The complete set of Famous People 1869-1969: 50 of the Greatest Britons, my dog-eared album of collectible picture postcards, which came free with packets of Brooke Bond tea in the 1960s. Like most children at that time, I collected these little potted biographies, trading duplicates in the schoolyard. Interesting the people we considered “famous”, compared to the kind described as “famous” today. Though as a Scot there was always a grievance over the inclusion of England’s World Cup winning soccer manager, Sir Alf Ramsey.
In his introduction, historian Asa Briggs wrote:
The last hundred years have seen greater changes in Britain than any previous century - changes in work and in recreation, in education and in politics, in thinking and in feeling. So long as Queen Victoria reigned - until 1901 - there was a strong sense of continuity. During this period Britain produced not only new men of wealth and power but writers of exceptional creative ability. Eminent Victorians were people of character and will as well as of ability.
During the twentieth century there have been far sharper breaks in people’s experience two world wars. There has also been a growth in the size and scale of organisations concerned with government, business and society. Nonetheless, the twentieth century has produced many outstanding people who have made unique contributions to the development of our country and the life of our people.
Selecting a team is never easy. yet the men and women in this album are sure of their place in our history.
The “Famous People” vary from writers like Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H. G. Wells; political figures like Disraeli, Gladstone, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, founder of the Labour Party Keir Hardie; social and charitable activists Lord Shaftesbury, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, William Booth and Thomas John Barnardo; scientists Charles Darwin, Lord Lister, and Sir Alexander Fleming; as well as artists Landseer and Augustus John.
Lord Shaftesbury 1801-85), Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73), Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92)
Charles Robert darwin (1809-82), Benjamin Disraeli (804-81), William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), Charles Dickens (1812-70)
David Livingstone (1813-73), Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), Lord Lister (1827-1912)
William Booth (1829-1912), Lewis Carroll (1823-98), General Charles George Gordon (1833-85), Sir William Gilbert (1836-1911) and Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Thomas John Barnardo (1845-1905), W. G. Grace (1848-1915), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)
Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), James Keir Hardie (1856-1915), Lord Baden-Powell (1857-1941)
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), David Lloyd George (1863-1945), Edith Cavell (1865-1915)
Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912), Sir Harry Lauder (1870-1950)
Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872-1958), Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Lord Nuffield (1877-1963), Augustus John (1878-1961), Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), Baron Birkett of Ulverston (1883-1962), Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery (1887-1976)
John Logie Baird (1888-1946), T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935), Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977)
Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-79), Sir Francis Chichester (1901-1972)
Amy Johnson (1903-1941), Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989), Sir Frank Whittle (1907-1996), Dame Alicia Markova (1910-2004)
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1954), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), Sir Stanley Matthews (1915-2000)
Sir Alfred Ramsey (1922-1999), Pat Smythe (1928-1996), Roger Gilbert Bannister (born 1929)