Aylesbury in the 1970s - 'The coming of space age Aylesbury'

Revelers take to the streets to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 in Bedgrove, Aylesbury
Revelers take to the streets to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 in Bedgrove, Aylesbury

As Aylesbury moved out of the 1960s, the sleepy market town underwent a 240-volt surge of development, as new, imposing structures and styles of architectures sprang up around the town.

The Bucks Herald promised ‘The Coming of Space Age Aylesbury to what was always the old-world centre of a small country town’ – as to whether these space age developments were a success or not, we’ll let you be the judge.

The 'Space Age' Friars Shopping Centre

The 'Space Age' Friars Shopping Centre

Aylesbury found itself at the vanguard of development, as old, iconic buildings were knocked down in favour of high tech, modern ones which earned the town its fame, or perhaps infamy according to some who regretted the huge changes that were taking place.

The imposing, brutal developments led Aylesbury to be chosen as a filming location for Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian masterpiece ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
So, let’s reflect on an interesting decade for the town.

News Events
-Aylesbury hit the streets to celebrate Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee in 1977, with huge street parties popping up all over the town where neighbours shared tea, cakes and dinner to celebrate.

-Fire swept through the 18th Century Crown Court buildings and the meeting chamber of Bucks County Council in the Centre of Aylesbury one Saturday morning in February 1970. The Bucks Herald reported that it was ‘One of the worst fires I had ever seen, and possibly one of the worst ever in the town centre.’ At one time fire crews were pumping between 800 and 900 gallons of water a minute on to the blaze which took much of the day to bring under control and dampen down. Later the same day an 18 year old youth appeared before local magistrates charged with Arson.

Bull's Head Hotel

Bull's Head Hotel

-In September 1970 the iconic Bull’s Head hotel off Market Square was flattened, with the site behind it cleared to make way for a Multi Story Car park.

-The first RAF Halton show took place in August 1971, with more than 5,000 attending and raising more than £1,500 – such was its success, it was made into an annual event.

- A whole section of Southern Road in Aylesbury was in danger of being destroyed by fire when thousands of pounds’ worth of damage was caused in March 1976 to Elm Engineering ltd.

-Hundreds of hedge, gorse and grass fires swept the Vale of Aylesbury during the drought conditions which came with the heat wave of the summer of 1976.

Forest fires swept through Aylesbury vale in 1977, during drought conditions

Forest fires swept through Aylesbury vale in 1977, during drought conditions

A time of protest!

-People were taking to the streets of Aylesbury in the 1970s to protest and make their opinions known.

-In June 1971 120 members of the ‘Stop the 11 Plus’ took to the street to protest and demand the introduction of comprehensive education throughout Bucks and handed in a petition containing 8,263 signatures.

- Six months later, Aylesbury College Students voiced their protests over government plans to re organise student grants.

- In June 1974 nearly 200 off duty nurses from five local hospitals marched through Market Square protesting over pay and working conditions.

-Threatened cuts to education spending in 1977 bought hundreds of teachers out to protest at a mass rally held in Market Square in February of that year.

-Aylesbury’s Fire service in 1977 went on strike over a 30% pay claim, in a sometimes bitter dispute.

-Huge protests surrounded plans to build a third London Airport in leafy Buckinghamshire. The Wing Airport Resistance Association collected more than 62,000 signatures

Famous faces

- More than 3,000 people turned up for the first event of its kind in Aylesbury, a rock festival held at Rabans Lane which has since become an industrial estate on the outskirts of the town, named Rabans Rock, held in 1973.
John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett performed, and it was organised by David Stopps.

- Controversy, however, struck the festival as headliners The Wombles mimed to their records, and who only performed for a short time.
-Monty Python star John Cleese made a surprise appearance in Aylesbury in 1974, where he mingled with villagers as he shot the scenes for a Skol Lager advert.

-Michael Parkinson joined the Any Questions? panel at Stoke Mandeville in 1974.
In 1978, more than 12,000 people crowded into Market Square to see local legend and former bin man John Otway perform Cor Baby.

- Halton House hosted then Prime Minister James Callaghan and President Giscard de’Estaing of France in December 1977 for a press conference.