Tony Hancock

His hugely successful radio series was transferred to television in 1956 and was an unparalleled success. 'The Lad Himself' had the ability to empty pubs, clubs and theatres on the nights that his shows were broadcast. A complicated and insecure character in real life he gradually divested himself of all the elements of his success one by one; his radio and TV partner Sid James and finally, and fatefully his scriptwriters Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. In the 1960s having never achieved the true international fame he desired, Hancock took his own life in a hotel room in Australia.


Harold MacMillan

- nicknamed 'Supermac' known for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability, was Conservative Prime Minister of Britain from 1957 to 1963. Haunted by memories of the Great Depression, he championed a strategy of public investment to maintain demand, winning a second term in 1959 on an electioneering budget. Benefiting from favourable international conditions, he presided over an age of affluence, marked by low unemployment and high growth. In his Bedford speech of July 1957 he told the nation they had 'never had it so good.'


Tommy Steele

The Bermondsey born entertainer was performing in the famous The 2i's Coffee Bar in London's Soho when he was discovered by free a lance photographer who believed Tommy could be Britain's answer to Elvis Presley. He quickly shot to fame in the UK after his first single, "Rock With The Caveman," reached number 13 in 1956. His next three singles were issued at a rate of one every three weeks and by 1957 he was able to buy his parents a four-bedroomed house. Movies and theatre followed including a role on Broadway. In late 2009 his greatest hits collection reached the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart.


Norman Wisdom

Best known for a series of comedy films produced between 1953 and 1966 featuring his hapless onscreen character Norman Pitkin, Norman's films initially made more money than the James Bond film series and secured him celebrity status in lands as far apart as South America, Iran and many Eastern Bloc countries, particularly in Albania where he was the only Western actor to enjoy this privilege. Charlie Chaplin famously referred to Wisdom as his "favourite clown". 


Robin Hood

- enthralled a generation of children and spawned a number of imitations such as The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Sir Francis Drake and The Adventures of William Tell. The series was also significant in being the first commissioned programme for the new independent television company ITC. Richard Greene starred as the legendary 12th century outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and for television audiences of the 1950's, his incarnation of the legendary hero proved to be the definitive portrayal. 


Diana Dors

- was promoted as "The English Marilyn Monroe" and became the quintessential 1950s blonde bombshell, English style. She was described as "The only sex symbol Britain has produced since Lady Godiva." Dors was much more than a sex symbol, though, and continued to work long after her sex-symbol appeal had gone. On May 4th 1984 this much-loved British actress passed away at the youthful age of 53. A tribute to Diana Dors, "Good Day", written after her death by Ray Davies, is included on the Kinks Word Of Mouth album.


Donald Campbell

- was a British speed record breaker who broke eight world speed records in the 1950s and 1960s. He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year. The son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, holder of 13 world speed records in the famous Bluebird cars and boats, Campbell began his speed record attempts using his father's old boat Bluebird K4, but after a structural failure at 170 mph on Coniston Water, Lancashire in 1951, he developed a new boat and broke his first world water speed record in 1955.  


Tommy Trinder

- was a fast-talking and quick-witted stand up comedian. His catch phrases, 'You lucky people!' and 'If it's laughter you're after, Trinder's the name', combined with his trademark trilby hat, leering smile and wagging finger were recognised throughout Britain. In 1955, he became the first compere for the new ITV television programme Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Trinder was a lifelong devoted supporter of Fulham Football Club and was chairman of the club between 1959 and 1976. Always a favourite with the Royal family (he made six appearances in Royal Variety Performances between 1945 and 1980), he was awarded a CBE in 1975.


Roger Bannister

- became the first person in history to run a mile in under 4 minutes. This happened on 6 May 1954 during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford. Two other runners, Brasher and Chataway, provided pacing while completing the race. Both went on to establish their own track careers. The race was broadcast live by BBC Radio and commented on by Harold Abrahams, of Chariots of Fire fame. The stadium announcer for the race was Norris McWhirter, who went on to publish and edit the Guinness Book of Records.


The Beverley Sisters

- signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1951 that helped them become the highest paid female act in the UK. They were the first British female group to break into the US top 10 and enjoyed chart success with Christmas records like Little Drummer Boy and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and were at the forefront of the television revolution. Joy married Billy Wright, then captain of the England football team, in 1958 and they were the 'Posh and Becks' of the day.


Mr Pastry

- was one of the first exponents of children's TV comedy when it was still in its infancy in the early fifties. The comedic creation of actor/acrobat/dancer/producer and writer Richard Hearne, Pastry was a madcap, bowler-hatted clown complete with walrus moustache and flapping coat-tails. His act first appeared on the US Ed Sullivan Show in 1954, and thereafter Hearne appeared on the show frequently. In 1963 Hearne became President of the Lord's Taverners charity and he subsequently raised money for hundreds of hydrotherapy pools. In 1970 he was awarded the OBE for his charitable work. 



- was a distinctive English comic actor. He was famous for his portrayal of disreputable members of the upper classes, especially cads, with the trademark gap in his front teeth, cigarette holder, smoking jacket, and catch-phrases such as "Good show!" and "Hard cheese." It was the Boultings who encouraged Terry-Thomas to develop a screen persona, as the blustering Major Hitchcock in Private's Progress (1956) and its sequel I'm All Right Jack (1959), whose exasperated harangue, "You're an absolute shower!" became a national catch-phrase.  


Lonnie Donegan

- had possibly the largest influence on generations of British musicians. The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums states Donegan was "Britain's most successful and influential recording artist before The Beatles" chalking up 24 successive Top 30 hits, and the first UK male to score two U.S. Top 10s. With a washboard, a tea-chest bass and a cheap Spanish guitar, Donegan entertained audiences with folk and blues songs. Encouraged amateurs made their own home-made musical instruments, and one of the many skiffle groups that followed was The Quarrymen formed in March 1957 by John Lennon.  


Billy Bunter

- was an oversized schoolboy who attended Greyfriars School and often got involved in a number of comic misadventures. The TV shows were performed live twice a night from 1952 to 1961 and made a star of lead actor Gerald Campion (who was 29 at the time), but not as big a star as one of his schoolboy tormentors, namely, Michael Crawford. The series gave rise to two catchphrases; "Yaroo" and "Oh, Crikey!" Well, it was the fifties!  


Ruth Ellis

- was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom. She was convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely, and hanged at Holloway Prison, London, by Albert Pierrepoint in July 1955. The case caused widespread controversy at the time, evoking exceptionally intense press and public interest to the point that it was discussed by the Cabinet. A petition to the Home Office asking for clemency was signed by 50,000 people, but was rejected. The hanging helped strengthen public support for the abolition of the death penalty.


Billy Wright

- was the first football player in the world to earn 100 caps, Wright also holds the record for longest unbroken run in competitive international football; he made a total of 105 appearances for England, captaining them a record 90 times. Wright was a minor media personality, and his marriage to Joy Beverley of the Beverley Sisters (at a time long before the era of footballers being known for having celebrity girlfriends) was one of the most successful showbiz marriages.


Dan Dare

- created by illustrator Frank Hampson, appeared in the Eagle comic story Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future in 1950. The stories were set in the late 1990s but the dialogue and manner of the characters is reminiscent of British war films of the 1950s. Characters inspired by or based on Dan Dare have appeared throughout British popular culture. Dare and his arch-nemesis the Mekon enjoyed enormous popularity due in the most part to the ground-breaking full-colour animation-style illustrations produced by Frank Hampson and his team of artists, the likes of which had never been seen in a weekly publication in Britain before.  


Andy Pandy

- was first seen in 1950 as part of the children's television strand Watch With Mother. Andy Pandy, with his blue and white striped suit and floppy hat, was the creation of schoolteacher Maria Bird. The first four episodes were shown purely as an experiment, after which the corporation invited viewers to express their opinion before going into full production with a series. The puppet lived in a picnic basket and was accompanied by Teddy and Looby Loo.


Stanley Matthews

- often regarded as one of the greatest players of the English game, is the only player to have been knighted while still playing, as well as being the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year awards. Matthews' nicknames included 'The Wizard of the Dribble' and 'The Magician.' A vegetarian teetotaller, he kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old. The 1953 FA Cup Final, for which he won a winners medal is referred to as 'The Matthews Final.'  


The Goon Show

- was a British radio show that started in 1951 and ran until 1960. It changed the face of British comedy and still maintains its influence to this day. The Goons, who included Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe took Britain by storm with their surreal storylines, absurd logic, puns, catchphrases and ground-breaking sound effects. More than sixty years on episodes are still repeated around the world.