What happened in 1970s? - UK
We look at events, new products, film, music and fashion from 1970s in the UK.
In the news
- 1970 - The UK lowered the voting age from 21 to 18
- 1970 - Edward (Ted) Heath (Conservative) elected Prime Minister
- 1971 - The UK adopted decimal currency
- 1972 - Prime Minister Edward Heath, signed the treaty taking the UK into the EEC (European Economic Community), later the EU
- 1972 - 'Bloody Sunday' or the 'Bogside Massacre' - men of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment shot twenty-six unarmed civilian protestors in Derry, Northern Ireland
- 1973 - The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) restricted oil supplies and pushed up prices. The UK Government imposed a temporary 50mph speed limit on all roads, including motorways
- 1974 - Harold Wilson (Labour) elected Prime Minister
- 1975 - Britain voted to stay in the Common Market
- 1976 - James Callaghan (Labour) became Prime Minister when Harold Wilson retired
- 1976 - Britain experienced a heatwave with record temperatures in the summer of 1976
- 1977 - The nation celebrated Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee (25 years)
- 1977 - The London to New York supersonic Concorde service began
- 1978 - A series of industrial disputes was dubbed 'The Winter of Discontent'
- 1979 - Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) elected Prime Minister
- The UK population remained static at around 56 million in the 1970s
- Average pay for a male manual worker in 1970 was £28 0s 11d. By 1978 it was £84
- The cost of living rose by 190% between 1970 and 1979
- The best-selling car of 1970s was the Ford Cortina
- Smoking: 68% of men and 44% of women smoked in the UK in 1971, by 1978 these figures had fallen to 45% of men and 37% of women
- At the start of the decade the best-selling cigarette was Players No 6.. By 1979 it was Benson & Hedges Special Filter
- Most popular foreign holiday destination was Spain
For more information see How much did things cost in the 1970s?
The top films by cinema attendance in the UK were:
- Star Wars (1977) - 20.8 million
- Grease (1978) - 17.2 million
- Jaws (1975) - 16.2 million
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - 12.5 million
- The Towering Inferno (1975) - 11.5 million
- The Sting (1974) - 11.1 million
- The Godfather (1972) - 11.0 million
- Superman (1979) - 10.2 million
- A Clockwork Orange (1972) - 9.9 million
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1976) - 9.7 million
- Moonraker (1979) - 9.4 million
- Saturday Night Fever (1978) - 9.0 million
- Live and Let Die (1973) - 9.0 million
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) - 8.5 million
- The Exorcist (1974) - 8.3 million
Derived from The Ultimate Chart compiled by the British Film Institute (BFI) retrieved from WayBackMachine
The most-watched television programmes or televised events of the 1970s in each year were:
- 1970 - Apollo 13 Splashdown
- 1971 - The Benny Hill Show
- 1973 - Princess Anne's Wedding
- 1974 - Love Thy Neighbour
- 1975 - The Royal Variety Performance
- 1976 - The Sweeney
- 1977 - This is Your Life (Earl Mountbatten)
- 1978 - Sale of the Century
- 1979 - To the Manor Born
Source: Retrieved from Britain's Most Watched TV - the 1970s
The best-selling pop records of 1970s were:
- 1970 - In The Summertime - Mungo Jerry
- 1971 - Hot Love - T Rex
- 1972 - Without You - Nilsson
- 1973 - Blockbuster - Sweet
- 1974 - She - Charles Aznavour
- 1975 - Bye Bye Baby - Bay City Rollers
- 1976 - Save Your Kisses For Me - Brotherhood Of Man
- 1977 - Knowing Me Knowing You - Abba
- 1978 - You're The One That I Want - John Travolta and Olivier Newton-John
- 1979 - Bright Eyes - Art Garfunkel
Source: UK Top 100 Singles by Paul Gambaccini, Tim Rice and Jonathan Rice, published by Guinness in 1993
1977 was the year of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. It was an occasion for celebration in the UK. There were street parties throughout the country. Many companies launched Silver Jubilee products and there was a commemorative crown, worth 25p struck to celebrate.
The other notable Royal events were the Queen and Prince Philip's Silver wedding in 1972 and the marriage of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973.
Football - FA Cup winners
- 1970 - Chelsea
- 1971 - Arsenal
- 1972 - Leeds United
- 1973 - Sunderland
- 1974 - Liverpool
- 1975 - West Ham United
- 1976 - Southampton
- 1977 - Manchester United
- 1978 - Ipswich
- 1979 - Arsenal
Red Rum set a new record by winning the Grand National three times in 1973, 1974 and 1977
I grew up thinking that Britain wasn't much good at sport. The UK fared less well in the Olympic Games than they do today. The UK team won four golds at Munich in 1972 and only three at Montreal in 1976.
1972 UK Gold medals
- Mary Peters — Women's Pentathlon
- Richard Meade — Three-Day Event (Individual)
- Mary Gordon-Watson, Richard Meade, Bridget Parker, and Mark Phillips — Three-Day Event (Team)
- Chris Davies and Rodney Pattisson — Sailing
1976 UK Gold medals
- John Osborn and Reg White — Sailing
- Jim Fox, Danny Nightingale and Adrian Parker — Modern Pentathlon
- David Wilkie — Swimming
Most people think of flares as the fashion of the 1970s. They were only high fashion from 1972 to the mid-seventies. Flared trousers became mainstream after that.
Mini skirts were still in at the beginning of the decade, but did not make it past the early years. Hot pants came and went. As did maxi skirts and platform soles.
The most enduring fashion was for denim, whether it was jeans, jackets, skirts or even bathing wear.
Read more about 70s fashion
The Toy of the Year for each year in the 1970s was:
- 1970 - Sindy
- 1971 - Katie Kopykat Writing Doll
- 1972 - Plasticraft Modelling Kits
- 1973 - Mastermind - Board Game
- 1974 - Lego Family Set
- 1975 - Lego Basic Set
- 1976 - Peter Powell Kites
- 1977 - Playmobil Playpeople
- 1978 - Britains Combine Harvester
- 1979 - Legoland Space Kits
Other popular toys of the 1970s included Action Man the first action figure. Action Man was launched in the 1966, but really came into its own in the 1970s with a huge range of outfits and accessories.
The Space Hopper was the toy most associated with the 1970s, but it was also launched in the 1960s.
The 1970s was also the era when every boy and quite few girls wanted a Raleigh Chopper.
The 1970s gave people their first taste of technology. Pocket calculators and digital watches first went on sale in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, they were cheap enough for most people.
Most people had a television at the start of the 1970s, but it was probably black and white. Colour TVs became cheaper throughout the decade and were much more common by the end of the 1970s. However, they were by no means universal.
At the beginning of the 1970s only 70% of households had a fridge. By the end of the 1970s 92% had one.
Washing machines were less common. Only 65% of households had one in 1970. By 1979 the figure was 80%. Some people preferred the company and atmosphere at the late-night launderette.
It was only by the middle of the 1970s that more households had a telephone than did not. Even in 1979 only just over half of households had a family car.
A freezer was a luxury. Only 7% of households had one in 1973.
Read more 70s high tech household
More on the 1970s
- What happened in the 1970s? - USA
- How much did things cost in 1970s?
- What happened in the 1971 - UK?
- What happened in the 1972 - UK?
More on the 1970s
By Steven Braggs, September 2021