Elizabeth II began her reign in an age of austerity which those living in the second decade of the 21st century would have found quite unbelievable.

Things we now find commonplace – television, foreign holidays, central heating – would have been regarded as the height of luxury in 1952.

Britain may have won the Second World War but the conflict had brought the country to its knees. The Korean war raged, the Cold War went on and Britain, in late 1952, tested its first atomic bomb.

Before the country could be lifted from its drabness by the pomp and pageantry of the televised Coronation, there were devastating storms in February 1953 which claimed hundreds of lives on Britain’s east coast.

As the decade went on, more and more people bought sets, ITV started and TV performers replaced film stars as the great celebrities of the day. Some of the small-screen stars would have looked out of place today, but were nevertheless popular.

One such was Gilbert Harding – grumpy, ordinary-looking but hardly ever off the television.

If TV kept the masses happy in the 1950s, so did sport.

Coronation year saw soccer wizard Stanley Matthews finally gain an FA Cup winner’s medal, while jockey Sir Gordon Richards won the Derby at last. In May 1954, a 25-year-old medical student, Roger Bannister, became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, while in 1958 Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first world motor racing champion.

England had a decent cricket team in the 1950s, with players like Peter May, Colin Cowdrey and Yorkshire’s Len Hutton, Jim Laker and Fred Trueman.

In football, success at World Cups still eluded England, but a great club side emerged in the shape of Matt Busby’s young Manchester United. Tragically, many of these wonderful young players lost their lives in the 1958 Munich disaster when United’s plane crashed.

If sport and TV occupied much of leisure time, a third important social factor was beginning to make its mark – the car.

It may be something of a shock for later generations to realise that few households had a car at the beginning of the 1950s. By the end of the decade, car ownership had increased considerably but there were still only a fraction of the number of cars on the road compared to what there are now.

Before 1960 was ushered in, the UK had its first motorway and its first ‘classless’ car, the Mini. The Mini was a sensation. It was easy to park, manoeuvrable and everybody liked it.

Politically, the Queen had three prime ministers in the 1950s, with her first, Sir Winston Churchill, stepping down in favour of Sir Anthony Eden in 1955.

Sir Anthony was brought down by the 1956 Suez Crisis – one of the crucial events of the decade in which British troops were sent to Egypt after Egyptian president Colonel Nasser seized the Anglo-French controlled Suez Canal.

Sir Anthony’s actions were highly controversial, and weighed down by it all he resigned in January 1957 in favour of Harold Macmillan.

The election, in October 1959, followed a long heatwave which helped bury memories of earlier summers in the decade which had featured some of the wettest of the 20th century.

The weather seemed even more important more than 50 years ago, as the vast majority of Britons were still taking their summer holidays in their own country. The arrival of the mass package holiday was still some years away and people flocked to resorts which enjoyed their last great, mass-appeal decade.

Another great innovation was pop music. The hit parade had started by the early 1950s and youngsters thrilled to Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, with the latter tragically dying in a February 1959 plane crash.

At home, skiffle groups were all the rage. The big stars included Tommy Steele, Lonnie Donegan and a teenager who topped the charts with Livin’ Doll in 1959 – Cliff Richard.

Although TV’s influence spread, visits to the cinema were still popular. The end of the decade saw the release of the Oscar-laden epic Ben-Hur.

When Mr Macmillan declared “You’ve never had it so good” he was reflecting that at last Britons could look forward to a few comforts after years of harsh conditions.