Business in the 1960s

Chris Hawkes of Rads End very kindly has leant these heirlooms for publication. They are receipts kept on file by his father from the 1960s.

You can click the images above for bigger versions, or click here to go to a Picasa web album of the images.

The first three images are receipts about cars and motoring.
  • An “Austin Seven Saloon” (that is, a mini) was bought new in 1962 for £567, including purchase tax. Road tax was £15 per year. A pair of number plates, supplied and fitted, cost £2.50.
  • N J Pett ran “The Old Forge Garage” in Toddington, which until 2014 was “the Old Filling Station” dentists! It was routine for small businesses to run a one or two month credit account for customers – these were the days long before credit cards. The garage seems to have sent a bill for over £30, more than two months’ petrol. 4 Gallons of petrol was 19 shillings and 2 old pence in 1956. That equates to £0.052 per litre. The other oddity is that receipts came with a postage stamp attached. Receipts over a certain amount had to have a postage stamp attached, signed by the receipt issuer, apparently. Presumably, it was a way of taxing transactions. It’s surprising this isn’t better documented online, but it seems to have been part of the Stamp Act 1891 and Finance Act 1920. [This needs more work.]
  • A T C White ran the Ridgmont Garage, the one that’s just closed in 2011 now that Ridgmont has its bypass. In 1964, petrol was £0.056 per litre. That was back when it was full of lead. What a strange idea, putting lead in petrol that was sprayed all over the countryside! Engine oil was £0.20 per litre, and they really used a lot of it back then – there are 13 pints, 7 litres, of oil on the bill for the month. Where did they put it all? And a inner tube for a tyre, another idea that isn’t routine now.
  • H Anstee ran the Green Man. Mr J Hawkes ran up a bill of £4.00 there on 22 May 1963, the bill was settled on 14 January 1964! “Received with Thanks”, indeed!
  • A E Jarvis was the butcher. October 1956 saw the Hawkes household billed £16 for beef and pork – presumably lamb was out of season in October. Arrears made the whole bill add up to over £41, a small fortune!
  • S Fleet-Chapman supplied milk and newspapers. The Hawkes bill for October 1961 was £6.51.
  • Cecil Brett was the baker. Bread for January and February 1962 cost £3.70. In 1964, the bill was ignored for 4 months at a time.
  • F J Turvey was in business at “The Causeway”, Eversholt. That’s the strange name of the house in Witts End – strange because there’s no sign of a causeway for miles. In December 1956, a turkey cost £4.50. Chickens were £1.25 each. Milk, eggs, 2 chickens and 127kg of potatoes cost £19.52. The bill started in September and wasn’t paid until the next February!
  • The last image in the collection is a bit out of place. It’s a pleasant note to Chris Hawkes’s father from the Duchess of Bedford in 1965, thanking him for the fine firework display. The Eversholt bonfire night, organised by the Hawkes family, was renowned far and wide in those days. The Duchess then was presumably Nicole Milinaire.

The website says that £1 in 1960 is the equivalent of £18 today based on price inflation, or £43 today based on average earnings. It’s not actually clear whether the average earnings figure is per-person or per-household. In 1960, few households had two earners, and family sizes were larger, so we may well be better off today than that multiplier indicates. Anyway:

 Goods  1960-ish price Expected current price based on *18 price inflation  Expected current price based on *43 average earnings increase  Actual current price
 Mini  567  10206  24381  11810
 road tax  15  270  645  0
 Number plates  2.5  45  107  30?
 1 litre petrol  0.052  0.936  2.236  1.4
 1 litre oil  0.20  3.60  8.60  4.40
 Turkey (free-range, organic)  4.5  81  193.5  75 (for 6kg, Christmas 2011)
 Chicken (free-range, organic)  1.25  22.5  53.75  13 (2kg)

So, according to these numbers, nearly everything we buy is much more affordable nowadays than it was in 1960. A mini today is a dramatically better car than a mini in 1960 was, too. Even petrol after all those price shocks, isn’t much dearer. Be thankful!

It’s odd to think that in 1964 we were just a few years away from landing a man on the moon. In 2012, landing a man on the moon is pie in the sky, which is somewhat disappointing. But, some things are different. In 1964, the US was involved in a pointless and brutal war in a strange foreign land for no good reason which it would eventually pull out of and thus lose. Oh, wait…

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