Setting Up Home 100 Years Ago
Two important wedding anniversaries occur for me this year, as we approach the Millenium celebrations.
One of these is the diamond wedding of my wife, Kathleen, aged 81, and myself, aged 83, provided we both survive until December 26. We were married not long after the outbreak of the Second World War as many evacuees were arriving, and as no-one took a camera to the event, and we felt the cost of a photographer was beyond our pocket, we had no photographic record of the ceremony or of the guests at the reception.
On the other hand, there are pictures of my parents’ wedding, conducted by Rev.
Theodore E. R. Phillips at Holy Trinity Church, Yeovil, just over a century ago – on August 10 1899. The photograph taken outside my mother’s home in Wooodlands Terrace shows my mother Margaret Baker, aged 23, and father Edward Hawkins, aged 29, together with bridesmaids (her sister, Mabel, and Susan, one of his sisters), best man, Edward Harfitt. the bride’s father and mother and the bridegroom’s mother.
A large number of receipts for items connected with the wedding reception and setting-up the home of the newly-married couple recently came to light and illustrate the difference between the prices for articles in 1899 and the present day. The drinks ordered included two bottles of port (2/2d and l/10d), a bottle of brandy (3/-), a bottle of whiskey (2/6d) and 18 gallons of beer (16/-), one-gallon casks of beer being advertised at 1/- to l/8d.
However, even in the year of my own wedding one could put a shilling (5p) into a slot machine and receive a packet of 20 cigarettes containing, in its cellophane wrap ping, a halfpenny change!
In those days requirements for the home were simple and there were no radios, televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, deep freezers, vacuum cleaners, electric irons or the many other items considered essential in the present age.
The firm of J. Jesty provided a bedstead (£1 17s 6d), palliasses (8/6d), 50 lb. of feathers for filling the mattresses (£2 10s), a chest of drawers (£1 12s 6d), two chairs (6/-), a towel rail (3/-), pier glass (£1 5S), couch, easy chair, occasional chair and four dining chairs (total £4 12s), carpet (eight yards, 6/8d), floorcloth (six yards, 3/-), steel fender (6/-). kitchen fender (4/6d) and washing bench (5/-).
From an ironmonger came a tub (3/6d), washing-up bowl (6d), cruet (l/10d), poker (5d), bamboo pole for curtains (l/3d), a dozen teaspoons (3/-), a dozen knives and forks (7/-), two tablespoons (7d) and other items, total cost 18/10 M – reduced by 10 l/2d for cash!
Their family consisted of Mabel (born in 1900), Lilian (1904) and myself (1916) and their happy marriage ended after 47 years with my father’s death in Bristol Royal Infirmary after a prostatectomy operation. My mother remained in their home in Seaton Road, Yeovil, until her end in 1960 at the age of 83.
They lived an uncomplicated existence with father working for Messrs. Clements, grocer’s, of High Street, Yeovil, for more than 50 years (with wages no higher than £2 10s per week) and with most of his spare time occupied with his large garden.
My mother was concerned only with bringing up her family, housework, occasional shopping expeditions, an evening playing whist and going into the countryside with a friend gathering (in season) nuts, blackberries and mushrooms or picking dandelions or cowslips for home-made wine.
My life in Seaton Road flowed smoothly with little interruption by undue pressures. I remember buying my parents – with some financial help from my sisters – a silver-plat-ed butter knife for their silver wedding anniversary, but they failed by three years to achieve their 50-year golden anniversary,
Dr. E. G. E. Hawkins.