Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: STEPHEN LAMBERT

SINCE the end of the Second World War many people have seen the inter-war period as an age of unmitigated economic failure, marked by mass unemployment, hunger marches, including the famous Jarrow March of 1936, and lengthening dole queues.

The hardships were very real, particularly for those who lived in the depressed areas of Tyneside and County Durham. Yet, as Newcastle University historian, Norman McCord points out, towns like Hebburn - three miles from Jarrow, although hit hard, escaped the worst ravages of the inter-war recession, whilst the leafy neighbourhood of Gosforth remained untouched, with virtual full employment, not unlike the situation today. Even in North Heaton, new council housing was being built for the so-called 'respectable working-class', and new mock Tudor semis were being built in Brunton Park, North Gosforth, from 1934, for professionals in the private sector.

Nor did the era produce a potential revolutionary situation or extremism as predicted by many contemporaries at the time. Although membership of the Communist Party grew from 2,500 in 1930 to 17,500 by 1939, it made very few advances. Likewise, Mosley's fascist blackshirts during the period had little impact in the region, and attracted minimal electoral support.

The Thirties were in several areas a period of growth and socio-economic expansion. The well-established light industries of the Midlands, although they had always met the demands of the domestic consumer, found themselves faced with a rapidly expanding mass market. Inexpensive consumer durables such as vacuum cleaners and electric irons flooded the market and were bought in vast quantities by 1939. Department stores, especially Woolworths grew and expanded rapidly selling a wide range of goods.

As the Thirties witnessed marked shifts in the economy in both middle England and the South of the country, leisure too became transformed. In 1920 there had been about half a million motor vehicles of all kinds. By 1932 there were three times as many. And by 1939 that figures had doubled.

Of the three million vehicles on the roads, two million were private cars! …

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