More than 26 million households in Britain today have a TV (according to statistics from Statista); in post-war Britain, this was a very different story - just 15,000 households in the UK had a black-and-white television. They were a luxury for many, and only really became widespread in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

[caption id="attachment_730" align="aligncenter" width="301"]bbc bat - first television symbol The “Television Symbol” (informally referred to as the “Bats Wings”) was the first BBC Television Service ident and it was used from 1953 to 1961.[/caption]

A Decade of Television Firsts

Interestingly, the first ever colour TV broadcast was the 1967 Wimbledon Tennis Championships on BBC2. This may not seem particularly significant today, but in 1967 it was a momentous moment.

Since not everyone had a colour television set at this time (around 1,500 households had a colour set, compared to 15 million with a black-and-white one), only the wealthiest, on-trend British families could enjoy the bright greens and whites of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. That is, at least, except one Londoner, who complained to the BBC that his first experience of television in colour was from a shop window close to his bus stop – he was so enthralled by it, that he missed his bus!

wimbledon in colour 1967

It was Sir. David Attenborough, BBC2’s controller at the time, who first sold the dream of colour TV for the masses in 1967 to his superiors. Half a century later in 2017, the BBC served 24.1 million stream requests during Wimbledon via BBC Sport and BBC iPlayer, making it the most steamed Wimbledon to date, though the number of people tuning in to watch Wimbledon this year is expected to exceed this.

After the official launch of colour transmissions on the 1st of July 1967, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV were all regularly broadcasting in colour. It was not until 1976, however, that colour TVs outnumbered black-and-white sets in the UK.

1969-Thunderbirds TV

The UK’s First Colour Advert on TV

Thunderbirds was the first programme to feature a colour TV advertisement in the UK in 1969. The advert was for Birds Eye frozen peas, and the slot for it reportedly cost Unilever (who owned the frozen-foods company) just £23. Suddenly frozen peas went from grey to green, and, at least for the few, television became much more exciting!


[caption id="attachment_733" align="aligncenter" width="640"]birds eye 1969 Birds Eye frozen peas ad, 1969[/caption]

Televisions in the Home Today

When TVs were first introduced into the home, they were designed as domestic furniture, often encased in wood frames to match your mahogany sideboard (if you could afford it). They usually found their place in the living room, but today, TVs can be found in any room in the home (even the bathroom!)…

Rather than taking pride of place in the living room in a bulky wooden frame to entertain the family and impress guests, today, TVs are much more likely to be thin and inconspicuous. Some TVs, such as our bathroom mirror TV range, seemingly appear out of nowhere with the click of a button, offering you a truly futuristic experience.

What do you think about the history of television in the UK? Do you remember black and white televisions? Tell us your earliest memories of TV in the British home in the comments below!