Primary Homework Help

Britain Since the 1930s

by Mandy Barrow
This site uses cookies. See our Cookie Policy for information

Britain in the 1950s

If you were born in the 1950s it is very likely that your mother did not work outside the home, but instead concentrated on providing a safe and cosy environment for the family. Only your father would have gone out to work to provide an income for your family.

1957 2007
Average weekly wage £10 £430
Work time to pay for a weekly basket of basic food items such as milk, butter and bread 3 hours 40 minutes

Timeline of Events

Festival of Britain - this event marked the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The festival generated demand for new fashions in furniture and furnishings. The exhibits introduced new styles of pottery, ceramics, fabrics and furniture made from revolutionary materials - fibreglass, plywood, formica and plastics.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth ll
To celebrate the coronation, everyone was allowed an extra pound of sugar and four ounces of margarine.

The summit of Mount Everest was reached for the first time by Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzinf, his Nepalese guide.

All rationing comes to an end

The space Race began with the Soviet Union launching the first vehicle to orbit the Earth, the satellite Sputnik 1, on 4th October 1957. This was followed a month later by the launch of Sputnik 2. On board was the first living creature to travel from Earth into space, a dog named Laika.

House and Homes

Household goods

1950s saw the introduction of fish fingers, electric fires, washing machine, ink and toilet paper.

In the 1950s, a typical home had a cooker, vacuum cleaner and a plug-in radio.

Only 33 per cent of households had a washing machine. Most people were still doing their washing by hand.

Washing machine

Only 15 per cent had a fridge and freezers and tumble dryers were scarcely heard of.

Only 10 per cent of the population had a telephone.

People listen to gramophone records

Television / Wireless

Most families’ entertainment came from the radio (or ‘wireless’) or through listening to 78rpm records on a gramophone. However, a single event in 1953 gave a huge boost to the uptake of television. This was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. Cameras had never before been allowed inside Westminster Abbey for a coronation, and the general public were thrilled to be able to watch the event live. Families crowded into the home of anyone lucky enough to have a television to watch the event.

Two-thirds of homes owned a television. The programmes were shown in black and white. A second and commercialised TV channel was added in 1955.


People spent most of their leisure time at home – reading, listening to the radio, watching
television or pursuing hobbies. The most popular hobbies were knitting and needle-work for
women, and gardening for men.

Children spent a lot of time playing with other children outdoors. They also enjoyed a range of hobbies such as stamp collecting.

Families enjoyed playing board games such as Monopoly, Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders.

There was a craze for yo-yos, 3D-spectacles, I-Spy books and hoola hoops in the late 1950s.


1952 Population of Britain = 50 million


Clothes rationing had ended by 1949 and by the early 1950s women in particular wanted dresses and skirts made with a huge amount of fabric to make up for the meagre amounts they had endured during the war.

50s fashion

50s fashion

Pop Art

Pop Art started in London in the mid-1950's.
The artists of the Pop Art movement depicted images from popular culture, including comics, advertising images, and celebrity portraits.

The best known artist of Pop Art is undoubtedly the American artist Andy Warhol.





Most food shopping in the 1950s was done every day and from local shops. Not every household owned a car or a refrigerator, so food shopping was part of the housewife's daily routine.

It would have been quite normal to visit separate shops for your bread (bakers), meat (butchers), vegetables (greengrocers), fish (fishmongers) etc. It was quite common too, for tradesmen to deliver their goods direct to the housewife. Groceries and greengroceries were often delivered each week in a motorised van and milk was delivered every day.

1957: Only a handful of shops in the country were self-serve (pay as you go out). The first Sainsbury’s to try out this innovation was opened in June 1950 in Croydon.

2007: There are more than 33,500 supermarkets and convenience stores in the UK

  1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
White loaf, unsliced (800g) 1.9 4.8 8.8 37 65 70
Eggs size 2 (65–70g) per dozen 8.8 29.5 23.2 72 121 168
Cheese (Cheddar) 10.6 31.0 40.8 209 330 505
Milk (pasteurised) per pint 1.9 3.3 4.7 17 31 34
Sugar granulated 3.4 7.4 8.3 36 62 55

A shopping basket in the 1950s would have included items such as:

wild rabbits, mangles, corsets, candles, wireless licence and gramophone records.

Fresh fruit and vegetables came mainly from Britain, so strawberries would be in the shops for just a few weeks in the summer, and there would have been no fresh peas, beans or salads vegetables during the winter months.


Car ownership more than doubled in the 1950's. By 1955 there were over three million cars on Britain's roads.

The Morris Minor is launched, designed by Alec Issigonis, and becomes one of Britain's best-selling cars

The first jet aeroplane to carry passengers, called Comet, began a regular passenger service. It was a small jet and could not carry many people.

First hovercraft

The Mini is launched, designed by Alec Issigonis, and becomes the best-selling British car of all time. It cost £496 – about the amount of money someone earned in a whole year.

Britain's first motorway, the M1, between Birmingham and London, opened.


The first computer hard disk used

The modem invented.

Music and Dancing

It was the decade of jive, skiffle and rock'n'roll. Popular singers were Elvis Presley and Bill Haley.





1950 Credit card Frank X McNamara
1951 Super glue Francis W. Davis.
1951 Power steering  
1951 Videotape recorder (VTR). Charles Ginsburg
1953 Black box - flight recorder. David Warren
1954 The first nonstick pan produced  
1955 Lego Gotfried Kirk Christiansen
1956 Velcro George de Mestral
1956 Hovercraft Christopher Cockerell
1958 Videotape A.M Poniatoff
1959 Barbie Doll  

Inventions since the 1930s | Timeline from the end of the war

| Population from 1991 | Money | Websites

Life in the 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s

back to the top
email© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the author Mandy Barrow.

©Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Follow me on Twitter @mbarrow

Woodlands Junior School, Hunt Road Tonbridge Kent TN10 4BB UK