One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns: The Memoirs of Ethel George

How are you marking Easter this year?

While many people are busy eating hot cross buns, searching for hidden Easter eggs and visiting church it is worth thinking about how people use to celebrate Easter in the past.

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of oral history interviews of Ethel George. Ethel was the youngest of 17 children, growing up in Norwich. The recordings were created by Carole and Michael Blackwell for their book about Ethel’s childhood entitled The Seventeenth Child. The book details Ethel’s life between 1914-1934.

In the recordings (AUD 51/1-15)  Ethel talks about her fond memories of Easter, saying:

‘When I was a little girl my brothers used to, they used to take out the hot cross buns. Mother use to give them a clean tray with a clean teacloth on and they used to go out, that was 6 in the morning, they used to go at 6 in the morning, and I can remember them, oh I loved that because you used to hear all the kids ‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, 1 a penny, 2 a penny, hot cross buns’. You’d hear that all the way round, that was lovely, and then mother used to split them up with their lovely clean cloths, and they used to get sold out in no time. Cos people only bought 2 or 3 and they cut them in halves or quartered them, people didn’t have one each. Mother used to buy some. That was lovely’.

Ethel doesn’t remember having Easter Eggs, but she does remember getting dressed up to mark the occasion at church.

‘Easter was nice, I think we all had to go to church. That was a lovely time. Mother used to buy us a little hat each… a little straw hat, lovely… with all little either you had daisies, you either had the orange ones or the yellow ones, or pretty little rosebuds, they were lovely…. I think the boys had a new collar or something, they used to treat them to a new collar’.

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Whatever you do for Easter this year, I hope you have a lovely and memorable time, just like Ethel did all those years previously.

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