In history

Did you know that the 11th January marks 453 years since the first lottery was held in England? Well, to celebrate, we thought we’d delve into the history of lotteries and of course, the National Lottery which offers so much help and funding to heritage properties across the UK.

By royal decree…

The first lottery held in England was in fact commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566, 3 years before the actual draw took place. At the time, Elizabeth needed funds to refurbish many of England’s harbours and coastal defences and the idea of raising taxes was never going to be popular. Instead she decided to hold a prize draw to raise the money that way.

On 11th January 1569, the first state lottery draw took place outside the west wing of the old St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

It wasn’t particularly successful, as there were very few of the 400,000 tickets bought but with prizes ranging from silver plates and tapestries to £5,000 – it was certainly a generous one!

Secret draw…

Much like lotteries today, back then a blindfolded child would be instructed to pick a ticket from one place and then pair it with another with a prize written on it. To protect the entrants identity, each person who entered would have to add a “device” such as a line of poetry or a prayer which would be read out instead of their name.

Though it didn’t get the expected number of entries, it did raise enough money to refurbish the nation’s coastal defences but it didn’t become a popular way of making money until years later.

The National Lottery returns…

The National Lottery as we know it now began in 1994 and began in November. It was broadcast live on the BBC and that first show was watched by 22 million people – over 38% of Britain’s population at the time! That first jackpot came to just over £5.8 million – much more than what Queen Elizabeth I was offering!




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