Bonbons Space Dust popping candy

Britain in The 1970s

by Mark Nobes, chief editor

So what memories do you have from the 1970's? Maybe you're too young to have any, and you're simply here to discover what the 70s were all about. Well, you're certainly in the right place!

Who can forget the outrageous 70s fashion styles such as disco, glam rock, bell bottoms, hotpants, tie dye shirts and platform shoes?

The UK in the 70s

As much as we'd like to think about the 1970s as "the good old days", it would be hard to ignore
the strikes that crippled Britain. A three day week was introduced in February 1972 to save on electricity, whilst the coal miners were striking.

Things weren't a whole lot better by the end of the decade when we experienced the winter of discontent. Not only was the weather freezing cold, but the unions were holding the country to ransom by demanding big pay rises. Prime Minister and Labour Party leader James Callaghan (pictured below) struggled to keep control, and after a strong tory election campaign
in 1979 with the motto "labour isn't working", he was ousted by Margaret Thatcher who became Great Britain's first women Prime Minister.

Orange 1970s Space Hopper
During the 70s, there were many huge changes to our whole way of life. In 1971, Britain ditched the old pounds, shilling and pence to become decimalised. This caused big headaches for many people who struggled to get to grips with the new currency. On 1st January 1973the UK decided to join the European Economic Community, which Brits referred to as "the common market", and remained in what became the European Union (EU) until 2020, after voting in the 2016 referendum to leave.

James Callaghan 1970s Prime Minister of Great Britain

James (Jim)Callaghan (public domain image)

If you were a child of the 70s, then none of this really mattered, of course, as you were having way too much fun bouncing around on your Space Hopper or riding around on your Raleigh Chopper while eating a bag of Space Raiders!

Colour Television

Colour TVs found their way in to an ever-increasing number of British households in the 70s, and we could now watch the snooker in full colour! However, many people chose to rent their TV sets rather than buy them, with Rumbelows being one of the most well-known electrical retailers to rent them from.

By the end of the decade, some of us were playing interactive Pong style TV games made by Interstate and Binatone. They were about as basic as computer games could get, but this was the start of the computer gaming revolution.

In 1974, my parents bought a Philips G22L550 which had a wooden casing and a matching stand on castor wheels, and although it lasted for a good 12 years, the television repair man made quite regular visits to come and fix it.
Rumbelows carrier bag
Rumbelows was once a rival to Dixons and Currys

70s TV Shows for kids were often repeats of cartoons and series from the 1960s, and favourites included Top Cat, The Flintstones and The Jetsons. John Craven's Newsround, Cheggers Plays Pop and Blue Peter were hugely popular on BBC1, and then there were some those unusual programmes including The Magic Roundabout, Michael Bentine's Potty Time, The Clangers and Ludwig. Saturday Morning TV was essential viewing back then, with the chaotic TISWAS on ITV (with Chris Tarrant, Sally James and Lenny Henry), and the more middle-class Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on BBC1 featuring Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven.
Saturday Morning TV was essential viewing back then, with the chaotic TISWAS on ITV (with Chris Tarrant, Sally James and Lenny Henry), and the more middle-class Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on BBC1 featuring Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven.
The Clangers (70s)

Portable Cassette Recorders

Vinyl and cassette were the most popular formats for listening to music back in the 1970s, and portable cassette recorders with a carrying handle (see below) were particularly popular. I rememeber the joy of recording just about anything and everything when I was a child, and playing it back to my parents at every given opportunity, much to their annoyance! Brands such as Pye, Philips, Grundig and Decca were particularly popular.
1976 cassette recorders in an Argos catalogue


70s Aftershave

Who can forget the outrageous 70s fashion styles such as flared trousers and platform shoes. And while skinheads and punks were dressing to look as "hard" as possible, other men were discovering their feminine side by spraying their hair with cossack, and covering themselves with the latest aftershaves such as Brut 33, Hai Karate, Old Spice and Pagan Man.
Hai Karate Soap Set
ThHai Karate name was used in a range of budget toiletries for men (that's being polite), some of which came with a martial arts style booklet explaining how to fend off the ladiesYou didn't need it, though, as one whiff of this stuff was enough to knock 'em dead - quite literally! 

Silver Jubilee 1977

By 1977 the Queen had spent 25 years on the throneThe whole country celebrated the Silver Jubilee, and who remembers drinking strawberry flavoured Co-op Jubilade? In fact, everyone jumped on the bandwagon with just about every food item having a jubilee theme, from margarine to lollies. 
Co-op Stamps Book (late 70s)
A Co-op stamps book from the late 1970s


Also known as the Junior TV Times, Look-In magazine was published between 9th January 1971 and 12th March 1994. I really got excited when I saw a new edition on the shelves of the local newsagent, and used to have a whole stack of these in my bedroom. I never managed to collect every single issue, and I stopped buying it sometime in the early 80s, although I now wish I'd have continued buying each issue for pure nostalgia.  

Looking at the front cover above, I see there's a feature with footballer Steve Coppell who used to play for Man United at the time. He was bought by the club for £60,000 in 1975.
Look-in magazine from the 70s
Woman's Weekly Jan 4rh 1975 - price 7p
Woman's Weekly launched in 1911, and was particularly popular during the 1970s. It's still being published, although the circulation is in sharp decline. This issue from Jan 1975 cost 7p - those were the days!
Jackie Magazine Nov 1978 ft. John Travolta
First published in 1964, Jackie was a teenage girls magazine which was published on a weekly basis. It became a best-seller during the mid seventies amongst the teen mags, peaking at over 600,000 sales per week in 1976. Many controversial subjects were covered such as contraception and sex issues, and the "Dear Cathy and Claire" problem letters page was particularly popular.
In the 70s you could buy many things with just a 5 pence coin. Popswop magazine was one of them, and the issue below is No.74 from March 1974, and features pop star and heartthrob David Essex on the front cover. This was a colourful, entertaining pop music magazine which included lots of posters to pin on your wall. I used to use sellotape myself, much to the annoyance of my parents who used to shout at me "you'll take the paint off the door!".  
Popswop magazine no.74 - March 1974 ft. David Essex


Known as popping candy in the U.S., who can forget the fizzy, tingling sensation that this made in your mouth? As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I couldn't get enough of it, and it's still being sold today, although it's now called Fizz Wiz.
Clackers toy


During the 1970s, if you weren't browsing through the latest issue of Look-In magazine while pouring Space Dust down your throat, you were probably playing with your clackers! Yes, this annoying toy was actually banned in some schools after numerous kids were injured by them, and they were eventually discontinued. 

Who'd have thought that banging two dangling balls together would be so much fun?


Magnavox Odyssey video game console

Magnavox Odyssey

Launched on May 24th 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey became the first commerically-produced video game console. In 1977, the Atari 2600 became the first console to accept plug-in cartridges. Also in 1977, the first mass-produced personal computers were launched - the Apple II and the Commodore PET.
Commodore PET 2001 series - 1977


This all-in-one home computer included a blue screen, keyboard, cassette tape player/recorder and, of course, the computer itself - all controlled by a 6502 processor. The first units were shipped out in October 1977, five months after the first Apple II's hit the market.

The original keyboard was problematic, and although it looked futuristic, it was awkward to type with due mainly to its small size. Commodore launched a new PET in 1979 called the 2001-N and this featured a full-size keyboard, green screen, but no in-built cassette unit.

Binatone TV Master Mark IV


This games console featured built-in sports game such as tennis, football and squash, which were all based on pong with very simple graphics. In 1978, the TV Master became the top-selling TV game in Britain. I received one of these for Christmas, although at the time my parents were pretty skint (as were a good many people in the 1970s) and really had to scrape together enough money to buy one.
Apple II advertisement
Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr


Best described as a bouncing pole with handles at the top and foot rests at the bottom, the pogo stick first became popular way back in the 1920s. There was a resurgence in popularity during the 1970s, and in recent times it has become an extreme sport.
pogo stick
Creative commons photo by srd2005

Raleigh Chopper

No article about the 1970s is complete without featuring the iconic Raleigh Chopper.  It was designed to look like a chopper motorcyle, and featured ape hangar handlebars and a long, springed banana seat. Only the cool kids had them, and it came in a range of colours including purple, orange, red and yellow.
Raleigh Chopper Baseball Shirt


Above is a Public Domain photo of a 1975 Austin 1800. This model became the British Leyland Princess, although it has been wrongly labelled the Austin Princess by many people.

During the 1970s, the roads of the British Isles were dominated by British cars, with British Leyland and Ford dominating the car market. 60% of Fords were built in the UK, with the Cortina and Escort being the most popular of the 70s. The Mini and Morris Marina were not far behind, although the latter was plagued with mechanical problems, as we found out on a holiday trip to Scotland!
Other popular cars were the Ford Fiesta Mk1, Ford Capri and the Austin Maxi.
British Leyland logo
White 1974 Ford Capri 3.0 GXL - public domain image

Ford Capri

The Ford Capri was a fastback coupe that became a 70s icon. It was built between 1969 and 1986, and was seen as the European version of the Mustang. You may well remember Bodie and Doyle driving a Capri in the hit TV series The Professionals. The car was a highly successful model for Ford, selling almost 1.9-million units across its 17-year production run.
Montgomery Ward Escort 55


The word processor was actually invented in 1972, but before they became affordable (along with electric typewriters), you had to rely on a manual typewriter. Not only did the keys hurt your fingers, but just one wrong move and you had to start all over again. You could use a well-known brand of correction fluid, of course, but it just looked so darned unprofessional!
Tufty Annual 1970 RoSPA
Raleigh Chopper mug