The appliances that helped change Britain’s buying habits
In the first half of the last century, credit was a few groceries ‘on tick’ before payday. Then came the boom of the 1950s, fuelled by rising wages and the famous claim that we’d ‘never had it so good’.
Suddenly there were appliances for every job and high tech home entertainment to fill all our newfound spare time. But the latest must-haves were way beyond the means of most families.
To get your hands on one meant saving hard or buying on the never-never… because it felt like you never paid it off and never actually owned it!
Here we look back at some of the budget busting, built-to-last home comforts of that time. Are any of yours still going strong after all these years?
A rented television set
Our love of television really started with the Coronation in 1953. But it took a few more years for a black and white set to arrive in most homes, and even then it was rented as they were just too expensive to buy.
In 1960 the rent on a TV was around £11-12-6. That’s almost £250 for just one year. You could buy a 48” LCD HD TV with that today!
The revolutionary radiogram
If a radiogram or stereogram took pride of place in your sitting room, your family had arrived! It was the latest audio technology and a piece of furniture all rolled into one.
In 1955 a Murphy A242R Radiogram cost an eye watering £113 0s. 0d, which was around 3 months wages for the average earner at that time and almost £2800 in today’s money.
The must-have transistor radio
The world’s first truly portable radio launched in 1954 and teenagers everywhere began saving hard to own one. A Bush B.A.C 31 cost £17 10 shillings – the best part of £400 now. Today a teenager’s smartphone can cost more than this!
The Dansette was another portable dream
This portable record player fast became another teenage favourite. The Dansette Junior and De Luxe were big hits on HP if Mum and Dad could be persuaded to put the deposit down!
In 1962 a Dansette Popular 4 speed record player cost 11 guineas – about £270 in today’s money, which is what you could pay for a restored one now.
Mum said goodbye to the cold shelf in the larder…
A fridge meant the end of mum having to shop every day but could cost the equivalent of over £1000 now – so renting was the only option for most.
The rent man was such a regular visitor he’d usually knock and walk straight in without waiting for an answer. And everyone kept paying long after the fridge was paid for, just in case it broke down (which of course it never did).
…and eventually hung up her mangle
The washing machine was a lifesaver for housewives but not all husbands agreed. Apparently they didn’t need one because they had a wife. Certain grounds for divorce today!
Luckily, the Electromatic Twin Tub brought more business for the rent man. Priced at 39 guineas it was half the price of the flashy American style machines. That’s still over £1000 now.
Introducing Ken Wood, king of the modern kitchen
Nothing impressed like a Kenwood Chef (invented by none other than Ken Wood). Owning one meant whipping up a cake or kneading a loaf without losing a bead of sweat.
Such high tech gadgetry came at a price - £19 in 1950 is the best part of £500 in today’s money. Mind you, some are still going strong and, if in top condition, can fetch that much now on ebay!
And finally, Green Shield Stamps made the world your oyster
At the end of the 1950s, Green Shield Stamps put luxuries and appliances within reach of the masses, or so it seemed.
In 1965 you only needed to fill 33 ¼ books to get a Kenwood Chef. It felt so achievable. But that actually meant spending £1064. That’s £1064 in 1965… you could have bought a house and still had change!
Can you remember when the telly or fridge arrived in your home or when mum finally got a vacuum cleaner? Did you save up for ages or get your first gizmo on the never-never? We’d love to hear your stories.
If you’ve enjoyed being whisked back to the first golden age of home technology, you may also enjoy these fabulous memories of a post war childhood and foods that take you back. Or for more old money memories, take a look at what you paid for your first car and your first pay packet.