On this day in history….4th December 1961

On this day in history : 4th December 1961 – Health Minister Enoch Powell announces in the House of Commons the decision to make the oral contraceptive pill available to British women on the National Health Service – at a subsidised cost of 2 shillings per month….

img_4729
Enoch Powell – Allan Warren CC BY-SA 3.0

Life for women in the early ’60s was very different to how we know it today…. The Victorian attitude towards sex was still prevalent…. There was a fear of pregnancy out of wedlock, as unmarried mothers were shunned by society – often being forced to give up their babies for adoption (abortion not being an option)…. Women tended to marry earlier and were usually expected to stay at home and raise a family….

img_4731
Robert Wade ‘The Modern Housewife’ via Flickr

The arrival of the pill was to change all that….it was to give women freedom…. A reliable, convenient oral contraceptive – meaning women had control of their own bodies and the choice of when to have a baby…. It was to become a real liberation….

However, GPs were slow on the uptake….and the Government of the time were reluctant to be seen promoting promiscuity…. The pill could only be prescribed to married women – and mainly to those who were older, already had children and did not want any more…. It was to remain this way until 1967, when finally attitudes slowly began to change….

By 1964 half a million British women were taking the pill….the birth rate began to fall – and fewer children were being put up for adoption…. In 1974 family planning clinics were given the go ahead to prescribe single women with the pill – this caused considerable controversy at the time….

Couples no longer felt the pressure to marry in order to live together…. In the early ’60s it is estimated fewer than 1 in 100 adults under the age of 50 had ever cohabited – nowadays it is 1 in 6…. Nobody bats an eye at a couple who have not ‘tied the knot’ – and the same goes for children born outside of marriage….

It is estimated 70% of women in Britain have used the pill at some stage in their lives…. Currently some 3.5 million women between the ages of 16 and 49 do so today….

img_4730
Tristanb at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….2nd December 1966

On this day in history : 2nd December 1966 – The miniskirt is banned from the Houses of Parliament….

img_4719
Jersey minidress by Mary Quant, late 1960s – Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation CC BY-SA 4.0

The short skirt, regarded as a symbol of the Swinging Sixties, had taken London by storm…. For some, wearing it was a form of rebellion against the oppression of women…. To wear a miniskirt was often not just to follow a fashion trend but as a statement of female empowerment…. Women were seeing liberation in many different areas of their lives; the availability of the contraceptive pill was seeing young women express their femininity as never before….

Mary Quant, often credited for bringing us the miniskirt, had started experimenting with shorter skirts in the 1950s – when designing for her King’s Road boutique…. Her inspiration came from the memory of seeing a young tap dancer in a tiny skirt over thick black tights….

img_4718
Mary Quant wearing a minidress of her own design, 16 December 1966 – Jac. de Nijs / Anefo CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Quant had a love for the Mini Cooper car – and so named the skirt after it…. She claimed car and skirt complimented each other – both being ‘optimistic, exuberant, young, flirty’….

At the time of the skirt’s ban from Parliament n 1966 there were just 26 female MPs….

On this day in history….30th March 1964

On this day in history : 30th March 1964 – Pitched battles are fought in the seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex – between gangs of rival ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’….

img_2682
‘Clacton Disturbances’. A photograph of a group of Mods near the seafront at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on 30 March 1964 – Image Credit: National Science and Media Museum – Photographer: C. Smith – Mirrorpix

At least that is how the Press conveyed it at the time…. All out rioting and warfare between two groups hell-bent on killing each other…. The Mods, in their sharp suits and parkas, riding on their scooters against the leather-clad Rockers, roaring around on their motorbikes…. But just how bad was it really…?

It was the Easter weekend – Clacton Council had gone to great lengths to attract the youngsters – who had money in their pockets to burn…. They laid on attractions – Freddy and the Dreamers were playing the Blue Lagoon on the Pier, Shane Fenton and the Fentones were booked for the Princess Theatre and the Westcliff Hotel was the venue for Johnny Pilgrim and the Classics….

img_2681
Freddie and the Dreamers performing in the film ‘Seaside Swingers’ – Public domain

Large campsites had been organised in anticipation of the vast crowds expected to descend on the town for the weekend….

Good Friday….and a trickle of young people began to arrive…. It wasn’t long before word got out that Clacton was the place to be…. By Saturday afternoon a steady stream was arriving from all around, including London…. On Saturday evening around 1,200 watched Freddie and the Dreamers – it was then that the first ‘aggro’ kicked off…. Fists flew, bottles were thrown, batons swung and the boot put in…. But the police were on hand and soon stepped in to separate the two groups….only for themselves to become the target…. No matter how much the two warring tribes detested each other – they were both united in that they hated the police more….

img_2679
1960s Scooter Mania! – Image credit: Paul Townsend via Flickr

The fighting continued into the night but stopped around dawn…. However, just after breakfast-time things erupted again when someone decided to smash the windows of the Pavilion…. Extra police had to be drafted in….

During Sunday afternoon a crowd of around 1,000 gathered in the Pier area….dozens of arrests were made but the police maintained control and the crowd began to disperse…. By Monday there was still the odd skirmish but on the whole things had calmed down….

This was not quite how the National Press portrayed it…. Some reports suggested the town had been practically obliterated…. An enquiry was held by the Council; out of the thousands of youths who had descended on Clacton for the weekend there were just 60 arrests….only 12 of these ended in prosecution – with fines amounting to a combined £243…. The damage inflicted on the town by the rampaging ‘yobs’ totalled up to £213….and the police emphasised that they were never out of control of the situation….

img_2680
(Hastings) – Image credit: Phil Sellens via Flickr

On this day in history….27th March 1963

On this day in history : 27th March 1963 – The Beeching Report is published….signalling the end for approximately one-third of Britain’s rail network and the loss of thousands of jobs….

Dr. Richard Beeching, physician and engineer, was recruited by the government to make Britain’s railways profitable again…. He left his very successful career at ICI to do so….

img_2657
Dr. Richard Beeching – Image credit: James via Flickr

Beeching’s report, entitled ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ declared large parts of the network were uneconomic and underused…. Only half of the railway system carried enough traffic to cover the cost of operating it…. Beeching recommended axing 6,000 miles of track – including hundreds of branch lines – and the closure of 2,363 stations, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs…. He argued improved bus services would replace trains and placed an emphasis on faster rail links between cities…. At the time the railway network was running at a loss of £140m per year; Beeching claimed his axing of services would make a net saving of £18m per year…. He stated the first closures would likely be made in the coming autumn, he predicted the loss of 70,000 jobs and fare increases of at least 10% in London….

Closure of railway between Aviemore & Forres (via Dava) and Aviemore & Craigellachie on 18 October 1965, issued by British Rail
Image credit: mikeyashworth via Flickr

This did not make Dr. Beeching a popular man…. Pressure groups throughout the Country formed, launching campaigns to try and save their railway lines…. Although he had said cuts were to be made as soon as possible it was actually a very slow process…. In 1965 Beeching published a second report – reiterating the conclusions from the first report….

The closures began to pick up at a much faster pace during the mid 1960s…. By the time the reshape had finally finished Beeching’s axe had chopped 2,128 stations and 67,700 jobs….

The images below show a train in the station at Cranleigh, which would have been the nearest station to us here in Dunsfold – and some scenes from the now defunct Guildford to Horsham line…. As you can see, in some places such as Bramley, original features of some of the stations can still be seen….. It is in fact now a very a pleasant trail used by walkers and cyclists….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On this day in history….25th March 1969

On this day in history : 25th March 1969 – Newly married John Lennon and Yoko Ono begin their ‘bed-in’ at the Hilton in Amsterdam – to convey a message of Peace to the World….

img_2647
Dutch National Archives – Public domain

John and Yoko had married five days before; they knew only too well that their ‘tying the knot’ would cause much interest amongst the media and public – and so decided to use this publicity to promote world peace…. War was raging in Vietnam at the time and the Cold War was ongoing….

Their idea for a ‘bed-in’ was inspired by the ‘sit-ins’ often used by protesters….literally sitting in an establishment or outside it to cause obstruction – until their demands are met of they are forcibly removed….

The couple booked into the Honeymoon Presidential Suite (Room 702) of the Hilton and invited the world’s Press to join them everyday, for a week, between 9am and 9pm….

At first the Press had probably been expecting to find John and Yoko making love…. Controversy had surrounded the release of their album ‘Two Virgins’ in November 1968…. Both had posed naked on the cover and had caused outrage…. So much so, that EMI refused to distribute it….other distributors were found for both the UK and US but the album had to be sold in a plain brown wrapping…. As for the title, that came about as the couple felt they were ‘two innocents in a world gone mad’….

img_2650
Image credit : Vinylmeister via Flickr

So the Press may have been a little disappointed to find John and Yoko sitting up in bed wearing pyjamas….in John’s words ‘like angels’…. Above their heads were signs reading ‘Hair Peace’ and ‘Bed Peace’ – when asked about the ‘hair’ John replied that they both intended to grow their hair even longer for the Peace Cause….and that everybody should do the same…. He also added that the world needed to laugh more…. When questioned as to why Amsterdam his answer was simple “it could have been anywhere really”….

img_2648
Dutch National Archives – Public domain

John and Yoko flew to Vienna to give a press conference on the 31st of March….a further bed-in was arranged. The original intention was to hold it in New York – but because John had a cannabis conviction from the previous year he was denied access to the US…. So instead it was decided to hold it at the Sheridan Oceanus Hotel in the Bahamas…. John and Yoko arrived on the 24th of May 1969 – but because of the intense heat after just one night the couple left for Montreal. Here they set themselves up at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and invited the Canadian Broadcasting Company to conduct interviews from their room….. They received a very mixed reaction from the American Press….

 

img_2649
Dutch National Archives – Public domain