Facts about the 1960s - UK

This is a collection of interesting and fun facts about the 1960s.

Population

According to the 1961 Census, the population of England and Wales was forty-six million. Scotland's population was five million and Northern Ireland's was one million. The overall total for the UK was fifty-two million.

In the Census of 1971 the population of England and Wales was forty-nine million. Scotland's population was five million and Northern Ireland was one million. The overall total for the UK was of fifty-five million.

The UK population was stable in the 1960s, rising only gradually.

Today (2021) the UK population is sixty-seven million.

UK Prime Ministers

Harold Wilson Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970
Harold Wilson was Britain's Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 Image public domain

Money

Britain still used the pounds, shillings and pence (sterling) system of currency.

Prices and inflation

£1 in 1960 would be worth £16 today. Or to put it another way, a Boy Scout doing 'Bob a Job' would have netted £0.80. At the end of the 1960s £1 was worth £12.

Earnings

Prices were cheaper, but people earned less. The average wage in 1960 was just over £9, but by the end of the decade it was £16. Prices were going up, but wages were rising more quickly. People were better off by the end of the 1960s than at the start of the decade.

See How much did things cost in the 60s? for more about prices and inflation in the 1960s.

Consumer goods

The consumer society was in full swing in the 1960s. Many people had what commentators called 'the big three' by the end of the decade. The big three were a television, a washing machine and a refrigerator. This was not luxury living by today's standards.

Freezers and dishwashers were luxuries in the 1960s. Microwave ovens and video recorders were not available. Home entertainment still meant a radio and record player. There were no computers and only one in ten households had a telephone.

Ferguson black and white TV, 1960s
Ferguson black and white TV, 1960s

Television

Television ownership was becoming universal in the 1960s. In 1960, 65% of households had access to a television. By the end of the decade it was around 85-90%. Colour television had just started, but it was only for the few in the 1960s.

Television was moving into the space age in the 1960s. The first ever satellite broadcast was in 1962 from the Telstar 1 satellite.

The largest worldwide TV audience was for the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. 600,000,000 people tuned in. [1]

Some popular UK TV shows that started in the 1960s were:

Television prizes

The record for highest prize on a UK game show was still the £5,580 won by Bernard Davis on 24 September 1958 on Granada TV's 'Twenty-One'. In today's money it would have been over £90,000. [1]

Charity appeals

The power of television to raise money for good causes was exploited in the 1960s. The largest amount raised in a TV or radio charity appeal was £449,950 raised by Cliff Michelmore for the victims of the earthquake in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey in 1964. [1]

In 1969, presenters of Blue Peter, Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves, asked children to send in parcels of wool and cotton to raise money to help ill and starving children in Biafra. They initially expected to raise £1,800 enough to buy one hospital truck. In the end the children helped to raise £30,000. The response far exceeded the expectations of Blue Peter's editor, Biddy Baxter. [2]

Read more about television in the 1960s.

White goods

Homes became better equipped in the 1960s, but many people still lacked what today we would think of as basic essentials.

In the 1960s

Cars

By the end of the 1960s around half of UK households had a car.

Entertainment

Cinema

Cinema audiences were in terminal decline in the 1960s. Nevertheless, Hollywood carried on spending. The most expensive film of the 1960s was 'Dr Dolittle', with Rex Harrison in the title role and which cost £8m to make. [3]

Films still made big money worldwide. The record for the 1960s was 'The Sound of Music', starring Dame Julie Andrews and the late Christopher Plummer, which grossed £47m by the end of the decade. [3]

The highest paid actor for a single performance in the 1960s was Elizabeth Taylor. She received $3,000,000 for her share of the earnings from the 1963 film Cleopatra.

Music

The biggest selling gramophone record of all time in the 1960s was Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas', which sold ninety-five million copies. Bing Crosby's version is included in this total. His version of the song sold thirty million copies. [4]

Rock and pop

The best-selling pop records from each year of the 1960s in the UK were:

Source: 'Top 1000 UK singles' by Paul Gambaccini, Tim Rice and Jonathan Rice, published by Guinness 1993

Food & drink

Eating out

The largest restaurant chain in the UK was J Lyons. In 1969 Lyons had a chain of one-hundred and sixty teashops. [5]

Beer

Britain's favourite pint was keg bitter in the 1960s. Sales of lager were tiny.

The strongest beer brewed in the UK in the 1960s was Mitchell and Butler's (M & B) Strong Ale, which was 11% by volume. Although by 1964 it was no longer produced and Whitbread's Gold Label, at 8.5% by volume, was Britain's strongest beer. [6 & 7]

The most expensive beer was the German lager Löwenbräu. It cost between 4s 6d and 8s for a 11.6 fluid ounce bottle. [7]

Holidays

Although foreign holiday destinations were opening up to British tourists in the 1960s, most people who took a holiday stayed in the UK. The total travelling abroad for a holiday in 1960 was only 10% of the population. By 1969 it had increased to only 16%.

The South West of England was the most popular tourist destination.

Most people stayed in an hotel or guesthouse. An alternative was to stay with friends or relatives. Holiday camps attracted just 1-3% of visitors. Camping was a new experience. Some 10% of holiday makers tried camping in the 1960s. [8]

More than half of all UK holiday makers used their own car to reach their destination.

Air travel

Around half of holiday makers going abroad in the 1960s went by 'plane. Travel by sea was equally popular.

Most people went on charter flights. Economy class on scheduled flights was still too expensive for most people.

Largest airliner

The world's largest airliner was the Boeing 747. It first flew in 1969, but did not enter service until 1970. It had capacity for between three hundred and sixty-two and four hundred and ninety passengers. [9]

Today the world's largest airliner is the Airbus A380. It can carry up to eight hundred and fifty-three passengers.

Fastest airliner

The 1960s was just before the era of supersonic airliners. The world's fastest airliner was the Convair CV-990 Coronado with a top speed of 675mph or Mach 0.88 [9]. It could carry between ninety-six and one hundred and twenty-one passengers.

The era of supersonic flight has ended. Modern jet airliners are not much faster than their 1960s' equivalent. As a comparison the Airbus A380 can fly at 675mph, but can carry around four times as many people.

Office work in the 1960s
Office work in the 1960s

Jobs

What were the best paid jobs?

Owen Aisher, the Chairman of the Marley Tile Company was the best paid executive in Britain in 1968. He earned £91,722. In case you are wondering, that is £1.1m in today's (2021) money. [10]

The hottest careers in the 1960s were in advertising, marketing or public relations. New entrants could expect to be earning £2,500 by the time they were thirty. Management consultants, organisational consultants and works study men could expect to get £2,350. Computer programming or accounting could net you £2000. [11]

National Service

Men aged between seventeen and twenty-one were expected to serve in the military for a period of eighteen months to two years. The system was phased out after 1957 and the last recruits were called up in 1960.

Education

The school leaving age remained at fifteen throughout the 1960s. It was not raised to sixteen until 1972.

University places expanded rapidly in the 1960s. The following new universities were founded (or merged from existing colleges) in the 1960s:

Sussex (1961), Keele (1962), East Anglia (1963), York (1963), Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1963), Lancaster (1964), Strathclyde (1964), Kent (1965), Essex (1965), Warwick (1965), Loughborough (1966), Aston (1966), Brunel (1966), Surrey (1966), Bath (1966), Bradford (1966), City University, London (1966), Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh (1966), Salford (1967), Dundee (1967), Stirling (1967), Ulster (1968).

The Open University was founded in 1969.

The number of students went up from 108,000 in 1960 to 219,500 in 1969. As a percentage of young people in any one year, the number going to university increased from 3.8% in 1960, to 6.0% in 1969. (Hansard)

Birds and animals

Most popular breed of dog

The most popular breed of dog in the UK at the start of the 1960s was the miniature poodle. By the end of the decade it was overtaken by the Alsatian (also known as the German Shepherd dog today). [13 & 13]

The space race

The first man in space was the USSR's (Russia's) Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. He completed one orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961 in his Vostok 1 capsule.

The USA's Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon on 20 July 1969.

Computers

The world's most powerful computer was the CDC 7600. It could do an impressive sounding thirty-six million operations in one second. Today an average desktop computer can do two thousand million operations per second. [14]

Crime

Murder

The most notorious case in the UK in the 1960s was that of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Between July 1963 and October 1965 they murdered five children, Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans. They were both convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Hindley died in 2002 and Brady died in 2017

Robbery

The Great Train Robbery of 1963 was Britain's most high profile robbery. A total of £2,595,998 was stolen from the Glasgow to London mail train, when it was hi-jacked at Bridego Railway Bridge, near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. By 1966 only £343,448 had been recovered. [15]

World records

The last land speed record held by the driver of a conventional car was set by Donald Campbell in 1964. His Bluebird recorded 403mph. However, it was pending the ratification of the first record set by the Craig Breedlove in 1963 in the first Spirit of America. He recorded 407mph in 1963. After that there was a flurry of records set by jet-propelled cars driven by Tom Green (Wingfoot Express), Art Arfons (Green Monster) and Craig Breelove (Spirit of America). Breedlove finally prevailed in 1965. Afrons gave up his quest after crashing a new Green Monster in 1966.

After changing hands several times the air speed record also reached a limit in 1965. It was not broken again until 1976.

Read more:

References

[1] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 106

[2] 'TV children raise £30,000' by John Fairhall, published in The Observer, 2 January 1960, page 12

[3] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 104

[4] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 103

[5] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 152

[6] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1960, page 72

[7] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 76

[8] Derived from figures published in the Digest of Tourist Statistics No.4, published by the British Tourist Authority in 1974

[9] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 139-40

[10] 'What makes the best paid boss tick?' by Roger Eglin, published in The Observer, 14 January 1968, page 12

[11] 'These jobs carry the big money' by Joseph Minogue, published in The Observer, 12 September 1967, page 3

[12] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1964, page 22

[13] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 35

[14] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 83

[15] The Guinness Book of Records, Guinness Superlatives Ltd 1970, page 205

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