This old advert for Robinson and Cleaver’s Department Store, Belfast caught my eye in a little 1950s contributed recipe book we’ve had for years. The ad filled page 2 of the Good Eats 60 page book published in 1956 from ‘recipes contributed by Ulster people at home and overseas.’
The ad was well placed as Robinson and Cleaver’s was the place to go for a shopping trip for women from the city and country areas beyond. My Mum adored the place, and many a woman said she felt like a duchess walking down the grand marble staircase – a copy of the staircase in RMS Titanic. The staircase was sold at auction in 1984 and now stands in a private mansion.
The 1950s prices are interesting, and tell us quite a bit about the cost of living in the 1950s.
There were 12 pence in a shilling, and 20 shillings in £1.
10/- was half of one pound, so it figures that 70 x 100 inch plain hem cotton sheets cost just over £2.
Now when I go to the Bank of England inflation calculator and key in £2 in 1956, it tells me this:
I lifted the phone and called Mum. She talked through the shillings and pence with me and assured me that these sheets were 42 shillings – just over £2. I asked her did that sound right. She and my Stepdad both agreed that sheets could have cost £2 in Robinson and Cleaver’s in 1956.
I told her that that was the equivalent of £45 today.
‘Well that’s why most people made their own sheets out of old washed out flour bags’, Mum replied. ‘Your Granny made roller towels from them too.’
‘My friend saved all her nylon tights when they got holes in them. She dyed them pink, plaited them together and stuck them on to a piece of canvas to make a lovely bathroom rug’, she went on to tell me. ‘People had to be inventive. But you could buy a Paris bun for a penny when I started my first year in Dungannon High School’ (now Dungannon Royal – Mum started Grammar school in 1952.)
I’m still in shock at these prices. Even a pillow case cost a tenner in today’s money, unless you went for the plain hem budget one at £4!