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Bringing home the bacon in 1949

Date Sent:     09 AUG 1949

Sender:  Gwen

Recipient: Miss N Clayton  11, Mt. Pleasant Road, Newton Abbott, Devon


Many thanks for letters and swee[ts?]. We had a lovely day at the Tower with H&W. I suggested that they came with us to see Uncle Ben next day. H advised against it as being a dreadful journey.  We have seen very few people.  Kevin came to dinner last night. Nothing left on S’s card, Nellie, except Bacon which I can get on Sat. It is in worktable, I think. Love from Gwen and all.

A hand written postcardw ith four green stamps

Gwen and family are enjoying their August holiday in London sending an atmospheric postcard from the Tower to Nellie back home in Newton Abbot. Even in black and white, the Wakefield Tower is bathed in sunshine, with the darkened doorway under the Bloody Tower on one side and St Thomas’s Tower opposite. Shrouded in gloom it lives up to its more familiar name of Traitor’s Gate. Through the central archway Tower life goes on with distant figures chatting, while in the foreground a lone Yeoman Warder stands duty enjoying his summer’s day. It is a tranquil scene, with a sense of timelessness.  The patina of history is provided by the grime of Victorian London coating the stone walls.

But the shadow of the War still lingers.  The Ministry of Works was set up in 1940 to manage the requisitioning of property for war-time use.  After the war, its brief expanded and in the process it took over care of ancient monuments, including the Tower of London. It also became the site’s official post card generator.

A sepia image of tower walls

1940 also saw the introduction of food rationing which was still very much a fact of domestic life nine years later.  Fruit and vegetables were never officially rationed, but their availability effectively served the same purpose. From 27 April 1945, the weekly bacon ration was cut from 4 ounces to 3 (113 to 85gm) while the cooking fat allowance was halved. In July 1949 questions were asked in Parliament about increasing the bacon ration in light of more supplies becoming available, but meat rationing continued for a further six years until its lifting in July 1954.

Gwen’s comment on seeing very few people might be practical too, influenced by rationing.  Stretching resources to keep the family fuelled was hard work at the best of times, let alone on holiday. Hopefully Kevin kept this in mind coming for dinner, so Gwen was spared having to impose the FHB rule. Bearing such constraints in mind, Nellie’s gift of sweets to the holiday makers was even more generous.  They were still rationed – another three summer holiday seasons would pass before sweets came off ration in February 1953.

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