Browse content similar to Exploring the Past: Post War Britain. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Although the war ended in 1945,
it was still another nine years before rationing was stopped.
For many young people
the austerity that had seeped into everyday life was stifling.
By the late '50s,
the majority of youngsters who'd left school at 15 had jobs and money in their pockets,
and were keen to break away from the conformity of the austerity years,
forming a subculture, which became known as Mod.
Mitchell is 15 and from Walsall near Birmingham.
Two of his family were mods.
Darts has always been my main sporting passion.
My grandad was a great darts player, but never actually went into it.
It's pure skill and if you're good, you'll win.
My other passion is probably music,
which has been passed down from my dad.
Some of it has really sunk in on me and had a real impact on my life.
I know my nan was a mod in the '60s.
And I'd like to know about the original mods and find out more about those.
MUSIC: "Keep on Running" by The Spencer Davis Group
# Keep on running
# Keep on hiding...#
In the late '50s, groups of youngsters in London
were influenced by modernist architecture and jazz and Italian and French fashions.
They started to call themselves modernists, later shortened to mod,
as what began as an in-crowd cult developed into a mass movement.
The original mod movement
ran for about a decade until the late '60s.
Mitchell's Grandma Jackie was a Walsall mod
and a regular at Bloxwich Baths dances where local bands played.
You've got to remember when we used to come and it used to be packed.
You aren't just going to an ordinary dance hall, you'd go in
and there'd be other mods and that there.
-Do you know what I mean?
-So...yeah. Yeah. God!
I think I was about 15 there.
I used to do her hair and me own hair, cos I used to enjoy it.
I wanted to be a hairdresser, but I never did.
And me hair, now that's what they call the bob, you know?
And now the bob's still about today.
Vidal Sassoon done that and Mary Quant.
It's quite a weird hairstyle, was that like the norm back then or...?
Oh, yeah, that was... Whatever was in,
whether it was long or short, I used to have it.
I mean, one time I went out with me hair all on me shoulders
and I came back with blonde hair and cut very short.
So you imagine me going out with hair all down here
and then coming back home and I've got none on me head!
But me dad, he said I'd made a mess of it. He said to me mum, "You shouldn't have let her done it."
Me mum said, "I didn't know she was having it done!"
But after...after a bit of time,
-they got used to it and they liked it.
-And then I let it grow!
# It's in my soul
# Yeah, yeah, yeah! #
You wouldn't bother, you wouldn't care!
You wouldn't bother whether you looked soft or whether you looked... You wouldn't bother.
It was just that you was in that moment of enjoying yourself.
That's what it was, it was enjoying yourself.
Mitchell wants to know how Jackie,
who left school at 15 with no qualifications,
was able to finance this lifestyle.
On leaving school, Jackie found work immediately in a local factory.
For a time she worked at the family-run Crabtree's,
which employed thousands of local women making light switches.
With a thriving post-war economy,
unemployment nationally stood at just 1%, compared to over 8% today.
Mitchell's looking into the Wolverhampton Express and Star's archives
to find out just how plentiful jobs were.
I was initially sceptical.
You look at them and you go through especially Monday articles,
cos it's the start of the week, you see pages and pages of jobs.
And not just the same jobs, different jobs.
Jobs for absolutely any...work or trade you like.
You've got draughtsmen, you've got salesmen, you've got clerks,
you've got cleaners, absolutely anything.
So I think really, they are right, you can walk into one job
any day you like, in all fairness.
Next, Mitchell tracks down another Walsall mod, Dave,
who travelled slightly further afield than Jackie.
I was working at the time as a warehouseman.
I was doing a 42.5 hour week.
It wasn't interesting work, cos you knew
what you was going to do from day to day.
Some days you'd think, "Oh, why am I here?
"Why am I here? Why am I doing this?"
Yeah, but if you was going somewhere at the weekend,
or you was going to see a group or something, you'd think,
"Oh, I'll be glad when the weekend's here!"
It was an escape, weren't it?
-When did you buy your scooter then, in '65?
-I bought it in '66.
You've got your independence.
You don't have to wait on buses and that, you just go outside your house,
start it up and you're away, aren't you?
So what attracted you to be a mod, then?
It's being an individual. You know, everybody can wear a uniform,
everybody can look the same, but to be something slightly different.
I come into modernism probably '65.
So what were your main interests at the time as a mod, then?
-Basically, the clothes you could wear.
Cos I used to like to wear updated fashion, shall we say.
Every so often we'd go down to London
-and get what you could afford down there.
Lord John was a big fashion shop down there.
-It was like a different world.
You'd look around and some of the clothes you'd see, "I ain't seen that before!"
-And then sometimes you'd go and ask somebody, "Where did you get that from?"
You know, and you'd just be... And most of the time, they wouldn't tell you,
-cos they wanted to be individual theirselves!
-That's a very mod neck.
No, a rollneck's all right. It's got a suede front on, it's different.
-Yeah, that's true.
-This is great. I like this.
-If I left a deposit for that, John, can I come back next week?
-Is that OK?
Mitchell's meeting Professor Keith Gildart
to find out what happened to the movement.
Commercialisation was a crucial aspect of the development of the mod movement.
And you can trace this through the way in which mod
becomes more prominent in the media.
So using the term "mod" to sell things and trying to exploit it,
because they see this as a way of making money.
Once mod becomes national,
some of the original mods begin to break away from it and say,
"How can it be an individual fashion statement
when there's thousands of people involved in it?"
I'm not a mod myself, I wouldn't call myself a mod.
-Would you call yourself an ex-mod?
-An ex-mod, certainly, yeah.
-I would say that.
We've sort of progressed out of that stage.
Well, what was a mod when he existed, then?
-Well, he was someone...
who wanted to be different from somebody else.
Wanted to show a rebelliation against something, you know, and he wanted to be different.
But now, he's the same as everybody else,
so he's sort of grown out of that stage and looking for something new.
So what is your personal opinion on movements like the mod movement?
Well, historians take kind of two sides to this.
And some historians have argued that commercialisation
and the way in which the capitalism of popular culture develops after the Second World War,
saps the energies of young people.
They would argue that they're less likely to rebel if they're listening to records in their bedrooms.
MUSIC: "Green Onions" by Booker T & The MG's
Other historians think that mod
acted as a kind of alternative education to many young people,
who might have felt failed by the education system,
might have left school at 15 or 16.
But through involvement in a youth subculture like mod,
that was a kind of alternative type of education.
Now when I look at somebody in their 60s or 70s,
I won't just think that their life has been boring.
I'll look at them and I'll think, "They could have been a mod."
I can look at my nan now and know that she's had an amazing life
and that she's done something for herself.
And I know she's got so much potential that hasn't been tapped into,
but she's had a great time in the '60s
and she's been part of something national.
And that's an amazing thing to be able to stand back and say.
In the 1960s, people in the East End of London
were still living with the consequences of the Second World War.
The East End had been badly bombed because the Port of London
handled most of the goods that came in and out of the country.
By the 1960s, much of the bomb damage had yet to be cleared,
and thousands of families struggled in sub-standard housing.
has a special reason to want to know more about the area.
My grandfather grew up in the East End of London,
he became a photographer and I'd like to find out a bit more about his job
and the history of the East End of London.
Nicole's grandad, Steve,
worked as a photographer on the Ilford Recorder.
In those days thriving local newspapers like The Recorder
campaigned for social change.
So what sort of things were happening at that time
that you found interesting?
Obviously, being in the East End of London, there was a lot of what we'd call "hard news".
There were bank robberies, there were murders,
there were all sorts of things like that.
Although you weren't working on a national newspaper,
some of the stories we did were very hard hitting.
Housing was a big problem.
It says here that there were 23 men, women and children
were living in that one house.
The headline, "Close down these awful homes," that's what we were trying to get them to do.
"This lady here, pictured with her five children in the bedroom,
"she has to share with three of them and she's hoping to be rehoused."
Now, that particular place, we actually got that closed down.
We did the last families that were living in Nissen huts.
They'd been built by the Italian prisoners of war.
Nissen huts were temporary homes made from corrugated iron sheets.
Could you imagine a bomb hitting your row of houses,
and then the council coming along and they put you in a Nissen hut,
saying that you were only going to be there for a short time.
25 years later...these people were still living in there.
And this was an area that we were always going back to in West Ham
called Manor Road Buildings.
We were trying to show there that these families were trapped families who just exist,
because there was just nowhere for them to go.
And right next to there...was this bomb site
and that was their playing area.
Nicole has come to speak to Ann and her daughter Debbie,
who were photographed by Steve in 1968,
when Debbie was just four years old.
They still live in the East End.
What jobs did you and your husband have?
My husband worked down the dock, it was the Royal Albert Dock.
And you could only get in the docks if it ran through the family,
cos you had to have the docker's card to get a job in there.
Everyone in this area of sort of East London,
all the men were dockers.
They used to have to stand on the cobbles early in the morning and wait to be called out.
And if you weren't called, then you didn't get no work.
-You didn't get no work.
-You know, that's how it worked.
Employment in Britain's ports was casualised,
which meant workers were employed on a daily basis
and dockers received no compensation for industrial accidents or death at work.
Dad thought that was unfair,
so he set up what they called like a distress fund for the dockers.
So like everyone was entitled to it.
And my dad done that for years and years.
-It was a close community the dockers, Deb, wasn't it?
All the dockers always stuck together.
-Can you remember what you said this day?
-Not really, no.
-What did I say?
-It says here that you said,
"How can you bring up kids properly in a dump like this?"
-Did I really? Hm. Is that what I said?
Well, it was rough round there, Debbie, wasn't it?
Yeah, it was rough, but as kids we enjoyed it.
Downstairs was the back yard where everyone...hung their clothes,
but we used to play down there.
We used to have ropes hanging from the balconies, so we could swing at the bottom.
We used to play Tim Tam Tommy, that was with an old tin.
-We used to find old mattresses and pile 'em up.
-And jump off 'em.
And we used to jump from the shed onto the mattresses and do somersaults.
We used to play in derelict cars, there was always dumped cars.
We made our own play.
Ann had a job as a barmaid
and was able to leave the children with her neighbour.
And that was our next-door neighbour, Hazel.
They used to run in and out of her house.
-Hazel sort of looked after yous, didn't she?
When I was at work. I didn't just go out and leave 'em.
Hazel...Hazel was the main one that used to look out for us.
If we wanted anything, we'd go to her.
-She gave 'em something to eat.
-And she'd give us something to eat and drink.
And, you know, if we happened to fall over or hurt ourselves or anything, she was there.
She was our mum while our mum was at work.
The only ones that was overcrowded was with people that had loads of kids.
So, obviously, they felt they was overcrowded
and it weren't fit enough for them to live in, but we lived fine.
I mean, I can remember our house being nice,
-it was always nice and clean.
You was a very clean person.
But then you had the families that weren't,
but they were the families with loads of kids.
Nicole wants to know more about the campaigning role of local papers
and has come to meet her grandad's colleague,
former news editor, Geoff Compton, to find out more.
Geoff was born in West Ham,
where half the houses, including his own, were bombed.
This was probably the most pressing issue,
it's one that we returned to week after week.
We were constantly beating the drum for better accommodation,
for action by the local authority to...to do more.
Of course, their hands were tied,
because they in turn were receiving money from the government.
And although Britain was on the winning side in the war,
the country was pretty broke.
Ann, who I met who lived in one of these flats,
it said that she said that the place was really bad,
but when we asked her about this,
she actually told me that the housing was actually all right.
Well, this particular building,
Manor Road Buildings, they had a very bad reputation.
I mean, they were fairly poor these families,
had very little of anything.
The accommodation itself probably wasn't that bad,
but there was a kind of stigma attached to actually being there.
Ann talked a lot about the docks,
-she mentioned that you wouldn't know if you were going to get a job.
You'd queue up and they'd pick people for the job.
That's right. And my grandfather was one of those men.
It was a very, very tough system.
They used to call it "the lump".
And men would actually turn up in the morning,
they'd form a crowd and the overseer would come out and he would say,
"Right, I want you, you, you and you. And the rest, you can go home."
So there was a terrible, terrible uncertainty.
You know, the families at home wouldn't know whether the father,
the husband, was going to bring home a wage that day or that week.
It was a very precarious existence.
The conditions in the docks were very, very hard.
Men worked manually,
they did very, very long hours lifting very, very heavy weights.
There wasn't very much attention to their safety, their health,
so it was a very, very tough life.
As a result of this, there was a lot of union activity in the docks,
there were lots of disputes.
There was a famous union leader called Jack Dash,
who I spoke to on many, many occasions,
who was really fighting for better conditions
for the working man in the docks.
This didn't make him very popular with the government,
but he was certainly a champion of ordinary working men.
The things I've found out from my grandad and Geoff
were more negative things about the East End,
like the poor housing conditions and bad conditions for the dockers.
Before, I'd been told stuff like The Swinging '60s,
and they made me think differently from that.
Ann and Debbie, they told me a lot more positive things,
like helping out to look after children for free,
like setting up a dockers fund...just to help the community.
They are forgetting some of the negative things,
but I do believe that the community was close
and people did a lot of things for each other.
Woman of 1950.
What does it mean in 20th-century Britain to be a woman?
Can she develop her individual talents?
Can she help to create the kind of society she wants?
Or does she still look upon marriage
as the sole purpose of her existence?
After the war, the British economy required women to work
in low and semi-skilled jobs due to the boom in British manufacturing.
However, for most women in the 1950s
the role of homemaker and mother
ranked higher than that of career woman.
Amba's 15 and from Isleworth in West London.
BIG BAND MUSIC
I've learnt about women
and what their lives were like during this period,
but I'd like to learn more about their work.
I'd like to start by speaking to my great-grandmother, Betty,
about how she lived during this time.
# Straighten up and fly right!
# Straighten up and fly right! #
Betty Dodd was born in 1921.
She left school at 14 and worked almost continuously
until she was 55 in two processed-food factories.
-I was about 15.
-Oh, my age.
-15, yeah. Yeah, about your age, yeah.
-Imagine me working in a factory!
That's where we done the cheeses, little portions of cheeses.
Oh, and we done salad cream there as well, I'd forgot about that.
We done salad cream.
Yeah. And you had to be very quick at it or the bottles used to break.
They were all friends there.
You got a little bit more money than what you did in a shop.
What did you make in the Wall's factory?
Erm...in Wall's, we done sausages and bacon...pies.
We weighed them and then scaled 'em, linked 'em,
and then, you know, wrapped 'em up.
When Betty married at 17 in 1938,
she continued to work full-time.
She returned to work part-time in 1947,
when her son was five years old.
We wanted things for the home,
so I went to work to get a little bit extra for the home.
What was the biggest thing you bought with your money that you earnt?
Well, it was like washing machines and...fridges and that,
cos they were very expensive in those days.
They were like an electric washing machine,
but then they had a wringer and you had to wring that by hand.
Then it'd go in the sink and you had to rinse it. Yeah.
We both sort of helped to pay for the car.
Did you purchase it from hire purchase?
No, cos we didn't believe in...getting in debt.
So we used to save up and then buy it.
Why did you choose to go part-time?
Well, it was handy for me,
cos him going to school and then I was home when he come home.
Hm. I didn't want to work full-time, it was too much,
looking after a house... and a family.
Did you get paid the same as the men?
No. Men got a little bit more than what women did.
Do you think that was fair?
That was the way it was in those days, yes.
BIG BAND MUSIC
Amba wants to know how typical her nan's experiences were,
and is meeting a specialist in women's studies, Dr Claire Langhamer.
For most women, the expectation was
that they would work once they left school for a period of time,
but then they would marry, have a family,
and that that would be their primary job.
So, as you say, your nan thinking that her job was being a housewife,
-a housewife and a mother.
I think that was the expectation.
And that doesn't mean that they didn't work outside the home,
as your nan's experience shows,
but that that was something they did to benefit the family.
Amba's interested to know about the challenges faced by women wanting a career,
so she's going to see 82-year-old Patricia Barrett,
who left school to work as a clerk in a city bank
and chose not to marry.
I really wanted to be an architect,
but my father was all for having a safe job for his daughter,
because he had come through the depression years
when lots of people lost their jobs and he kept his.
And so he felt that to go into a similar bank to the one he was in,
would be much better for me.
-Did you stay in banking?
-Yes, for 34-and-a-half years.
-Was that what you'd wanted to do or was that just...?
Well, it became so. You got used to it
and felt that perhaps the aspirations to be an architect receded,
but it took a bit of time.
When you're not very happy you think, "Well, never mind,
"when I get out I'm going to play tennis or be on the river."
So you thought about that when you were filing or doing something boring.
Were married women treated any differently to single women
in the bank where you worked?
Yes, they most certainly were,
because once they went away to get married,
they either resigned or they were re-employed on a temporary basis.
I stressed to the management that I was making it a career
-and it wasn't just filling in time.
I mean, by then they must have realised
I wasn't going to go away and get married.
But, even so, I didn't want to have a sort of dead-end job,
I wanted to...well, ascend the ladder, however high I could get.
Though Patricia did ascend the ladder
to become a section head within the bank's securities department,
her gender caused her to be overlooked for foreign postings.
This is a garden party...for the Mercantile Bank,
which was my first bank.
There were wives and children, as you see,
and the building in the background was actually a rather posh hostel
for all these young men who were going east.
And so they had, you know, they'd come from different parts of the country,
they could stay there.
And so they had grounds. There we were, that's me.
-There's my best summer frock!
They had to be trained in London and then they had to do their banker's exams,
which the girls didn't have to do, it was not a compulsory bit.
I cheerfully thought, "I'll be doing my banker's exams!"
But I was told not to worry about that and so I never did.
Did men get paid the same amount?
No, it was not equal pay in those days.
-Was that something you were upset about?
No, you accepted it, because that was the norm.
In every field...men got more than women.
-For the same job?
I think we were fairly...
Well, I think...happy with our lot, shall we say?
Women who left to have children,
was it quite difficult for them to get jobs?
It was extremely difficult for them.
In the years before the Second World War, in a lot of jobs there were
-actually formal marriage bars.
So as soon as you said, "I'm going to get married," that was it, end of your job.
And that kind of suspicion of married women
and this idea that they're just going to go off and have children
persists into the years after the Second World War.
But, as your nan's experience suggests,
-that doesn't mean that women weren't working.
But they invested different meanings in the work that they did.
And I think women were always seen as different types of workers.
I mean, Patricia's experience is a less usual experience.
Most women did marry in our period.
Some people have called it the golden age of marriage
and there was that expectation.
Then, in the early '70s, it just stops
-and the marriage rate starts declining quite rapidly.
And, I think for me, that's the key shift.
That says that you don't have to marry, you know?
And you might find all sorts of other ways of organising your life.
It was quite surprising finding out about my nan,
knowing this younger version of her was quite strange,
but it was quite good to find out about her past experiences
and things that happened to her in her lifetime.
The most surprising thing
was that women didn't stand up against anything.
It was kind of like they put their view lower down,
like it kind of wasn't about what they wanted at that time.
And I think as time progressed,
they realised that they could speak out and...campaign for change,
which they eventually did.
Britain was still in shock after the Second World War finished in 1945.
Much of the country was suffering from the effects of bombing,
food was still rationed,
and half a million men had been killed in combat.
As a result of this loss of life
there was a huge shortage of workers.
A Labour government swept to power in 1945
with a promise to rebuild the country,
and they needed immigrants to come to Britain to help.
MUSIC: "London is the Place for Me" by Lord Kitchener
Elliot is the grandchild of one of those post-war migrants.
He's 15 and lives in London.
It's always good speaking to old people
because they always have interesting stories in their life.
When my grandma tells me stories about their life together,
it makes me want to ask questions to my grandad as well.
Elliot's Grandfather Philip arrived in London in 1949.
Unlike the majority of newcomers, he stowed away on a ship from Ghana
in West Africa, looking for a better life.
They're visiting London' Docklands to see if Philip can remember
the place where he arrived, 64 years ago.
All these buildings are new, all these buildings.
What was there then? Do you know?
No, it was all a big harbour, you see a lot of ships.
Before we landed, in the night, very beautiful,
the lights, you know?
Everywhere, lights, beautiful.
Were you excited? Or nervous, or...?
Yeah, we were excited.
Although Ghana was a British colony,
and many of its citizens had been welcomed here, Philip had
travelled here illegally and on arrival, spent two weeks in prison.
Once released, he was given an identity card to help him find work.
However, even though work was plentiful,
Philip was surprised that not everyone was well off.
So you thought everyone was going to be rich when you came here?
Yeah, we saw people begging.
I went to a Tube station for the first time...
a Tube station and it was written, "Beware of pickpockets".
So I thought, "pickpockets"?
We thought, "White man don't steal," you know?!
Elliot wants to know why thousands of people left their homes
to get here. He's come to see Dr Charlotte Riley,
an expert on British post-war immigration.
What made people come to Britain?
Britain has been physically destroyed by the war.
There's been lots of bombing, it needs lots of rebuilding.
The British government tries to get people to come over to Britain
to do lots of manual labour jobs, lots of building.
Certainly people from the Caribbean were encouraged to come over
to do building work, and things like that.
The new NHS, which was set up just after the war,
that was a really big employer of people as well, so in 1949
the British Government started to do campaigns in the West Indies and
in other places around the Empire to try and get nurses to go over.
And lots of people came over for an adventure as well,
they wanted to see what Britain was like.
# Well let me tell you Ladies and gents
# I enjoyed myself to my heart's content
# I could not follow the procession
# But I was there to see the Coronation, I was there... #
Gloria Bailey was another immigrant
who arrived from Jamaica with her husband.
She became a prominent member of the local community and Elliot
wants to find out how her experience compares to his grandad's.
What did you do for work?
At first I went and got a job in a nursery,
looking after some little children.
They were all white children,
who were very petrified, wondering why we looked different.
And my husband had a job at London Transport.
What were you expecting of England, when you came?
We thought that there would be lovely houses
and the streets were all sophisticated,
but we were all rather disappointed when we came.
It took a very long time to get used to the weather.
Ages, as a matter of fact.
And the food, there wasn't much of West Indian foods at that time,
so we were chiefly eating the English food -
fish and chips was something we were very excited about.
We were quite lucky, probably because we were a couple.
But many people just came on their own, most of them men.
With the felt hats and their suits, you know?
And I've seen big men cry,
because they're not used to being on their own.
The arrivals brought with them new cultures, food and music
and helped create a rich and vibrant post-war scene.
The Notting Hill Carnival was first held in 1964,
and was based on Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century,
which celebrated the abolition of slavery.
It started with a very small number of people,
the West Indians and Africans.
People were sort of curious and even the white people were
sort of a bit nervous about going there, not knowing what to expect.
But the numbers increased over the years,
and there were so many people going there.
Everybody dressed up in their original or tribal clothing.
And more and more white people, all nationalities were uniting,
people were bringing their children there.
Britain has always had lots of people migrating to it,
so British culture has always been constantly evolving through history.
But this big influx of migration after the Second World War changed
British society quite dramatically and quite quickly in some areas.
And then that changed wider British culture, so Britain got
more interested in things like Jamaican music, or Indian food.
After ten years working in England, Philip met and fell in love
with Elliot's Grandma, June.
They've been married for 53 years,
and first met in a fish and chip shop.
When I got my cod and chips, I didn't have my money with me,
so I stood there and a voice from behind me said,
"Oh, I'll pay for you".
So when I turned round it was Opa. Well, I didn't know him then,
so I said, "Oh, no, it's all right, Oh, no."
I was quite bristly!
And he said, "No, no, it's OK", and he put the money out, you know.
And from then on, you know, we just struck up a friendship
and we just became a pair, you know.
We had a lot of difficulties, of course. Unfortunately we found
that people weren't happy to have mixed race couples in the house.
Black people had houses,
and because of the prejudice that they suffered,
they would say, no white people.
No whites, and then white people who had houses to rent
didn't want black people, so we were sort of stuck in the middle.
There was a sort of card outside
saying, "No blacks, no children, no animals".
So you were treated like dogs?
Well, you were...
Put in the same categories?
Exactly, yeah. It was very hurtful, very upsetting.
But what can you do? That was the life I chose, or we chose,
so we had to get on with it, basically.
It would be strange walking past seeing signs...
Well, yeah, it definitely would be against the law now.
Took quite a lot of courage.
I've learnt a lot of things that I didn't know before,
like they were judging them on the colour of their skins.
It's really shocking.
They grew up quite quick, I would say, actually.
Nowadays you tend to be a child a bit longer.
You don't mature as quick.
They were so brave because they put up with a lot of things.
Why would you want to travel, on a boat, to a different country,
when you're quite young, just for the adventure?
That kind of, yeah, surprised me.
On July 5th, the new National Health Service starts,
providing hospital and specialist services, medicines, drugs
and appliances, care of the teeth and eyes,
After the Second World War Britain changed dramatically,
and so did the lives of its people.
One of the most significant developments was a new
National Health Service, which began in 1948.
It meant that for the first time, anyone who was ill could be treated
for free, and the health of the nation improved dramatically.
15-year-old Kirsty from High Wycombe has good reason
to be grateful to the NHS.
It saved her life when she was rushed to hospital
with suspected meningitis.
That made me realise quite how amazing the doctors were,
so that's when I decided I wanted to be a doctor.
Kirsty wants to investigate what impact the NHS had
on people's lives.
60 years ago Eileen, Kirsty's grandmother,
owed her life to the new service.
Oh, this one is taken over at Pepwood with my mother.
To me, you look quite healthy!
Well, I don't think I've ever looked ill, when I am ill.
Back in 1952, although Eileen felt healthy,
she took up the offer of a free test
by one of the new NHS mobile X-ray units set up across Britain
to indentify individuals who were sick.
They just took a small X-ray. About a couple of weeks later,
I had a letter saying, would I attend the chest clinic
at Wycombe Hospital? That there was a shadow on my right lung.
The X-ray revealed that Eileen had TB, or tuberculosis -
a highly contagious disease that was responsible
for 10,000 deaths a year.
She was forced to spend the next six months in isolation in a sanatorium.
Many of the patients in these long-term hospitals were children
who ended up missing months, or even years of school.
Of course, once the NHS came in,
well, you didn't have to worry about paying.
So you're thankful, obviously.
Yes, I mean, I didn't have any idea when I went
that there was anything wrong with me.
Kirsty has come to meet three former nurses who worked for the new
Health Service, to find out how the NHS changed Britain.
Families were very poorly off,
because they used to save up for the doctor to come, no doubt about that.
Money was put on the shelf in the kitchen just in case
the doctor had to be called.
Prior to the Health Service, you know, some people sort of
paid in kind rather than... if they didn't have the money,
that sort of thing.
A dozen eggs, or whatever they could afford,
vegetables for the garden, all came our way.
I think vast amounts of the population fell through the net,
and were not treated, and therefore this was why
Mr Attlee decided that really, a National Health Service for all
was the one thing that he strove to produce.
The new Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, and his government
had established the NHS in the face of considerable opposition, and it
wasn't long before he too required treatment from the new service.
I nursed Clement Attlee in Amersham, he wouldn't go into a side ward.
He said, "Oh, no, I'm very pro-the Health Service!"
So this long 25-bed in Nightingale Ward, and he was about
four beds down on the right on this ward,
chatting to all the other people and so on.
He felt very strongly that he had pioneered for the NHS and he wanted
to be like every other patient, and be treated like everybody else.
Kirsty wants to find out more about life before the NHS
and has come to see medical historian Dr Carole Reeves.
So, what were people's health expectations?
Obviously, people who had money,
and they tended to be the upper class and the middle class people,
they didn't have to worry too much about being ill,
because they knew that they could always afford to pay
for doctors or hospitals.
But, if you were a working class person, it was very different.
And your expectations, generally, were quite low.
You didn't expect to feel well all of the time.
As soon as 1948 happened and the NHS happened, all the patients
who previously couldn't afford to come to the doctors
came and saw doctors or hospitals.
So were people generally grateful?
Yes, hugely grateful.
But although patients welcomed the new Health Service,
many of the doctors who were treating them
were less enthusiastic.
They thought they wouldn't get paid as much money,
because all of their patients were private and they could pretty much
charge what they liked.
So that was something they didn't want to lose.
And what the NHS said to them was, "We'll let you
"keep your private patients, and you can treat them in NHS hospitals,
"and we'll just give you some salary,
"but we won't stop you treating private patients."
So they actually did very well out of it,
and what Aneurin Bevan said, the Minister of Health at the time,
he said he was going to choke their mouths with gold,
in order for them to agree to the National Health Service.
-A bit of a bribe.
-A lot of a bribe!
The public now had access to all kinds of health professionals,
including doctors, opticians and dentists.
Kirsty is meeting Rachel Bairstow from the British Dental Association
to find out about the state of the nation's teeth in 1948.
This might be an extreme example, but we can certainly say that
people's teeth were not in a good state of repair.
Not at all!
The average person could not access dental care, prior to the NHS.
I think we can say people weren't smiling!
Ordinary people flocked to receive free dental treatment,
and the system fought to catch up on the years of neglect,
starting with false teeth.
Basically, in the first nine months of the NHS
they're making 33 million sets!
It's a lot.
I think from a service that set out to help mothers
and children, and to carry out conservation of teeth,
that's what they wanted to do, that was their ideal,
actually, they ended up treating a backlog, if you like,
of a nation's awful teeth.
And so this is really what made the NHS have to stop and say,
"We need to introduce charges".
There was always controversy,
if you like, over how that was going to work, how dentists were paid,
so these were the initial problems that the NHS had to face.
'It will be a long time before she'll need false teeth.
'Yet many children are among the people in Britain -
'nearly half the population - who do wear false teeth.'
Over the years, governments have introduced charges in the NHS,
including paying to see the dentist.
But the basic principle of the National Health Service -
that you can go and see a doctor without paying,
whenever you are ill - remains.
It was a complete change of the way people thought about themselves,
and they began to have much higher expectations of their health.
They began to demand good health, as their right,
which of course we all expect now.
I thought it was very shocking,
that before the establishment of the NHS, most people expected to be ill.
I think the government realised that there was a big issue that
needed to be sorted. I think the Prime Minister at the time was
very enthusiastic, pushed it through, and so did Bevan.
People today do criticise the NHS,
but I think that they need to look at what happened before.
Yes, they do have to pay for it in taxes,
and it's not the quickest thing, but overall,
you're getting treated when you need to get treated.
I really realise now quite how lucky Grandma was
that she had TB after the NHS was established.
She might not have been able to afford the treatment before the NHS.
It's really made me want to fight for being a doctor.
During the Second World War,
coal production was crucial to the war effort.
High demand continued after the war, when coal supplied both
Britain's re-emerging industries and people's homes.
In 1947, when the Labour government
nationalised 800 private coal companies
to create a state-owned industry,
miners hoped they'd finally be safer, better paid
and more secure in their jobs.
But the boom wasn't to last.
The 1960s saw the start of the gradual shutdown
of Britain's mining industry.
15-year-old Sophie from York has a particular reason to want to know
about this boom, and later decline.
My grandpa, Roger Hampson, was an industrial artist
in the post-war period, painting pits and mills.
I'm interested to find out more about what was inspiring his work
and what happened to the pits after he finished painting.
Roger Hampson is part of the Northern school of British painters,
who were inspired by LS Lowry.
He captured a way of life that by the 1960s was slowly dying.
Sophie never knew her grandad,
so she's meeting art historian Peter Davies, who did.
How was he affected by the area that he grew up in?
When you look at the artists from this area,
who were all working after the war, in the shadow of LS Lowry,
they all pursued that industrial landscape as a theme
because it was true to them, it's what they had grown up with
and it was the immediate environment.
And despite the kind of poverty, there was a kind of beauty there,
you know, wild beauty.
This kind of amazing industrial architecture of the colliery,
and the structure silhouetted against the sky,
it's almost like an industrial cathedral.
He definitely has a strong connection and respect for the miners
and the industry that's happening at the time, I'd say.
Do you think these paintings are good at reminding people of a time
like that, then, in the 20th century?
I think it's a very faithful documentary recording
of the visual beauty of this environment
and the people that were conditioned by that environment.
Sophie has come to Tyldesley, a former cotton and mining town
where her grandad was born.
She's visiting Burt Wilcox, who first went down a mine in 1951,
at her age.
Coal seam would have been a yard high, about that high.
It were on your shoulder, and you had ten yards of that to get out.
When Burt worked underground,
controlled explosions were used to extract coal from the seam.
And I used to go in, make myself as small as a mouse.
It'd fall, whoosh, and it'd nearly blow your face.
Terrible, and I dream about that yet.
And waking up, sweating.
That was a miner.
Burt left mining in 1962.
Shortly after, the local pits began to close.
So, how is it different now in Tyldesley, to how it was?
It was a really nice place.
It's a shame, really, Tyldesley - everybody knew one another.
If you worked down the colliery, you knew everybody.
There were 500 people, you knew them all.
You know, because you saw them every day, you went down the shaft
with them, have a break and come up the shaft with them every day.
You know, like, you go in a pub, any pub you went to,
"Aye, aye, Burt." "You all right?"
"Having a drink?" "Yes."
You were made welcome. Even strangers were made welcome.
There's not now, nobody goes out.
Every club's closed, even Tory club's closed!
Since Roger Hampson's day, all the mines and cotton mills
have gone, along with the communities that surrounded them.
You could stand in the middle of my allotment
and count about 23 big tall chimneys,
there were factories, coal mines, engineering, brick works, the lot.
What is there today? Nothing. Only trees and grass.
Would you rather be surrounded by the factories, then?
No, but I'd rather be surrounded by people working!
Sophie wants to find out whether the experience
in the northern mining communities is typical.
She meets with historian Selina Todd.
For people in the 1950s, looking back to the 1930s,
the '30s were a decade of poverty, of mass unemployment,
of hunger, of uncertainty.
And the 1950s and the 1960s,
in contrast to that, were a period of great prosperity.
That said, life didn't change all that much for everybody.
And the kind of improvement that Macmillan's speech was
alluding to - all the "never had it so good",
and the kind of images of the motorcar for every family
and new fashions and so on - many of those innovations
were confined to towns and cities in south-east England.
Which then, as now, were far more prosperous than the cities and towns
in the north that were reliant on old industries, like coal.
So it was certainly still a very divided country
in the 1950s and the 1960s.
A few miles from Tyldesley was the Astley Green colliery.
The workforce fought to keep the pit open
but found it impossible to meet the production targets
imposed by the National Coal Board, and it was eventually closed.
Sophie's speaking to mechanic Cliff Graham,
who serviced the steam engine which produced the power that
brought the coal and men up from the ground.
So I've got a picture with me, of my grandpa,
and he's actually drawing the colliery.
And the caption says that it's under threat of being closed.
So do you remember when this was?
They were closing it in the end of 1969 but we were reprieved
for six months, on a target which we couldn't reach,
and they closed it in 1970.
What exactly was it that you did, working here at the mine?
I was a colliery mechanic.
I used to service all the machinery, on the surface and underground.
A lot of the collieries in the Manchester area were still steam.
I still love steam.
Was it a good job, did you enjoy it?
I thought it was, it was interesting.
There was always a variety, and you were never in the same place twice.
And I used to like it.
Most of the local mines were closed in the '60s and '70s.
Dr Stephen Catterall has researched the reasons behind the closures
in South Lancashire.
The colliery was closed because it didn't meet its targets.
Do you think this was the right decision to make?
I think that the government could have done a lot more
in the 1950s and '60s than they did.
The government was wedded to two ideas -
one was for mines to be profitable,
and also this idea of modernisation was never fulfilled in these areas.
So it talked about bringing industry into this area,
both parties did, both Labour and Conservative,
but it never actually came to fruition, never happened.
So with coal production declining, Britain was reliant on imported oil.
This left the UK vulnerable
when oil-producing countries greatly increased the cost of oil in 1974.
By the 1970s, that idea of "we've never had it so good"
begins to fall apart completely.
Overseas competition becomes a much bigger factor.
Countries like Germany are forging ahead, and so when the crunch came
in the early 1970s, there was really nothing for British industry
to fall back on because they hadn't really undertaken any innovation.
And British industry, ordinary British workers,
really suffer as a result.
There was such a strong community there,
and they all did lots of things together,
and even though I wasn't there at the time, just from speaking
to people who were, you really do feel that sense of community.
From going to the places my grandpa lived and seeing what he saw,
I feel like I can relate more with his paintings and see why
he chose to paint certain streets, and certain subjects...
..how the industry closing down affected the miners
and the community around here.
It's not something I'd learnt before.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.