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1950-1960

Elizabeth II comes to the throne, the first Routemaster hits London’s streets, England’s first supermarket opens and the first episode of The Archers is aired

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1950: Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

This is the first in the six-part series The Narnia Chronicles by CS Lewis. JRR Tolkein (The Lord Of The Rings) was a colleague of Lewis' at Oxford University and criticised The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe for having too many contradictory elements!

14 Apr 1950: The Eagle goes on sale

The Eagle sells 900,000 copies on its first issue - its futuristic pilot hero, Dan Dare, gets off to a flying start! The comic strip sets new standards for quality of production and content. The stories, artwork and characters all become classics. Chad Varah is one of its most important writers, and goes on to found The Samaritans Helpline.

1951: Spies for Russia defect

Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess defect to USSR

1951: The Archers begins transmission

The long-running series was originally commissioned as an educational tool to increase farm productivity and promote notions of Englishness in the post-war years.

03 May 1951: Festival of Britain begins

The nationwide Festival ran from May to September and was a huge showcase of Britain's achievements in the arts, science and technology and industrial design. It was held as a morale booster to combat post-war austerity and marked the centenary of the Great Exhibition.

1952: George VI succeeded by Elizabeth II

Elizabeth becomes Queen at the age of 26 and her coronation plays an enormous part in the popularising of television in England - many people buy a set to watch it!

1952: The Mousetrap opens

Who knew when Agatha Christie's whodunnit opened in the West End that it would still be running more than 50 years later? More a piece of living history now than a thriller, The Mousetrap is still worth a look.

05 Jul 1952: Last London tram runs

Tram routes were running at a loss compared to motorised buses and the increased use of cars and trolleybuses was the tram's death knell.

The Routemaster Bus

05 Dec 1952: Smog descends on London

The "pea soup" smog (thick fog with smoke in it) brought London to a standstill for five days and caused the death of around 12,000 people who breathed it in. The terrible conditions led to the passing of the first Clean Air Act in 1956, updated in 1968 and 1993.

1953: Casino Royale published

Ian Fleming introduces James Bond, the archetypal English spy. Possibly more famous now in his film incarnations, more than 50% of the world's population has seen a James Bond film.

28 Feb 1953: Double Helix discovery

Two Cambridge scientists, Frances Crick and American James Watson, discover the structure of DNA is a double helix (a double spiral). DNA is the basic building block of life and understanding its chemical make-up and structure revolutionised many fields of scientific study.

1954: The Lord Of The Rings published

The first two parts of Tolkein's The Lord Of The Rings trilology are published

1954: Lord Of The Flies published

William Golding's novel tells the story of the social disintegration of a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes on a deserted island. In some ways the book can be seen as a rebuttal to RM Ballantyne's Coral Island, which displays a pompous belief in the codes of the British Empire.

1954: End of the line for the Spitfire

At the end of its career the Spitfire was being used primarily as an unarmed photo-reconnaissance plane. There are still 50 Spitfires in flying condition and you can see them in action at air shows.

The Spitfire

1954: Lucky Jim published

Kingsley Amis' first novel tells the story of Jim, a radical lecturer who was one of a generation of characters nicknamed "angry young men".

1954: First Routemaster bus on the road

First appearance of these friendly red double deckers. Check out more information on the Icons site.

The Routemaster Bus

02 Nov 1954: First broadcast of Hancock's Half Hour

A phenomenally popular radio programme that was turned into a television series, this was the vehicle that made comedian Tony Hancock a household name.

1955: Bazaar boutique in Chelsea

Mary Quant was art school trained and opened her shop with no business training whatsoever. She pioneered the "Chelsea Look" and, later in the 1960s, was responsible for such fashionable items as small, white plastic collars to brighten up dresses or jumpers, knee-high, white, patent plastic, lace up boots, and tight, skinny-rib sweaters in stripes and bold checks. Her clothing was affordable and aimed at young people.

1955: This Is Your Life begins

Eamonn Andrews is the first unsuspecting victim of This Is Your Life (as well as its host!)

1955: Dixon Of Dock Green, first episode

A homely view of life in the East End, where criminals are basically decent chaps and the police are respected. This series ran for more than 20 years. The theme tune in the early days was Maybe Its Because I'm A Londoner. Dixon was seen as being hopelessly behind the times and unrealistic even before it ended but, still, how times have changed…

1956: LT recruiting in Barbados

London Transport begins recruiting directly from Barbados, inviting men and women to become bus conductors, underground staff and canteen assistants. The Barbados government would lend you the fare!

The Routemaster Bus

1956: First supermarket opens

Jack Cohen, inspired by the US retailing innovation, opens the first self-service supermarket in England in an old cinema, in Maldon, Essex. Jack's company is called Tesco. The weekly shop is never the same again.

1956: Routemaster RM design hits the road

This distinctive design is a collaboration between AEC (Associated Equipment Ltd) and Park Royal, who fashion the bodywork. It increased capacity without adding weight.

The Routemaster Bus

1956: Pop art explodes onto the scene

English artist Richard Hamilton kicks off the pop art movement with his collage What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?

May 1956: Look Back In Anger opens

Look Back In Anger introduces the world to Jimmy Porter, the original "angry young man". The play changes British theatre by presenting lower middle class characters in a realistic situation, a kind of writing that came to be known as "kitchen sink drama". The play defines the Royal Court as the home of innovative new writing for the theatre, an image unchallenged for many years.

17 Oct 1956: Nuclear Age begins

Elizabeth II opens Calder Hall, England's first large-scale nuclear power station.

31 Dec 1956: First Flanders and Swann revue

Flanders and Swann hired the tiny New Lindsey Theatre Club for their first revue show but quickly transferred to a larger West End Theatre where they ran for two and half years. Flanders (lyrics) and Swann (music) wrote quintessentially English comic songs, their greatest hits including The Hippopotamus Song ("Mud, mud, glorious mud").

1957: Television debut of PG Tips chimps

Britain's longest running advertising campaign featured the PG Tips tea-drinking chimps.

A Cup of Tea

1957: First boutique on Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street became the hub of Swinging Sixties London when the trend-setting music stores and fashion boutiques competed for space here. Near Oxford Street in London's Soho, Carnaby Street has long since lost its edge but is just re-establishing itself as a serious shopper's prime destination.

Feb 1957: First Tonight programme on BBC television

The first news feature programme, Tonight, featured a daily round-up of the news in the form of a Calypso song, performed by Cy Grant.

SS Empire Windrush

28 Oct 1957: Today programme begins on Radio 4

This current affairs programme is a breakfast time institution. Today is often hard-hitting, known for tough interviewing of politicians and often breaks the big stories first.

1958: First appearance of FX4 Black Taxi cabs

This is the one with that classic black cab look.

1958: The Birthday Party in London

This premiere divides critics. Pinter's trademark silences and sense of underlying menace are already present in this early play.

Aug 1958: Notting Hill race riots

The Notting Hill Riots bring large-scale mob violence between black residents and white racists to north Kensington, London.

Oct 1958: First Paddington Bear book published

Created by Michael Bond, Paddington is a much-loved teddy abandoned at Paddington Station after travelling from Darkest Peru. The animated television series was narrated by Michael Hordern. The Paddington image was used in pioneering children's merchandising all over the world.

16 Oct 1958: Blue Peter hooks English children

Who could forget the badges, the "here's one I made earlier", the pets, the hornpipe, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes? Blue Peter is still going strong.

1959: David Bailey's first photo

David Bailey's first job as a professional photographer is for a neighbour's daughter's wedding. Not only does he create some the iconographic images of the 1960s, he himself almost becomes an icon of the times with his playboy, celebrity lifestyle.

1959: First West Indian-style carnival

Claudia Jones puts on the first carnival in England, which grows into the Notting Hill Carnival annual tradition (see 1964). It was a response to the race riots of the year before and an attempt to celebrate West Indian culture in the face of hostility from right wing extremists and government indifference to the problems.

1959: Mobile phone service in Lancashire

Although the systems being used were nothing like today's networks, the first mobile telephone system became available in Lancashire this year. The system spread to London by 1965 using the BT Tower as a base.

17 May 1959: Murder of Kelso Cochrane

Kelso Cochrane, an innocent Antiguan immigrant, was knifed by six white men and left to bleed to death. Despite there being witnesses to the crime, no charges were brought and no arrests made. The black community was enraged by the negligent police handling of the affair and it became an issue for the government, which also brushed it aside.