Working Class Life in England in the 1930s

The 1930s in England


The 1930s in England was a time when the British Government rode roughshod over the working class.

In Birkenhead, where my mum and grandparents lived in the 1930s there was a lot of unemployment. Many working class people lived in abject poverty.

Workers and the unemployed alike marched in protest. They marched because of the harsh reductions imposed by the government. They were experiencing a huge fall in their already poor living standards.

During this period wages were reduced. The already miserably low benefits for the unemployed were also cut back.

These drastic cuts resulted in millions of the working class living in abject poverty. They were thrown into the most appalling conditions of poverty and deprivation imaginable.

The Government carried out these attacks all in the name of National Economic measures. These economic measure were a vicious attack on their lives and livelihoods.

While massive reductions are taking place the Government spends millions of pounds on armaments. Preparing for a war that will involve the slaughter of millions of the working class.

Including the working class of other countries too and all in the interest of capitalism.

It was felt that the Government and Employers had no idea what the imposition of these reductions did. Hard working families had to live with the harsh effects of less money coming into the home, and it seemed that no-one even cared!

Golden Wedding

Cutting the cake at Golden Wedding celebration
Cutting the cake at Golden Wedding celebration
Some of the children and grandchildren
Some of the children and grandchildren

They Didn't

This was the background of the thirties that my mum, who was born in 1919, was experiencing as an eleven year old.

I began this Hub in response to this question

‘How did people in your family save money in the 1930’s?’

This question is easily answered in two words ‘They didn’t’

My mum was the eldest of 10 children and they lived in a small two up and two down terraced house.

The girls slept in one bedroom and boys in the other. My grandparents slept on a settee that converted into a bed downstairs in the front room.

My grandfather worked in the shipyards most of his working life and even though he had a job times were very hard.

In the shipyards some of the jobs were beginning to be automated. This resulted in fewer workers being needed for some of the jobs and people were losing their jobs.

Health

Two of my mum’s siblings died in infancy. In the 1930s Britain did not have a National Health Service.

It cost 2/6d, which I suppose is about 15 to 18 USA cents depending on the exchange rate you use, to see a doctor.

This sound like a ridiculously small amount today. But back then even when it was a matter of life and death the lack of 2/6d meant that you didn’t see a doctor.

As a result it was not uncommon for people to lose a child in infancy. Many died because of Pneumonia which was what two of my mothers siblings died from.

Even if the necessary 2/6d could be found, it was often not enough. After the doctor was paid there would be the cost of the medicine. The extra expense of medication often just could not be found.

Penicillin was not readily available in those days. Many quite commonplace illness which we treat with antibiotics today, were fatal back then.

In 1948 the National Health Service was born. From then on everyone in Britain could see a doctor when they needed to. A visit to the doctor was free to everyone at the point of service.

If treatment was necessary which involved a stay in hospital or an operation you got it. The NHS meant that this was now also free at the point of service.

Even if your treatment required that you saw a specialist you could see one on the NHS free. You might have to wait for an appointment but the consultation was free.

When the NHS came into being in 1948 even the prescriptions were free. At last medical care was free and based on need rather than on ability to pay.

Of course in the NHS is not free because our taxes pay the bills. But no one is denied access to treatment because they can't pay. Being poor and ill is no longer a death sentence like it was for so many back in the 1930's.

It is terrible when people need medical treatment and cannot get it because they cannot afford it.

It is so wrong in any society when we let people die just because they lack the money to pay for it.

When we have treatments available that would and can save people we should use them. Not just use them only on people who have the money to pay for them.

Recycle Everything

Like so many of that generation you only bought what you could pay for. Neither my grandparents or my parents ever had anything on credit. They both lived in rented accommodation all their lives.

This was the time before cheap plastic bags and things were often sold without packaging. In shops items would often be weighed out and put loose right into your shopping bag. Some things would put into brown paper bags or wrapped in newspaper.

When you got home the stuff that was in paper bags would be taken out of the bags and put away in their containers.

Biscuits for example went into the biscuit barrel. The paper bag that the biscuits came wrapped in was straightened out and folded up. The folded paper bags were then put away ready for use to wrap something else up in it.

Nothing was wasted if it could be put to use for something else later.

Peg Rug

We had one like this that my mum and I pegged together and it served as our hearth rug for many years.
We had one like this that my mum and I pegged together and it served as our hearth rug for many years.

Peg Rug

Back then they wasted nothing absolutely nothing. Potatoes at the greengrocers came in Hessian sacks that contained 56lbs of potatoes. The grocer sold the potatoes straight from the sack.

Because everything that you bought was a necessity you learned to waste nothing. Many items were often used more than once and by more than one person.

In the case of the Hessian sacks that the potatoes came in. It served its purpose holding potatoes at the greengrocers. But the hessian sacks usefulness was not over yet.

I remember going to our greengrocer and asking for one of the empty sacks. My mum and I then used the Hessian sack as a foundation to make a Peg Rug. We placed that rug in front of our fireplace and it served us well for years.

Making a peg rug was a skill that my mum learned as a youngster in the 1930s and she passed that skill on to me.

A Woman Darning a Sock
A Woman Darning a Sock
A Darning Mushroom
A Darning Mushroom

Nothing is wasted

When things came tied up with string the string would be untied not cut. The string would then be wound up and put away to use again.

Jumpers and cardigans would be hand knitted not shop bought. When they got too worn to hand down then the garment would be unpicked. The unpicked wool was re-used to knit a new jumper or cardigan.

Often the unpicking would not be enough to make a whole new garment. This resulted in many a striped garments. The garments were striped because the unpicked wool from several different garments were necessary.

I remember unpicking jumpers and rewinding the wool back into balls ready for use again. The unpicked wool would be all crinkly as it held the shape of the knitted stitch. But this would not show when reused in a new garment.

Unpicked wool would also have knots tied in it.This was because where the garment had worn it had holes in it. The original wool would be broken .

Everything that could be recycled or repaired would be.

When socks got holes in them the socks would be darned as would any woollen garment.

I remember using a wooden mushroom inside my sock when I darned up holes. I actually enjoyed weaving the wool in and out and making the darn close knit and sturdy.

My darns would outlast the socks any day. It looks like the woman in the photograph could have done with the help of a mushroom don't you think?

With out that mushroom it was so easy to end up with pricked fingers and bloody garments.

Cobbler's Last

This is like the one my dad used
This is like the one my dad used

Make and mend

All kinds of garments would be re-used or re-purposed. Worn out adult clothing would be cut down to make children’s clothing.

Before an item was got rid of, any buttons zips or elastic would be removed so that they could used on something else.

When items could no longer be reused as clothing then they would be used for other things. The material might be to shoddy for clothing but could still be useful as cleaning rags or cut up to make Peg rugs.

Shoes were often mended at home. Most homes at that time had a cobblers last. Even in the 40s and 50s a cobblers last was still a common item in most working class homes.

I can remember my dad had a sheet of leather from which he would cut soles or heels to mend our shoes.

He would fix the new sole or heel onto the shoe using the cobbler's last to hold the shoe in place. Dad would put the shoe on the last while hammered in the tiny nails to hold the sole or heel in place.

I remember the excitement when the rubber stick on soles came out. The stick on soles were so much less trouble than having to fashion soles from leather.

The stick on soles either came with glue in a small tube or they were already coated with adhesive.

First up Best Dressed

Clothing and footwear were made to last and had to be looked after properly often being handed down to the next person in line.

My mum was lucky in this respect being the eldest of the ten children she often was the first one to wear an item before it began its journey down through the family.

It was not unusual for outer garments such as overcoats to be worn indoors in the wintertime as often fuel for the fire could not be afforded.

The inside of a house could be as cold as the outside, with ice building up on the inside of the windows.

They had a penny in the slot gas meter for the gas which was used for lighting and the gas stove. If you didn’t have a penny for the meter then you didn’t get any gas.

There is a saying that I think dates back to this time and it is ‘First up best dressed’

This saying means that if for example there were four girls in the family, and only three pairs of knickers (panties), then the first three to get up and dressed would be the ones who would get to wear knickers that day.

Pawn Broker's Sign

No HP see Uncle instead

They didn't have HP back then, that is not Hubpages lol... but Hire Purchase. But back then the Pawn Shop also known as Uncles or the Pop Shop was the go to place for working class people.

The symbol for a Pawnbrokers was three balls hanging outside the shop. I am not sure where the symbol came from or why they used it for a Pawn Brokers.

There is an old joke about what the three balls stood for and that is “Two to one, you won't get your stuff back".

Items of value would be taken to the Pawnbrokers who would give you a loan for a fixed rate of interest. If you paid back the loan and the interest in the time agreed you could redeem the item.

People pawned all kinds of articles to raise the much needed cash. Some of which were never redeemed and which were later sold off by the Pawnbroker to get his money back.

My first pair of Ice Skates came from a local Pawn Brokers you could often get a bargain in the Pawn Shops.

I use to love looking in the Pawn Shop windows as there was so much interesting stuff on view in the windows.

Four Generations

Four Generations
Four Generations

People were tough

Food was often scarce and it would be my grandmother that would go without. It was important to her that my granddad and her children would get enough to eat.

My great grandmother who lived round the corner from my grandmother had a chicken run in her back yard. These few chickens provided a steady stream of eggs.

My grandmother lived to be in her nineties but I don't know if that is in spite of, or because of, going without early on.

This way of life and living if you managed to survive made them tough people.

In this photograph you can see four generations my Gran, my mum, me and my daughter.

Know your place

My grandparent’s generation and my parent’s generation knew their place. Because of this they had expectations according to that place.

They never thought to own a home or a motor car. They didn't dream of their children going to university. Those things were fitting for people of another class.

They endured hardships and poverty stoically. Why? Because that was the way of things back then, everything and everyone had their place.

Not that this is right but I am sure that many people were happier because they didn’t focus on what they didn’t have. It is easier to think that this way of living is normal when no one else in your circle has it either.

I remember when my dad’s younger brother bought his own home. He was the first person in the family to buy a house. My parents thought he was mad and that the house would be a millstone around his neck.

If you tried to better yourself many thought you were a bit of a class traitor. It was as if you had ideas above your station in life, and ashamed of your origins.

When my uncle bought his own home he moved to a better district. The area he moved to was known in our working class area as 'Bread and Lard Island.'

The people who lived there we said were 'All furs coats and no knickers'

These terms showed the disdain felt for them by those they left behind. We thought that folks like them were all show.

Yes they lived in better housing and looked better dressed. But most thought it to be just top show, they had those things but it came at a sacrificial price.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at our family's way of life in the 1930s.

There was a strong sense of family back then. So in spite of all the hardships of the time the memories that my mum had of this time were mostly happy.

Other Working Class Based Hubs

If you enjoyed this hub I have put links to some of my other hubs that deal with similar material below.

All these Hubs have the common theme of coming from a Working Class perspective which differs quite a lot from that of the Middle Class and which has virtually nothing in common with the Upper Class perspective.

There is one period in modern times when all three classes had experiences in common and that was during the second world war.

I hope that enjoyed your foray into Working Class England if you did please leave a comment perhaps some feed back or if I didn't cover what you were looking for let me know and perhaps I can do another hub about that,

More by this Author


Comments 84 comments

Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

You, my dear, amaze me the more you write, the better you write. I had goosebumps the whole way thru, and fell deeply in love with your family. I have parents, whom I adore, but if there's ever an opening for adoption, please consider me!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

Great history with a valuable perspective, my family in America had a similar experience (I wrote about my parent's experiences) but I think the Brits had it quite a bit tougher, especially during the hell of the wartimes. One wonders how families even made it through.

I think it is very important to pass these stories forward. I am a child of the good times, but I appreciate the toughness of my parents and grandparents.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Candie you are a real treasure, it is such an encouragement to have your thoughts and so quickly to. My mum and gran's generation had lots of character and integrity which I am sure was due in no small part to the things that they went through in those times of hardship.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Rochelle thank you for your comments I remember as a young girl that I loved to hear the stories that my mum would tell me about her life when she was young so like you I think that it is important to document as many of these stories as possible. It was not until the advent of the Internet that the history of the common people had a place to be published.Three cheers for the Internet publishing places like HubPages


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

This was a great look at family life in hard times. I enjoyed this very much, and learnt something about a real family, set in a country and time that I have little knowledge of, thank you.


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

maggs224: thank you so much for this beautiful picture in words of your family! It is not only an inspiration to learn from yur life but you make my desire to write well that much stronger! Your writing is inspiring!! Thank you!!


ecomama 7 years ago

Thank You so much! When I asked the question how did your family save money in the 30's this is what I was looking for. How did people get by without SPENDING money. Reusing items, turning one item into another, sharing, being resourceful. During the 30 it was not a matter of "choosing" to live within your means it just was! Many folks today are coming face to face with the reality that our "throw away" mentality needs rethinking. Thank You for your insight!


TJ Daniels profile image

TJ Daniels 7 years ago from WI USA

Hi Maggie. I remember my mother darning socks. The darner she used was in the shape of a goose egg and rather large, with a handle attached at the small end. Mom also had a glass jar that was filled with buttons. One day she was threading a needle and I asked her how she tied the two pieces of thread together, and she showed me. It was much simpler than I thought. As everyone says, an excellent article. Daniel


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

hi ernesthub thanks for the comment glad you enjoyed it, and I can see from your photo that you are much to young to know much about this time lol.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

rnmsn Thank you so much for your kind words, I am glad that you enjoyed reading this brief look at my family history, I have just been to your profile I have not finished reading it yet as I had to change from one computer to another so I will get back to it after posting this, but I have read enough to know that you have a new fan and that your writing is very readable indeed.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

ecomama Thanks for posting the question I really enjoyed going on this little trip down memory lane


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Daniel my mum also had a glass jar full of buttons and so did I. I loved looking at my mums as some of the buttons in her jar were very old or they had a story behind them like buttons off my dad’s army uniform from WWll and others that were much older still.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Great hub! My granny also had a button collection, and we loved playing with it as children.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

It is amazing how little it takes to amuse children, thanks for the comments


caitlinlea profile image

caitlinlea 7 years ago from Texas

This is wonderful...I love history and your personal perspective is so beautiful!! Thanks for another charming hub....:-)


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

thanks caitinlea glad you enjoyed it.


GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

Loved this one maggs! Haven't seen something new for you in awhile..I'm getting there. ;D

I can truly appreciate all of your folks' hardship. But here's to innovation! Glad your family did it's best to prosper to produce you. =)


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks GM your visits and comments are always an encouragement


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

maggs...this is wonderful....if we lived with that mindset today....what a better world it could be. We waste so much and take so much for granted. Thank you for the trip to the past.....again....wonderful! :)


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks Tom I so admire your writings that praise from you means so much to me, it is a real source of encouragement to me.


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

This is one of the tastiest morsels that I have come across on the hubs. Thank you so much for sharing this. Just wonderful!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Paper Moon Thank you for the wonderful compliment you have made me blush.


Cailin Gallagher profile image

Cailin Gallagher 7 years ago from New England

This is such an honest account from your personal family history. It's so interesting to get a personal glimpse into the lives that went before us. We think that we are the first to recycle! We have no idea how resourcefulness can manage a home. Exceptional people came before us. I wonder if we would have the same determination if we were tested.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Cailin

After reading your hub on BPD I have absolutely no doubt at all that if you were so tested you would not be found wanting. Thanks for your positive comments.


christine almaraz profile image

christine almaraz 7 years ago from colorado springs

You should really think about writing a book or putting together a memory journal for your family. Your hubs about your family and the things they had to endure are very informative and educational.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

christine thank you so much for your kind comments I have only just started writing hubs so I think maybe a book is quite a bit beyond me at this point maybe one day.


James Ginn profile image

James Ginn 7 years ago from Ohio

Thank you so much for sparking memories I have of my grandmother telling me about times when "nothing was wasted." She told me that she and three sisters shared a single tea bag for a week. I hope my children never have to face the struggles you describe, but, somehow I don't think they will turn out as strong.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi James thanks for the comments in the UK tea bags didn't come into fashion in the working class homes until the late 1960's. Tetley introduced the teabag to the UK in about 1953. In the early 1960's only 3% of the UK used teabags by 2007 that number had risen to a massive 96%.

In the States of course you had tea bags from around 1902 and the thought of three sisters sharing one tea bag for a whole week is something that I hope never to have to do as being British I love my cuppa tea. It would be a real hardship for me to go without my nine or ten mugs of tea a day. Though I must say I like my tea very weak and if I am on my own I can get three or even four mugs out of one tea bag.


nancy 7 years ago

Anyone know what the social rules and practicalities were regarding displays of affection between parents (hugs,kisses) in front of the children. Small dispute with my mom. Difference between classes? My basic idea is that not much changes in lower classes over time and that the upper classes (unfortunately, usually the focus of historical comment) changed more "with the times." Any reading suggestions welcome. THANKS!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Nancy

I don’t know what the social rules were but from my own experience of my grandmother’s generation and my mum’s generation there was hardly any public display of affection and precious little private. There were the odd times like when my mum’s youngest brother died (aged 18) when my mum read the telegram with the news my dad held and comforted my mum. I can’t remember them holding hands when they were out together. The first kiss I got off my dad was on the eve of my wedding and dad had been out celebrating with my uncles and had consumed a fair bit of alcohol in the process and he got a little bit maudlin he told me what a good daughter I was and he gave me a kiss on the cheek I was twenty years old. About ten weeks later I got my first kiss off my mother when I left England with my husband to go to Singapore for two years.

Sometimes on a Sunday lunch time when mum and me would be in the kitchen sorting out our Sunday dinner there use to be a program on the wireless called ‘Two way family favourites’ and if the song being played was one that they both knew often mum would stop doing what she was doing and start singing the song with dad doing some nice harmonies. Although there was not much touchy feely type show affection both my gran’s and my mum’s marriage lasted over fifty years though many more modern day marriages with all sorts of outward shows of affection have not lasted half as long. I think that perhaps there is room for a hub on this subject.


Kimberly Bunch profile image

Kimberly Bunch 7 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks for the comment and the hub


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

Lovely Hub, as is its "companion Hub".


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Lisa thanks for your kind comments


Bel3 7 years ago

Thank you I am part of a theatre group and was researching the 30's as we are doing an old play set around this time. Your family story will be passed on to my group to help us learn about the hardship people had to endure. really makes you feel for the situations people must have found themselves in. I am so pleased I fell on this by a lucky chance.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Bel3 thank you for your kind comments, I hope your play goes really well


Lyns 6 years ago

Thank you for taking the time to set out your family and their lifestyle - I think we all need a salutory reminder from time to time just how hard life was then. I remember my parents telling me how they had to sell wedding presents in order to buy food and how hard it was for my father to buy his first house when he left the fire brigade where tied houses were normal (not now of course!) My parents never allowed us to suffer as children and when I look at my own children now - I wonder just how they would cope with life as it was then....... I don´t think they could!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks Lyns for the kind comments and times certainly were much harder back then.. I think our children might well surprise us if they every had to face such hardships I have often wondered at the resilience they have shown in times of trouble and sorrow but I hope we never have to find out.


amulets profile image

amulets 6 years ago from Singapore

My father always tells us stories about grandfather during WWII and how people were living during those days. There were hardships everywhere and my grandfather was working onboard a ship. He had to travel most of the time while grandmother had to take care of my father and the rest of the family members. Fortunately grandmother did saved money during those days.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi amulets, you are very fortunate to have such a wonderful father who tells you stories about your family’s past. Maybe you should write a hub about some of them I am sure they would make interesting reading.


JaneyTownsend profile image

JaneyTownsend 6 years ago from Astoria, NY

Hey maggs, first and foremost, thank you for your kind words! As you might have guessed, I am new here and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Thank you for your hub, it reminded me of my late grandmother; she did a lot of the things you've mentioned, especially the part where they saved absolutely everything.

As a young girl, I remember watching my grandmother snip a loose thread and methodically rolling it up, and putting it in her vest pocket. Come to think of it, I actually remember asking her why she was saving it, when she could buy some more at the store! As you might expect, her response was that if she ever needed to mend the piece of fabric that the thread came from, she already had the right color!

I laughed back then; but in retrospect, it makes perfect sense.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

@ Janey, it is amazing how the older I get the more admiration and respect I have for my mum and gran, I wish they were still around so I could tell them so.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

maggs224-

This was fantastic-so interesting,I really love your hubs.Brilliant.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

@ itakins thank you so much for your kind words they are so encouraging to hear. I am glad that you have found them interesting.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Fascinating Hub - our parents were of a similar age to yours. This is well written and we will be looking at more of your Hubs.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

@2patricias, Thank you for your kind comments, I am glad that you both enjoyed your little peek into our family history. Our parents generation a lot to overcome, but it made them very resilient and resourceful, some of which I am glad to say they passed on to us.


Guest 6 years ago

Very nice; but the grammar issues made it kinda hard to read.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

I am sorry that you had problems with my grammar, thank you for reading it in spite of that and for leaving a comment.


Dominic 6 years ago

Really enjoyed this. Great insights.

Many thanks.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Dominic thank you for your kind comment, glad that you enjoyed the hub.


Polly C profile image

Polly C 6 years ago from UK

Hi maggs, I simply loved this hub. Personally, I like reading about experiences of life in the 1930s because it helps me learn more about the life of my own grandparents - my grandmother (who passed away nearly three years ago at the age of 97) was born in 1910, and my grandfather in 1903. Everything you say about people of that time rings true - my grandmother (I feel I knew her better because she lived until I was in my mid thirties) was a strong person who also never owned her own property. I know that she shared a bedroom (and bed, probably) with her three sisters, all of whom lived until old age. Life sounded simplistic but happy then, and I think she carried these traits with her - right up until the end of her life she was most concerned with family and the calm pursuit of gardening. In fact, I often wish I could feel like that myself - how much more content we'd all be if we were not chasing after other things. Material things don't really matter anyway, my grandmother's life paints a picture of close family bonds and simple, happy memories. And of course she knew how to mend things, and make things - an art which has become completely lost with my own generation.But don't you think it's a good quality to have, really - a whole lot better than this buy, then discard mentality we know today.

My grandfather also worked at the shipbuilders yard - and actually this saved him from having to go to war, because he was required to make ship's radars, which were in high demand. It was still dangerous during the war, though, because ports were always targeted, and my family lived in Lowestoft on the east coast, one of the key places for attack. Sometimes I used to ask my grandmother about the war, yet she never told me much - only about the time they were out during a blackout and had to walk around in the pitch dark not knowing where they were going. But she was from a time when people did not complain so much, and actually she made it sound funny, though I'm sure it was not. And it was not even until after her death that her only daughter (my mother) discovered that my grandad was her second husband (they married during the war) and that her first husband had been lost at sea.

Recently, I read the book 'The Road to Nab End', which also portrays life during this era, and describes the tiny houses, two up, two down, ice at the window, lack of food, and sand on the floor?? I live in a similar house myself (well, a two bedroomed victorian terrace but obviously it has the kitchen, bathroom extension now!) so learning what it was like in such houses in the past fascinates me.

Anyway, sorry for leaving such a long comment, I got a bit carried away! Great hub, and I'll be back to read some others later :)


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Polly, first let me say you have no need to apologise for the length of your comment. I love to read interesting comments like yours and it adds to the enjoyment level of those who visit the Hub and read the comments after.

I know that I always read the comments on hubs especially so if I enjoyed the hub and when those comments include personal recollections like yours I find them fascinating. It sounds like you have the beginnings of your own hub in this comment.

I like the sound of your home I love Victorian terrace houses. Thanks for leaving such an interesting comment.


debbiesdailyviews profile image

debbiesdailyviews 6 years ago

I really loved reading your Hub, it reflex a poem on this era, I think you would enjoy reading it, couch potato/

I am going to pop back on here and continue reading your work,

Very well written, you've inspired me some more

Thank you


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Debbie, I went and read your poem Couch Potato and you were quite right I did enjoy reading it.

Thank you so much for your kind comments I am really happy that you enjoyed reading the Hub.


WestOcean profile image

WestOcean 5 years ago from Great Britain

An incredible hub which really brings those times alive. Also very sobering to realise how tough life was not that long ago...


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maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi WestOcean, in these trying times I think a few people are begining to get a taste of the former tough times :( Thank you so much for leaving a comment :)


Linda 261141 5 years ago

Hello. I have been trying to find out why pawnbrokers were called uncles. Is it possible that you would know the reason they were called this. Loved reading your page as although I was born in 1941 I was very interested in your article.

Thank you

Linda Burton


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maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Linda, thank you for your kind comments, I don’t really know why they call Pawnbrokers uncle except that it was a known euphemism like saying she has gone to sleep instead of saying she is dead. Everyone knew you meant the pawnbroker when you said you were going to go see uncle.


Kerin 5 years ago

I very much enjoyed your article on living conditions in those times. Could you write about young children growing up in the 1920s-1930s - what they wore, what they read, sweets they were able to get hold of.What games they played Their education? Thanks


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maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Kerin, I am so glad that you enjoyed reading this hub and that you found it interesting. I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to respond to you comments but I have been without an internet provider for a while and so I have been off line a lot of the time and only grabbing the occasional access when borrowing a friend’s laptop.

I will look into writing something in answer to your queries.


Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 4 years ago from India

Maggs, you have provided here great detail and info about the working culture during the z1930s and job opportunities at that time. Thanks for sharing:)


Lauren 4 years ago

The 1930s were horrendous times. Most people didn't even own their own house, no one had a car or tv, let alone a radio or a record player, people died of illnesses, dirt and filth and poverty everywhere - it was terrible! I think the late 1940s was when we were becoming an optimistic society and we saw our future brightening up. Thank god I wasn't alive in the 1930s and I bet you are as well, maggs! You were lucky to have missed the horrors of the Great Depression and I was born in the 80s though I would loved to experience the 50s rock and roll and the 60s hippy era! Thank you for your honest and kind thoughts on this about children suffering and needinng better health in those times. We need more people in the world like you, maggs :)


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maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Lauren you are so right I would have hated to be alive during the great depression life was so hard then on the working class though, it was not much easier for some of the middle class families.

Some lost their jobs and businesses and they felt the hardships even more as they were not use to the scrimping and starving aspect of life and it was a big shock to them how it impacted them.

Being born just after the end of the war I was blessed to live in a time of steady growth and renewal and you would have loved being alive in the fifties and sixties it was a simpler way of life and the music was great :D

Thanks for commenting it was kind of you


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maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Trsmd thank you for your lovely comments and it was my pleasure to share. I am so pleased that you enjoyed reading the hub :D


Lauren 4 years ago

I'm sorry about the way your family lived back then. But I'm pretty sure everyone in the elder generation had very depressing times.And mine included so I feel the pain for my grandparents. People might complain about today, like fast food and internet but other than that, we really don't know how lucky we are. Harold MacMillan was right in the 50s. From that day on "We've never had it so good!" .


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maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Lauren, it wasn't necessarily depressing for people who lived back then, mainly because no one knew of life as we know it now. My mother's memories of her childhood were mainly happy in spite of the hardship of the time.

Even back it was possible to look back to earlier generations and find that you had things that previous generations never dreamed that they would have. Expectations were different back then too and most of the people you knew lived pretty much the same as you did.

Thank you so much for commenting I really appreciate you taking the time to do that :D


E. Fraser, Canada 4 years ago

Very much enjoyed reading your blog. A dear friend of mine who died recently was from a working class family (2 up 2 down, on dole during the 1930's depression)and evacuated as a child to Canada during WW 2. He returned here later for his education.

I used to tease him that we had both risen above our station as the first in our families to have University degrees.


formersooner 4 years ago

I suppose it is the fact that I am an American that makes me so out of tune with the British experience. But in reading your article certain things jumped out at me. First of all, nothing is free, The health care system you have is paid for with tax dollars. It may not cost YOU anything but it's not free. Someone is paying for it. Also, the part about "knowing your place". Again, it's the difference between our two cultures, I guess. In this country, it's possible to start with nothing and achieve wealth , fame, and power. It's the desire of most parents to see their children do better than they did.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

If you ever pop back E.Fraser, I just want to apologise for not responding to your comment I must have missed this when you posted it.

It seems incredible that a whole class of people accepted the unacceptable but even the hymns that we sung in church on a Sunday re enforced the social order that was prevalent at that time.

I remember singing the third verse in the hymn All things bright and beautiful

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

God made them high and lowly,

And ordered their estate.

This third verse is now very rarely sung anywhere in Britain because of it endorsement of the class system.

I raise my glass to you and your friend ‘Here’s to rising above your station ‘ :D


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Formersooner, thank you for your comments. I think that you are right that being an American will certainly make it more difficult for you to understand what it was like in Britain at that time.

The class system at that time was quite ridged, of course, even back then some people questioned the morality and justice of the class system but in general, it was just accepted as the way things were.

I remember reading how the mahouts would take a baby elephant, place a chain around one of its legs, and tether the other end of the chain to a tree at night. At first, the baby elephant would resist the tether and try to pull away. Over time, the elephant began to accept the tether and would not struggle against the tether.

Eventually even when the elephant was full grown it was enough to put the chain around its leg and the animal would stay where it was put as if tethered.

It had learned that when the chain went on it could not move more than a few paces and that experience was so ingrained that when the elephant was full grown it could still be tethered simply by placing a chain round the leg. The chain did not even need to be tethered to something the chain it self was enough.

My mother’s generation was the last one to be tethered so tightly into the British class system.

The class system was still there when I was growing up, but things were already changing and the men returning from the war came back forever changed by their experiences during the war.

The class system is still there in Britain, there is still and old boy’s network, being a part of the Upper class will still open doors and give access to opportunities.

Of course, the National Health Service is paid for out of the taxes, and at this time, most working class people worked they had to in order to live and they paid their taxes.

It is amazing how much tax the already very wealthy manage to get out of paying I saw this on a finance blog the other day “Why does billionaire Warren Buffett pay less income tax than his secretary?”

The point is that when you are sick the NHS meant that health care was free at the point of service to its users. The poor no longer had to die simply because they had no money.

Even as a child when the NHS was in place, I remember that in order for my mum to take me to see a doctor I just about had to be on death’s doorstep to warrant a visit to the doctor.


formersooner 4 years ago

Thank you for your response. I have recently become very interested in the era of the great depression. The current worldwide economic mess leads me to believe that we are headed for some horrible times ahead. Maybe just knowing how people survived back then can help me to cope with what's coming.

I understand the way your NHS works, It's just that in my country there is a huge entitlement mentality and reading that some program is "free" is like nails on a chalkboard to me. We have public housing, food stamps, welfare, and just in case you don't have one, you can get a free cell phone. And thats all represented as "free" also. But, as I am one of the lucky ones paying all the bills, it doesn't seem so "free" to me.

Oh, and just to correct one thing you wrote. Warren Buffett does NOT pay less income tax than his secretary. His tax RATE may be lower but he pays millions of dollars more than his secretary. His taxes are probably hundreds of times more than her entire salary.

Again, thank you for your response.


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maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

I must admit I just saw the headline which is what I quoted, so my bad :(


Olga 3 years ago

Even though I´m not British, I enjoyed your hubs a lot. They made me remember the way I was brought up, here, in Argentina. My most sincere congratulations and go on posting these beautiful and insightful hubs.


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maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Olga, what a lovely comment it has really made my day. I am so happy when some one reads one of my hubs and it sparks off remembrances in them of their own childhoods. Your comment is a great encouragement to me and I thank you very much for leaving it :D Maggs


surreybelle 2 years ago

I loved the expression "all fur coats and no knickers". That's a good one. I was reminded of "he popped his Clogs" meaning that knowing he was dying he pawned the wooden shoes a lot of mill workers wore. Great reading, thanks.


Shirley 2 years ago

I'm trying to find out about whether mugs were used in ordinary family's during the second world war period? I've found references to mugs of tea in canteens. We are doing play in this period & are trying to find out what is authentic. Thanks


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maggs224 2 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

hi Shirley I was born just after the war but even then I can't remember that we used anything other than tea cups in the house.

I know that there were mugs around, we had a Coronation Mug from 1902, though we didn't use it for drinking lol...

The only mugs that I can remember being in the house around that time were a couple of enamel mugs that I think my dad brought home with him from when he was in the army during the war.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 2 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi surreybelle I like that expression, I shall have to try and work that one into one of my hubs lol...


Judy 13 months ago

I'm trying to find out the cost of a pair of men's shoes in the 1930s and came upon your article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it so thank you for both entertaining and informing me.


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maggs224 13 months ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you Judy, it is my pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to leave such lovely feedback. I really appreciate you doing that :D


liana 10 months ago

Hello, I am currently studying 1930's'middle class' children's literature and wanted the perspective of what it was like to live in a working class 1930's Britain; and your's is a fascinating one. It's sad to realise that so much hasn't changed in respect of the government's attitude towards the working class, and sadly the community spirit that once thrived has unfortunately diminished. I had always thought the desire to better ones self was wise, but having read your article I'm not so sure now; with ambition we seem to have lost the ability to be happy with what we have got! Anyhow thank you for your help with my upcoming assignment, it was a really lovely read. Liana


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maggs224 10 months ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you so much for you comment liana I am glad that you enjoyed this peek into the past and good luck with your upcoming assignment :D


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Marie H Vonow 8 months ago from South Australia

I found your hub interesting and thought provoking. I will be reading your related hubs.

My grandmother was a mother during the Great Depression here in Australia. She continued to repair everything throughout her life, even though she was financially secure in later years. She always saved string and never cut it. Brown paper was also saved and reused. Grandma kept hens, grew fruit and vegetables and made preserves, wonderful tomato sauce and pickles.


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maggs224 8 weeks ago from Sunny Spain Author

@Marie H Vonow Thank you for your comment,I like the sound of your grandmother, if only the present generation valued what they have. I am amazed at what is thrown away without a second thought when it still has usefulness.

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