What was life like in 1950’s Britain?
In 1951 the Festival of Britain, an exhibition to celebrate industry, arts and science, lifted the country by showing the successful recovery from the devastation of war. Rationing restrictions gradually eased and by 1954 all rationing came to an end. So, what was life like in 1950’s Britain?
Queen Elizabeth II
King George VI died unexpectedly in 1952. Although much loved, his death did create the feeling that a new era was beginning. In 1953, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the first worldwide, fully televised event, heralded a new life for Britain. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning British Monarch, dedicating her life to the role.
Over 100,000 television sets were sold to watch the Queen’s coronation event and consequently, television became the focus of family entertainment. Children watched puppets like Muffin the Mule and Sooty. Adults watched sporting events including Stanley Matthews winning his first FA cup medal when Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3. In the same year Len Hutton and Denis Compton helped to win the Ashes from Australia at the Oval. When the Independent television channel launched in 1955, ‘adverts’ appeared, slotting in between programmes.
Successful television shows based on popular music coincided with the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll.. 1950’s music highlighted in the Top Ten charts, which started in 1955, included stars like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. Elvis Presley entered the British charts in 1956 and in the same year made his movie debut in the film ‘Love Me Tender’. British hits came from stars like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Billy Fury.
New TV commercials promoted tea bags, coffee, sugar coated cereals and washing powder that made whites whiter. Likewise, household appliances including electric washing machines and refrigerators dazzled on the screen. Plastic, in bright colours, became widely available and lightweight buckets, washing up bowls, mops and brushes brightened up the homes. Emphasis on hygiene saw the introduction of Formica, ideal for kitchen surfaces, because it’s easy to wipe and keep clean. Do-it -Yourself became popular, but power drills like the Black and Decker and Wolf were for the men, women, it seemed, needed to take pride in their homes! A new modular system, by G-plan, influenced furniture styles, assembled piece by piece to individual room arrangements.
Self service shops started a new experience for shoppers. Selecting their own goods they paid on the way out, the assistant put the goods into the customer’s basket and gave a receipt. Bolder, brighter designs on products helped to attract the customers attention. Supermarkets, introduced at the end of the decade, created a new aggressive style of marketing. Introduced from America, money-off coupons and price reductions, promoted alongside the television advertising created leading brands.
Man-made fibres allowed fabrics to be made with permanent pleats. Shirts and blouses made of polyester ensured they were drip-dry and required minimum-iron. Shirt style dresses with generous skirts were worn in the day, similarly, pencil skirts and fitted suits were worn in town. Fashions for young men included the Teddy boy long velvet jacket with drainpipe trousers and bootlace tie.
Harold Macmillan said in his1957 election campaign that Britain had ‘never had it so good ‘ although some did not agree.
Here at Sweet and Nostalgic, we have a great range of 1950’s Gift Ideas. Come and have a look! Our products will fill you with a sense of warm nostalgia for this wonderful decade. Our range covers the whole of the 20th Century, as a result, there’s something for everyone interested in the most influential century that the world has known to date.