A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


2.1 In order that any plans for the supply of space heating, water heating and cooking may be worked out, it is desirable to know the cost of these services in present dwellings of known size and to relate these costs with family income and other factors. This result can later be referred to housewives’ estimates of what they would be prepared to pay for these services if supplied from a central source.

The objective information about house size, income level and family size was collected in the classification section of the questionnaire. The expenditure was arrived at in answer to Question 1 . The annual expenditure was calculated in two ways: in the first instance the housewife was asked “what she had spent in a Winter week on coal, coke, coalite, etc. paraffin, firewood and fire lighters”. This was to be the average of the last four weeks, which would have been between the first week in February and the third week of March. In order to take account of the possible local climatic variation, a note was made of the weather on every day during which interviews were made and in all cases the weather was consistently cold, so that this result was not complicated by any local peculiarity.

In order to get the yearly figure this winter week figure was multiplied by a conversion factor worked out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Annual expenditure on gas and electricity was obtained from the Public Utility Companies and these figures were used in preference to those obtained from the housewives.

It was not possible to include lighting costs and in all the data on expenditure on lighting is included in the total “heating” costs.



The first analyses are concerned with total annual expenditure on all forms of heating, water heating, cooking and lighting. The separate figures for each items are not given as these were not required by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The expenditures have been prepared separately for houses and flats as it was desired to know whether or not, owing to the better conservation of heat in large dwellings, there was a smaller expenditure in flats.

Table 1

Total annual expenditure was obtained for 2,561 families living in houses and for 711 families living in flats. The average annual expenditure for families occupying houses was £16.16.10., whilst the average annual expenditure for families occupying flats was £18.2.8., thus showing that the expenditure in flats was higher than the expenditure in houses. We believe, from other information of a non-statistical character obtained in the course of the Survey, that this is due to the fact that in most cases the standard of heating and lighting in flats is higher than that of houses, so that although one would have expected the heating needs to have been less, this is offset by the other factor. In addition to this a point which emerged was that where all rooms are on one floor more of the dwelling may be used and heated, whereas in the case of the house the clear division made by the stairs, effectively limits the use of the upstair rooms. This is borne out in the results of the space heating section.

Table 2

In one case, however, it appears that this factor of the higher standard in the more modem dwelling does not apply, that is in the case of Degree-day Region II which includes the tenements of Perth, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and other Scottish towns; Region III however, which includes Glasgow and also a considerable sample of flats in England showed the some trend as the total.

This same point about the higher standard of heating in more modern dwellings is reflected in the comparison between old and new dwellings. The average annual expenditure of 1,138 new dwellings was £18.2.0., whereas the average annual expenditure of 2,266 old dwellings was £16.12.8.

Table 1

The higher expenditure in flats is reflected in almost every case of the detailed analysis given, by number of rooms in Table 1. The range in the case of houses from 1-6 rooms was from £12.9.4. to £18.9.7., whereas the range in the case of flats was from £15. 10.5. to £23.3.2.

Table 2

Table 3

A similar picture is given where the expenditure is analysed by number in family. This is given in detail in Table 2., where it will be seen that the range for families of 1 - 8 living in houses is from £11.17.0. to £22.3.6., whereas the range for families in flats is from £12.8.6. to £22.15.2. Table 3 The summary Table 3 shows the position more clearly. These broad conclusions must be modified, however, by reference to difference of annual income.


Table 4

The average annual expenditure of households was approximately the same in each Degree-day region, this being particularly true for families occupying houses. This fact may in some measure be accounted for by the lower prices of coal in the North of England since the same expenditure would buy more fuel. There were some differences in the expenditure of flat dwellers, and this did not follow the Degree-day region order but reflected the fact that in Degree-day region II the flats were largely of a poor working-class or tenement character.



This further analysis confirms the general impression already gained from the previous tables that the average annual expenditure in flats is greater than in houses.

Table 5

It will be seen from the analysis of families with an income under £160 per annum that, to take an example of families with 4 in the household, and with 2 habitable rooms, flat dwellers have an annual average expenditure of £16.8.1. compared with £14.16.5. of the house dwellers. Those occupying flats of 4 rooms have an £18.13.6 as compared with an annual average expenditure of £16.16.9. for 4 room houses. It will be seen that in almost all cases where the totals are large enough to be useful this difference is present.

If the total of all the families of equal size is taken it will be seen that there is a higher expenditure in almost all cases of flat dwelling families; for example families of one, £12.5.5. against £11.16.5. families of two £15.3.11. against £13.11.1., families of three £17.9.0. against £15.17.4., families of four £17.5.3. against £16.10.4., families of five £20.3.5. against £17.7.0.In the case of families of six the dwellers in houses spend slightly more, but the sample of flat dwellers in this case is rather small.

The average annual expenditure for families with an income of between £160 and £300 per annum shows broadly the same pattern. There are, however, some inconsistencies; for example if one compares flats and houses with two in the family, the average expenditure in houses is a little greater than that in flats £15.0.11. compared with £14.9.1. With three in the family, however, the flat expenditure is £17.15.10. compared with £16.17.9. and similarly with four in the family £18.9.0. compared with £18.3.10. The expenditures of families of five show an even larger difference, an expenditure of £20.12.4. in flats compared with £18.13.10. in houses.

The influence of family income on average annual expenditure is very evident in the case of families living in houses, but is less clear in the case of families living in flats.

The average annual expenditure for families of 2, 3, 4, and 5 are given as an example.

Living in houses Living in flats
Income under £160 per annum Income over £160 per annum Income under £160 per annum Income over £160 per annum
Families of 2 £13.11.1. p.a. £15.0.11. p.a. £15.3.11. p.a. £14. 9. 1. p.a.
“ “ 3 £15.17.4. p.a. £16.17.9. p.a. £17.9.0. p.a. £17.15.10. p.a.
“ “ 4 £16.10.4. p.a. £18.3.10. p.a. £17.5.3. p.a. £18. 9. 0. p.a.
“ “ 5 £17. 7.0. p.a. £18.3.10. p.a. £20.3.5. p.a. £20.12. 4. p.a.

If a comparison is made between families of equal size occupying houses with the same number of habitable rooms, it will be seen that families with the higher income have a higher expenditure in almost every case, as for example in the cases of families with houses of three rooms.

Income under £160 per annum Income over £160 per annum
Families of 2 £13.10. 0. p.a. £14. 1. 0. p.a.
“ “ 3 £14. 6.10. p.a.. £16. 6. 1. p.a.
“c “ 4 £16. 4. 4. p.a. £18.13.10. p.a.
“ “ 5 £17. 5.10. p.a. £17.10. 1. p.a.

In the case of flats there is no such clear pattern, the expenditures often being higher in the lower income groups. The samples in these analyses are however very small.


The average annual expenditure per head varied with family size as follows:-

Houses Flats
£ s. d. £ s. d.
1 in Family 11. 17. 0. p.a. 12. 8. 6. p.a.
2 in Family 7. 1. 5. p.a. 7. 9. 7. p.a.
3 in Family 5. 9. 2. p.a. 5. 17. 8. p.a.
4 in Family 4. 7. 7. p.a. 4. 13. 6. p.a.
5 in Family 3. 12. 9. p.a. 4. 1. 9. p.a.
6 in Family 3. 4. 11. p.a. 3. 6. 9. p.a.
7 in Family 2. 16. 1. p.a. 3. 6. 7. p.a.
8 in Family 2. 15. 5. p.a. 2. 17. 2. p.a.

The average annual expenditure of all persons was £4. 15. 3. Per annum.


Table 6

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research were interested to know how far the custom of purchasing coal through a coal club was general. This was of special interest to them as it represented a case where the purchasing of heat was done by a regularly weekly payment all the year round. This is in some ways parallel to the gas and electric charge and to the sort of charge which might be made for district heating. The questionnaire asked the direct question “Do you belong to a coal club”? This has been analysed by the income, by region, and by urban and rural. There were 4,971 answers to this question. Of this total there were 322 coal club members (6.5%) and 4,649 who do not belong to coal clubs (93.5%).

Table 6


Table 6

There was no considerable differences between the two income groups, the lower income group having 7.1% belonging to coal clubs and the higher 6%.



This analysis shows very clearly the much greater popularity of coal clubs in London and the South. The proportions are as follows:-

Scotland None
North 4.6%
Midlands 5.0%
London and South 14.6%
S.West and Wales 3.5%


Coal Club membership was confined almost entirely to the Towns, there being only 5 members of a coal club in the rural sample of 730.


Question 3 asked “How much do you pay for a hundredweight of coal” ? Most of the households in the sample paid between 2/3d. and 3/5d. per hundredweight for their coal.

There were some differences between the town and the country as follows:-

Table 7

9.2% of the town households paid between 1/10d. and 2/2d. compared with only 1.6% of the country households, whereas 28.3% of country households paid between 3/1d. and 3/10d. per hundredweight as compared with 29.9% of town households.

Table 8

As would be expected there were considerable regional differences, the prices paid for coal being very much less in the north than in the south.

Table 9

In Region II, towns on a coalfield were compared with towns away from a coalfield and a very striking difference emerged. In the coalfield towns 28.7% of the households paid between 1/10d. and 2/2d. per hundredweight for their coal compared with only 2.6% of the rest, whereas only 9.1% of the house- holds in coalfield towns paid between 2/8d. and 3/~ compared with 47.8% of the households in towns away from the coalfield.


Table 10

Information about the habits of coal buying are required for planning reasons. Table 10 shows that most people, (36%), buy two hundredweights at a time, 16.3% buy three hundredweights, 14.3% buy one hundredweight, 10% buy 5 hundredweights, 9.1% buy 5-10 hundredweights and 8.1% buy 10-20 hundred-weights. It is interesting to note, in passing, that the intermediate quantity, four hundredweights, is only bought by 4.3% of people. There are no important differences between the urban and rural sample.


It appears unlikely that cellar capacity was a factor restricting the amount purchased except perhaps in a few cases where cellar capacity was less than 5 cwts.

Table 11

Households with storage capacity of less than 5 cwts. were 465, 12.8% of the sample; of this number 42.2% bought a quantity equal to their capacity, 54.2% bought less and 3.6% bought more.

In households with a storage capacity of 5 cwts. or over, more than 90% bought less than their capacity, and a little over 9% bought a quantity equal to it. The numbers buying more were negligible.


Table 12

Question 5 asked “Why the Household Householder bought the quantity of coal that she did”. These reasons were related to the quantity bought and the importance of the reasons were related to the quantity bought and the importance of the reasons given was quite different in relation to different quantities. Over a fifth of the people bought all the coal that they could obtain at one time and in most cases this was a quantity less than 5 cwts., that is in 963 cases out of 1,036, these limitations were the result of the unofficial rationing which accompanied the coal shortage. A further 1,500 householders bought what they needed as a rule to cover either a weekly or a fortnightly, or in some cases a longer period. The greatest number,626, of these bought two cwts. at a time, 310 bought 3 cwts., 172 1 cwts. This reason was given more often than any other by those buying more than 5 cwts. Of the rest 929 bought all they could afford, which in 253 cases was 1 cwts. and in 420 cases 2 cwts. The numbers giving other reasons were considerably smaller and in some cases the reasons bore a very curious relation to the answer, for example of the 335 people who stated they liked a stock, 28 bought only 1 cwts.

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