By Tim Lambert

Changes in Society

In the 1960s there was a big rise in living standards in Britain. Consumer goods like cars and fridges became common. Washing machines and vacuum cleaners became near-universal. Meanwhile, plastic or PVC was first used in the 1940s. By the 1960s all kinds of household goods from drain pipes to combs were made of plastic.

In the 1960s, large-scale slum clearance took place when whole swathes of old terraced houses were demolished. High-rise flats replaced some of them. However, flats proved to be unpopular with many people. Some people who lived in the new flats felt isolated. The old terraced houses may have been grim but at least they often had a strong sense of community, which was usually not true of the flats that replaced them.

In 1968 a gas explosion wrecked a block of flats at Ronan Point in London and public opinion turned against them. In the 1970s the emphasis turned to renovate old houses rather than replacing them. Following an act of 1946 new towns were built. Villages or small market towns were selected to take the 'overflow' populations of large cities like London. The new towns were greatly enlarged. New houses and factories were built to take the 'immigrants' from the big cities. It was the first time since the Middle Ages that large numbers of new towns were created. Among the new towns were Andover, Basingstoke, Crawley and Stevenage.

Meanwhile many town centres were 'redeveloped' in the 1960s and new shopping centers and car parks were built. Ironically at the same time increasingly strenuous efforts were made to protect old buildings.

Meanwhile, the first cash dispensing machine in Britain was installed in 1967.

BBC2 began in 1964 and Channel 4 began in 1982. In Britain BBC2 began broadcasting in color in 1967, BBC 1 and ITV followed in 1969.

Following the 1944 Education Act all children had to sit an exam called the 11 plus. Those who passed went to grammar schools while those who failed went to secondary modern schools. However, in the late 1950s public opinion began to turn against the system and in the 1960s and early 1970s most schools became comprehensives. There was a huge expansion of higher education in Britain in the 1960s and many new universities were founded.

Galaxy (1960), Caramac (1959), Topic (1962) Toffee Crisp (1963)and Twix (1967). Meanwhile, Starburst went on sale in 1960 and chewits were introduced in 1965. The first ready salted crisps were sold in 1960. Flavored crisps followed in 1962.

Medicine continued to advance in the 1960s. A vaccine for measles was discovered in 1963. Meanwhile, surgery made great advances. The most difficult surgery was on the brain and the heart. Both of these developed rapidly in the 20th century. The first heart transplant was performed in 1967.

The laser was invented in 1960. In 1964 it was used in eye surgery for the first time. Meanwhile, the invention of fiber optics in the 1950s made possible the development of endoscopes in the 1960s. Contraceptive pills became available in Britain in 1961.

The death penalty for murder was abolished for an experimental period of 5 years in 1965. It was abolished permanently in 1969. However, in schools teachers were still allowed to hit children.

Life in Britain in the Second World War

Life in Britain in the 19th Century

Life in England in the 18th Century

Life in Britain in the 1980s

Life in Britain in the 1980s


Last revised 2019