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Remarkably, some of their documents from that time have survived, and provide tantalising insights into the prices of household items at the time. They are also a resource for calculating rates of inflation between then and now.
Essentially these prices are pre-war, ie before the onset of World War Two. Although some of the items were purchased afterwards, the real impact of the war was yet to hit.
All the documents are in the old £-s-d currency. There are conversions to today's currency on the internet, but money has devalued so much that only the pounds are really significant today. The number of shillings indicate the fraction of a pound, where there were 20 shillings to a pound.
A document dated 30th June 1938, just over a week before my parents were married, shows that they went up to central London for their furniture. The receipt gives details of the items and the prices. Click the image of the receipt on the right for details.
I was told that my uncle had been to the London outlet and recommended the three piece suite, and that my mother asked my father to buy it to please her brother. Yet she knew it was not what she wanted. Accordingly the family lived with an uncomfortable, then modern-looking, three piece suite for the next 40 years. By chance I have a picture of one of the chairs, which is clearly uncomfortable. The pale wood would not have been my mother's taste as she favoured the dark wood, described in the receipt as 'Jaco', presumably short for Jacobean.
I can make sense of most of the items listed. The kitchen table I remember as white wood which had to be scrubbed with a scrubbing brush just as my mother's mother used to do. (Some years later in the 1950s it was covered with a plastic laminate.) The 'bentwood' chair was a bedroom chair, and the kerb went in front of the coal fire to keep in the dirt. Yet I am at a loss to understand the miscellaneous bed items - the spiral comb and the green platform.
In 1940 my parents had to buy some more sheets for their bed. Probably they had been existing on sheets given as wedding presents or the receipts have not survived. Again it was the Oustons' shop that my parents patronised. A pair of double sheets cost less than a pound - 13s/11d. They would have been pure cotton as there were no artificial fibres in general use at that time.
In 1940 that my mother bought one of her most prized possessions - again from the local furniture shop, Oustons. It was a carved wooden wall clock, costing £1-5-0. My mother said that when Mr Ouston came to hang the clock, he said that if it he had seen it in place he would have charged more. Apparently the clock was made by his father or grandfather. World War Two must have already started, and Oustons shortly closed down.
Richard Ouston contacted me via this website, and I was delighted to donate the clock back to the family.