On this day in history….24th January 1969

On this day in history : 24th January 1969 – Students at the London School of Economics go on the rampage with crowbars, sledgehammers and pickaxes – in protest at the installation of steel security gates….

This was just one incident in a long period of student unrest during the 1960s – not just in the UK but in some European countries and North America too….

For the LSE problems had begun a couple of years previously when Dr. Walter Adams had been appointed LSE Director…. It had sparked a series of protests and sit-ins, as Dr. Adams had formerly been the Principal of the University College of Rhodesia…. It was felt that he had not shown enough resistance to Ian Smith’s regime – and students disagreed with his appointment as Director….

Dr. Walter Adams

As a result of these earlier protests seven sets of steel gates had been erected in and around the university….Dr. Adams said they had been installed to improve security and so that areas of the building could be closed off in times of protest…. Students and staff claimed the gates made the place look like a concentration camp – they were described as ‘anti-student and anti-freedom’….

A week after the installation of the gates a meeting was held to discuss their removal…. Francis Keohane, the then Student Union president, wanted a solution to be found through negotiation – but when put to the vote his motion failed….

Within half an hour the gates were down…. Led by a lecturer apparently yelling “this way comrades” students took to the gates with pickaxes, sledgehammers and crowbars…. Francis Keohane and treasurer Roger Mountford immediately resigned from their posts as they could not condone the violence….

London School of Economics main entrance Image credit: Umezo KAMATA

The police were called and over 100 officers arrived and closed off the area around Aldwych….25 arrests were made and the protestors taken to Bow Street Police Station…. More than 200 students responded by marching, nine abreast, to the police station and then sat outside chanting “release our colleagues” …. Extra police had to be drafted in to protect the police station….

The protests continued for the following few days and as a result the LSE closed for more than three weeks. Legal action was brought against a total of 13 people, 3 of which were members of staff and believed to be the ring leaders – two lost their jobs…. The charged students were banned from college for a month and were only permitted to return if they promised not to cause any more damage and not to interfere with management decisions…. Other students faced disciplinary action for disrupting lectures….

National Archives nationalarchives.gov.uk

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….

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….

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….

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….

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….

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’….

‘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….

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….

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….

(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….

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….

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