This year marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne – the longest of any British monarch. As the country prepares for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Ellie Hutchings takes a look at other 70th anniversaries taking place this year, including one very special anniversary in Nottingham…
- Nottingham Robin Hood statue unveiled – July 24
Nottingham’s famous outlaw, Robin Hood, was immortalised in a bronze statue weighing half a tonne the same year that Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne. Originally intended to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh to Nottingham on June 28 1949, the 7ft tall statue was unveiled by the Duchess of Portland and sits on the Robin Hood Lawn, beneath Nottingham Castle.
Bob White, chairman of the World Wide Robin Hood Society, explains: “Many visitors to Nottingham were disappointed that there was nothing tangible to see that celebrated the city’s links to Robin Hood, so local businessman Philip E. F. Clay commissioned the statue to provide a landmark that recognised Nottingham’s connection with the world-famous folk hero.”
The statue was commissioned in 1949 at a cost of £5,000 and was designed and made by Nottingham-born Royal Academy sculptor, James Woodford.
To celebrate its unveiling, a themed luncheon was held at the Council House, featuring venison chasseur, fillet of sole-Robin Hood and mead.
“There was common agreement that because Robin Hood is considered as one of the greatest ‘outsiders’ of them all, the statue should be situated outside the Castle, aiming his bow at the Establishment,” Bob adds.
“There have previously been discussions around moving the statue inside the Castle grounds to prevent vandalism. However, considering the statue is made of half-inch thick bronze and stands on a block of stone weighing two and a half tonnes, the practicalities probably prevented it changing location.”
Over the years, that statue became the target of souvenir hunters, and replacement arrows were costing the City Council £55 a time. Eventually, a new arrow was created by engineers at the Royal Ordnance Factory, made from tougher metal and welded to the statue.
Aside from vandals, the statue has attracted a number of famous faces over the years. Liverpudlian singer Cilla Black once introduced TV’s Disney Time from beside the statue, former Nottingham Forest FC manager Brian Clough posed by the statue when he was given the Freedom of the City, and newsreader Jan Leeming filmed a Conservative party political broadcast there.
However, despite its popularity, the statue has not been entirely free from controversy.
“The sculptor had accurately portrayed Robin wearing a typical, authentic woodsman’s leather skull cap, but the general public were expecting the figure to be sporting a triangular, pointed felt hat with a jaunty feather, similar to actor Errol Flynn’s costume in his film role in The Adventures of Robin Hood,” Bob explains. The issue of Robin’s headgear sparked a debate that continues to this day.
Now celebrating seven decades, the statue has stood proudly in the old moat of Nottingham’s castle as one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
Let’s take a look at some other things celebrating their 70th anniversaries this year…
2. Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ opens – November 25
The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play, and this year is celebrating an astonishing 70 years on stage. Since opening in London’s West End in 1952, the play has only ever paused its run once: from March 16 2020 to May 17 2021, owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The world-famous show started off as a short radio play called Three Blind Mice as a birthday present for Queen Mary of Teck, the consort of George V.
The play is set in a guesthouse just outside London where a group of seven strangers find themselves snowed in as news of a murder spreads. When a police sergeant arrives, the guests realise there is a killer in their midst and one by one each of the characters reveal their sordid pasts.
The play has a twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal when they leave the theatre…
3. The first UK official singles chart – November 14
Another first of 1952 was the first ever UK official singles chart. In the US, Billboard had been compiling a weekly chart since 1940, but the UK took 12 years to catch up.
What we now know as The Official Chart, which is revealed on BBC Radio 1 every Friday afternoon, began as the 12 best-selling singles of a week in November, 1952.
NME co-founder, Percy Dickins, complied the list by contacting 20 music stores to ask for their 10 best-selling songs. The first ever UK number one was Al Martino’s Here in My Heart.
4. The first issue of NME – March 7
Speaking of NME, the popular music website and brand was first published as a newspaper in 1952.
The Accordion Times and Musical Express was bought just 15 minutes before it was due to officially close by London music promoter Maurice Kinn, for a price of £1,000. It was then established as the New Musical Express, and its first issue featured The Goons, Big Bill Broonzy and Ted Heath on the cover.
In the 1970s, NME became the best-selling British music newspaper, with a circulation high of 300,000, and in the 80s and 90s it moved to a magazine format.
In 2015, NME became a free title after a fall in circulation figures and in 2018 it became online-only, after 66 years of weekly print magazines.
5. Mr Potato Head toy is first sold – May 1
The toy that many of us now know best from Pixar’s Toy Story films was originally created by George Lerner – a toy maker from Brooklyn – in 1949, and was first distributed in 1952 for a price of $0.98.
The original toy didn’t come with a body – the buyer had to provide the potato – and instead included only a selection of noses, mouths, eyes, ears, hand and feet as well as glasses, a pipe and facial hair in the kit.
Lerner’s idea was originally met with resistance. During the war the U.S. had gone through food rationing, so using a potato as a toy was seen as a waste. Nevertheless, Hasbro bought the rights to the creation and sold over one million units in the first year. The plastic potato was then added to the kit in 1964.
The toy’s success was helped by television ads. In fact, the first ever TV ad directed at children was for Mr Potato Head.