From the Swinging 60s to the “Me Decade” of the 1970s, London moved into a decade that was a mixed bag of new places to visit, changes in the city’s government, and housing estates rising into the sky. The period from 1971 to 1980 was also marked by a wave of new violence from the Irish Republican Army. However, as London had proved so many times before, nothing can keep the city down and the 70s still provided a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future. We have outlined ten of the most important events in the 1970s, one for each year, and if you think we left something out, let us know in the comments.
1971 – HMS Belfast Opens as Museum Ship
After serving the Royal Navy for nearly 30 years, the HMS Belfast was moored along the Thames and became a ship museum dedicated to teaching the public about her history and how sailors lived. After the government refused an offer to preserve it, it was purchased by the Belfast Trust and converted to a museum. The Trust ran it until 1978 when the HMS Belfast became part of the Imperial War Museums.
1972 – London’s First Official Gay Pride March
Today known as Pride in London, the city’s first official Gay Pride parade took place on July 1, 1972. The date was chosen as being the closest to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York from June 28 to July 3, 1969. Over 2,000 people participated and London Pride was born.
1973 – IRA Bombing Campaign Begins
On March 8, 1973, a new campaign of violence began when the IRA detonated four car bombs in London. Two were exploded in the center of London, another at the Old Bailey, and the fourth near Whitehall. It was the first salvo in a bombing campaign that began in earnest in August, with Harrods, the London Stock Exchange, and Old Quebec Street as targets. For the rest of the decades, IRA bombings became a regular occurrence in the city.
1974 – Thames Water Established
Under the Water Act 1973, the Metropolitan Water Board and Thames Conservancy were brought under the control of the Thames Water Authority along with several other water boards that were traditionally outside the traditional boundaries of the city. Today, Thames Water remains responsible for London’s water and sewer utilities.
1975 – Southwark Towers Built
Southwark Towers served as the head office building of Price Waterhouse when it opened in 1975. At the time, there was a bit of a scandal involving the building’s developer and PW who served as the developer’s auditors. In 2008, Southwark Towers was demolished to make room for the construction of the Shard which stands on the site today.
1976 – National Theater Opens
The National Theater was opened in 1963 by Sir Laurence Olivier but found its current home in 1976 in Southbank. Designed by Sir Denys Lasden, the building partially opened that year but the National Theater Company remained in the Old Vic until the new building was fully ready in 1977. The theater’s main building is named for Olivier.
1977 – Greater London Council Election
Like most parts of the United Kingdom in 1977, the Greater London Council Election had the effect of giving the city a majority Conservative government. The GLC under Horace Cutler as its leader cut spending, sold off public housing, and essentially ignored the needs of London Transport. Cutler resigned in 1980, by which point the Labour Party contingent in the GLC had developed significant support and won the majority back in 1981 with Ken Livingstone as its leader until the Thatcher government abolished the GLC in 1986.
1978 – Alexandra Road and Branch Hill Estates Built
Perhaps some of the most interesting examples of modern architectural housing in London, the Alexandra Road, and Branch Hill estates both opened in 1978. The ziggurat terraces were a replacement for the tower blocks that had become prevalent post-war and over time have become iconic, with both Alexandra Road and Branch Hill receiving Grade II listed status.
1979 – Jubilee Line Opens
The Jubilee Line is the youngest line in the London Underground Network, which certainly seems like something considering it’s now 42 years old. Originally conceived as the Fleet Line post-war, it was named after Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.
1980 – London Transport Museum Opens
Based in Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum is dedicated to the history of how people have moved through the city. Formerly the home of a fruit, vegetable, and flower market, the building was taken over by the museum in 1980. Everything you would ever want to learn about the busses, Underground trains, and everything in-between can be found here.