The year Britain began to boom: Elizabeth's accession in 1952 ushered in a new age of hope after years of post-war austerity
21:49 GMT, 25 May 2012
When the new Elizabethan age dawned in 1952, Britain was still reeling from the effects of World War II.
There was still food rationing and a lack of adequate housing, with many people living in slums. More than a quarter of us had outdoor lavatories and more than half the over-30s had false teeth.
Two-thirds of jobs were manual – less than a third are today – and there were only three million vehicles on the road, as opposed to over 30 million today.
Lucozade was once advertised as an aide to recovery from illness
Fridges and washing machines were luxuries beyond the reach of most people. The centrepiece of most homes was the radio – or wireless, as it was called then; TVs were an expensive indulgence. It took the announcement that the Coronation was to be televised to set off a huge boom in sales of TV sets – around two million extra were installed.
Among the most popular shows were Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, in which experts tried to identify museum objects, and panel game What’s My Line, where contestants’ unusual occupations had to be guessed. In the cinema, new releases included Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight and Old Mother Riley Meets The Vampire.
Although the exciting prospect of the Coronation gave people hope for the future, contemporary adverts show how austere times were. Few married women worked – because, as the ads made clear, a woman’s place was considered to be at home.
'The Valentino Touch' Batchelors soup advert
Women were urged to liberate themselves from the washing day drudgery with the new Hoover electric washing machine with manual mangle. Fashion model Pat Goddard was urging mothers to use Dreft to wash their silks and woolies.
‘What a nice looking family, that’s what they say behind your back when you use Dreft,’ she declared. Dreft could also be used to wash the dishes, to ‘end drudgery… makes washing up faster, easier, pleasanter!’
In one advert called The Valentino Touch, a housewife has so charmed her husband’s Spanish work colleague with a dinner of Batchelors Cream of Tomato soup followed by chops with Batchelors peas that he is prompted to hand her a flower from the table and declare, ‘Seora, no angel could cook more divinely.’
The smitten housewife says this came after he had stayed for ‘two gay, topsy-turvy weeks’. For run-down housewives there was Sanatogen, described as a ‘nerve tonic’. The advert quotes one user, a Mrs Cranage of Liverpool, ‘My energy has returned and housework is a pleasure again.’
Lucozade was advertised as an aide to recovery from illness, and one medicinal remedy offered this health announcement: ‘The liver should pour out two pints of liquid bile into your bowels daily. If this bile is not flowing freely, your food doesn’t digest, you’ll get headaches and feel rotten.’ Apparently, the answer was Carter’s Little Liver Pills.
But even in this long-ago world there were some green shoots of modernity. The Duke of Edinburgh was reported visiting the ICI stand at the British Industries Fair at London’s Olympia. ‘Ah, Terylene,’ said Prince Philip, when he was shown the newly invented wonder material. ‘Very interesting – clammy, isn’t it’