Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Pawn Broking

Placing an article in pawn was a way of raising a short term loan. The pawnbroker lent quite a bit less than the market value of the article or goods, which were kept by the pawnbroker as security for the loan. Once the amount of the loan had been agreed, the pawnbroker would hand the money and a pawn ticket to the customer, and put the goods in store. Various charges were made for the transaction.

On loans of 10 shillings or under, the pawnticket would cost one halfpenny and the interest would be one halpenny per two shilling loan, per month. After the first month, interest could be charged at half month rates. On loans above 10 shillings, but less than 40 shillings, the pawnticket cost one penny. The maximum that could be loaned without a money lender's license was £10. To regain the goods, the customer had to pay back the amount borrowed, plus the interest on the loan.

All pledges were kept for one year and one week from the date of the transaction. After this time the pawnbroker was allowed to sell the goods in order to recover the cost of the loan. If the loan was under 10 shillings, the pawnbroker could dispose of the goods in any manner, but if the loan was for 10 shillings or more, the goods had to be auctioned by firms of specialist auctioneers, who dealt with this kind of merchandise.

Pawnbroking is an old established industry. In 1546 several Acts of Parliament were passed to regulate the trade, and the rate of interest charged on loans was set at 10 percent. In the 18th century, anyone wishing to trade as a pawnbroker, had to purchase a license, which cost £7.10s, except in London, where it was £15. The Pawnbrokers Association was formed in the 1870's as a trade protection organisation, with branches in every major city.

The early 1920's were a boom time for pawnbrokers, because of the depression. More people needed their services, but at the same time fewer people could redeem their pledges. As the depression deepened there was less demand for the second hand goods, that most pawnbrokers sold, and relied upon to boost their income. The industry started a slow decline and by the second world war, the better educated population began to use banks and borrowed money from other sources. Most of the pawnbrokers soon disappeared, only a few survive today.

Without the pawnshops people couldn't have carried on. Every Monday was pawn shop day, all around us, even our next door neighbours. Lots of people were in bad circumstances, five, six, eight or ten kids, you see. There was nothing to do at night. As soon as the candle had burnt out, nothing to do but make love. They used to go on Mondays, taking a clean sheet off the bed and fill it full of stuff. Shoes and things like that would be put into the sheet and taken to the pawnshop, in a big bundle on their shoulder. They would pawn their husband's best suit, shoes or shirt, which was only used on Sundays.

Wiltshire's pawnshop at Five Ways. 
Photo courtesy of David Clare.

 The women would take the bundle into the pawnshop and the bloke used to open it out and asses what was there.

He would say "You can have two shillings on this", or half a crown. You had got to pay that back before you could get the items out and so they would return on Saturday, after payday.

People were paid between 25shillings and 27 shillings a week and so they could afford to reclaim their goods. They were alright for the weekend, but on Monday they were back again.

It was terrible to see some of the ways people had to live. Fishers pawnshop in Stafford Street was a big pawnshop and Wiltshire's was an even bigger one at the bottom of Stafford Street. There was one at the bottom of Hill Street, that came off Stafford Street, down into North Street. You paid back what you had been given, on Monday. It was never their money, it was never your money.

Return to George's Family Return to the Beginning Proceed to the Navvies