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ANSWERED on Sat 19 May 2012 - 12:54 pm UTC by Phil Answerfinder

Question: some examples of poverty-level working-class food and alcohol in England between 1965 and 1975

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 18 May 2012 08:29 UTCFri 18 May 2012 - 8:29 am UTC 

I'm looking for a couple examples of foods and alcohol that might be consumed by a hypothetical family living in the Manchester/Salford area of England (but not in Manchester proper) between 1965 and 1975. They would have been a working class family supported by a sometimes-employed millworker that often fell below the poverty line and lived in a two-up-and-two-down house.

What might be a cheap food or foods that such a family would get sick of when money was very very tight? (Similiar examples from the modern US of poverty level foods are ramen noodles or big bricks of government-issued cheese.)

What would be a cheap cheap kind of (probably lousy) alcohol that an adult guy might drink? The sort of stuff you drink to get drunk and not for taste.

(If you happen to stumble on any extra slice-of-life details that might apply to such a family, they'd be welcome, though I certainly don't expect them.)


David Sarokin 


 18 May 2012 14:22 UTCFri 18 May 2012 - 2:22 pm UTC 


So far, I've found surprisingly little information online that might address your question. I did come across a book that may be of interest to you, though:

Manchester in the 70s

I'll let you know if anything else turns up.





 18 May 2012 23:44 UTCFri 18 May 2012 - 11:44 pm UTC 

My uninformed guess: corned beef, baked beans, chip butties, instant mashed potatoes, tinned sausages. Maybe mince.

I don't know how common these were in that decade. One source might be the TV/radio series Steptoe & Son, I think they eat sausages quite often.

Also see:

This book may first have been published in the 1970s




 18 May 2012 23:47 UTCFri 18 May 2012 - 11:47 pm UTC 

I wouldn't focus too much on the Manchester connection. Diet doesn't vary *that* much across the country. Yes there is regional good but if you're poor in Manchester or Bristol or Reading, you'll be eating similar food. I don't think you need to worry about saying that up north they eat pies while down south they eat pasta, or some such.




 19 May 2012 00:41 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 12:41 am UTC 

That does look like an interesting book. :-)

The foods or alcohol wouldn't have to be totally regional. For example a nationally available brand of mid 60's-70's rot gut booze could work as long as it was available in that part of England.

The items just have to be possible or plausible so I don't accidentally feed an unemployed 70's millworker '90s style yuppie American foods!




 19 May 2012 08:06 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 8:06 am UTC 

These two pages (although being a site from Scotland) could give you a general idea about the changes regarding eating habits in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s.




Phil Answerfinder 


 19 May 2012 12:54 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 12:54 pm UTC 


Without getting into to trouble by giving my wife’s age away, she was brought up for some time in a Lancashire in a mill town in the 1960s and made return visits during the 70s.
She has memories of this time staying with her grandmother. She also has her grandmother’s cookbook with handwritten additions and book on Lancashire customs. Her family was not on the poverty line, but she did have some poorer relations. All her family were very careful with their budget and the type of food they consumed would be found in any working-class home in Lancashire. It was the quantity that would be different and the type of meat and cut. Vegetables would be used to make up for the lack of meat.

She tells me that shopping was done daily from small corner shops: grocers, bakers, and butchers, or from market stalls. A larger shop called Booths was the nearest thing to a supermarket but she’s not sure if there was one was in Salford in the 60s-70s.

All food was purchased fresh and prepared at home. No pre-packaged meals, no take-away pizzas, Chinese or Indian food. The exception was pie shops and the traditional fish and chips with mushy peas which were bought every Friday night. Fish and chips shops could be found everywhere from a small corner shop to a large restaurant/take away. Poorer families may have consumed them more than once a week. Pies were sold at the bakers or in specialist pie shops.

Meals were structured around the mill working hours. 51/2 day week. 7am – 4pm. At 12 noon the workers would go home for the main meal of the day which they called dinner.

Breakfast from:
Porridge, toast, butter and jam; white bread, butter and jam; boiled or scrambled egg. Bread and dripping (the fat which drips off roasted meat, cooled and then spread on the bread with a touch of salt. Could also have it for supper).

Dinner from:
Meat and potato pie (aka Lancashire pie), hot pot (very cheap meal easily prepared), butter pies, pork pies, casserole with a salt crust, black pudding, sausages, tripe with onions or cold with salad. Salad consisted of spring onions, lettuce, cucumber and tomato – no salad cream or mayonnaise. Potatoes: chipped, mashed, boiled or as potato cakes or potato hash. Tinned peas, pickled onions and pickled beetroot, and red cabbage. Boiled bacon, pease pudding. Mussels in jars, brown shrimps from Morecambe bay.

Sunday roast with vegetables. The left-overs were then used for shepherd’s pie on the Monday. Monday was always wash-day so there wouldn’t be much time for cooking.

Tea, or if you had visitors, it was called high tea. Taken around 4 – 4.30. Even if they were poor an attempt would be made to have two courses.
Bread and butter and jam, seed cake, gingerbread parkin, steamed puddings, jam roly poly, rice pudding, eccles cakes, rhubarb and custard.

Supper – about 8.
Bread and dripping, cheese on toast, left-overs. A poor family would have probably missed this out and gone to bed hungry.

Drinks: Tea or coffee made with milk. Milk. Water. Beer purchased from off-licence or off-sales at a pub.

See this page for some other traditional foods.

Other background snippets.
No fridge until late 60s. Until then a marble slab in the pantry kept the food cool. Outside toilet at the bottom of the yard. No washing machine until the early 60s. A poor family could still be using a copper in the washhouse.

Another thing she recalls is Wakes Week, the annual week’s holiday when the mills and factories all shut down and everyone went off to Blackpool and other seaside resorts.

You may also wish to look at this site with its page of memories for Salford. Various dates but it may give you a feeling of the time and one or two useful anecdotes.

Being of childhood age she cannot help on this one apart from that she recalls that ladies drank port and lemon, or shandy.

The beer is a bit of a problem as in the late 60s early 70s cask ales were being replaced keg ales.

How quickly this change was occurring in Salford is difficult to say. There was a strong difference in beer at this time between north and south as well. Northerners disliked southern beer saying it was watery and didn’t have a head on it (foam). While southerners thought, ‘why pay for foam, I’d rather have the liquid’. It was always boasted that northern beer was better and they were more selective with their beer. To be honest – they were.

The local brewery was the long-time established Groves and Whitnall but they were acquired in 1961 by Greenall Whitley until they ceased trading in 1972. They brewed a basic draught bitter or mild.

These are some adverse comments I have found.

“I hated their bitter, it had a horrible sour taste as though someone had drunk it and then spewed it out. LOL.”

“The 50p sherry was when I was student; we had it before several pints of tank Greenall Whitley bitter in the student bar. The bitter was improved by having drunk the sherry first.”

“The pubs of Chorley in Lancashire were nearly all owned by either Matthew Brown or Whitbread or Greenall Whitley, none of whom produced a drop of decent beer, hence my early decision that I didn't like the stuff.”

You could also try Boddingtons Bitter brewed by Strangeways Brewery, Manchester. This is still being produced albeit a slightly different taste and packaging.

“In the 1960s, I used to live fairly close to Blackpool, and visited it regularly; the beer of choice was Boddingtons Bitter from Manchester, which is near to Ashton-under-Lyne, where I was born; it was a most distinctive, straw coloured beer, that was very hoppy, a true world-classic..”

I hope I’ve addressed your question. As I said above, a poor family would have cut down on the quantities and variation in their diets. Most mothers still retained their cooking skills taught to them by their mothers. The dreaded microwave oven and convenience foods had not yet begun to undermine their cooking abilities.

Do not hesitate to ask for any clarification of this research.


P.S. Don't even start me on the accent - that thoroughly confused me when I visited there in the early 70s.


David Sarokin 


 19 May 2012 13:56 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 1:56 pm UTC 

What a wonderful answer. But for some reason, I can't stop singing tunes from 'Hair' now:





 19 May 2012 14:28 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 2:28 pm UTC 


I live an hour's drive from Salford, and I can tell you that there are still plenty of people who live and eat like that today.

Phil mentions "tea and coffee made with milk", but it would almost certainly have been consumed with one or two sugars. Sugar was also added to many vegetables when they were cooked: carrots, for example, would be boiled with salt and sugar.

The "Wakes Week" tradition still lives on in some of the smaller Lancashire towns. In Kirkham, where I lived in the 1990s, most of the shops including the post office would close for the week. The tradition dates back to a time when most people could not afford to travel further than the nearest seaside town for their holidays.

The choice of "resort" for Wakes Week was based on the railway network. If you lived in Leeds, you would holiday in Morecambe (because that's where the train line went), whereas if you lived in Manchester you would holiday in Blackpool.

The sheer numbers of people holidaying in these resorts would have overwhelmed the transport and accommodation facilities, were it not for Wakes Weeks. Each town chose its own week, in order to stagger the flow of holidaymakers across the whole of summer. In addition, the resorts did their best to stretch out the season. Blackpool and Morecambe switched on their "Illuminations" at the end of summer, to provide an incentive for people to take their holidays later in the season.

Additional reference:

Quezi - What is Lancashire Hot Pot?




 19 May 2012 16:51 UTCSat 19 May 2012 - 4:51 pm UTC 

Indeed, WOW!

I hope the information is for a novel with lots of meals  - that can also use the additional social details.




 20 May 2012 19:37 UTCSun 20 May 2012 - 7:37 pm UTC 

Wow. Thank you for such a wonderful answer with such a wealth of detail.

I had realized there would be less premade food, but hadn't realized it wasn't there yet at all. I spent some of the early 70's in Mexico and the small specialized shops, market stalls, and daily food shopping sounds very much like what I experienced there.

I just want to make sure I understand a few things.

-I can't quite parse "51/2 day week"?

-Were the pies sold at bakeries and pie shops fruit pies or meat pies or both?

-A copper is a large cooking pot, right? I take it there would be two freestanding small buildings in back: the washhouse and outhouse?




 20 May 2012 19:55 UTCSun 20 May 2012 - 7:55 pm UTC 

Phil mentioned "Eccles Cakes" in his answer. These more-or-less consist of currants enclosed by pastry, dusted with sugar. They're still commonly eaten throughout Lancashire, and were even more popular in the past.

They originated in Eccles which is next to Salford. So if you want a traditional regional specialty, that would be one.

(I don't actually like them though. Too stodgy.)




 20 May 2012 20:01 UTCSun 20 May 2012 - 8:01 pm UTC 

5 1/2 day work week:  Mon - Fri, half-day Saturday


Phil Answerfinder 


 20 May 2012 20:57 UTCSun 20 May 2012 - 8:57 pm UTC 

The pies purchased at the bakers, pie shop, or even the fish and chip shop, were meat and vegatable. There's a few on that regional foods website I to above.

If they were poor then they could still be in 'back to back' housing. However, during the 60s and 70s many were cleared as slums and replaced by high rise flats. They could have been rehoused there.
This may be of interest on Salford housing.

By copper I meant a metal container for heating water for washing clothes. The copper was filled with water and soap powder was added. This could be done in the kitchen, scullery, or a wash house in the yard. If they were in a high rise flat they probably had a washing machine.

Sorry about the five and a half.





 21 May 2012 03:52 UTCMon 21 May 2012 - 3:52 am UTC 

Thank you for an amazing answer with a personal touch. It was exactly what I needed and then some.  I'm happily following all the links and figuring how it all works into my story.

And thank you to all who added comments, insights, questions, and music.

(Wanders off singing "Let the sun shine in...")


Phil Answerfinder 


 22 May 2012 08:34 UTCTue 22 May 2012 - 8:34 am UTC 

Thank you for the tip. Pleased I could help.



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