Blade Runner is one of my favourite films but do you know that this brilliant depiction of life in the future is set in the year 2019? The year 1984 has now come and gone and there is no ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Room 101’ – except of course on TV. This made me wonder about some predictions of the past and I scoured the records of the National Newspaper Library with some amusing results. I apologise that this is not really Sussex history but it is certainly quirky!
At a Temperance Meeting in London in 1837 a speaker predicted that in 100 years time beer would be exhibited at the British Museum as a great curiosity! This was reported in many newspapers across the country.
A meeting of the Droitwich Sanitary Committee on 27th October 1893 was so boring that Mr Amphlett proposed the meeting be adjourned to the 1st January 2000!
The Birmingham Daily News in 1894 carried a prediction that in the year 2000 the world would be powered by chemistry utilising the light from the sun (solar energy!) and by shafts running 4,000 meters into the earth to obtain power from the central core of the globe. Vegetables would be grown independent of seasons, the earth would be a vast garden and man would be vegetarian, living in peace and harmony.
If people lived in harmony there would be no police and there would certainly be no need for police to wear protective equipment. This Victorian vision of PPE amused me !
The predictions of the Earl of Birkenhead for the year 2030 were reported in the Western Mail of April 1930 and were remarkably accurate. Babies could be produced in a laboratory, coal would no longer be mined for fuel and “election campaigns would be revolutionised with television enabling people at home to see distant happenings”. He also predicted however that every family would have its own aeroplane!
The Birmingham Gazette of November 1931 predicted no pollution and a healthy population. Shopping Centres would be underground. There would be no unemployment and every working man would live within 12 miles of his place of work.
In 1936, Dr Young, the Medial Officer for Durham was worried about future women becoming ‘amazons‘ . Speaking at Bede College, Durham he complained about the declining birth rate and predicted that by the year 2000 the population of England would be be about 8 million. The Bishop of Chelmsford agreed. In a speech in 1937 he predicted that by 2037 “There will be few children and Christmas will be celebrated by a group of old fogeys huddled around fires in the great cities where half of the houses are empty” This lack of children was echoed in a report in the Birmingham Daily Gazette of 1938. “Most towns in 2038 will be garden cities designed on a zonal basis with commercial areas at the centre and residential zones around. Schools will be small with one teacher to 12 children.”
Miss Porter addressed a youth meeting of the Co-operative society in 1944 and predicted that in the year 2000 the children would be taking a morning lesson locally, the afternoon might be spent in Leningrad and in the evening they may well be attending a concert in the United States. Travel was frequently a subject of predictions; in 1890 it was predicted that it would only take three days to travel between England and the USA by means of an ‘electric motor engine’
Much more accurate was an unnamed correspondent for the Yorkshire Post in December 1949. OK so he predicted that we would all be travelling by helicopter, but his other guesses were pretty accurate. He said that in the year 2000, there would be television, refrigerators, and washing machines in every home and open fireplaces would have been replaced by ‘clean and economic heating’. He said slums would have been cleared and there would shopping centre on the edge of towns with underground or multi-story car parks. So pretty accurate there.
The Yorkshire Post seemed to like its predictions. In 1955 it also predicted that in the year 2000 we would all be vegetarians. It suggested that houses would be lit by fluorescent walls and that you could send a letter by rocket to Australia and get an answer back in a single day. There would be a huge single dome erected over London (presumably to keep off the rain), advertisements would be projected onto the night sky (very Blade Runner!) and, rather curiously, whales would be bred in captivity for ‘industrial use’.
But what about sport? In 1892, a Scottish newspaper cheekily predicted that all men would play golf whilst the women did all the work! The golfclubs would keep their own scores and the caddie would be an ‘iron arrangement on wheels which runs, attracted by a magnet, a respectable 12 yards behind the player. The Earl of Beaconsfield predicted that there would be lots of race-courses but the biggest one would be in Hyde Park. In 1914 the Birmingham Branch of the SPCA (now the RSPCA) predicted that by the year 2014 Fox Hunting would be outlawed. They were only 9 years out – now thats not a bad prediction!.
100 years ago the Great War was still in the news. Speaking at a meeting in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex a Mr. Wood said “In 100 years time (2019) people would find it difficult to believe the epic stories which had appeared in newspapers over the past four years and would marvel about what the soldier had endured in the war.” Very true indeed!
Maybe the most interesting prediction was by the Reverend Pritt of Burnley who addressed a meeting a few months after the end of the Great War in April 1919. He said that in 2019 ‘we shall see more clearly than we do at present who has been the real victor of the war.’ He predicted if Germany repented but England became ‘arrogant and proud’ Germany would be the real victor in the struggle and become a greater country.
I am not sure if that is true or not, but hopefully this prediction from the 1940s will never come true!