Site Home
 



Topic Home


1900 - 1950

During the first half of the twentieth century the middle classes continued to enjoy the benefit of higher incomes, and their standard of living continued to improve. The term 'middle class' applied to a wide range of people, from the wealthy to those just managing to find fees to pay for their children's education. One of the criteria of being 'middle class' in the nineteenth century had been the ability to employ servants. Fewer people could now afford living-in servants, although many middle class families had domestic help on a daily basis.

There had been some improvement in the standard of living of the working class at the end of the nineteenth century, but after that there was little change until after the First World War. Then, instead of things getting better, there was a long period when many were unemployed. For people in employment both income and standard of living improved.

In 1918 70% of people in Leeds were still living in back-to-back houses. Indeed it was with great reluctance that the council abandoned the building of back-to-back houses, and they were built in a modified form, until 1937. However new housing estates were put up on the outskirts of the city in the 1920s and 1930s, but moving people to these estates broke up the old working class communities of the city centre.

Low incomes meant that working class families still could not afford school fees or doctors fees, and until the 1930s relied on the still inadequate poor relief provided by the Poor Law services.

In the city centre the shops were full of expensive goods, which were beyond the reach of the working classes, as were entertainments such as the Theatre and concerts enjoyed by the middle classes. People from all social groups however enjoyed the cinema.

In some ways however, the gap between rich and poor narrowed during the first half of the twentieth century. New schools meant improved education for children from working class homes. The ways in which social support was administered lessened to some extent the stigma attached to poor relief and the workhouse. New laws governing working hours meant that people could not be so easily exploited as they had been in Victorian Britain.

Cheaper and easier travel meant that working class families no longer had to live within walking distance of their place of work. The provision of public amenities like swimming baths, playing fields and parks gave everyone the chance to enjoy free or inexpensive leisure pursuits.

People were now earning enough for many of them to take an annual holiday; advertisements appeared for resorts like the Isle of Man and Scarborough. The 1938 Holiday with Pay Act meant that even more people could take a holiday once a privilege enjoyed only by the Victorian middle classes.





Click images to enlarge
Advertisement for house at Chapel Allerton
Advertisement for house at Chapel Allerton
Back-to-back houses, 1947
Back-to-back houses, 1947
Middleton Estate, 1934
Middleton Estate, 1934
Opening of tramway, 1923
Opening of tramway, 1923
Advertisement for Scarborough, 1926
Advertisement for Scarborough, 1926




Site Map

© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003