ABOUT THE HOME (1951)

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About the Home

About the Home was a long-running afternoon programme designed to help women improve their domestic skills with tips on everything they could wish to know about from cookery to soft furnishings and needlework to bringing up baby and doing their own DIY.

The series began in 1951, still in the midst of the austerity of the war years, women were encouraged to make the best of the small budget they had by making their own dresses or re-upholstering a chair. Women's programmes were transmitted Monday to Thursday from Alexandra Palace, the first being Designed for Women broadcast in 1949. The programme was compered by Jeanne Heal who, in 1950, also ‘conducted’ a new programme for women called Women of Today. Women's programmes proved hugely popular and made unlikely stars of a number of people such as W. P. Matthew, television's first DIY expert. Matthew had begun his media career on radio in the 1930s and would have had his first show on television on September 3, 1939 had the BBC not closed down for the duration of the Second World War. Nevertheless, Matthew returned in 1946 and appeared regularly until his untimely death in March 1956. Following that his place was taken up by Barry Bucknell. With television becoming increasingly popular and finding its way into more homes Bucknell is sometimes, although incorrectly, remembered as the original screen handyman.

About the Home was presented on a Thursday at 3pm by Joan Gilbert, assistant editor and presenter of Picture Page which at that time became the longest-running TV programme in the world. In those early days the BBC also produced one of the first examples of a 'part-work publication' to tie-in with the series (circa 1954). For the princely sum of Two Shillings and Sixpence (13 pence) subscribers would receive a folder along with a number of pamphlets which could be added to on application and a further small charge. (See example by opening the links in the right-hand column of this page). Titled 'Women's Television Notes' these included step-by-step guides on upholstering, recipes and 'quick and easy dressmaking.'

About the Home finished in 1958, by that time the British consumer was being openly encouraged to help a vigorous post-war recovery by spending money on new products rather than repairing the old or making their own.

Review: Laurence Marcus 2010