Sponsored by specialist period-building insurer Ecclesiastical, it will reveal the geographical backdrop of crucial breakthroughs in English science, art, architecture, music and industry.
To kick off the campaign, Historic England would like the public to nominate sites that played a crucial role in our rich heritage. A distinguished panel of judges, including Mary Beard, Tristram Hunt and Prof Robert Winston, will then whittle down the list to the 100 places that they believe best encapsulate the many facets of English history. These sites will be explored in a book and a series of podcasts. To find out more about the initiative or make your nominations, visit http://historicengland.org.uk. To test your own knowledge of England’s historic places, try our quiz at www. countrylife.co.uk. And, just in case you’re still wondering, the atom was first split in Manchester.
Top: Was Shakespeare born here? Above: Where did Rutherford split the atom?