H&G in the Thirties

Darker days are looming

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The July 1938 issue opened with a bucolic scene of bathers by a lake and a few lines from a poem by Rupert Brooke. It was a swansong for an era that was about to come to an end. Following features on building air-raid garden shelters and how to make black out blinds, Homes and Gardens announced its League Of Service with a pledge to publish peaceful contents that would be “a positive solace to the mind”.

Beyond readers’ design queries the magazine provided guidance on housing evacuees and contacts for women to support to the war effort from fire fighting to the Land Army. Food and thrift became the focus with the appointment of home economics guru Mrs D.D. Cottington Taylor (think Mary Berry with a Marcel wave).

On celebrating the magazine’s 21st birthday the editor announced the introduction of good comfortable fiction and inspirational features of psychological value, for “read we must – it is one of the few forms of relaxation left to us”. House stories increasingly focussed on politicians and military figures as a sort of interiors propaganda.

The horrors of war prompted a nostalgia for the past. Readers took comfort in ye olde cottage interiors and the much-maligned Victorian style enjoyed something of a comeback.

Hot H&G topic: Which style to embrace – Jacobean Revival or European Modernisme?

KEY INFLUENCES IN THE 1930s

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Discover more of the history of Homes & Gardens

In the Zeitgeist

  • Growth of suburbia. Where will it end?

Headline news

  • King Edward VIII abdicates 
(sitting on a Parker Knoll chair).

Lifestyle moments

  • The National Trust’s Country Houses Scheme of 1937 allowed owners to donate their properties to the Trust and still to live in them. Cue decades of house-snooping and cream teas in the orangerie.

Household essential

  • By the early Thirties, half 
of UK households had a radio as 
their primary source of news and entertainment. The BBC launched the Empire Service (now the World Service) in December 1932. The first royal Christmas message, delivered by King George V, was one of the first broadcasts.

Who knew?

  • Princess Margaret’s birth in 1930 inspired the newspaper horoscope. The popularity of the Sunday Express’ reading for the new princess led to a weekly column making predictions for all of its readers. 
‘The stars’ were born.

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