It was a year of social unrest, high inflation, patriotism and punk rock. It was also the year that John McCarthy and Bill Stone built their first retirement apartments. As McCarthy & Stone celebrates its 40th anniversary, we take a look back at the highs and lows of 1977.
On 7 June 1977, more than one million people lined the streets of London to watch the Royal Family on their way to St Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving. All around the country, too, on that day there were local parades and street parties (4,000 were held in London alone) to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
But that evening, a band called Sex Pistols set sail on the River Thames in a boat, aptly named the Queen Elizabeth, to play their anti-monarchy song, God Save the Queen. The performance ended in chaos and arrests, but the point had been made: 1977 was the year patriotism and punk collided head on – and the banned single made it to number 2 in the official UK chart.
For others who weren’t feeling particularly patriotic either, 1977 didn’t seem to offer many reasons to celebrate. High unemployment coincided with high inflation (reaching 15.8 per cent) and strikes were rife, including the first-ever UK-wide strike by firefighters. The country was plunged into a national emergency, with the armed forces and Green Goddess fire engines called in.
1977 was also the year that saw the deaths of Elvis Presley and Marc Bolan. But there was some cause for optimism. Virginia Wade won at Wimbledon and a film called Star Wars transported moviegoers to a galaxy far, far away...
More importantly, the economy began to show signs of recovery and, although the game-changing 'Right to Buy scheme' wouldn’t come into force for three years, more and more British people aspired to own their homes. The National Dwelling and Household Survey found greater satisfaction among owner-occupiers than council tenants, and Labour housing minister Peter Shore endorsed home ownership as ‘a strong and natural desire’ which ‘should be met’.
Meanwhile, in Hampshire, John McCarthy and Bill Stone were pioneering the concept of private retirement housing. When their first purpose-built development, Waverley House in New Milton, sold out off-plan, it seemed as if they might be on to something...
Forty years, and more than 1,100 retirement developments later, McCarthy & Stone is still going strong – and so, thankfully, is the Queen, although the same can’t be said for punk, which soon died out.
The only cultural phenomenon of 1977 that has stood the test of time is the Star Wars franchise, now also in its 40th year. May the Force be with you!
Photos: Mirrorpix, Rex.