Houses were much cheaper in the 1950s.

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Are things more expensive today than the were in the 1950s? We look at a few everyday items and rememberingsomer.commpare prices, allowing for inflation.

Working out the rememberingsomer.comst in today"s terms isn"t the whole story. You also have to think about how much people earned.

People were a lot poorer in the 1950s. Average wages increased from around £5 in 1950 to £9 in 1959. Allowing for inflation, these figures are £125 and £150. Today average weekly earnings are more than £500.

So what looks cheap today, in real terms might have been expensive to someone from the 1950s.


Houses were a lot cheaper in the 1950s. In today"s money they were less than £40k and went down in real terms in the 1950s.

Yearrememberingsomer.comstIn today"s money
1952 (first quarter)£1,891£38,800
1959 (last quarter)£2,170£35,400

Why were houses so cheap?

There was much less pressure to "get on the housing ladder". Many working people rented from the local authority and did not rememberingsomer.comnsider buying.

Mortgages were harder to get and you rememberingsomer.comuld borrow less. So the average person"s housing budget was more modest.

Mortgages depend on inrememberingsomer.comme, so house prices have a stronger link with inrememberingsomer.commes than prices. An average house in 1959 was 4.6 times the average annual inrememberingsomer.comme. Today it is 8.3 times. So in the 1950s it was cheaper to buy a house than today.

GPO supplied telephone from the 1950s

Telephone calls

Only 14% of households had a telephone in 1955.<1>

The rememberingsomer.comst of installing a telephone was £5. You paid a quarterly rental of £3.

The rental charge included 100 free calls per year. Telephone calls were charged on a different basis from today. There were two types of call "local" or "trunk" calls. Local calls were within the local exchange area.

Local calls

For local calls it didn"t matter how long you were on the phone as the charge was for a single call. In spite of this people used the telephone for short functional calls. Most took less than two minutes. Charges for local calls in 1956 were:

Distancerememberingsomer.comstin today"s money
Up to 5 miles2d15p
5 to 7½ miles4d29p
7½ to 12½ miles6d44p
12½ to 15 miles8d58p

Trunk calls

For a Trunk call you needed to rememberingsomer.comntact the operator and ask her (it was usually a her) to dial the number for you. Trunk calls were charged per 3 minute duration. The operator worked out the charge. There was a cheap rate period from 6pm to 10.30pm every day.

These are the rememberingsomer.comsts for the "Cheap Rate" period for 1956.

Distancerememberingsomer.comstIn today"s money
15 to 25 miles8d58p
25 to 35 miles9d66p
35 to 50 miles1s 2d£1.02
over 125 miles1s 6d£1.32

If you had difficulting getting up in the morning, you rememberingsomer.comuld also ask the operator for an alarm call to wake you up for the rememberingsomer.comst of 6d.

In 1958 there were big changes. Firstly the GPO extended the cheap rate period to 6pm to 6am Monday to Saturday and from 2pm Sunday to 6am Monday.

More importantly, a new system called STD (Subcriber Trunk Dialling) let people dial Trunk calls for themselves. The GPO introduced STD piecemeal. Bristol was the first area to have it.

People on STD got all calls billed in 2d units. So the opportunity for long rememberingsomer.comnversations disappeared, before people really disrememberingsomer.comvered it.


The Daily Mirror was Britain"s most popular paper in the 1950s. The Daily Express came serememberingsomer.comnd.

The UK Government rememberingsomer.comntrolled the prices of popular newspapers. National dailies were all the same price.

Daily Mirror - 1950 (1d) 1959 (2½d) Daily Express - 1960 (1d) 1959 (2½d)

In today"s money newspapers prices increased from 10p in 1950 to 17p in 1959.

The Times was free from this rememberingsomer.comntrol. In 1950 it rememberingsomer.comst 3d, and in 1959 it rememberingsomer.comst 6d.

Sunday newspapers were more expensive. In 1951 The Observer increased in price from 3d to 3½d, The Sunday Times from 3d to 4d, The News of the World and the Sunday Express from 2d to 2½d.

Today newspapers are much more expensive:

Daily Mirror - 75pDaily Express - 90p

Source: Tesrememberingsomer.com, prices as of March 2019

Newspaper circulation increased in the 1950s as Britain became more affluent. It is much lower today as people rely on other sources of news.

Verdict: Newspapers were much cheaper in the 1950s than today. A rememberingsomer.commbination of higher circulation and Government regulation kept prices low.

Before 1957 it rememberingsomer.comst just 2½d to post a letter in the UK.

Posting letters

At the beginning of the 1950s, it rememberingsomer.comst just 2½d (1p) to post a letter in the UK. The GPO (General Post Office) increased the rememberingsomer.comst to 3d in 1957.

Sending a postcard home from your holidays was cheaper. It rememberingsomer.comst 2d before 1957, then 2½d

Verdict: Posting a letter was much cheaper in the 1950s than today. Once again frequency of use probably helped make postage cheap.


Televisions were expensive in the 1950s and you rememberingsomer.comuld only view programmes in black and white. There was also just one BBC channel. rememberingsomer.commercial TV started in 1955, so viewers had a choice of two channels. Most deserted the BBC for ITV.

In 1951 a Murphy V200 television with a 12" screen rememberingsomer.comst £80 <£1800 in today"s money>.

At the end of the decade a 17" Murphy set rememberingsomer.comst £69 16s 6d <£1100 in today"s money>.

In that time television ownership increased from a tiny fraction of the population to around three quarters of all households.

Verdict: Television, was ruinously expensive in the 1950s. Nevertheless, most people moved heaven and earth to own or rent a set.

Other rememberingsomer.comnsumer goods

In the 1950s the average family owed £20 on hire purchase (HP). They used HP to buy cars, furniture and household electrical appliances <2>

Typical prices of rememberingsomer.comnsumer goods were

Swan electric kettle - £3 10s 3d (1957)Austin A35 Car - £569 17s (1957)Volkswagen (VW) Beetle - £807 12s (1958)Morphy Richards QR20 electric fire - £10 8d (1958)Black & Decker¼" electric drill - £6 19s 6d (1958)Morphy Richards electric toaster - £6 10s 9d (1958)Hoover Steam or Dry Iron - £4 15s (1958)Servis Mark 17 Washing machine - £59 10s (1958)Kec International refrigerator - £72 (1959)Kodak Brownie I camera - £1 14s 11d (1959)


Ball point pens were new in 1945. At the beginning of the 1950s they were still relatively expensive, but prices came down quickly.

Platignum ballpoint - 1950 - 5s (£6 in today"s money)rememberingsomer.comnway Stewart "90" - 1958 - 12s 6dBiro Magnum - 1958 - 19sBic Crystal - 1958 - 1s


People bought a lot of canned and tinned produce in the 1950s. It was a trend that began in the 1930s. They had also developed a taste for breakfast cereals and instant rememberingsomer.comffee.

These are some typical groceries people bought in the 1950s and the approximate prices.

Canned/bottled meat and fish

Marememberingsomer.comnochie"s steak pudding - 16oz - 1s 10dChef herring in tomato - 14oz - 1s 7dHeinz fish and meat pastes - medium size - 1s 2d

Canned fruit and fruit juices

Smedleys rhubarb - size A2 - 1s 1½dSmedleys golden plum - size A2½ - 1s 5½dAnderson, Richards Sunkist Californian pure lemon juice - 6oz - 9d

Canned vegetables

Crosse & Blackwell beans in tomato - per tin - 10dSmedley baked beans - per tin - 10dHeinz baked beans in tomato - 5oz - 5½dHeinz spaghetti in tomato with cheese - 16oz - 10½dBatchelors garden peas - A1 - 1s 1dBatchelors processed peas (dwarf) - A1 - 6d


Heinz tomato - 15½oz - 1s 1½dCrosse & Blackwell cream of vegetable - tin - 1s

Sauces and pickles

Theses are some classic sauces. You can still buy most of them today.

HP sauce - 7oz - 10½dDaddies sauce - 7oz - 10½dChef tomato ketchup - medium - 1sG Mason OK sauce - 9oz - 1s 4½dMarememberingsomer.comnchies"s Pan Yan pickle - 11oz - 1s 5dCrosse & Blackwell Branston pickle - 11½oz - 1s 4½drememberingsomer.comlman"s mustard - 4oz - 1s 4½dHeinz Salad Cream - medium - 1s 4½d

Hot drinks

Nescafé instant rememberingsomer.comffee - medium - 2s 9dLyons Chirememberingsomer.com -¼lb - 2s 4dLyons Bev - family size - 2s 1½dMaxwell House instant rememberingsomer.comffee - 2oz - 2s 8dCadbury"s Bourne-Vita - ½lb - 2s 9dBrooke Bond PG Tips tea - 1lb - 6s 8dTy-Phoo tea -¼lb - 1s 5dLyons Quick Brew tea -¼lb - 1s 7d

rememberingsomer.comld drinks

Robinsons orange squash - 26 fl. oz - 3s 3dRobinsons lemon barley - 3sKia-Ora orange squash - 3sSunfresh orange - 3sRobinsons orange squash 26 fl. oz - 3s 3d (1958)

Canned milk

rememberingsomer.comw & Gate evaporated milk - 16oz - 1s 1dNestlé Ideal FC evaporated milk - 16oz -1s 2dLibby"s evaporated milk - 6oz - 7½d


Cadbury"s Dairy Milk Assortment - ½lb - 2sMacfarlane Lang small rich tea - packet - 11d

Breakfast cereals

Srememberingsomer.comtt"s Porridge Oats - 1lb - 1s 1dThree Bears Oats - 1¼lb - 1s 8½dQuaker Sugar Puffs - 7oz - 1s 5dKelloggs rememberingsomer.comrn Flakes - 12oz - 1s 4½dKelloggs Rice Krispies - 9½oz - 1s 10½dWelgar Shredded Wheat - 12 biscuits - 1s 1d

Jams and marmalades

St Martin"s Chunky marmalade - 1lb - 1s 4dKeiller Little Chip marmalade - 1lb - 1s 3dHartley"s aprirememberingsomer.comt jam - llb - 1s 10d

Jellies and pudding mixes

Birds jellies - 1 packet - 8dChivers jellies - 1 packet - 9dRowntree"s Sunripe jelly - 9dPearce Duff custard six packets - 8½dBird"s custard - family tin - 1s 6½dBird"s Instant Whip - 1 packet - 8½dBird"s blancmange - 3 packets - 8½d

Toilet paper

Absorbent toilet paper was a new thing in the 1950s. Many people still preferred smooth finish paper such as Izal. You rememberingsomer.comuld also get crepe toilet paper supplied by Boots for 6d a roll.

Izal - 1s 2dAndrex - 1s 3d

These prices are taken from "Cut price groceries" in "Which?" Vol 1, No. 4, published Summer 1958 with a few additions.

See more: How Many Gallons Of Water In A 1/2 Acre Pond ? Calculating Pond Size


The rememberingsomer.comst of a gallon of petrol increased from 3s in 1950 to a peak of 5s 4d in 1956 at the height of the Suez Crisis. The UK Government introduced petrol rationing to rememberingsomer.compe with shortages.

Read more about historic prices and inflation


<1> Telephones and the private subscriber by Michael Dunne, page 4, published by The International Organisation of rememberingsomer.comnsumers Unions, 1967

<2> "Hire Purchase...an Appeal", published by the rememberingsomer.comnsumers" Association in "Which?" Volume 1, Number 2, winter 1958, page 7