Heaven on Earth

August 11, 2017 no comments

To mark Local and Community History month our “Preserving Your Past” project ran throughout May this year. The aim was to help people digitise their personal archives – photographs, letters, diaries or tapes hidden away in the attic or at the back of the cupboard. We had a wonderful array of often fragile material brought in. From fading photos, to birth certificates and wills held together with Sellotape, to 8mm cinefilm. But one household account book from 1938 stood out in a unique way. We can let Stockton resident Margot Wade pick up the story:

This household account book was kept by my mother, Grace Rogers (b. 1908), after her July 1938 marriage to Thomas Alfred (Tom) Simons (b. 1905).

As a consequence of the 1926 General Strike Tom joined the RAF, having previously worked as a coalminer. At the time he enlisted, he was the only one of a large family in full-time work.

Grace’s family kept a grocery shop. At some point after leaving school at 13 years old my mother took over half the shop and developed a dress / clothing shop. During the time she ran the business, she was unpaid – her role, as that of her two sisters in a family of ten, was in the home, in domestic service.

Tom and Grace married at Keele C of E Church, North Staffordshire, about a mile from their childhood homes in Silverdale. Beforehand, Tom was required to request permission to wed from his commanding officer.

Following a honeymoon, and according to my grandmother, they discovered that they had just £5 between them on which to start married life – hence the need to keep accounts and have money in hand.

These accounts began in Pembroke Dock, Wales. Many of the items; chops, cheese, apples, potatoes etc are on our shopping lists. However, others have become a part of the past. Doyleys, grate brushes, lifebuoy soap and a “set” at the hairdressers for one shilling and sixpence (seven and a half pence at current rates).

By the time my sister was born in July 1939 they were in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. My sister’s birth is recorded in the account book where the writing becomes indecipherable. My father kept the style of my mother’s account keeping and wrote:

Item: One daughter, one wife
Cost: Priceless
Day’s Total: Heaven on earth.

My mother’s return to the accounts is in sharp contrast, the first recorded items show the effect of a baby in the house – Vaseline, cotton wool, gripe water …..

Many thanks to Margot for bringing the account book into the library and to our volunteers for their work on digitising it. For those interested in this fascinating snapshot of social history the full book is available here:

Account Book Part 1

Account Book Part 2

Account Book Part 3


If you have any items like this or similar please get in touch with us and see how the library can help you to save and share your personal archives.

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