Penrith Remembers - 2
16th July, 2014
Penrith Remembers – 2: The cost of living
In August 1914, Britain entered the Great War. The government was going to need 100,000 men to enlist, but in August, in Cumbria the first impact was the abandonment of nearly every local agricultural or village event including Penrith Show and Skelton Show.
Grahams would not be able to try and win the Heavy Horse category at Penrith Show following the previous year’s defeat by Pattinson & Winter.
James and John Graham’s new shop had been open for almost 34 years at Penrith’s Market Square.
In those days the Graham’s premises were much larger and there were also shops in Keswick & Appleby.
A varied range of products were available and in 1914 in addition to being Grocers, Provision Merchants and Italian Warehousemen they were known for being Hop Merchants, Seedsmen and Artificial Manure suppliers.
A Ford Car was £125 from Tinklers, a Raleigh Bicycle was £6 18s 6d from Althams.
For half a crown (2s 6d) at Grahams you could buy a large loaf, a pint of milk, 1lb of sirloin beef, ¼ lb of tea, six eggs and a 1lb of sugar and get a penny change.
An average worker would have to work for a full day to earn half a crown (that is 12.5 pence in today’s money), similar items today will cost about £15 but it only takes a quarter of the time to earn the money needed to buy them.
Also on sale was Vitadatio, a suspicious concoction of herbal remedy and blood purifier making very dubious claims that it could cure many ills. We still have one bottle on display in the shop but we dare not sell it!
As the seriousness of the Great War began to take effect people were not shopping as normal and some local businesses began to take ads in the Mid Cumberland & North Westmorland Herald.
Bargetts advertised for people to ‘BUY AS USUAL, BE PATRIOTIC’, there was obviously a downturn in trade as people became more fearful and worried about the consequences of the growing conflict.
But August was a month of very minor changes compared to the horrendous loss of life that was about to engulf the country for the next four years.