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12 Photos That Reveal The British Class System In The 1970s And 1980s

Photographer Homer Sykes explores British society across the years.

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Homer Sykes has documented Britain's social structure over the past 40 years. From cheese fondue parties in London, to miners showering in Yorkshire, Sykes reveals the breadth of class backgrounds in the 1970s and '80s.

Here the photographer talks BuzzFeed through some of his favourite historical pictures, featured in his book England the Way We Were.

"A smartly dressed young couple doing the funky chicken dance, twisting the night away at Berkeley Square Ball, London 1981. During the 1980s the annual charity Berkeley Square Ball was one of the many highlights of the English social summer season. The garden square in central London was transformed for one night of revelry and serious partying by the would-be great and the good, but in fact frequented by local estate agents, Sloanes and rahs, and out-of-town moneyed wannabes, who were still dancing to Chubby Checker's 1961 smash hit, "Let’s Twist Again" … like we did last summer. The Berkeley Square Ball was dropped from the social calendar in the late 1980s. "

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"The Industrial Revolution brought about the opening of the South Kirkby Colliery in Yorkshire in 1881. During its heyday, nearly 3,000 workers were housed in the colliery village. The miners' strike of 1984 did not prevent the closure of the coal mine in 1988. The area has now been completely transformed into an anonymous housing estate, where there is almost nothing to remind the present or future generation of residents of the great coal mining heritage of this area.

"These photographs were commissioned by the left-wing French weekly publication Libération in 1979, for a story about the mining community in Yorkshire, which was under threat 10 years before its final demise.

"Miners Dave Bennett and Ernie Moore in their changing room at the end of an underground shift, they undress out of their working clothes before taking a communal shower. You can see that they are underground workers as their faces are black with coal dust."

"A day at the races at the Derby Horse Race, Epsom Downs, in Surrey, England, 1970."

"Photographed in 1979, Tommy, a retired miner, rents land from the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] for his pig smallholding. He was a bandsman at nearby Hemsworth Colliery. Bandsmen were labourers working underground who worked with a band of men."

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"An older woman in her living room with her head in her hands at Peabody Housing Estate. These slum, crumbling blocks of flats were beginning to be torn down during the mid-1970s. A local resident in her living room covers her eyes, head in hand, exhausted after a hard day's work.

"She is wearing a typical 1970s ‘housecoat’, an overall that covered ‘best’ clothes and was often worn rather than an apron for housework. Yesterday's empty glass pint milk bottle and today's fresh pinta stand on the crowded table while the tea brews. On the walls of her room are photographs of her daughter's wedding and a large framed heart-shaped decoration, reminding her that she is always loved."

"A cheese fondue party in suburban Southfields, Wimbledon, in 1980. Cheese fondue parties were very popular amongst the aspiring middle class of the time. This group all went on to become successful lawyers, bankers, and bursars."

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"A Socialist Workers Party member breaks through a police cordon and tries to attack members of the National Front, a far-right political group. The so-called Battle of Lewisham took place on 13 August 1977, when 500 members of the National Front marched from New Cross to Lewisham in southeast London. Various counter-demonstrations by approximately 4,000 people led to violent clashes between the two groups and between the anti-NF demonstrators and police. Five-thousand police officers were present and 56 officers were injured, 11 of whom were hospitalised. Two-hundred-and-fourteen people were arrested for obstructing the police, threatening behaviour, assault, possession of an offensive weapon, and throwing missiles. Later disturbances in Lewisham town centre saw the first use of police riot shields on the UK mainland.

"The above photograph was exhibited at the Photographers' Gallery and the protester pictured introduced himself and bought a print. I want to say to him: If you're out there, get in touch, as I would like to add your name to the caption, if that's OK. And the policeman too."

"Back-to-back terraced miners cottages was typical housing in the mining village of South Kirkby Colliery, Yorkshire in 1979. One of the perks of being a coal miner was an entitlement to a small free supply of coal, which has just been delivered. "

"The Warwick Hunt Ball held at Tysoe Manor in Tysoe, Warwickshire, England. 1982. "

"Three miners queue up at the Concessionary Fuel Office while two drink a cup of tea in the miners' canteen in South Kirkby Colliery, Yorkshire, England, 1979."

"Irish construction workers at the top of and working on a Nine Elms tower block with Vauxhall Cross below them, south London skyline looking east in 1974."

"Unemployed men at the job centre at the Labour Exchange in south London in 1976."


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