Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments


Beatlemania, miniskirts, Dr Who and the Chatterley trial

See all time periods

1960: Lady Chatterley trial

DH Lawrence's novel about the affair between an aristocrat and her game keeper contains many florid and explicit descriptions of sex. Consequently it is banned in England, though widely available in Europe, until Penguin publish and go to court. The celebrated trial results in a victory for free speech and ushers in a new era of liberalism. As Philip Larkin says: "Sexual intercourse began/ In 1963 (which was rather late for me)/ Between the end of the Chatterley ban/ And the Beatles first LP."

1960: The Pill goes on sale

Oral contraception which is 99% effective has a liberating effect on the English approach to sex.

01 Apr 1960: Doc Martens 1460 developed

Based on a German design, the first Doc Marten 1460 boot is produced in Wollaston to give English workers a hard-wearing boot with a revolutionary cushioning sole. The boots are rapidly adopted by successive English subcultures wishing to express their disaffection with society, including mods, skinheads, punks, psychobillies and goths.

Aug 1960: Beyond the Fringe premieres

The line-up for this classic satirical review is Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore. The "Fringe" refers to the now-enormous Edinburgh Fringe Festival that was in its infancy at the time.

1961: Routemaster RML design appears

Twenty-four vehicles are built and then lengthened by the insertion of an additional bay in their bodywork. The capacity is now 72 seats. This became the most common type of bus.

The Routemaster Bus

09 Feb 1961: The Beatles appear at the Cavern

This appearance at the legendary music venue is a lunchtime gig, not very rock and roll. Yet.

1962: Britten's War Requiem

First performed in the re-consecrated Coventry Cathedral. This haunting piece sets to music some of the poetry of the first world war.

1962: Commonwealth Immigrants Act

Tough new restrictions were imposed as a whole new generation of former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean gained independence. The previous right of settlement for citizens of these territories was revoked.

SS Empire Windrush

1962: "And your starter for 10…"

University Challenge begins transmission.

1962: Employment vouchers introduced

The employment voucher, introduced after the 1962 Immigration Act, was a permit offered to qualified non-Britons to work in the UK, in areas where there was a shortfall of skilled people amongst the British population. The health and transport sectors, for instance, greatly benefited from this scheme. British universities also employed highly qualified immigrants from various academic disciplines on employment vouchers.

1962: First James Bond film is Dr No

The first actor to play Bond is Sean Connery.

1962: First broadcast of Steptoe And Son

A Galton and Simpson (Hancock's Half Hour) classic, Steptoe is set in a junk yard where father and son endlessly bicker. It breaks the mould with its downbeat, working class setting, use of established actors rather than comedians and comparatively extreme language.

09 May 1962: Last trolleybus runs

Motor buses had been replacing trolleybuses since 1959. This last service ran from Wimbledon to Fulwell.

The Routemaster Bus

1962: The Beatles in Abbey Road

Initially, George Martin just gives them a commercial test. Within three months they are back recording for real. Over the next seven years the Beatles make 90% of their recordings here. Abbey Road Studios are part of the music industry in their own right, hosting every major recording artist, from classical to pop at some time. The zebra crossing outside the studios is a much-photographed landmark due to its appearance on the band's Abbey Road album cover.

1963: Oh! What a Lovely War! premieres

Ground-breaking piece of theatre devised by Joan Littlewood's company, Theatre Workshop. Using the form of end-of-the -pier entertainment, the musical is an indictment of the first world war and the pro-war propaganda of the time.

1963: Kim Philby defects to USSR

Philby was one of the most famous spies of the 20th century. Along with Blunt, Burgess and Maclean, he betrayed England from the very heart of its social and political structures. See 1951.

1963: Sindy doll introduced

The English put up a rival to US phenomenon, Barbie. Sindy "the doll you'll love to dress" is a mirror for changes in fashion over the years and her clothes and accessories are now collectors items. Sindy was available with blonde, brunette or auburn hair.

05 Jun 1963: "Well, he would, wouldn't he..."

John Profumo MP resigns over his affair with high-class prostitute Christine Keeler. The scandal rocks Macmillan's government and exposes the seedy underside of British politics and wealthy society. Mandy Rice-Davies, a colleague of Keeler, becomes a celebrity with her candid remarks on the witness stand about men denying their relationship with her, and Lewis Morley's naked portrait of Keeler sitting backwards on a chair fixes her image forever.

08 Aug 1963: Great Train Robbery

The small-time London criminals take a massive haul of £2.6 million from a Travelling Post Office train. The story of the robbery and the subsequent escape of some of the gang becomes legendary.

23 Nov 1963: Dr Who arrives on screen

The Tardis first touches down on BBC1. Hiding behind the back of the sofa while the Daleks tried to take control of the planet became a Saturday night pastime for the nation.

1964: Habitat introduces affordable design

Terence Conran opens the first Habitat store on Fulham Road.

1964: Top Of The Pops begins

The Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand is the first number one on this groundbreaking chart show.

Aug 1964: First Notting Hill Carnival

The biggest street party in Europe! The Notting Hill Carnival is traditionally held on the August Bank Holiday weekend, a celebration of West Indian culture with music, food and a fabulous costume parade.

Sep 1964: Biba boutique opens in London

Biba was not just a fashion line, it was a way of life. The boutique eventually took up seven floors and you could not only buy make-up, home furnishings and pet food, but stay on, drink in the bar and hang out at a gig – the ultimate hang-out in the Swinging Sixties!

Jan 1965: The Who's first single

I Can't Explain was the first Who single written by Pete Townsend. It was a hit with the trendy young "Mods" and the band became icons for a disaffected generation. This year also saw the release of My Generation.

1965: The Beatles release Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood was one of the first Western pop songs to feature an Indian classical instrument. George Harrison had studied with Indian legend Ravi Shankar early in 1965 and this song features him playing the sitar. As a result of his association with The Beatles, Shankar became an international star and this single did much to encourage appreciation and interest in Indian music in England.

1965: Post Office Tower opens

It opens as a transmitter for high-frequency radio and microwaves, to combat the difficulty of laying underground cables in London, and continues to be a functioning telecommunications centre today. Its enormous height (189m), sci-fi appendages and fragile-looking slenderness make it an instantly recognisable part of the London skyline

1965: Murder Act

Britain abolishes the death penalty for murder.

1965: Darling released

Darling, starring Julie Christie, showcased Swinging Sixties London for the rest of the world

30 Jan 1965: Funeral of Winston Churchill

The second world war PM's funeral is watched by 350 million people worldwide.

22 Jul 1965: Pilot episode of Till Death Do Us Part

Alf Garnett starts complaining and keeps going for ten years! The Financial Times called the series "The rampaging, howling embodiment of all the most vulgar and odious prejudices that slop about in the bilges of the national mind".

Aug 1965: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction…"

This was the first number one for The Rolling Stones. The famous guitar riff came to Keith Richards in the middle of the night so he got up to record it, then went back to sleep!

1966: The miniskirt arrives!

Mary Quant features a miniskirt in her collection, popularising a look premiered in Paris the previous year. The miniskirt was the defining look for the Swinging Sixties, outraging and liberating people in equal measure.

1966: A Man For All Seasons wins six Oscars

Robert Bolt's screenplay tells the story of the downfall of Sir Thomas More at the court of Henry VIII. (see 1534)

Holbein's Henry VIII

1966: Laura Ashley's first social dress

Laura Ashley's designs for fabric were inspired by Victorian prints and patterns which gives the company its "English" feel in clothes and furnishings. Laura's long-length silhouette dress of 1966 was her first design for non-work attire and became the company's trademark look.

1966: Jonathan Miller's Alice released

Miller's film has a stellar cast and music by Ravi Shankar. You can listen to him discussing the film on the Icons website.

Alice In Wonderland

1966: "What's it all about, Alfie?"

Alfie makes an international star out of Michael Caine and portrays a slightly darker side of Swinging London. It's re-made with Jude Law in 2005 with the abortion references removed to protect the sensitivities of American audiences.

1966: Stoppard's first play

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead: this view of the story of Hamlet from the viewpoint of the minor characters gets Tom Stoppard's playwrighting career off to an auspicious start.

30 Jul 1966: England win the World Cup

"They think it's all over…it is now!" (Kenneth Wolstenholme)

1967: Birtwhistle writes Punch and Judy

Harrison Birtwhistle's chamber opera premieres at the Aldeburgh Festival the following year and is so violent and strange that even Benjamin Britten walks out! In the course of the opera Punch murders Judy no less than four times.

Punch and Judy

1967: Closure of East India Docks

The Port of London finds it increasingly difficult to attract trade after the second world war and as the technology is updated elsewhere, one by one the city's great dockyards are closed down. The Docks are now areas of intensive urban regeneration, in many cases showcases of the possibilities for other cities.

1967: The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper

The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, which features A Day In The Life (recently voted the song that sums up England), Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and When I'm Sixty-Four. Even the cover was iconographic, featuring a collage of famous faces created by artist Peter Blake (whose illustrations for Alice Through the Looking-Glass are in the Tate Gallery).

Alice In Wonderland

1967: Introduction of the Machin stamp

This is the ordinary, common-or-garden low denomination stamp, with the simple picture of the Queen's profile on it. Designed by sculptor Arnold Machin, they come in one of 31 colours, differentiated by price.

1967: Coronation Street crazy

Twenty million people tune in to watch Elsie Tanner get married on Granada Television's soap opera, Coronation Street

27 Jul 1967: Sexual Offences Act

This Act ends the total ban on sex between men which has been in place since 1885.

1968: Last Routemaster bus built

The nationalising of the buses in 1967 legalised one-man operations, making the Routemaster's conductor-driver double act seem not cost-effective, was the beginning of the end.

The Routemaster Bus

1968: First black woman police officer

Fay Sislin becomes England's first black woman police officer

1968: First issue of Time Out

The essential listings guide to everything that's cool in London.

22 Apr 1968: "Rivers of Blood" speech

Enoch Powell makes his "Rivers of Blood" speech in Birmingham, stirring up racial prejudice and calling for forced re-patriation of immigrants

31 Jul 1968: The Home Guard return!

Dad's Army sitcom is first broadcast on BBC1. "Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler?" is its theme tune. An affectionate look at Home Front resistance to Hitler in the second world war.

15 Oct 1968: First Led Zeppelin gig

The first-ever gig by Led Zeppelin is at Surrey University - apparently the response was "mild"! The band went on to become one of the biggest selling bands of all time - their many hits include Stairway To Heaven which is still the most played song on the radio in the world.

1969: Monty Python's Flying Circus

The gang's surreal brand of sketch comedy breaks the mould and spawns a thousand catchphrases.

1969: Kray Twins convicted of murder

The East End's most notorious gangsters are convicted at the Old Bailey. The Kray twins were celebrities as well as violent criminals.

1969: Oh! Calcutta! with full nudity

Kenneth Tynan stages his "experiment in elegant erotica", which causes the censor some problems! Tynan was an influential theatre critic who defined many important moments in theatre and drew attention to those who would become stars. He was a fierce opponent of censorship (he was the first person to use the f-word on television) but many felt his show took the "permissive society" too far.

1969: Benny Hill's first appearance

For some, the sight of Benny Hill chasing scantily clad girls across our television screens sums up British humour. Benny Hill is one of this country's top comedy exports.

05 Mar 1969: What The Butler Saw at Royal Court

Joe Orton's farce puts a very private part of Winston Churchill centre stage!

20 Jul 1969: Americans land on the moon

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". Every country in the world was affected by this seemingly impossible, extraordinary feat.

26 Sep 1969: Theatres Act

The English theatre had been subject to preproduction censorship by the Lord Chamberlain, who was responsible for reviewing scripts and granting performance licences. The Royal Court used to get round this by presenting "theatre club" performances which did not require a licence. This Act ended all the subterfuge, bringing censorship of the theatre to an end.

01 Oct 1969: Concorde's first supersonic flight

Concorde was created by a Treaty between the French and English governments for the joint design, development and manufacture of a supersonic airliner. Concorde's speed, combined with the time difference, meant she could arrive in London before she had left New York!