(Not) A Very Merry Christmas!
18 December 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
Christmas isn’t always the perfect family time we like to think it is… sometimes illness, arguments, unexpected tasks, family tensions and catastrophes get in the way. We’ve selected some memories from the diaries in the Mass Observation archive of Christmases past which didn’t quite go according to plan…
‘My brother is a policeman and the most reactionary person I know; also he is stoically heterosexual, with two rather colourless children and a wife who thinks women should be paid less than men. It had always been a problem for me to relax among them. The last Christmas I spent with them was agonising. ..There were too many rows. I said ‘Never again’. And I never returned to that house, even for a visit.’
M, 45 SXMOA2/1/20/3
‘A nice short service but the ‘Te Deum’ was bloody awful… Read ‘National Velvet’ all afternoon… Gram on all evening, bed 10.30.’
M, 24 SXMOA99/51
‘Rob told me he had had a very severe bout of food poisoning…he thinks on reflection, it was the antipasto. He was violently sick all night and part of the next day…Meanwhile, he told me, Ruth had started to feel ill… As we spoke, upstairs in my bedroom she was violently sick, into a plastic carrier bag, it seems.’
F, 60 SXMOA99/14/4/15
‘The only misfortune was the Aran sweater that my aunt knitted for Elizabeth. The thank you letter is going to take a lot of careful phrasing as the sweater was far too small and had one sleeve an inch longer than the other… If only she’d rung for measurements!’
F, 53 SXMOA2/1/20
‘Karen helped both Marjorie and me to get up out of our seats and to be lowered gently into them! At 86 and 89 both movements need a strong arm to prevent a struggle or undignified collapse… I told Karen to be wary of handsome boys who tend to be demanding and arrogant… I have seen quite a few of them married for six or eight years and then going off with another woman and bringing another family into existence… I didn’t tell her that a billion pounds had not been paid to the first deserted families. Women have had the worst of the sexual revolution.’
M, 89 SXMOA99/85/1/10
‘Eventually cooked a turkey steak, potatoes, green beans and sprouts and was having it as it got dusk. However Jane had brought Sweep across to be here as a refuge because they had visitors and he was unhappy and restless, going to the door, clawing at the carpet etc so I let him out. This deterred me from my dinner and it got a bit cold and I didn’t enjoy it much.’
F, 71 SXMOA99/92/18
‘When I got home Bob went out to ‘do his kiosk’. He takes part in the BT ‘Watch the Box’ scheme which aims to prevent vandalism and ensure speedy reporting of faulty (telephone) kiosks. His particular box is about three-quarters of a mile away and he had reported the coin slot as jammed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day he decided to take a screwdriver and see if he could free the jammed coins as he did not think the coin box was full. He also made sure he had his BT identity card in his pocket in case someone thought he was a vandal. In fact, the slot was jammed with two 5p pieces stuck together (a trick to try to get £1 worth of phone time, apparently) and he freed it easily with the screwdriver.’
F, 53 SXMOA2/1/20
‘Christmas shopping and preparations begin for me any time after the summer. I make out lists of people to whom I send things, averaging, over the past four years, 45. I keep past lists for about three years so that I may check up and avoid repetitions… on the other hand I don’t like festivities. I am unsociable and avoid them.’
F (no age given) SXMOA1/3/25/1
‘Xmas was a day of gloom in our family, my father hated it and did his best to make it a day of misery my mother being religious tried to jolly it up so we had these two opposing forces battling it out, and the shadow of the marital war-games stills hangs over the 25th for me… A gay Xmas is much nicer and less trouble.’
F, 50 SXMOA16/1/1/64/12
‘Christmas at home consists of washing up (one maid and about seven in the house); sitting in the lounge (there are no comfortable chairs) and watching my father go to sleep after lunch; perhaps a walk round suburban roads in the morning and on Christmas morning a ridiculous ceremony of opening presents… I particularly dislike my sister and do my best to conceal it.’
F (no age given) SXMOA1/3/25/1
‘A went to bed for his usual siesta. I watched The Reluctant Dragon, which I had recorded and which, in 1941, I had given top rating. Why? I was very unimpressed and bored by it all and even the cartoon was below Disney’s then high standard…. We are both very relieved when Twelfth Night has passed and it can all be abandoned. I enjoyed my childhood Christmasses and our carol services at boarding school, but that was then; this is now.’
M, 68 SXMOA16/1/2/18/12
‘Continued typing a letter begun yesterday to a dear gay friend in Australia. He’d sent me a tea towel with lots of little Koala bears on it, and a sexy Xmas card. At page five-and-a-half I smelt burning. The peas! Mostly blackened; I salvaged a few and got some more out, scoured the black pan, boiled it clean again and set it boiling again; this time winding up my very useful timer clock to remind me in five minutes.’
M, 66 SXMOA16/1/2/18
‘I spent all Xmas Day in bed coughing due to a flu virus, waited on hand and foot by my mate who had had it a little earlier but was still coughing. Luckily we have two different coughs, she sounding like a trombone, I like a cat being sick.’
F, 50 SXMOA16/1/1/64/12
‘Shopping – I leave that as far as possible to mother. Services – never attend them. Emotions – disgust. Interest – nil. Parties – never go to any. Dances – don’t dance…. Christmas I know from past experience will be a bore, it always is. For example, Christmas Day, spent at home with parents and a widow of some 75 years who always visits us at that time. Dinner is late and mother gets irritated because of the extra cooking. After dinner sit around and eat chocolates and nuts and play some damn fool card game.’
M, 28 SXMOA1/3/25/2
‘I cycled to church… a lovely ride through West London. The church was a tiny one in Petersham. I wore trousers but no-one in my family complained. It was the first time I had darkened the doors of a church for ages…..We had Christmas dinner at half past six. My sister had provided a chestnut and apple roast as a turkey substitute for me and the other vegetarian in the family. My other sister asked me to wear a skirt for the meal. I declined but I don’t think she really expected me to anyway.’
F, 25 SXMOA16/1/2/3/11
‘The evening buffet started with soup served in the dining room but – Someone Had Blundered and the buffet was not yet laid out in the Turpin Room and we had to wait. Profuse apologies from the waiter.’
F, 77 SXMOA99/92/18
The expansion of Hove: a house – and garage – for everyone
6 November 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
A devastating war may have come and gone but through it the register of planning applications in the Borough of Hove Surveyor’s Office was maintained faultlessly, the only evidence of the national trauma being a 50 per cent decrease in planning applications between 1914-1918. After the war, although local industries and shops continued to grow and modernise, there was a very slow start to house-building despite the temporary subsidies available under the Housing (Additional Powers) Act 1919.
It was to take ten years before confidence in the building industry returned. 1928 seems to be the key year in Hove’s expansion northwards into Hangleton, Blatchington and the surrounding downland farms. The roads between the railway line and the Old Shoreham Road were filled with large-scale developments (ie ‘45 houses, Amherst Crescent and Aldrington Avenue’) and the success of this was the cue for huge projects of new roads, sewers and housing north of the Old Shoreham Road which was only interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939. Braybons the builders cornered the market in Hangleton as they had done in Brighton; they began building 103 houses in Elm Drive, May Tree Walk and Rowan Avenue in spring 1933, and started again building 80 houses and 38 garages on Hangleton ‘Estate Road No 4’ in early 1936. A garage was now considered essential; everyone who had bought a house without one or builders who had started constructing houses without them remedied their errors in the 1930s. The value-for-money option was the pre-fabricated garage from Booths Portable Buildings Ltd.
There was obviously rapid profit to be made in large estates of smaller semi-detached houses, and, later, of semi-detached and detached bungalows. The impression from the register is of developers, individually or in groups, being determined to start building as soon as land became available, often putting plans before the Borough Surveyor and Improvements Committee even before a specific plot had been identified on a new road and necessitating a measurement from the nearest landmark or building in order to plot it on the office map. A handful of local architects and builders maintained a firm grip on the developing housing market and, by 1937, some of them had been there since the 1890s, handing on the business through the family. Several names – Marchant, Nye, Parsons and Sons, Braybons, Cook, Callaways, Denman and Draycott – are still associated with the building industry and working in Brighton and Hove today.
After the First World War, the rich no longer came en masse to spend their summers in Hove. Some families sold their grand houses in Hove’s premier roads leading from Church Road and Western Road to the seafront, but others kept them, converting them into flats for rental income. Initially, each floor of a large house would become one flat, the architect’s plans rarely exceeding four in one building. However, in 1938 owners began to see the potential in ‘tenements’ (as the planning register called them), or ‘flatlets’ (in the words of the architect). Perhaps those at 9, 11 and 13 Holland Road were Hove’s first studios. The party walls separating the large terraced houses were demolished, making them ‘all intercommunicating’. The rooms were divided by a partition wall to create a living space with a ‘kitchenette’ in the corner. A shared bathroom was at the end of the landing or on the next floor. In August 1940, plans were submitted to make 16 flatlets and caretaker’s quarters out of the single house at 44 Brunswick Place.
Hove still remained the town of choice for wealthy individuals and retirees. The latter could move into one of the luxury, modern purpose-built flats occupying prominent positions on the Kingsway. In August 1936, Viceroy Lodge at the bottom of Hove Street was designed with its own servants’ quarters and every flat in St Aubyn’s Mansions had its own maid’s bedroom. In 1932, Hove’s first private swimming pool had been designed by the architect Mr S Clough. Designed for satisfying length swimming, it filled the entire back garden of number 8 Third Avenue and came with 2 diving boards, a terrace and, for privacy, a thick conifer screen at the back.
In 1939, Hove’s main industries were still those of 50 years previously and they were in the same place, banked up against the Brighton to Shoreham railway line. Dubarry’s had bought out the Standard Tablet Company in 1924 and was installed in the factories and warehouses south of Hove Park Villas. Brighton and Hove Omnibuses were still in Conway Street and the laundries in Arthur Street were expanding and updating; in 1922, dry cleaning was offered at Channel Laundry. The newly-created industrial estate to the west of Newtown Road was dominated by the head office of Clarks Bakery, whose delivery men on bicycles, and later vans, supplied the local shops. Improvements in 1933 placed woodblock-floored offices, a telephone booth and boardroom around the strongroom, with a three-bedroomed flat upstairs. Green’s, makers of dessert and cake mixes, had been on its site between Portland Road and the railway for over 20 years and had its own spur line to the factory. The machine tool factory CVA Jigs, Moulds and Tools lay on the north side of Portland Road opposite Glebe Villas and had expanded from its ‘temporary building’ in 1917 to a full iron foundry works in 1930. Smelting work was carried out there until the early 1970s.
Away from Hove’s many pubs or ‘hotels’ as the planning register termed them, entertainment came in the form of football, greyhound racing and cinema. The Goldstone football ground had a new North Stand in 1930, to be followed by a clubhouse, improved lavatories and two ‘temporary’ bars, owned by Tamplins, in 1937. The nearby greyhound stadium, new in 1929, went from strength to strength; improved and extended during the early 1930s, it received a ‘totalisator’ building for betting in April 1936, additions to the grandstand in late 1938 and extensions to the east stand in January 1939. Hove Ice Rink, which lay alongside the railway at the top of Denmark Villas, was a huge temple-like building with a high-ceilinged entrance hall, orchestra pit, restaurant, board room and tea lounge. However, it lost popularity soon after opening in 1929 and was reopened as the Hove Lido cinema in 1932.
Dr Hart of 47 Cromwell Road was the first civilian to apply for permission to build an air raid shelter in his garden in January 1939. This threw the Planning Committee into a dilemma; as it was ‘a structure not provided for in their Building Bylaws, the Borough Surveyor suggests that the Council accept no responsibility in respect of the proposals’. They didn’t have long to wait before instructions from the War Office took the responsibility away from them. Only two organisations, the Brighton and Hove Omnibus Company and Boots Chemists, were proactive when it came to protecting their employees in the months before war became official, the former building two air raid shelters in Conway Street, one with a gas-proof door, and the latter providing shelters at all three of its shops in Boundary Road, George Street and Church Road.
Regarding the book itself, 1939’s planning register, purchased in June 1937 from Combridge’s Stationers at 56 Church Road, is a duplicate of Hove Borough’s first planning register of 1885. Its layout and listing style were unchanged, reflecting, one suspects, the procedural continuity of the council committee meetings at which the Borough Surveyor approved new buildings. Ink pens were still used although the writing was no longer standard nineteenth-century copperplate and formalities were important. The word ‘Messrs’ always preceded a company’s name and two or more unmarried sisters living together were termed, ‘The Misses…’. It was business as usual in the Surveyor’s Office right up to 24 December and again after 26 December. It would be 35 years before 1 January became a public holiday.
Life in Postwar Hove – insights from the Borough Minute Books
15 October 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
In 1914, Hove was a grand town. It had been a regular retreat of Edward VII, the front page of the local paper carrying the latest on ‘The King’, and where the King had walked, the wealthy London elite still followed. The Brunswick Estate, Hove Lawns and the wide roads surrounding Grand Avenue made a most elegant seaside environment, with the ‘working classes’ tucked firmly away in mews cottages or in terraced housing to the west. Today, we know that the 1914-18 War changed British society irrevocably but in 1918-19 the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Hove saw no such portents. The minutes of Hove Borough’s myriad Committees show how they coped with the challenges of the peace while attempting to maintain the status quo.
As with councils today, finance – the need to conserve money and curtail unnecessary spending – was a predominant issue on every committee, from Small-Holdings and Allotments to Town Hall and Entertainments. Wounded soldiers returning home and unable to recommence their work in Borough departments were a worry. Lance Corporal Emsley MM and Bar, discharged from the army as unfit for service and declared not fit to return to work ‘for a considerable time’, was receiving a war pension but also half-pay from his job as a cemetery worker. The Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee reviewed his case every month, only granting him half-pay on regular evidence from a doctor. With no regular wage reviews, it was up to municipal employees to request wage rises or increased War Bonuses, and it was only after a certain amount of pressure, for example the mass meeting of the Municipal Employees Association in February 1919, that committees would agree to ‘confer’ over the issue. Wounded soldiers and their charities were given consideration but there were increasing limitations to compassion where finances were at stake. In 1919, shell-shocked soldiers were allowed individual free use of the swimming baths, but the previous year Sir Arthur Pearson only had exclusive use of the Swimming Bath on Sunday mornings from 10.30 to 12.30 ‘on the understanding that (he) pays to the man left in charge the sum of 5/- per Sunday’. In 1919, the Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee was very concerned about how long it could continue waiving burial fees for soldiers and sailors. Hove War Memorial Fund, set up in June 1921 to assist families of former soldiers in extreme need with money or clothing for children, declined to help the family of W. Butcher as he ‘was not a Hove man within the definition given in the Trust Deeds, therefore ineligible for assistance’.
The minute books provide much information on women’s roles during the War and beyond. With men serving in the military, women were used as a labour source throughout the town’s municipal departments. They were particularly useful as labourers in Hove Cemetery, where they cut the grass and cleaned the walks. Always termed ‘temporary’, their pay went up from 4d to 5d per hour in March 1918 (they received no War Bonus) and in May an extra six were taken on. In the Rates Department, Miss Springer and Miss Winter had been doing the work of Messrs Cheverton and Bolton, but when these gentlemen returned from military service, the Town Clerk was instructed to ‘give one month’s notice to Miss Springer and Miss Winter to terminate their engagements’. In April 1919, following a Home Office circular which recommended that ‘women auxiliaries may be of great assistance to the Police when dealing with cases in which women and children are concerned’, the Watch Committee decided ‘to expend the sum of £15s’ on the appointment of two Policewomen, ‘and in addition the cost of necessary uniform, including boots’.
In February 1920 Miss Basden, Honorary Secretary of the Joint Housing Committee of the Brighton and Hove Branch of the National Council for Women, asked for two women to be co-opted on the Housing Committee. The Committee’s reply was abrupt: there were already two ladies on the Committee. In May, Miss Basden wrote again, this time using the term ‘working women’ and referring to the recent Circular of the Ministry of Health, which recommended that ‘where women are co-opted upon a Housing Committee, the claims of working women who have had experience of bringing up a family and doing all the work of their home should be specially considered’. She gave the names of Mrs Aldridge of 21 Shakespeare Street and Mrs Standing of 22 Molesworth Street, as recommended for co-option and the Committee resolved that the Council be recommended to co-opt them ‘to hold office until 9 Nov next’.
The provision of affordable rented housing for working people was a huge issue and Councillors felt the pressure of expectation from both central Government and individuals in the Borough. A new estate fronting Portland Road had been earmarked for development and Housing Committee minutes chart its slow progress, with discussion of various house types and arguments over sizes of kitchens and sculleries – the women had a voice here. Costs were regularly restructured, with expenditure shaved from kerbs (replaced by boundary stones), roads (gravel instead of macadam in some areas) and economies on roadside planting. The cottages were estimated to cost £1000 each, with an ‘economic’ rent working out at about 35/- per week. The Housing Committee had been set up in 1919 and one of its first tasks was to read a circular from the Local Government Board asking for a survey of the town’s empty houses ‘which might be converted into flats or tenements for the working classes’. There was such a list, submitted by the Assistant Borough Surveyor, which he had obtained from the Rate Collector. ‘It appeared that most of the empty premises were the larger residential houses, situated in Palmeira Square, or localities of that character. The Committee are of the opinion that in view of the position of the empty houses… it would not be advantageous to the Borough for such premises to be converted into flats or tenements.’ They duly replied to the Local Government Board ‘that there are no houses in the Borough at the present time which would be suitable for conversion’.
The dry bureaucracy of Hove’s collection of Committee Minutes provides an unexpected insight into the local human cost of the War. In March 1918, the Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee heard from the Town Clerk that ‘questions had arisen’ regarding the portion of Hove Cemetery which had been reserved for the burial of those ‘whose deaths had occurred in connection with the war’. Now it appeared that relatives wished to be buried in the same grave as those they had lost … ‘the Committee agreed that permission be granted’. In September 1919, a Mrs Oliver wrote to the Committee asking if she could pay to have the path from the Cemetery Chapel to her son’s grave asphalted at her own expense, as it was in a bad state of repair. The Committee replied that this work was in hand along with other paths in the Cemetery. Two months later, Mrs Oliver wrote again; she wanted to leave £1,000 in her will to the Borough ‘for the perpetual upkeep of her son’s grave’. The Committee replied that it would be much better if the money be paid over now and a Trust created during her lifetime.
The minute books give a sense of daily life in Hove in 1919, and also of the changing face of the town at the end of the War. Large sections of Hove Park, Hove Recreation Ground and Aldrington Recreation Ground (Wish Park) had been turned into allotments and notice was given in January 1920 to the allotment holders that their tenancy would be terminated the following December. Flag days, collections and fairs in the parks had been almost weekly events during the War, all on behalf of the military; even after the Armistice the Committee was loath to give other charities permission to make collections without permission from the Government. There were still military camps at Shoreham and Portslade, so buses from Brighton to Portslade were continually overcrowded. This caused general ill-feeling and, particularly, anxiety during the influenza outbreak in 1918; however, after an equal vote the Watch Committee decided against asking the bus company to keep to its licensed number. Similarly, they decided they did not have the powers to ask cinemas to stop admitting children under 14, despite the fears that back-to-back performances and lack of ventilation increased children’s susceptibility to infection. Local Government Board regulations would soon limit entertainments to a maximum of three hours with a requirement for ventilation.
The Minute Books from the Borough of Hove’s scores of Committees and Sub-Committees are a resource in waiting, not only for the local historian and researcher but also for those interested in the broader context, how a community and its individuals fitted into the national framework of post-war Britain in 1919.
The Many Hats of Mass Observation
19 July 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
A lady wearing a hat to complete her outfit is an unusual sight in 2018, unless she is on her way to Ascot or a high-end wedding. But in 1939, at the start of what would become World War 2, the subject of hats and their wearing were felt to be important by the people at Mass Observation. There was anxiety on the topic, and, although definite fears were unspecified, the interest of MO in women’s fashion in general showed that the subject was considered to be an indicator of, and an influence on, the state of female civilian morale. ‘What happiness for the millions, who in this way can escape from their sooty street so gardenless, by buying a hat with flowers in front, ‘as good as any lady in the land’,’ wrote MO’s founder Tom Harrisson. A woman could be, ‘a Duchess for 3/11.’
In December 1939 an MO Observer was sent to a fashion gala at Grosvenor House attended by the wealthy and aristocratic. He reported that, ‘standards of fashion generally were quite up to pre-war standard’, with women ‘only too glad to go back to ultra-fashionable dress. Hats particularly take this turn.’ There was, ‘Obvious approval when told by the commentator that it is more patriotic to buy new clothes than not to.’
That was reassuring, but what about most women? Fewer seemed to be wearing hats as the war went on and observers were regularly sent into the West End and East End of London to note exact numbers. They also drew and described hats in shop windows. In 1944 a hat count taken by an observer standing at Whitechapel Station recorded that out of 300 women, 94 were hatless, 128 wore hats (nearly half of them in black felt), while the remaining women wore scarves and ‘pixies’.
By 1947 Harrisson was worried about scarves. He set out to discover ‘if the scarf has become a permanent menace to the hat trade’ and reported that women were willing to sacrifice two clothing coupons for a scarf although hats were coupon-free. An observer in London one Sunday in October 1947 found that out of 20 women, 7 wore hats, 5 wore scarves and 8 went bareheaded.
It was a sign of things to come. In the early days of the War, MO had noted that 82 per cent of women over 40 were wearing ‘a proper hat’ compared with only 45 per cent of the under 40s. As time went on it was the younger women who were the quickest to lay their ‘proper’ hats aside while the older group clung on to theirs the longest. Harrisson, beginning a survey designed to prompt the reawakening of the British hat industry in October 1947, stated that, ‘It must be of great interest to the hat manufacturers to find out the present day attitude of the general public.’ However, the ensuing MO survey was to reveal that the general public, especially women, didn’t care half as much about hats as Harrisson did and they were certainly not prepared to spend large amounts of hard-earned money on them. MO has been quiet on the subject ever since.
When living on benefits meant wearing a pauper’s badge
2 July 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
Inskipp, Maplesden, Langridge, Harriott, Muggridge… these are just a few of the Sussex names which feature in two parchment-bound books recently acquired by East Sussex Record Office (ESRO). They are parish record books and contain details of payments and benefits given to the poor in East Sussex over 250 years ago. Archivists at ESRO consider themselves fortunate to have bought them through two private sales, before going to public auction. The books come from the parishes of Catsfield and Battle and were kept by the small group of men who had been nominated to the two-year post of parish overseer, a time-consuming and often difficult role which involved doling out cash and assistance to the parish’s poorest individuals as well as monitoring their welfare and behaviour.
James Markwick and Thomas May, the Overseers of the Poor of Catsfield parish, began their Account Book in April 1764. A heavyweight affair, it was to last the parish until 1809 and its cost, 12 shillings, roughly the equivalent of 12 weeks benefit for an individual pauper, can be seen on the fifth page. Typical entries are, ‘one month’s rent’, ‘four weeks’ pay’, cash to individuals ‘in need’, faggots for fuel or clothing for children. As well as distributing funds and services, Markwick and May had to collect regular payments from everyone in the parish who paid rates and balance the books annually. The overseers would give out work such as spinning and mending to those who could do it, organise doctors’ visits and even arrange fostering placements for children and young people with nowhere to live. Understandably, parish overseers went to great lengths to confine benefits to those already settled in their parish. Paupers were given the parish’s ‘P’ pauper badge which had to be sewn onto their outer clothing to identify them as dependent solely on their particular parish for subsistence.
Battle’s Small Vestry Book covers the shorter time period of the ten years between 1778 and 1788, but completes a series which runs from 1757 to 1835. It records the decisions made at regular meetings in Battle church vestry to distribute ad hoc cash payments, benefits or services to families and individuals who must have been on the verge of starvation or destitution. On 9 October 1782, for example, seven of the overseers agreed to allow Martha Pins ‘one upper coat, one under coat, a pair of stays and an apron’. Pauper women received an extra allowance during their ‘lying-in’ – when they gave birth – and bastard children were provided for. The overseers had also to rein in those who perhaps liked the perks of their job too much. In February 1784, it was agreed that ‘John Skeath the Governor of the Workhouse do pay to the overseers the sum of six pounds and nine shillings and fourpence being a deficiency in his account of spinning and other things… And also that the said John Skeath shall not sell any garden stuff or other things without the express leave of the parishioners…’
Taken together, the Overseers’ Account Book and the Small Vestry Book reveal how two Sussex parishes managed their sick, destitute and aged members. Every parishioner would have been known to the overseers, and, while it may have been humiliating to be identified as dependant on the parish for subsistence, it was also highly unlikely that an individual would have been left wholly without food or shelter, while there was enough food and resources to go round.
County Archivist Christopher Whittick commented, ‘These documents are wonderful finds. They chronicle almost half a century of assistance given to the poor and helpless people of two rural parishes. Every aspect of their lives, and of the suppliers, tradesmen and professionals who provided the services, is recorded in minute detail. Whether your interest lies in family history, Sussex in the 18th century or the parishes of Catsfield or Battle and its important market town, this volume will be of huge interest. We are most grateful to Bellmans of Wisborough Green and to Eastbourne Auctions for withdrawing these long-lost parish records from sale and arranging for us to buy them for preservation with the other papers of these two parishes at the County Record Office.
Meet the Volunteers: Diana Hansen, Secretary and Trustee of the Friends of The Keep Archives (FoTKA)
1 June 2018
‘Volunteering at The Keep is completely different from what I normally do. It’s intellectually challenging, absorbing, personally rewarding – and very worthwhile as well.’
‘I completed a History degree at Sussex University in the 1960s and went on to work for the Civil Service in the Treasury and then the Ministry of Defence. After retirement, we came back to Brighton and I decided to do an MA in History. This included a course on palaeography taught by Christopher Whittick, now County Archivist at East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), which is based at The Keep. Naturally I became interested in archives, and Christopher, well, he’s a very persuasive man! Before long I became one of his volunteers at ESRO in Lewes. I’m currently working on the archives of the Ashburnham Estate. I especially enjoyed cataloguing sketchbooks of a Grand Tour to Italy, Greece and the Middle East, with fine portraits of exotic warriors and elders enjoying a shisha. Before that, I worked on letters from Louisa, a daughter of the Elphinstone family of Ore Place, and her quarrelsome husband Robert, finding out much about the family in the process – how their fortunes went up and down and how they ended up living cheaply in Europe like many poverty-stricken aristocrats of the time. It was entertaining stuff!
‘I joined the Friends of East Sussex Record Office as a trustee ten years ago. Now my roles at FoTKA have changed slightly. I’m Secretary and Trustee – it sounds onerous but it isn’t. I inherited from the late Pam Combes the editorship of the six-monthly newsletter, which is something I can do from home, while being a Trustee involves attending four meetings a year, ensuring agendas are relevant and that minutes are written up.
‘Friends of The Keep pay a moderate membership fee and this goes towards financing new acquisitions for the archive – they might be postcards, documents, letters, maps – costing anything from £10 to £1,000. Recently, the unique collection of lantern slides detailing the construction of Beachy Head lighthouse between 1900 and 1902 was purchased with funding from the Friends, together with contributions from other grant-giving bodies and residents of Eastbourne – it was a good example of a community working together. If you’re interested in East Sussex and its historic buildings, becoming a Friend brings excellent benefits. We organise privileged visits to houses and places of interest which are often not open to the general public, accompanied by speakers with unrivalled knowledge of the area.
‘Much of my volunteering is done in the autumn and winter; I try to come to The Keep every other week for a morning or so. I also love sailing so I’m usually doing that for six weeks in the summer – my FoTKA colleagues have been known to panic when I haven’t answered an email for several days! When I was at the Treasury and MOD, I loved working with the army and meeting all sorts of different people and this happens here, too. Friends of The Keep come from many different backgrounds but we all share a love of the history and buildings of East Sussex. I hope more people join us!’
Interview by Lindsey Tydeman
For more information about the Friends of The Keep Archives, including details of how to join, please visit the FoTKA website.
Fuss, flannel and (street-party) fatigue!
14 May 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
In 1947, the research organisation Mass Observation asked its correspondents to comment on the Royal Wedding. What were their opinions? And what did they do during the day? Thirty-four years later, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, they asked the same question…
Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten on 20 November 1947 was a much-needed lift for a post-war country still making do under rationing, or ‘fuss and flannel’, depending on your viewpoint. Many male diarists commented that too much money had been spent and that the event appealed only to the sillier type of woman. Female respondents tended to embrace the moment and its morale-boosting glamour, while remaining aware of the monarchy’s usefulness in Britain’s political context. Few respondents confessed to being outright royalists but acknowledged that the monarchy would probably continue, although a few predicted its inevitable destruction in the changing post-war political landscape. Some had suspicions that the wedding had been an arranged match; most, however, were empathic and supportive of a young couple, in love and about to begin their life partnership.
Male, 24, 1402
I feel we should try to achieve, one day in the very distant future, a race of men who aren’t so silly as to line the streets in their thousands in order to see… well, whatever one does see when one watches a Royal Wedding… I don’t know as I wasn’t there.
Male, 60, MUN.2
I could not conceivably care less.
My brother got tickets for the Guildhall, as a Councillor, but as a Socialist disdained to use them, so mother and I went. We had a good view of the procession but were too high up to see into the coaches and cars, which was disappointing.
Male, 34, MAT.2
Do they, when out of the public eye, think of each other and talk to each other, as my wife and I do, are they really in love? I hope so… I think the Princess performs her duties excellently and I believe she will later be a ruler we can admire and respect.
The whole thing is staged by Church and State to enhance the concept of family life, yet what relation the general standard of family life has to a couple who start with every circumstance of wealth and luxury is never questioned.
Male, 28, 109
I don’t feel very strongly about the Royal Wedding, either for or against. I certainly could not work up the enthusiasm to go to London to see it. If anything I feel that royalty has even lost its symbolical power and we could just as well get on without it.
Female, 41, 653
On the actual day, when I was outside Buckingham Palace and the Royal Couple came on the balcony after their wedding, I was touched by the devotion of the English people to the crown. There was genuine love and good wishes.
This marriage has proved once again that Englishmen will take anything. When the first rumours appeared, there was considerable opposition to an alliance with such a discredited Royal House as the Greek. But the affair was managed with such deftness (cf the abdication) that now there is no more popular man in England.
People, on the average, still need occasionally the modern equivalent of the Roman circus which provides excitement, mass interest and pageantry. Because the Royal wedding provided this, the expense incurred, even in difficult times, can be considered to have been well spent.
I consider Princess Elizabeth is most fortunate if she has been able to marry for love as for State purposes, which would appear to be the case. I only hope that people will in the future interfere less with their private lives than they have done in the past.
Female, 54, BUR.5
As a socialist, I can only hope that some day we can do away with royalty, without causing pain to anyone.
I do not know Princess Elizabeth or the Duke of Edinburgh personally and so I wasn’t interested.
Male, 37, 881
The only regrettable feature was the scenes of extremely bad manners displayed by the public on the occasion of the married couple attending church on their honeymoon.
Male, aged 26, 1040
The Royal Wedding? Completely nauseated.
Male, 25, 2002
I approved of the Royal Wedding. It introduced a little colour and pageantry into our National life and made a lot of people, particularly the women, very happy… The majority of the criticism I felt was so much humbug and jealousy. Hurrah for a little colour!
Female, 41, 1607
I saw and heard it on the television, and was as excited and moved as if I’d been there… the Princess’s wedding dress was a magnificent example of the best artistry and workmanship in the world, and shows what can be done in this country if we try….even the most hardened socialist could not have begrudged this Princess a wedding worthy of her land…
In 1981, people also felt jaded and anxious; they were in a recession, prices were rising fast and there were high levels of unemployment. Thinking about the Royal Wedding, many contrasted it with the royal event of four years earlier, the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977, and expected local councils and their neighbours to organise celebrations of a similarly high standard. Diarists frequently recorded their disappointment that no street parties had been organised in their localities, or, that if they had, the programme was relatively low-key and budgets less than those of 1977. Nevertheless, where parties had been planned, women spent all day baking for them, snatching only a few moments to go to the TV. A minority of respondents were thinking about the rioting which had recently taken place across the UK’s major cities, and feared some attempt to disrupt the proceedings. Most planned their day around the TV, sometimes decamping to friends or relatives with colour sets, while others were determined to miss the event at all costs, planning long-distance walks or remote fishing trips. General exhaustion was felt across the UK by the evening. The big films shown on the day were The Sound of Music and Saturday Night Fever.
It was a terrific lift for the country at a time when everyone seems to be down in the dumps. I went to see the wedding with my sister. We slept outside the Palace the night before and the atmosphere amongst the crowd had to be experienced to be believed. We made friends with 3 girls and a boy from America, all aged approx 20. They had given up their jobs and worked their way over here especially to see the wedding.
8.45 Sister arrived with slices of bread and butter/ honeyed toast and joined audience.
9.15 Niece appeared and joined audience. Husband left house, taken by brother-in-law, to start walking the Mendip Way from Weston-super-Mare.
By 9.45 we were ready to start watching. I was interested to note that my father (retired, aged 72) who usually wanders round in his pyjamas all morning, was shaved and dressed by then.
If I’m alive when Charles is crowned, I won’t spend the day with my family. That’s a promise.
Mixed feelings. General conclusion from the office… that it’s been overdone, particularly the cheap and tatty souvenirs and pervading jingoism. What particularly annoyed my boss was that manufacturers seem to be using the wedding as an excuse to sell souvenirs by stamping a commemorative mark on to their ordinary products. She cited the example of a plastic kettle she bought several months ago now being stamped with a ‘Wedding stamp’.
I felt really worried that the bride’s father, Earl Spencer, would never make it to the altar… The Queen Mother could be seen quite clearly mouthing the words ‘poor man’ as he approached…
My husband, an agnostic, went to a pub in the morning and was very annoyed to see the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster given precedence over the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in the Blessing.
In all honesty I had really no intention of watching the wedding, actually I was waiting for the cowboy film to come on the TV… and I’m really glad I did for I have never seen anything like it during my lifetime… there is not another country in the world who could have put on a show like it, the pomp, precision and timing of the whole ceremony all the way through, the only late part being going away on honeymoon, and you can understand that, he wouldn’t want to appear too eager.’
8 am Drained 3 white bed quilts in bath. Washed and set hair. Emptied ashes. Opened greenhouse. All while watching Royal Wedding.
I myself was very interested in attending the festivities along the route. However, I could not find a brave soul to come along, as the recent riots and the thought of pickpockets, muggers and the exorbitant prices charged by cowboy ice cream sellers etc, put them all off. My husband would not allow me to go alone.
I liked it all and I’ll watch it again. I did feel sad that I wasn’t there in person, the atmosphere must have been something to behold, but I vowed to myself to be there for Charles’ coronation, whenever that may be.
Women of Sussex – Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891)
8 March 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
When one thinks of 19th-century feminist pioneers, the name Barbara Bodichon does not spring to mind. History associates her neither with medicine (Elizabeth Blackwell), the vote (Millicent Fawcett), health and hospitals (Florence Nightingale), secondary education (the Misses Beale and Buss) or higher education (Emily Davis). Yet at different stages of her life she committed time, energy and huge amounts of money to all of these in the name of the ‘freedom and justice we English women struggle for’.
Born in 1827 in Whatlington, near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, Barbara Leigh Smith was always going to experience the chill of social exclusion as well as the freedom and privilege of wealth. Her father Benjamin Smith was the son of William Smith, the abolitionist and Unitarian spokesman in parliament. Benjamin inherited the family’s commitment to social improvement, particularly education, and founded an infant school in Westminster which also provided food, sewing lessons and baths. Although Ben Smith was committed to Barbara’s mother, a milliner called Anne Longden, they never married and his children were not publicly acknowledged by his married siblings and their families. After Anne Longden’s early death in August 1834, Benjamin Smith rented a house in Pelham Crescent, Hastings, and provided tutors, governesses and riding masters in a free-thinking environment where the girls enjoyed early independence, received drawing lessons and mixed with visiting and local artists. Art and ‘the sisterhood’ would the dominating themes of Barbara’s life, often intertwining but sometimes pulling her in different ways. In 1862, she acknowledged the temptation of art; it was much more enjoyable than these, ‘dusty dirty attempts to help one’s fellow creatures’ with, ‘long sojourns in stifling rooms with miserable people’.
On reaching the age of 21, Barbara received an investment portfolio from her father which gave her financial independence. It may have been a mixed blessing; while she could now afford to spend time painting, writing and organising projects of political and social reform, the need to earn a living, which was acting as an impetus for several women who would later be at the forefront of feminist initiatives, had been removed. She also learned that her father had a second illegitimate family with a woman he had met after her mother’s death. These children were not acknowledged by Barbara and her siblings.
In 1848, Barbara had her first article published in the Hastings and St Leonards News. ‘An Appeal to the Inhabitants of Hastings’ wished that reformers would give the same energy to social health issues as the Church of England did to the distribution of Bibles. This was followed by pieces denouncing the enforced ignorance of middle-class women, the foolishness of feminine fashion (particularly tight corsets) and ‘The Education of Women’, pleading with parents to let their daughters follow their interests in art or politics ‘unmolested’. The following year she attended drawing classes at the new Ladies College in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, and enjoyed unchaperoned art trips with friends through Germany and Europe.
Barbara’s A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws concerning Women of 1854 was her summary of Wharton’s 550-page Exposition of the Laws relating to the Women of England, published in 1853. The short book was meant to be read in a single sitting, with salient points highlighting the propertied single woman’s inability to vote and the married woman’s legal state of being ‘absorbed’ by her husband. In November the same year, her much-cherished project, that of a progressive infant school where social classes mixed together, Portman Hall School, opened near the Edgware Road in London.
In 1856, Barbara drafted a petition for the reform of laws affecting women which secured 3,000 signatures and was presented in parliament the same year. She produced the pamphlet Women and Work, an argument for the right of middle-class women to have professions without losing gentility or perceived ‘femininity’, and became a founding member of The Society of Female Artists, creating a space in which women could display and sell their works. She was instrumental in securing lecture halls and local receptions for Elizabeth Blackwell’s first lectures on ‘Medicine as a Profession for the ladies’. The same year, having narrowly escaped a sexual liaison with her publisher Chapman – which would have undoubtedly ruined her socially – her father took his daughters to Algiers for the winter where Barbara met and soon married the eccentric and philanthropic French doctor Eugène Bodichon. Future years would be divided between Britain and Algiers. In Sussex she would paint; in London, from her home and political base in Blandford Square, she would organise reforming committees; and from Algiers, in-between art expeditions, she would direct funds and instructions back to London.
In 1858, Barbara and her childhood friend Bessie Parkes established a new magazine, The Englishwoman’s Journal. Its headquarters in Langham Place had a ladies reading room, a luncheon room, and, briefly, a women’s employment exchange. She was at the height of her campaigning energy. In 1859 she headed a petition of 39 women artists to force the Royal Academy to admit women students to its schools; in 1866, she was instrumental in the campaign for extending the franchise to female householders. In 1872, she put down the first £1000 towards what would eventually become Girton College, Cambridge.
In later years, Barbara Bodichon drew fulfilment from more personal projects which brought immediate results. She supported several women through higher education, assisting their families financially to free them to attend university colleges. After retirement to her house at Scalands Gate in Sussex following a stroke, she asked Gertrude Jekyll to design an addition to the house which would serve as a reading room, library and night school for young working men who could not read or write. She donated liberally to local hospitals and charities. After her death in June 1891, the Sussex Agricultural Express reported that around 50 members of the night school preceded her funeral cortege on its journey from Scalands Gate to the church at Brightling. ‘The basis of Madame’s character,’ wrote J Piper in his History of Robertsbridge (1906), ‘was a sense of abstract justice.’
Pam Hirsch, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon 1827-1891: Feminist, Artist and Rebel (1998)
Delving into Hove’s planning registers – a work in progress…
27 February 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
During the past few months staff at The Keep have been working though old volumes from the Surveyor’s Office at Hove Council, adding details of building control plans to the public database. This will assist anyone who wants to find the original plans for their house, or to start researching their house history. Nearly 50,000 applications were made to Hove Council’s Works and Improvement Committee between 1875 and 1984, and the listing so far has reached the early years of the 20th century…
Flawless copperplate writing, free of mistakes or deletions, was the required form for the records and minutes of Hove Council and its plan registers are no exception. From the formation of the Works and Improvement Committee in 1875, every plan submitted to it, whether for greenhouses, bicycle stores, new roads, houses, or alterations or additions to existing buildings, came under its scrutiny and was afterwards deposited at the Town Hall in Church Road. An individual plan was usually submitted by the architect on behalf of their client; this could be a building company, an individual or a business. A brief description of the proposed work is given, then the address, date submitted and whether the plan accorded with the by-laws and permission given. If permission was refused the plan was taken away for redrafting and possible resubmission later.
In 1875, much of central Hove already existed. The squares and terraces of Brunswick Town had stood for nearly 50 years; already built, too, were the villas and mansions of First, Second, Third, Fourth and Grand Avenue. However, no plans exist for these buildings as there was no requirement for plans to be deposited with Hove Commissioners (the body which predated Hove Council), although alteration plans from 1860 onwards can sometimes be located.
The post-1875 planning registers demonstrate how Hove rapidly expanded north and west from its wide southern avenues to provide an environment for a growing middle class and the people who worked for them. The 1880s was a decade of intense building; houses were built in twos, fours, sixes and more. The architect A Udney applied to build 17 houses in Newtown Road in February 1882; 24 houses had been constructed by the Davey brothers on Montgomery Street the previous October. Walking away from central Hove one would have encountered rudimentary roads on all sides and building plots in all of them. This frenzied activity ended abruptly, however, at the top of Hove Park Villas. Beyond the newly-laid out Hove Recreation Ground, one would have seen large fields of downland farming, a chalk and lime pit, and, directly to the west, allotments. On the north-west horizon was the Italianate water tower of Goldstone Pumping Station (now Hove Engineerium) and St Peter’s church and windmill at West Blatchington.
The cost of making up a new road, installing kerbs, tarmac and paving, was often the subject of negotiation between the original landowner and Hove Council, with a percentage of the final cost being passed on, if possible, to the builders or developers. Houses were frequently renumbered as the road lengthened so the position of new builds is often described in the registers as ‘on the south side’ or ‘on the south-east corner’. Road names could reflect topical events, landowners’ interests, local developers or prominent councillors. Portland Road was built on land owned by the Duke of Portland, Ellen Street and Ethel Street were named after daughters of the landowning Stanford family, Tisbury and Norton Roads reflected Stanford landholdings in Wiltshire. Mafeking Road and Redvers Roads in Brighton commemorated events and individuals associated with the British imperialist wars of the late nineteenth century.
Several ‘firsts’ appeared in Hove in the 15 years between 1890 and 1905. Hove Council gave permission for the first official advertisement hoarding to be erected at the site of the gas cottage on Church Road in 1896; the same year saw the town’s first block of residential flats in Hove Street. The first bungalow, built for a Mr J Curley, was sited along the Old Shoreham Road ‘near the waterworks’ in 1904; after that bungalows were regularly built although in very small numbers compared to detached, semi-detached and terrace houses The conversion of houses into flats saw its beginnings in Hove in 1904 with the conversion of a terrace row in Montgomery Street converted into ‘double tenements’. Flats were not always the results of house conversions but could be designed as purpose-built self-contained flats within an apparent new-build semi-detached or terraced house.
In 1898, Lloyds Bank was on the corner of Church Road and Sackville Road, Boots and Sainsburys were in Church Road, Forfar the bakers was at 123 Church Road and the Co-Operative Stores was at Lansdowne Street. In 1887, Co-Op customers could enjoy a newly-installed sliding glass roof over the open space in front of the shop. For Hove residents with plenty of leisure, there were bowls and tennis clubs, the public library, built in 1906, and a gymnasium in Holland Road. George Street was the hub; packed with shops and flats, it also had laundries, a school, the fire station, a music hall in 1891 and an Electric Theatre (cinema) in 1911.
Before the First World War only a very few wealthy enthusiasts owned a car. The first application to construct permanent housing for them was in 1903, at Brougham Mansions on Shoreham Road (now the Kingsway). This was called a ‘motor shelter’; six months later a similar application described a ‘motor store’. In April 1904, the Brighton architects Clayton and Black applied on behalf of the Brighton and Hove Omnibus Company to build a ‘motor shed’ at the omnibus stables in Conway Street, while Mr Whillier wanted to build a ‘motor garage’ in Wish Road in October 1905. This was the first appearance of the term ‘garage’, a word that came into its own during the early 1920s. Stabling continued to be built alongside garages at this time as it was by no means assumed that mechanised transport would eventually replace the horse.
Listing Hove Council’s planning applications is a work in progress and we hope to share further discoveries as they are made.
What did we watch on Christmas Day 1986?
15 December 2017
By Lindsey Tydeman
In 1986 the research organisation Mass Observation asked its contributors to keep a Christmas Day Diary. Several hundred people responded, and sent in hour-by-hour descriptions of their day. Each respondent was given a letter and number, to preserve anonymity. They wrote about food, drink, presents, their families, their dogs, and, of course, their televisions. Although many families made the decision to ‘switch off’ on Christmas Day, for others, watching television together after the present-opening and Christmas Day dinner, was an important element of the seasonal ritual. We’re publishing just a few of their responses below to provide a flavour of Christmas viewing 31 years ago.
Viewers had four terrestrial channels to choose from – BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 – and the battle for ratings was fierce. The BBC decided to show its popular soap EastEnders in two separate parts, at 5pm and 10pm, keeping viewers on tenterhooks as the marriage of Den and Angie finally disintegrated. It drew in a record 30 million viewers.
9pm At last this is where our celebrations begin. We switch off the lights except the tree lights and put the gasfire on instead of the heating. We get out the wine and chocolates, switch Agatha Christie on the telly then watch a video of Seasons Greetings and cuddle up together – this is the best part of Christmas.
Then comes another debate – about what to watch on TV… the situation has become less calamitous since the invention of the video recorder and the decision is to relegate Miss Marple to the VCR and enjoy The Importance of Being Earnest now.. Since it is shown on Channel 4 it has the advantage of intervals for advertisements which makes it possible to prepare biscuits and cheese for all of us who have only recently sworn that we would not eat again for days.
9.35pm More conversation then more TV as we were all waiting for the day’s second episode of EastEnders at 10pm. We all agreed that the Beeb had been very crafty in cornering the market by two showings of the hit soap. My sister was most indignant when I asked her if she watched the series and flatly denied doing so. Aren’t some folks narrow minded?
A phone call for John from Henry in which he fills us in on the first part of EastEnders. We laugh – but agree to watch Part 2… we watch it with much joking and laughter.
Spent the whole evening watching TV until able to make dignified exit to bed at about 10pm. Thanking Heaven that is over again for another year.
Bloated and ready for a sit-down after clearing up and washing up, we flop down in front of the TV to watch The Queen at 3 o’clock. Most of the men folk seem to think this is ‘a bind’ and want to watch something else. But I like to hear what she has to say. I wish she could relax a bit more. This year’s speech was OK, 10 minutes is too short though!
Dinner over we settled for the Queen’s speech, ten minutes later neither of could remember what she had said! What we did remember was that we found the horses distracting and that there was a group of children round her. We both agreed that we much preferred to see her sitting at home to speak to us instead of in the royal stables or wherever it was.
We were watching Only Fools and Horses and it was truly dreadful, we all decided to turn it off. (After Christmas I read a critic’s assessment of this programme who described it as ‘brilliant’. I can’t believe that he and I were watching the same programme.)
I came in from the kitchen halfway through the Queen’s Speech and was confused by the horses in the background instead of the (usual?) sitting room. Everybody thought the speech was massively anodyne and blander than usual but watched it just the same because it was Christmas…
Ate Christmas pudding with cream and sauce in lounge in front of the TV. Watched EastEnders with great glee and everybody determined to watch second half at 10pm.
Annie is addicted to EastEnders, the new BBC ‘soap’ that is so enormously popular. So that went on at 6.35pm. I don’t usually watch it and what I saw then will not lead me to do so in future.
10.20pm Watching EastEnders on TV: glad we don’t normally watch it! (And I went to bed before 11.20 because of the diabolical programme choice on television.)
Mac and I flop on sofa and watch EastEnders. Eat chocolate and watch Only Fools and Horses which none of us found particularly funny and find I am getting more and more depressed as the evening goes on.
Second part of EastEnders. We had expected that Den would break the news of divorce to Angie and that Arthur would crack up completely but not that Pauline would discover that Den was the father of Michelle’s baby. The exit of Angie and Sharon from the pub was superb.
The TV diet is unexpectedly good; first a programme about Aaron Copland’s music, which interests me, then a splendid Miss Marple whodunit, followed by the last 2 acts of The Importance of Being Earnest, with Wendy Hiller doing a restrained Miss Marple.
4.40 The film now appears to be Annie, a show I’ve never seen and as I’m not really watching I’m not getting a full idea of the story. Was anybody, I wonder? Why was it on?
Television was switched on to the Christmas Day concert from Amsterdam (BBC2), mostly to ‘warm’ the set well before the Queen’s Speech as it is 12 years old and temperamental.
I put the television on. Mine is just a small black and white portable set which I rent for £3.90 a month. Mother has her own colour set at home. A James Bond film starring Sean Connery was on called Never Say Never Again. Although I hadn’t seen it, I couldn’t be bothered to get involved in a film. EastEnders, a popular soap, was on BBC. We decided not to watch TV.
After watching the BBC News it is decided we all retire to bed, after a drink of warm milk. Educating Rita, a film my wife and daughter wished to see, is put on the video recorder for watching at a later date.
During the past year, I found myself, increasingly, watching more and more rubbish on the television. It seemed to be that, because it was there, I watched it. My television licence expired yesterday and so I did not renew it. I asked the shop from whom I rented the set, to take it back, so now I am in a minority. In my new guise, I settled down and listened to a murder play on the radio until 9.30pm. It isn’t as easy to listen as it is to watch and, although I don’t particularly miss the programmes on the television, I miss Teletext.
Images from the Radio Times are taken from the Christopher Griffin-Beale Radio Times Collection, which can be consulted at The Keep.