logo - Join me in the 1900s
logo - from the webmaster

The cost of furniture and
furnishings, 1938 - 1940 England

YOU ARE HERE: home > housing > suburban housing

In July 1938 my parents married and set up home 9 Brook Avenue, Edgware, Middlesex on the northern edge of London's suburbia. My father had bought the house in the previous April.

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.

to top of page

receipts for furniture and furnishings

1938 receipt for furnishings showing the 1938 prices, thumbnail

Receipt for furniture.

Click for a larger, legible version.

bookcase bought in 1938 costing £3-3-0

The bookcase that cost £3-3-0 in 1938.

chair, part of a three piece suite bought in 1938 for £15-5-0

Chair from the three-piece suite that cost £15-5-0 in 1938.

1940 receipt for a carved wooden wall clock, thumbnail

Receipt for a carved wooden wall clock.

Carved wooden wall clock, costing £1-5-0 in 1940.

The wall clock that cost £1-5-0 in 1940.

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.

1940 receipt for a pair of sheets, thumbnail

Receipt for a pair of sheets. Click for a larger legible version.

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.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer

to top of page