The Ellis family discover how life has changed for northern working class families. The postwar years see the family on rations with no fridge, hot water or electric cooker.
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Meet the Ellis family.
This Bradford family of five are about
to embark on a time-travelling adventure...
..to discover how changing food eaten in the north of England...
-That is Scouse.
-..can reveal what life was like...
I think perhaps I do need to work on my frying technique!
..for working-class families over the past century.
-I think it's just potato pie.
-I think so.
Chicken feet! Urgh!
-From regional classics...
-Pan Haggerty for tea.
-We'll have two chip naans.
-..to dishes that expanded our horizons.
I'm so happy! Honestly, this is, like, amazing!
The Ellises' own home is their time machine,
-transporting them through a different era each week.
They'll experience the ups and downs...
What the heck is tripe?!
This is so hard!
..as they fast forward through 100 years of northern history.
And still get back in time for tea.
World War II is over
and families are gradually returning to ordinary life.
Inside the Ellises' home, their functional 1920s front room
has become a typical post-war lounge.
After six years of conflict,
materials for new furniture are in short supply.
So the comfortable rug and sofa are second-hand.
The kitchen is still basic, but has one noticeable mod con.
I'm joined by social historian Polly Russell,
to set the stage for the Ellises' adventures in post-war Britain.
-What do you think?
-It's cosy! It's nice!
Yeah, it is a million miles away from 1918, isn't it?
What is exciting, Polly, the ducks.
I love these! Quite a random decoration to have, aren't they?
This idea of bringing the rural into your home, particularly
if you live in a sort of urban or suburban setting.
Lighter and brighter.
And basically, this - I grew up with
me Nana having a cooker exactly like this.
-And the beast has gone.
-Yeah, that coal-fired range has disappeared.
This is, you know, the modern world coming in to the home.
It must have been so exciting to get a cooker like this.
So, gas, instant heat, you don't have to warm it up, you don't
-have to be shovelling coal around.
-So she's got this piece of mod con,
but I see that she still only has got a cold tap.
And they really struggled with that, didn't they?
I'm hoping that the family - especially Lesley, cos she's the one
who's going to be most involved with this - is going to see
this and be so blinded by joy at this lovely mod con that,
yeah, they won't notice the one cold, dripping, sorry tap.
So, before, all the food was kind of all piled up there.
Where's all the food gone?
Well, we've still got a meat safe and there is still no fridge.
So what we've got instead is a larder.
Is it a larder, or is it a pantry? Cos, Polly, I got a pantry.
But you are very posh now.
You're right, I am posh. I'm making a note of the date and time -
that's the first time I've ever been called posh.
I mean, there's food in there. That's a start.
-But there's not loads, is there?
-No, it's not sumptuous.
So, there's some brands and there's Torox, which is
a sort of northern Oxo.
We've got some Fray Bentos corned beef.
-Be-Ro, self-raising flour, another northern brand.
You can kind of get tricked into thinking,
"Oh, great, the war's ended.
"Now there's just going to be plentiful food of all different types."
-But actually, did it take a while for the sort of food to get back to normal?
-It took a long time.
The idea that the war is over does not mean that things change
rapidly in the home at all. We're still under rationing.
I mean, I'm a bit concerned that the family are going to be
a little bit sort of, um...
-Yeah, deflated by this pantry.
The strict food controls of wartime continued after 1945,
as the economy battled to rebuild itself.
The best way you can help is by rationing yourself.
I'm sure that all of you will buy your fair share and no more.
But there were rewards among the hardships of post-war Britain.
The government nationalised the coal,
iron and rail industries in an attempt to protect British jobs.
And there was cross-party commitment to better education,
housing and healthcare.
For working-class families, the insecurity of the '30s was
being replaced by the promise of a fairer society.
And nowhere was this reflected more clearly than by what
was on our plates.
Polly, you're doing your excited face!
What's here? What is it?
This is a pile of statistics.
You love a stat! Is it a survey?
It is a survey. It's a survey and it brings history alive.
It was commissioned by the government.
It tells us exactly what people were eating
every day of the week, in working-class households.
CLIPPED: Ministry of Food Wartime Survey.
-Kind of have to do it in that wartime voice! 1945.
So this is a whole survey from one family - a housewife,
a husband and two sons.
There's still rationing. She's having to manage the house.
And we also know that this is a survey of a house in the north.
First of all, there's a clue,
-the husband works underground in the mines.
Then the sort of almost better clue really is right here,
because this is a description of what she buys...
Barm cakes! I love a floury barm cake!
Chip barm! Pasty barm!
The possibilities are endless with a barm cake!
But you can see, there is enough food. These people aren't hungry.
It's just maybe a bit monotonous and things are tight.
The project of rationing was incredibly effective and what
it did was it equalised out the diet between the wealthy and the poor
in this period.
So, where in 1918 and throughout the First World War, wealthy
people tended to hoard food and did OK, poor people really suffered.
And rationing sort of put a stop to that.
You can see that in the evidence of some more statistics that I love.
Because it tells you in the 1930s, middle-class
people are having around 3,200 calories a day,
working-class people are having 2,800.
So, around 500 less for working-class people.
If you whizz down to 1945, it's almost the same.
In fact, there's only 25 calories' difference.
Yeah, I reckon around 2,500 calories each.
Yeah, so it really equalised out those diets
and that's pretty exciting because it means the whole
health of the nation has improved as a result of rationing.
Everything the Ellises eat
over this period will be guided by these surveys.
But what will they make of the changes from the 1930s
to the post-war years?
As strange as it may seem, I grew to love that last era kitchen.
It became like the beating heart of the home
and I'm hoping that it's not too dramatically different.
I hope we might have moved on from coal ovens, that would be good.
This is lovely!
We've got a couch.
We've got carpet!
-Oh, that's comfy. It's so much lighter.
-I love it.
-Feels like a home, doesn't it?
-It's so bright.
-Oh, my goodness!
It IS bright, yeah.
Look, we've only got one tap again!
Even as late as 1961,
a fifth of houses in Manchester were without a hot-water tap.
Fridges and electric cookers were still
the preserve of the upper crust.
What are we running off? Electric? Gas or what?
Let there be light!
-Oh, look, we've got a pantry!
-Or a larder.
Is that the meat safe?
-We've still got a meat safe.
-There is some meat in there.
Oh, God, I'm starving!
I'm back to give the Ellises a heads up on what's in store for them.
-What do you think of your lovely house?
-It's so much better.
-I love it.
-Yeah, I like it.
-Brighter, isn't it?
-Yeah, it's a lot brighter.
So, this is your manual, this is your Bible, this is your book,
this is everything, all life is here.
-Freya, young lady, you can hold that.
And, I won't be a moment, I've got a lovely surprise for you.
-I'm just going to go and get it, OK?
-I'm glad she said "lovely".
-I hope it's food, I'm hungry.
Do you love it, Harvey? I thought you'd love this, Harvey.
-Can I give it a stroke?
-Yeah, come over here.
-Please say it's a pet.
-What do we call it?
Well, call it what you like. There's actually two of them. There's another one outside.
We don't have to kill it, please tell me we don't have to kill it.
For now, she's going to give you lovely eggs,
her and her mate are going to give you some lovely eggs.
-You are beautiful!
-Chickens from the...
Book on how to look after them.
Oh! This is amazing!
Out the back is somewhere for them to live but it needs a bit of
fixing up, so you lads can do that while you ladies get the tea on.
So, listen, get hold of her nice and firm, where my hands are,
so you can keep her wings together. There you go.
Right, enjoy, with your new family member, and I'll see you soon.
-The best present ever!
-See you later, bye.
-The feet scare me, though.
-Wait, wait, wait, so what are we calling it?
-Do you know...?
-It's either Miranda or...
-I think they should be...
-..Sara and Polly.
For a working-class family like the Ellises, chickens weren't
the only way they could supplement their post-war rations.
-Oh, we've got...
-We've actually got..
-Yay! We've got plants!
You may not be lucky enough to own an ideal kitchen garden like this,
there may be room for vegetables on top of your Anderson shelter.
Or in the backyard. Or even on that flat bit of roof.
-So, what's your plan?
-My plan is to attack.
With women's liberation still decades away,
John and Harvey are making a home for the chickens,
while the Ellis women get the tea on.
-Yes, I'm starving.
-Let's get cooking!
-Cow heel pie?!
-No, no, no.
-Why is there a cow heel in it?
I'm now willing to sacrifice the chicken.
Can you go get me a cow heel?
Why are you making me? I'm the one who doesn't like meat!
Cow heel pie originated in Lancashire
and traditionally used beef steak for the filling,
but this ration-friendly version is using a cheaper cut of mutton.
Do you think it's edible?
It'll have to be, won't it?
We can't be fussy. We're on rations.
The cow heel itself is boiled
to make a gelatine to thicken the gravy.
-Urgh! That's horrible!
-Do you know what?
I hope you're not hungry, cos I have to stew this cow heel for an hour.
This was an ideal recipe for post-war housewives needing
to feed a family of five on the sparest cuts of meat.
Will you get me an onion, please?
-Catch the onion!
Ooh! Yorkshire pudding!
Oh, but look - it's made with an egg substitute.
They meet reek, but with rations set at one fresh egg per person a week,
post-war families couldn't afford to be sniffy about dried eggs.
-This smells really bad.
-Yeah, you're right. It does.
I am not entirely convinced these Yorkshire
-puddings are going to come out.
-Give it some!
What do you think I'm doing?!
These chickens ain't getting out of this tonight!
If nothing else works, we've got cabbage and carrots for tea.
I really hope it's cooked.
Lesley has used a third of the family's precious weekly lard
ration, supplemented with grated potato, to make a cheap
but filling pastry.
Hey, Harvey. Hats off to you, mate.
-I didn't do it.
-What a great job, eh?
Look at that!
Pretty cool, that, innit?
-Well done. Good night, chickens!
See you later, Sara and Polly! See you in the morning.
We're going in for us tea now.
How were the chickens? Are the chickens all right?
Yeah, we've said good night to them.
-It's Yorkshire pancake!
-Looks like a pancake to me, yeah. What is it?
-Cow heel pie.
-It's got cow heel in it?
It doesn't... It isn't actually cow heel that's in it.
That's not the meat.
It's like a gelatine.
Doesn't even look like Yorkshire, does it?
-It tastes exactly like one, though.
-Does it? That's OK, then.
I didn't know what the pie was going to turn out like.
I've never actually cooked mutton before.
I like it.
I really like it.
I honestly think this is one of the nicest meals that we've had.
Like, pastry tastes amazing. All crunchy in me mouth.
I love pie, I love pastry.
I love that gravy. I like it!
It's a bit of a change, really, not to have very bland food.
We had a great tea tonight.
We had cow heel and mutton pie.
It went down a storm.
I think a good indicator about how good the food is,
-is look at all the plates.
-Look at the plates.
# There'll be bluebirds over
# The white cliffs of Dover. #
Unfortunately, the chickens have yet to contribute to the larder,
so austerity rules the roost at the breakfast table.
-I can smell it burning, Lesley.
-Johnny, it is not burning!
-I did that.
It's because it's got a safety device on it.
You pulled it straight out.
Will you just stick your safety device...
-Where the sun don't shine!
No 1940s family would dream of throwing away cooking fat
when it could be used for dripping on toast.
It doesn't taste of anything.
It just takes that dryness away, does that dripping.
It's a bit like butter, really.
It's like the old-fashioned version of marmite on toast.
-I like dripping.
-I know you do.
The Ellises have a busy day ahead.
-Are you ready, Caitlin?
-Yeah, I'm coming.
Harvey has left for school and John
and 18-year-old Caitlin are off to work.
# We all must do our share. #
They're heading to the Braime's metal-pressing factory in Leeds,
which has been operating from its current premises since 1911.
After the war, the British economy was on its knees.
The government looked to the manufacturing sector to
double British exports,
helping to pay off the country's huge wartime debt.
By the late '40s, a third of all British workers were employed in booming factories,
enticed by a decent wage packet and delicious subsidised dinners,
which didn't come off your ration allowance.
Something tells me it must be lunchtime.
The factory canteen caters for hungry appetites and the serving hatches do a roaring trade.
Over the tables, they can't hear themselves talk for chatter.
But they'll go back refreshed and ready for deeds, not words.
-Hi. What have we got?
-Roast beef, roast potatoes, jam roly poly, apple pasty.
-And this is a typical lunch?
I tell you what, it's good incentive to show up, isn't it?
-You wouldn't be throwing a sickie, would you?
-I'd get a job here, me!
During World War II,
the number of subsidised workplace canteens had doubled.
Outside of factories,
they were introduced into most mines across the north
and there were 144 canteens in the nation's docks alone.
John is eating with his modern-day colleagues,
who are much more used to grabbing their dinner on the hoof.
If we were having a meeting, we'd maybe have some sandwiches and
-things, but we certainly wouldn't eat anything like this, would we?
-Not during the day.
-Well, you know what to expect now!
-Seems like a big treat to me.
A full meal with a pudding like this one would add up
to around 900 calories per person.
-Is that back to work, is it?
-Yeah, that's it.
I think we've got somebody else's outdated
crumbs in the bottom of here.
Back at home, Lesley and Freya are discovering the joys
of housework, with no washing machine, hoover, or even a hot tap.
In coal-heated homes close to smoky factories,
keeping the house clean was a constant challenge.
Women in the '40s clocked up an average 15 hours a day cooking,
cleaning, shopping and washing.
This is physically a really...
because I'm on my haunches, my knees are bent, it hurts my back.
And I would say I'm reasonably fit, compared to a lot of people.
I do yoga. I've just done a triathlon.
But, yeah, I'm still finding this hard work.
Because of all the positions and the bending over that I'm in and,
you know, I do wonder
if people - if women - just suffered with perpetual bad backs because
mine is actually killing me, just from being bent over for this long.
Lesley's cleaning the step,
using a brand of scourer called a Donkey Stone.
First used to stop the steps of northern mills becoming
slippery, local housewives soon discovered the stones could
make their own steps gleam.
Do you think Johnny's going to come home from work and go, "Oh, my word!
"That looks amazing, that top step! Well done, darling!"?
With Britain trying to get back on its feet,
many production lines rolled around the clock.
Evening shifts meant housewives could earn some extra cash,
so after a day of housework, Lesley is off to the mill.
Leaving the rest of the family to sort their own tea out.
Look at the steps!
They're all clean, aren't they?
Look at them. Someone's been busy.
I don't think they've ever looked this clean, ever.
Well done, Polly.
Mum's left a note.
"Dear Johnny, hope you had a lovely day at work.
"For tea, there is boiled eggs and toast, cake and jam."
Oh, yeah. Dad, look! Look what we've got!
-"You'll need to check the chickens have laid."
They laid. Polly laid them.
Dad, do you know...? Do you know what you're doing?
-Just been scalped.
1940s men might not have been used to life in the kitchen,
and it seems modern dad John isn't that different.
-Wait, we only have two eggs.
Me and Caitlin's not having any. We've had a three-course meal today.
Dad, I thought you did it till it were boiling,
then turned it down, then left it for three minutes.
-Do you not know?
-No, I don't boil eggs, do I?
He doesn't cook at all!
How can you not know how to boil eggs?!
Is that on its side?
-Dad, you can't make an egg.
-Just wait, wait, wait.
Dad, it's over. It's boiled. It's hard.
-What do you reckon, guys?
-It's not runny!
-It's not runny.
-It's not runny!
What a beauty!
Harvey, just keep digging, mate.
-It's not runny!
-I'm going to be digging forever.
There's no dippy egg and, as bread went on ration for the first
time in 1946, the family are saving what's left of the loaf for mum.
Me and my dad had a three-course meal at work today.
And it was amazing.
And it's really cool cos it wasn't rationed, whereas food at home is.
And I sort of feel a bit bad on the rest of the family that they
couldn't have any.
Also, my dad cannot cook eggs!
Far from improving, food shortages got worse, as Britain sent
supplies to the starving populations of mainland Europe.
Potatoes joined bread on the ration and the meat allowance was reduced.
'40s housewives were forced to come up with new and inventive ways
to feed their families.
The case of Mrs Taylor - what can I give my boy for breakfast?
Lesley's consulting a problem page letter sent to the Yorkshire Post.
"It's a nightmare to me
"sometimes to know what to give my boy for breakfast.
"He could eat the week's bacon ration in one go.
"I do wish you'd suggest something for breakfast not using bacon
-Mock roes on toast.
One can of pilchards,
four tablespoons of semolina.
A quarter of a teaspoon of ground mace,
half a teaspoon of vinegar, one level teaspoon of salt.
A quarter of a teaspoon of pepper and four slices of toast.
Them first four ingredients I'm never bloody heard of.
You've never heard of pilchards?!
-Are they fish?
I'll have jam on toast.
There's no jam.
I don't want fish on toast.
One's in tomato sauce, do you think we might be better with that?
It will take away some of the fishy edge for Freya.
Ugh! Fish in tomato sauce!
I think we are going to go for the tomato-sauce one.
I wonder how many the people went to hospital doing this.
I've just seen some eyeballs.
He hasn't, take no notice of him.
And you eat tuna!
Tinned fish was off ration
and offered a protein-rich start to the day.
But I'm not too sure how popular this '40s superfood will be
with our 21st-century teenagers.
Blend semolina with liquid.
How much semolina?
You cook that for ten minutes.
And then you add in the flaked fish.
There we go.
-You're joking, aren't you?
Look at that!
I think it's all right.
It's got a quite nice taste to it.
To be honest, it's all right, really, isn't it?
Pilchards may have been one way for housewives to
get round rationing but children near Pontefract,
in West Yorkshire, had another trick up their sleeve.
I'm here to find out how one plant became so popular with
kids like Harvey, when all his usual sweets were strictly rationed.
I meeting Yorkshire farmer Heather Copley.
-How are you?
-I'm all right, how are you?
I'll just get out of the hole.
Who has offended you, the locals?
It's just the right size for my father-in-law.
-So this is liquorice, then?
-Yes, these plants here.
Liquorice was sold in the '40s as a cure-all for medicinal purposes.
But kids soon found out it was a great substitute for sweets.
So the bit I sort of remember, the liquorice sort of sticks,
-the woody bits, that's the root?
-That will be these little bit here.
So this was really popular with kids
when all the usual sweets were rationed.
Where did they get it from?
I think, to be honest with you, they just took it out of the fields.
Maybe by night, I don't know.
While they were harvesting it, they were able to just, you know,
-jump in and take a bit.
-I want to taste some.
-OK, shall we have a dig?
-Do I have to be polite if I don't like it, Heather?
There we go. You should get a taste quite soon.
Oh, gosh, you really do.
-It's really liquorice.
The first time I had it,
I actually then got what everybody has been telling me for all
these years about how wonderful it was when they were children.
I mean, it's delicious, isn't it? It's liquorice but, like, mega.
Like mega liquorice.
You know, I totally get that if you were a kid
and if your diet was mainly spuds and bread, that this
would just like absolutely set your taste buds on fire, wouldn't it?
It's just such a strong, intense flavour, isn't it?
1940s children from the north weren't just finding their own snacks.
In a world without TV, they were making their own entertainment, too.
-Good to meet you.
Yorkshireman John Craven is introducing Harvey
to his favourite childhood hobby from the decade.
Have you ever seen a steam engine?
I've see one in Orlando in Florida but it was a long time ago.
-I can't remember it.
-That was in a theme park?
Well, you are in for a real treat now
because you're going to see a real steam engine.
In the old days, you know, in the '40s, we used to go to
-a station like Leeds station, get a platform ticket.
And sit on the platform with a bottle of pop, or something,
and some sandwiches
and we used to get a book which had all the engine numbers listed in it.
Each page has the number of different steam engines.
So you would sit with your book, on the platform,
and you'd wait until the trains came in and then you would see
if that number on the front of the train was in your book.
If it was, you'd tick it off. That was train spotting.
What do you think of that?
-It seems a bit boring but I can't judge anything until we see it.
I will give you a go. It wasn't boring.
Mind you, in those days, we didn't have a lot more to do.
-Locos spotting, as they call it,
has become the number one hobby for schoolboys in recent years.
The world's first train spotter is thought to have been
a 14-year-old lad from County Durham,
who noted down the details of the Stockton to Darlington steam
engine in 1825.
Here they come.
The hobby reached its peak of popularity in the '40s
and '50s, as young boys competed to record the details of great
steam engines that would not survive the next decade.
I can hear a steam train coming, look.
How about that?
Have you got your book? Have you got your spotting book?
The number is on the very front of the boiler there.
So you write that down, and it's on the side, as well - 90733.
-What have you got in here?
-I don't know. I haven't opened it.
This came in the morning from our good friend Sara Cox.
You know, liquorice was all grown in Yorkshire, around Pontefract.
-Don't you like it?
-No, I don't.
On a day like today I'd normally be playing on my PS4,
or with my friends, or I would be out on my bike.
I would never do this.
I would not think to do it.
In 1948, Manchester's Park Hill Hospital, now known
as Trafford General, became the first NHS hospital in the country.
Working-class people no longer had to worry about private
Under the NHS, every person was entitled to free care.
A national recruitment drive was launched to fill 48,000 NHS
nursing and midwifery posts,
offering girls like Freya and Caitlin an alternative
to life on the factory floor.
-One day off a week. Four weeks paid holiday a year.
The most satisfying job of all - healing.
I believe they were looking to employ nurses from age 14.
So you are well within the age range.
I am not being a nurse. Ever.
-Like you'd ever be good enough to be a nurse.
They would be deader than they are when they came in!
Beggars can't be choosers and you currently don't have a job.
Convinced they won't make natural nurses, Caitlin and Freya have a
visitor to give them an insight into what the training might entail.
Hello. I'm Bobby.
Hi, Bobby, I'm Caitlin.
Caitlin, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, too.
-Who are you, dear?
As a young woman, Bobby trained as a nurse in Sheffield
and was one of the first to be employed by the NHS.
Across the north, this new service created career possibilities
and by 1951 11% of nurses
and midwives nationwide came from Lancashire alone.
That's me at 17.
I was still an assistant then, not at a big hospital.
That's when I passed my finals.
When I went to Sheffield there was 15 of us started at the same time.
You learn how to bed-bath patients and how to make beds properly
and how to make beds for someone coming back from theatre.
Of course, the bandaging. One of the worst bandages was for the head.
The skull bandage. That wasn't easy.
Was it just girls that were nurses, then?
In our crowd of 15 there was one - one man.
-A hospital depends on this
as much as on this.
Back in 1948, nursing wasn't just about caring for patients.
It was feeding them, too.
You could even gain a certificate in invalid
cookery as part of your training.
Steamed whiting and parsley sauce.
Caitlin and Freya have been given the task of making a sick-room dinner,
copied out of a nursing manual.
-What are you cutting against?
-I don't know.
I feel like its head is never going to come off.
During the war, the threat of U-boats saw commercial fishing virtually abandoned.
But by 1948, fresh fish was back on the menu.
Whiting, available in the sea around the north-east of England
all year round, was a popular choice.
There's a lot of bone in this.
-Do you not need to debone it?
-I'll try my best.
Do you need to chop the tail off, as well?
I just felt a bone.
The recipe actually came out of... the nursing book.
Can you imagine going to the nurses now and saying, "Right,
-"can you go cook these patients' dinner?"
Fish and parsley sauce is quite common in hospital
-but it doesn't taste like this because this is delicious.
It's really nice, yes.
Well, girls, it looks like you have got another job.
It's a new day and a New Year for the Ellises.
It's 1951. Woo!
UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYS It was only after World War II that a five-day working week
became the norm.
So the Ellises are taking advantage of their Saturday
and heading out to the Peak District.
This is well nice!
Oh, look at it! It's just beautiful.
Can't believe that's on our doorstep, can you?
Might need to push it up here, love.
Think we're going to make it?
In the past, many working-class people had been
excluded from parts of the countryside by wealthy landowners.
But in 1951, the Peak District became the country's first
National Park, offering a welcome escape from sooty cities.
-So, these are...
-What the heck?
-Why just... just tomato?
Do you not think that's weird?
I kind of do but, do you know what?
-It's sort of quite nice.
I like these.
Because I like the way that the tomatoes soften the bread.
-Like what we used to have?
-No, what... App..
During the war, the Government had restricted fizzy drink
manufacturers to making just six flavours.
It was only now that old northern favourites,
such as Manchester-brewed Tizer, were available again.
Oh, my word! I haven't drank this for years.
It's so good to have something that's not tea or water.
-It is so good.
-LAUGHTER AND PLAYFUL YELLING
-Let me do it.
-Today we went on a family trip to the Peak District,
and it was really fun.
We played games and drank some pop,
which was so nice to have fizzy pop.
It was called Tizer,
and it was real good.
You bend down now.
It was a really, really, really good family day out,
and we had a really great time.
-Oh, flipping hell!
LIVELY MUSIC PLAYS
UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS
"Dear Ellises, great news.
-"Eggs are off ration."
"Unfortunately, Polly and Sarah have flown the coop,
"but they've left you a present to remember them by.
"Thanks for taking such good care of them. Love, Sarah."
-Aww, they've gone!
-We've lost the chickens?!
-We were going to keep them!
-Mum, are you going to cry?
-Are you actually crying cos they got rid of the chickens?
This is the BBC calling the world from London.
Long live the Queen.
In 1953, the coronation of a beautiful young queen
inspired us to move on from the war
and look towards a new age of prosperity.
-Long live the Queen!
Long live the Queen!
Long live the Queen!
Coronation fever took over northern towns,
from Burnley to Keighley, and here in Sheffield.
The Ellises are preparing for their local celebrations,
which are inspired by the plans of the Yorkshire village
Where are the egg whites?
In the eggs.
-So I need to crack the eggs?
Lesley's making a coronation cake using luxurious dried fruits,
while the girls attempt a coronation jelly.
"Whisk up the egg whites and pour into the bowl.
"The eggs will settle at the bottom of the dish
"and form a meringue."
Is there not a better whisk than this?
That's the best whisk.
-Takes hours, it takes a long time.
-Freya, just keep going!
-You've just got to go, go, go. It's hard, it's effort.
Grewelthorpe made meticulous plans for their coronation celebrations
with a special committee meeting almost weekly,
from February 1953 until the big day on June the 2nd.
That's actually really good egg white.
The villagers pooled their rations, collecting 9lbs of fat
and 12lbs of sugar to make cakes and pastries for their street party.
So the Ellises are doing their bit to contribute.
Are you eating it?
Where shall I put them?
-Wherever there's space.
Grewelthorpe's final coronation feast included
tongue and ham sandwiches, made from 60 loaves of white bread,
12 homemade cakes...
..not to mention 120 ice creams.
More sandwiches down there?
Spreads such as this had rarely been seen by working-class families,
even before the war.
I enjoyed the food so much because it was different from what
we normally eat and all the different flavours
with the cherries and stuff in it, and my pork pie was amazing, so...
I was over t'moon.
After a feast fit for a queen, villagers would entertain themselves
with cricket matches...
That's where you get your catching from!
..fancy dress parades... LAUGHTER
..and party games.
Two syllables, second syllable...
It's been lovely, I've loved it.
I think the Queen should get crowned every day.
Yeah, it's been fun.
-# God save our gracious Queen
# Long live our noble Queen
# God save the Queen
# Bom, bom, bom, bom... #
MUSIC: Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
With rationing now finally over, the larder has
a few welcome surprises in store.
-Look at that!
Heinz Tomato Ketchup!
I feel like it's been so long since I've had cereal.
They actually taste really good.
Yeah, it's so nice to have something that isn't bread.
And the breakfast table's not the only place things are looking up.
Since the end of the war, the average weekly wage
for a manual position had nearly doubled.
Finally, factory workers could afford some of the goods
they'd been producing, even if it was on hire purchase.
-After the war, there were controls and restrictions.
HP had sobered up.
But in 1954, the restrictions relaxed.
There was another boom,
and this time the customers were making whoopee, as well.
Come in, the Ellis family, to the showroom of your dreams.
Come gather round.
In Europe, washing machines and fridges
were the first big investment for 1950s families.
But in Britain, it was the TV, as we plumped for fun over function.
So 1956, you've got a bit more disposable income
to play around with. Lots of people getting these appliances
on hire purchase, on the HP.
The telly is the most expensive one, OK?
So your initial down payment will be £19, but it is 14 inch.
It is a luxury, Jon.
Tellies were being made very close to home.
The biggest factory in Europe was Bairds, in Bradford.
I'm thinking that if you were the first people on your street
-to get a TV, that would be pretty cool.
All your neighbours would be impressed, wouldn't they?
It must be just a matter of seconds before the northern region
airs itself to the Independent Television Network.
In May of 1956, Granada Television was launched.
The mission of the Manchester-based station was to show
the north to the north.
It was an instant hit.
By 1957, Granada had taken over the BBC
as the most popular channel in the region.
They were the first to broadcast ads in the UK,
or, as they called them, "a trusty guide to wise spending".
-No guest is ever really happy without the right kind of tea.
Caitlin's on telly!
Adverts opened up consumers' eyes to new possibilities,
from household goods to recipes.
Delicious Heinz baked beans to make this week's Heinz hint...
Inspired, Lesley is using sausage meat, baked beans and tinned salad
for today's tea.
Just kind of brush it with egg on the inside, which I assume is
to make it stick.
Baked beans in.
I cannot imagine salad in a tin.
Heinz, full of great inventions.
# Serve it generously with love... #
Mmm. This is nice.
Tastes a bit chicken Kiev-y.
You rustled that up quite quick, didn't you, really?
It's kind of like 1950s fast food.
The food might be fast, but with no piped hot water,
tackling the washing up is still a mammoth task.
Come on, Lesley. You're going to miss this film.
Yeah, I know, I'll be a minute.
-You sitting down?
Caitlin and Freya are getting their glad rags on.
I can do my own lipstick, you know.
I don't think you can.
Gone are the days when parents relied on their offspring's income
to help put bread on the table.
-Teenagers, guys and dolls, go in eight or ten times a week.
The shops know it, so every town has a store with teenage departments.
By the end of the '50s, young people were spending £830 million a year,
much of it on clothes, cosmetics, cigarettes and a good night out.
Teenagers grab life with both hands and do their best to live it 100%
24 hours a day.
Life lies before them.
They've got vitality, hip, and they're certainly with it.
And the best of luck.
-Hello. How are you?
The girls are meeting Bradford-born singer Kiki Dee
at a local dancehall.
-Are you excited?
-Yeah, really intrigued.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to showing you an amazing ballroom space
-from the '50s. So shall we go and a have look?
-OK, come on.
Kiki is most famous for her Elton John duet
Don't Go Breaking My Heart.
But her career started in the clubs and dancehalls
of the north.
# We're gonna rock around the clock tonight
# Put your glad rags on, join me, hon
# We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one
# We're gonna rock around the clock tonight
# We're gonna rock, rock, rock till broad daylight... #
-What do you think?
-It's amazing, I love it.
Yeah, it's so nice.
-You've never seen this kind of look before?
-No, I don't think I've
-ever really seen this kind of look.
This isn't a planned routine, is it? They're just making it up?
I think they're just kind of going into their groove.
I love the outfits. Like, I feel like the skirts really complement
the dancing when they're all spinning round.
-That's right. It sort of works, doesn't it?
Have you noticed how everything's geared around the waist
-for the women, it's...
-It's interesting, isn't it?
-See, I really
-like that, I like the shaping of it.
-Do you know what they used to do
-with the underskirts that they're wearing?
They used to soak them in sugar.
-To make them stiff, so that they...
-..would go out quite a bit. Yeah.
-Oh, that's so good.
The 1950s was a golden age for dancing.
The country boasted 500 permanent dance halls.
They were 18 in Manchester, and even my hometown of Bolton had five.
So, do you fancy having a go, then?
-It's been many years since I did the jive.
So you're going to take the hand nice and high,
through under the arm.
# Rock around the clock again
# We're gonna rock around the clock tonight
# We're gonna rock, rock, rock till broad daylight
# We're gonna rock We're gonna rock
# Around the clock tonight
# One, two, three o'clock Four o'clock rock. #
MUSIC: Singing The Blues by Tommy Steele
-And Lesley's mum Christine is popping over to help her make
the most of a new business opportunity.
Lesley's hosting a catalogue party
and is hoping that a good spread might lead to send the big spending.
What you making?
I'm making corned beef pinwheels...
It's like... They're like pastry rolls.
No longer constrained by rationing,
Lesley and Christine are making a full-fat buffet
with plenty of pastry...
Seems to have gone a bit soggy.
..cream and glace cherries.
This is the first time in 40 years I've had chocolate.
Things are definitely looking up.
-Hiya. Lovely to see you.
Over the '50s, catalogue orders tripled
as weekly payment plans made previously unaffordable
products available to all.
Grattan was founded in Yorkshire
and became one of the leading catalogue companies in the UK.
By 1958, they were processing 100,000 parcels a week.
It wasn't just shoppers that were benefiting.
By acting as sales agents,
northern housewives could earn a share of the profits.
So I were reading that if I became an agent
of a catalogue, I would receive a free catalogue and a free gift
and one of those gifts would possibly be a cuckoo clock.
-Do you remember that?
-Yeah, that's it.
-Oh, I had one of those.
I know, you used to make me sit under it!
-So we've got just a very small
underwear section there, look.
-Oh, there we go!
-Look at that.
-Well, I used wear them like that when I were only 14.
Because that's what I were given to wear to hold me stockings up.
No wonder I ended up with a big belly.
-Because your muscles didn't have to work hard enough.
MUSIC: Never Mind by Cliff Richard
To see the era off in style, Lesley is putting on a spread.
She's making a selection of canapes.
There we've got anchovy paste.
We've got cream cheese, capers, boiled eggs,
and we've got pate. These ingredients are very
sophisticated compared to what
I was doing at the end of the last era.
-It is exotic.
-Next up is angel food cake,
and help is on hand.
I've got an electric mixer.
Look at that! That's amazing.
The Ellises really have gone from famine to feast.
No longer worried about where their next meal is coming from,
Lesley has the time to craft a purple icing using plum jam.
This would have been nearly impossible, I think,
without an electric whisk because...
I'm sure that the plum jam would have affected how it whipped.
MUSIC: Magic Moments by Perry Como
The family have invited their nearest
and dearest round to mark the end of the era.
-Hi, Auntie Barbara.
It's the perfect opportunity for Jon to show off their new toy.
But we got it on HP.
I think it's forever. You know, we're going to just pay it forever.
But it is a flatscreen, innit?
I'm joining our intrepid time travellers' celebration.
-Hello. Hello, sweetheart.
-Nice to see you again. All right?
-Can I start?
-Yeah, yeah. By all means.
I want to find out if they've enjoyed their post-war years.
Have you felt quite a change, then? Because obviously at the start
of the 15 years, there was still rationing, things were pretty tough.
Has it felt like it's been sort of 15 years of plenty?
It's been like a stark contrast, I think,
especially from the beginning of the era, 1945, up until 1959 today.
It does feel like people kind of got over rationing by almost going into
excess. It were their way of thinking, "Right, that's it now."
How have you felt about the march of technology?
Because it is beginning, it is happening now, isn't it?
-Cos you've got your electric whisk and you've got telly.
I do feel, stood in 1959, that we know what's coming.
So is it almost like you're bracing yourself for this whole new
-world that's going to start?
-Yeah, kind of holding it back if we can...
-..as long as we can, really.
I think what has changed in this era is
sort of beginning of consumerism.
In the last era, it just did not exist.
We lived a basic life and it was about community and family
and work, and there's something raw and honest about that.
So, then, how's it been?
How have you enjoyed the last era?
Harvey, what you thinking?
We've just had a lot of time together, so it's been great.
How has it been with food and with drink?
I mean, you know, has it been nice having more brands and fizzy pop?
-What's the fizzy pop like?
-I love it.
Like, I absolutely love having pop and sweets
cos I've got a sweet tooth as it is, so...
You can really see that there's been more prosperity
in the later '50s.
At the start of the '40s,
there wasn't enough money to go out and do your own thing.
You were sort of confined to your home.
I think all of us have had a new sense of freedom.
All the way through the '40s and '50s,
it's reminded me about myself and my family that...
..we've never talked as much, we've never had as much fun and games.
You know, in present times we should do a lot more of it
and just put the phones to one side and have that traditional fun.
..the Ellis family enter the swinging '60s.
This is like some next-level gourmet stuff.
I'm a bit...eugh.
When I used to hear that rattle,
I used to think it were tea-time then.
# Sweets for my sweet
# Sugar for my honey
# I'll never, ever let you go
# Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh. #
The Ellis family from Bradford are embarking on an extraordinary time-travelling adventure to discover how a transformation in the food eaten in the north of England can reveal how life has changed for northern working class families over the past 100 years. The family's own home is their time machine, transporting them through a different era each week - from the sparse furnishings and meagre provisions of 1918 to the modern home comforts and bulging freezer of 1999. Guided through their time travel by Bolton-born presenter Sara Cox and social historian Polly Russell, everything the family-of-five experience - from the jobs they do to the food they eat - is based on historical data and spending surveys of the era. The Ellis family live through a time of dramatic change in the industrial north - experiencing everything from the mill to the mine, The Beatles to Thatcher and bland potato pie to the spicy delights of the curry capital of the UK.
The postwar years see the Ellis family on rations without a fridge, hot water or an electric cooker. Thrifty fodder includes the regional favourites cow heel pie and yorkshire pudding made with dried eggs, and while the cost of food is low, family spirits are high. The insecurity of the hungry thirties has been replaced by the promise of a fairer society for working class families with a government commitment to full employment and better housing and healthcare.
Much to the family's excitement they are joined by two new family members - chickens Sara and Polly - who treat them to fresh eggs, a welcome replacement for the dried ones they have been forced to use before. Things are definitely looking up! Well, most things...
Dad Jon and daughter Caitlin enjoy a delicious three-course taste of subsidised canteen dinners while mum Lesley and daughter Freya experience the joys of 15 hours of housework - the average undertaken by women in this era. The family have a memorable day out as they join friends and neighbours for a coronation street party filled with games and oodles of sandwiches, ice cream and cakes fit for a queen!