A snapshot of 1952

1a8896b3ce21ac89af355f16c849dde8At Taxbriefs, we usually spend our time thinking about the future when we’re preparing our newsletters and getting ready for further announcements from Downing Street. But given that today Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest reigning monarch in British history, we thought it would be fun to take a look back to the year 1952.

She has had twelve Prime Ministers take office, and of course, a number of Chancellors. When the Queen was crowned in 1952, Rab Butler had the job and she has since seen 18 others, including the current incumbent, George Osborne. Rationing was still in place from the war and wouldn’t end for another two years, so austerity had a whole other meaning.

Those were the days, of course, of pounds, shillings and pence –12 pennies to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound. Obviously inflation makes everything relative, but the statistics make for interesting reading. For example, did you know that the top rate of income tax that year stood at 97.5%? A stamp cost 19p and the average house would have set you back £1,891. Any investment property dating back the length of the Queen’s reign will have made quite a profit. Men earned an average wage of £9 a week, while women earned £5. So nothing new in the gender pay gap.

In 1952, there were 6.8 million pensioners (that was 6% of the population) and they would have been collecting a state pension of £1.50 a week. There were also apparently only 300 people who would have qualified for a telegram from the new monarch for their 100th birthdays. As of 2012, the most recent year for stats, there were 13,350 centenarians living in the UK of which 660 were aged 105 or more. Living standards and health care have changed beyond recognition, not to mention a shift up from 1 in 5 households owning car in 1952 compared to 4 out of 5 now.

In sport, Newcastle United beat Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup final to retain the Cup, while Manchester United won Football League Championship. Surrey won the Cricket County Championships and Oxford won the Boat Race.

But some things really have changed. One final nugget – footballers’ maximum wage was £14 per week while playing, £10 per week in closed season and £30 for playing in an International. So the past really is a foreign country.


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