This Week in 1935: 20-26 October

20-26 October:


INVENTION: A Hungarian inventor claimed that he had managed to create an apparatus which emitted rays making objects on which they focused invisible. The Times wrote, ‘the idea of being able to make oneself invisible is, in the present troubled times, most attractive.’ Scientists pooh-poohed the invention stating that, ‘“invisibility rays” are a physical impossibility’, but a private demonstration of the contraption held in the Central Hotel wowed its audience. The inventor placed a chair with a dummy policeman on it, focused the rays of the machine on the objects and his viewers watched as the chair and dummy vanished from sight. What do you reckon – a fantastical magic trick or a fantastic scientific invention?

INSTALLATION: the next time you are walking down Fleet Street take a moment to glance at the clock on St. Dunstan’s. The church had stood in the same spot for hundreds of years and the clock of St. Dunstan’s played an important role in the horrific tale of Sweeney Todd (Todd send his apprentice Tobias to watch the clock strike every time he gave one of his customers a close shave). This week in 1935 the original clock, with its mechanical figurine chime, was re-installed at St. Dunstan’s.

HELLO, IT’S THE FUTURE CALLING: An article that appeared in The Times this week in 1935 reported that there was a growing use of telephones throughout the country. It predicted that this was the result of frequent reductions in call charges – the number of night calls made had trebled since 1934!


This Week in 1935: 13-19 October

13-19 October:

BIRTHS AT THE ZOO: this week in 1935 the London Zoo witnessed the birth of a baby ocelot (a jaguar-like wild cat). The keepers had not realised that one of the ocelots was pregnant and found a little ocelot kitten in the enclosure one morning. This birth was of particular interest because it was unusual for ocelots to breed in captivity. Two more babies were also born at the Zoo this week in 1935 – a bison and a Dorcas gazelle.

PATH TO PROGRESS: two announcements were made this week in 1935 that started to pave a way towards the future. The first occurred in Brighton. Plans were released to widen the promenade and road on the Brighton sea front. The scheme was to cost a quarter of a million pounds and led to the Brighton front we know today.

Secondly a new school for the purpose of training professionals was announced. At the 36th anniversary dinner of the British Association of Refrigeration at the Park Lane Hotel Sir Frank Smith suggested that a school of refrigeration should be established at Cambridge where young men could be taught to understand the process of refrigeration. I’m not sure if this actually happened. Since it was the oddity of the article that attracted my attention I don’t suppose it did.

MAN HUNT BY 400 POLICE: Drama, drama, drama! This week in 1935 400 policemen surrounded a mountain cave near Capetown after searching for a young man called De Villiers. He was wanted in connection with shooting three people earlier in the week. Having escaped in a motor-car to the Drakenstein Mountains the man then began his ascent. He left a note in the car informing the police that he had a rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition. The note also pointed out that he was a crack shot and was waiting for them. The police were unable to reach him, as he had, ‘entrenched’, himself, ‘in an almost inaccessible cave high up in the Kloof’.


This Week in 1935: 6-12 October

6-12 October:

ROYAL BABY: On the 9th of October 1935, at five past two in the morning, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to Prince Edward. The event was made known to members of the public by firing the Park and Tower guns – a slightly more direct approach than the hours those poor journalists had to wait standing outside a hospital not so long ago.

NEW INVENTIONS: This week in 1935 two major inventions were announced in The Times. The first was an electric letter sorter. The Post Office branch of Brighton and Hove tested the new letter-sorting machine in the hope of avoiding letter manipulation or ‘double-handing’. Until then letters had been sorted by hand and placed in pigeon-holed boxes; service was slow and letters could get damaged. The machine meant that over 24,000 letters could be sorted in an hour.

The second invention was a new model of a three-wheeled car – something we now associate with generations past. The Times’ official motoring correspondent wrote this week in 1935 that a coach-built three-wheeled car was available to buy for under £100.

HOWARD LEAGUE REFORM: this week in 1935 the Howard League for Penal Reform advocated the value of books in prisons. Mr. John A. F. Watson remarked that, ‘a prison sentence offers a great opportunity for reading, and frequently men whose literary tastes had previously been confined to “blood and thunder” might be introduced to the work of authors which give them lasting pleasure.’

This Week in 1935: 29 September – 5 October

29 September – 5 October:

This week in 1935 saw three news items that would have proved particularly interesting for the domestic staff at Ickworth House in Suffolk.

NATIONAL NEWS: a new Lord Mayor was elected this week – Sir Percy Vincent.

LOCAL NEWS: most who live in Suffolk know about Culford School – a grand boarding and day school based in the old home of the Cadogan family. It was this week in 1935 that Culford School was officially opened.

PERSONAL INTERST NEWS: this week The Times reported the death of a London housemaid. Hilda Jane Thomas, aged 28, had been preparing some turpentine and beeswax in a saucepan on a gas ring – this mixture was commonly used for polishing floors. The saucepan tipped and the contents caught fire, catching the poor housemaid’s overall. She later died from her burns. The next time I complain about having to clean my apartment I will remember how lucky I am not to have to make my own cleaning products – hurrah for the slightly useless skwerty bottles and noxious polish sprays housed in my cleaning cupboard.

Diary of a Housemaid #10


September 1935

It is harvest time! I love this time of year! The whole family always goes to help Father in the fields. The boys join men from the village in cutting the crops, even little Alfred and he is only seven, and the women spend the morning making lunch. We then all meet for a huge picnic. This will be the first year that I cannot attend. I have spent much of my time this month staring out of the windows at the dusky orange light that tries to find its way into the basement. To be able to take a few hours each day just to go outside and breathe in the fresh air! On my days off this is exactly what I have been doing. I either walk the grounds of the estate or I walk back home. Mother often has a nicely fresh-baked loaf to greet me and my brothers and sister are always excited to see me.

I do not get so many chances to meet with my brother William though, as his employment in the village brickyards means that he is rarely at home when I am. However this weekend I received a note from him inviting me to go to the pictures in Bury St Edmunds. I was so excited! He borrowed Father’s cart and drove me into town. We went to see a movie called Top Hat. It was thrilling, filled with dance, drama and the most beautiful costumes. On my return to Ickworth I taught some of the other girls a number of dance moves I saw Ginger Rogers performing. Though I know I did not look anything like her, in my imagination I was in America dancing with the stars.

Rose Bailey


This Month in 1935: September

Having just returned from a conference (and holiday) in the US I thought it best to provide a summary of the most interesting and eye-catching stories that appeared in The Times this MONTH in 1935 rather than trying to compile weekly updates in the uber-busy pace of life in New York – so here they are…

1-7th September:

This week in 1935 witnessed celebrity drama – and students preparing for a new term:

A ROYAL PARTY: the Royal Family enjoyed a grand party at Balmoral to welcome Lady Alice Scott to the family. When she arrived her future husband, the Duke of Gloucester, was busy at a shooting party so she was greeted by her mother-in-law-to-be, Queen Mary. The Prime Minister, Mr. MacDonald, later joined the party after spending the day playing golf on the private Castle links.

A ROYAL FUNERAL: this week in 1935 saw the funeral of Queen Astrid of Brussels. She had been killed in a car crash and her premature death shocked communities worldwide. Queen Astrid had been an adored member of the Royal Family – charitable, approachable, beautiful and charming. King Leopold had been driving and lost control of the car, falling down a steep embankment and colliding with two trees, passing over a stone wall, and finally falling into a lake. The King was injured but he crawled to where his wife was lying and she died as he cradled her in his arms.

WELLS FALLS OFF A LADDER: H. G. Wells, author of well-known works such as War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man, was injured after he fell from a ladder this week in 1935. The 65 year old had been climbing an iron ladder to inspect the roof of a house rented by Princess Rospigliosi when he fell and landed on his face. Found by a housemaid he was transported to hospital in a taxi and suffered a temporary loss of the use of one eye.

STUDENTS TODAY – 1935: The Times reported this week in 1935 that the Mayor of Cambridge was unhappy with the state of modern students: ‘nowadays an old pair of flannel trousers and a sports coat seemed to constitute the wardrobe of the undergraduate whereas years ago the younger members of the University were regarded as arbiters of fashion and were invariably well turned out.’ And what did he blame for the shabby students? – motor cars. Not only were they putting coachmen out of business and creating a nuisance on the roads but the need-for-speed students no longer thought smart dress was needed when they were hidden behind a wheel rather than presented in a carriage.



8-14 September:

For a bit of a difference here are some adverts that appeared in The Times this week in 1935. It is not just the written word that can tell us how people lived in the past:















15-21 September:

FASHION NEWS: what were people wearing in the Autumn of 1935? This week The Times toured some of the more popular London shops and reported the results of their research. The answer was: trimmings of fur and metal! Debenham and Freebody offered new silks emphasising a metal note for its fashion-hungry customers. You could buy a black taffeta with ribbon stripes in metal and velvet or a georgette with tiny sequin stars superimposed on the silk. Glizty glamour!

WHAT – AND WHAT NOT – TO EAT: the constant debate about what we should and should not eat is not a modern phenomenon. This week in 1935 a study showed that meat was an essential element in a healthy diet. Of course, too much was not a good idea, but too little meant people were suffering from low stamina and resistance to illness. According to the report, ‘the London stockbroker who started the day with bacon and eggs and fish, followed by luncheon of soup, fish, entrée, and joint, and the same for dinner, was overdoing it’, but that the middle classes were not eating enough, ‘trying to live up to a stage of society they could not really afford, they had little to spend on food.’

MONKEY BUSINESS: This week in 1935 the people of Canterbury were being terrorised by a monkey. The cheeky chappy had escaped from Whitstable Amusement Park and had been loose for two weeks. It helped itself to fruit and vegetables and apparently had a particular liking for tomatoes – stripping the produce from grower’s trees and raiding larders throughout the town. The police attempted to capture it but failed miserably: ‘it was trapped in a conservatory with all the exits closed. The monkey took up a strategic position on the top of the cistern, and was only enticed down by provocative noises and by a policeman making faces at it. Strawberry nets were then spread, but as the attacking force closed in the monkey tore through the net, crashed through glass, and shortly afterwards gazed derisively down from the steeple of St. Paul’s Church.’

SPACE-SAVING STORAGE: A NEW INVENTION – anyone who has had to consult newspapers for research, historical or otherwise, knows that you can easily drown under a pile of deceivingly flimsy copy. In 1935 a new system had been invented to solve this problem. Rather than keeping original copy in files and boxes newspapers were now printed onto film and stored in reels. Microfilm – the arch nemesis of the newspaper researchers of today – was hailed as a progressive step in record keeping. Not only could newspapers be filed more easily but the safety-type film reels proved less of a fire hazard to public libraries and newspaper offices than piles and piles of paper.


22-28th September:

A week of boundary-busting relations:

THE NORTH AND SOUTH: this week in 1935 a new express service by the London and North Eastern railway was introduced between Newcastle and London. The train, which was named “Silver Jubilee”, could travel the 268 mile journey in just four hours!

THE BRIT AND THE AMERICAN: an article appeared in The Times this week in 1935 discussing the similarities and differences of British and American personalities. Mr. Harold Nicolson remarked that one of the largest differences that led to misunderstanding between the British and the Americans was temperature. ‘Friendships between Englishmen and Americans have been broken by the question of whether a room was too hot or too cold. He had met Americans who had assured him that during a visit to Great Britain the only warm thing they ever met was a whisky and soda. He had known Englishmen who had left America with great speed fearing apoplexy because of the heat.’ This received great laughter from those attending the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at Hotel Victoria. He also noted that though both Brits and Americans exhibited shyness this was presented in very different ways. ‘The Englishman’s shyness took the form of reserve, and the American’s took the shape of uncertainty. Suffering from reserve the Englishman said less and less, and uncertainty made the American say more and more.’

HUMAN AND ANIMAL: this week the Canterbury monkey was finally caught but it wasn’t by the police. An elderly woman had gained the animal’s friendship with gifts of bread and milk, bananas, and nuts and it finally became so trusting that it entered the house to feed from her hand. She then enticed it into a shed and locked the door. The lady, a Mrs. Ellenor of Cross Street, remarked that, ‘I could have cried when I thought how the monkey had trusted me.’







Diary of a Housemaid #9

dofhm august

August 1935

Every year Lord and Lady Bristol throw a party in the park for the women and children of the village. Long tables are laid out under the shade of the great trees, covered with a delicious assortment of cakes, sweets, and fruit. There is even fresh lemonade to drink. Of course we are too busy in the house to attend this event, but a few of us were allowed a brief excursion instead of sitting down to lunch. My family had been invited and as soon as they saw me my younger siblings ran over to give me a hug. This was the first time they have seen me in my uniform and I think that Mother looked quite proud. She didn’t say anything, but I could see it in her smile.

Soon it was time for me to return to the house, but not after I had eaten my fair share of the food. I also saved a slice of cake for Florence and some sugared almonds for Miss Stringer. They both seemed pleased with these. It was hard working with the noise of children’s laughter seeping in from outside. I just wanted to join in with the games. The window of the servants’ staircase in the west side of the house offers a beautiful view of the park, and here I sat for a while, watching the children having fun. How good Lord and Lady Bristol are to the people of the village. How lucky we are!

Rose Bailey