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Quiz questions and answers on past times

These quizzes are about how ordinary people lived in the UK in the early-mid 20th century. They are designed for individual use although they can be used in a group. They are just for your amusement. There is no signing in and nothing about you or your answers are kept. They are free, but are copyright.


Tap/click your chosen answer followed by the submit button.

Question 1

do you recognise this?

A common sight before the 1950s. What was it?

What made this hole in a woollen garment?

Sharp object causing a snag
The clothes moth
Too vigorous washing
Feature in a knitting pattern
moth hole in wool

Moth hole in a woollen garment


GOOD! You're right

The hole was made by the clothes moth, a moth which fed on wool – at a time when most garments were made of wool. With the development of man-made fabrics and plastic bags for wrapping woollen items, the clothes moth has largely disappeared – although it has not gone entirely. There is a page how people dealt with the clothes moth in the past. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 2

Seen during the austerity of World War Two. What is it?

Common in the austerity years in and after World War Two. What was it?

What was this object used for in the 1940s and early 1950s?

Celebration hat
Trifle mould
Wedding cake cover
Device for bomb protection
cake cover imitating a large iced cake

Fancy cake cover for a small, simple cake to make it look special


GOOD! You're right

This was a lavishly decorated wooden cake cover for a small simple cake which was all that was available during the rationing of World War Two and the years of austerity afterwards. The cake cover mimicked a large, fully iced wedding cake, and it was passed round from wedding to wedding. There is a page showing more photos. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 3

cyclist wearing cycling helmet

World War Two houseplant. What was it?

What was this houseplant in World War Two, bearing in mind the shortages of luxury items in the shops?

Aspidistra bought before the war
Cannabis plant
Tobacco plant
Growing carrot tops
how carrot tops were grown as houseplants

How carrot tops were grown as houseplants.


GOOD! You're right

After carrots were prepared for food, the tops could be put into a dish as shown in the photo and grown on. The result was attractive feathery foliage. There is a page on more details. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 4

linen buttons

Linen shirt buttons. What was their main purpose?

Although there were all sorts of elegant buttons available in Victorian and Edwardian times, good quality men's shirts had linen buttons. What was the main reason?

Could be embroidered
Could be initialled
Were unbreakable.
Did not scratch skin
linen buttons

Embroidered linen shirt buttons


GOOD! You're right

Because there were no spin dryers, the majority of the water after washing had to be removed by putting the shirts through a clothes mangle. Its heavy rollers tended to break normal buttons, but the linen ones could not break and went through without damage. There is a page about clothes mangles. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 5

Poison bottle

How was this glass poison bottle different from other glass bottles?

In the past, how were bottles of poisonous liquids distinguishable from bottles of other liquids?

Green glass
Taller and narrower
Labelled poison
Poison bottle

Enlarged portion of poison bottle showing the vertical ridges along its sides


GOOD! You're right

In the early years of the 20th century liquid poisons had to be sold in bottles made of dark glass with ridges from top to bottom so that people could see and feel that they contained poison. The colour of the glass did not have to be green; many were dark brown. There is a page about how goods were packaged. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 6

warming pan for beds

What was this object?

What was this object?

Toasted sandwich maker
Device for detering burglars
Device for warming beds
Musical instrument
warming pan for beds

Warming pan/bedwarmer


GOOD! You're right

The picture is of a device known as a warming pan or bedwarmer and was, as its name implies, used for warming cold beds in winter. Before the middle of the 20th century there was no central heating, and beds in unheated bedrooms were cold in winter. To warm the beds, the lid of the pan was opened and a few hot coals from the fire put inside - there was always a coal fire somewhere in the house. The pan was closed and taken into bedrooms. The long handle kept it cool to the touch although the pan itself was hot. The hot pan was then slid between the bedsheets and moved round over them, so warming them.

Question 7

smart phone

What sort of torch or lamp was this?

What was this object from the 1950s?

Coal miners' lamp
Vehicle light
Cinema usherettes' torch
Toy torch
usherette torch

Usherette torch, 1950s


GOOD! You're right

The photo is of the special type of torch that cinema usherettes used when showing customers to their seats while the cinema was in darknes during a film. It was unsual in that the beam was more far reaching and narrow than that of a normal torch. There is a page about cinema usherettes in the heyday of British cinemas with a menu to more pages about old cinemas. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

Question 8

scales for weighing babies, 1940s

Scales designed for weighing what?

What was this designed for weighing?

Money bags
scales for weighing babies, 1940s

Scales for weighing babies


GOOD! You're right

The scales were for weighing babies during the middle years of the 20th century. Babycare was considered very important and there were clinics in most towns and villages where babies had to be weighed regularly. Their rate of putting on weight was taken as the first indication of their general health.

Question 9

old hot water bottle

This was common in the early 20th century. What was it?

What was this container for?

Preparing homemade beer
Keeping drinks cool
Warming beds
Storing seeds
old hot water bottle

Stoneware hot water bottle


GOOD! You're right

Like the warming pan of the earlier question, this was used for warming cold beds. It was made of a type of glazed pottery known as stoneware and was filled early in the evening with boiling water from a kettle. Stoppers never fitted reliably, so the flat bottom prevented rolling over and so kept the the stopper on top, so preventing spilling.

Question 10

car-starting handle

Essential part of an early car

This was an essential part of an early car. What was it?

Opener for the petrol tank
Starter handle
Opener for windows
Opener for the bonnet
car-starting handle

Starter handle of an early car


GOOD! You're right

This is the starter handle of an early car. To start the car, someone had to stand in front of it and give the starter handle one or more heavy handed turns to get the engine going. There is a page about travelling in old cars with a menu to other pages on aspects of old car travel. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

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sources: early 20th century material      sources: ww2 home front and other material     contact
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