24th-30th August 1915: Notes from the Small Ads

Are you looking for somewhere new to live?  Perhaps the Classified section of this week’s South Western Star can help.

Why not live at healthy Wandsworth?  Where you can get a self contained flat within two minutes of ELECTRIC TRAMS and MOTOR BUSES, six minutes of Wandsworth Station… close to Wandsworth Common, comprising: sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchen, scullery &c… Rents from 8s to 12s weekly.

Or perhaps you are a respectable single man, who can pay a rent of 3/6 a week – in which case a furnished bedroom is to let at 105 Elsley Road.  Those looking for more space may wish to pay 9/6 for a sitting and bedroom, with use of the kitchen and a gas stove in York House, Beauchamp Road.  Although unfurnished rooms are also available in the same building for 8s, promising use of bath in addition to three large rooms.

IPark [Elsynge] Road, c1910f you would prefer to buy, rather than rent, then perhaps 59 Park Road [now Elsynge Road, pictured right] would be of more interest.  It is a superior 8-roomed corner house, where the bath is noted as being H&C and there is a motor-cycle shed.  This week’s South Western Star lists it for sale at £340.


Henderson’s butchers, of 179 Northcote Road were looking for a “Smart lad” and willing to pay 10s-12s a week.  A “smart, strong lad just left school” could be earning 11s a week at the drapers H V Savile, York Road.  Or a “respectable girl about 17 to 18 years for daily work, 5s per week, sleep-out”.  The adverts did acknowledge the war – H Robinson’s of Chelsea were advertising in the South Western Star that they sold Khaki riding breeches for 8s 6d, as well as double scarves, puttees and marching boots, while Alphonse Cary of 198 Lavender Hill wished to assure readers that “Although, owing to the War, piano prices are high” he would continue to give the best value for money.

Why look at the adverts?  Most of the news stories in the local papers relate to the send-off of the Wandsworth Battalion, which took place a few days before the paper was printed.  The small ads also give a good idea of what the cost of living might be for families in the area.  Maud Pember-Reeves’s study “Round About a Pound a Week” gave an account of how working-class families lived in nearby Kennington Road between 1909 and 1913, and estimated they lived on approximately 20s a week. Assuming that wages had not risen significantly – or that applications for wage increases to employers had been unsuccessful – then rent of a healthy flat at Wandsworth could take from 40% to 60% of the weekly wage.  It has already been noted that the cost of coal had increased and in comparison to the figures suggested by Pember-Reeves, so had the cost of accommodation – Pember-Reeves suggested it was around 1/3 of the weekly wage in 1913.

A Private in the Wandsworth Battalion with a wife, but no children, was being offered £1 11s and 9d per week, rising to £2 3d if he had a wife and two children, with 2s per week extra for every additional child.  For the “smart lad” to have opted to take the post at the butcher’s instead of joining up meant a wage gap of £1 1s 9d a week – a significant amount of money.  Perhaps it is one reason why so many joined up so quickly in the area.

South Western Star available on microfilm

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