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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 20th January, 1950, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Shilling Has Become Problem
Answer is in the Meters

It’s round and silver and the most elusive of all coins….. and there is no guessing what it is as far as harassed Rushden and Higham Ferrers housewives and shopkeepers are concerned. You could stop any woman in the street and ask her about the Shilling Shortage.

Electricity meter
Families complain they might just as well live in the Dim, Dark Ages or at least move into the country where they are assured of an oil lamp, as keep going to bed early – as many are doing – because there are no shillings available to coax an unresponsive gas jet or electric light switch.

Rushden grocers, bakers and butchers all tell the same story. They have daily requests for shillings. One Higham Ferrers shopkeeper told us she had not had a shilling in her shop for a week until a man from Welwyn Garden City left her two as a “matey gesture” yesterday.

The housewives’ tale is universal. It is as much a part of the daily routine as queuing and shopping to ask the harassed shopkeeper, “Have you got a shilling?” When father goes out of a night he is haunted by the warning, “Get a shilling or else…”

Why is it?....

More Gas

From the Rushden Gas Undertaking we learned that it is a problem particularly acute at this time of the year because people are simply burning more gas.

The number of shilling meter users steadily increases, too – the old type penny gas meters, for instance, are being replaced by the shilling type.

One thousand cubic feet of gas costs the home user eight shillings with an approximate discount of two shillings. But, due to the shortage of collectors – who, two years ago, were making two monthly collections – meter clearance is now a quarterly affair. The shillings are, in fact, tied up for three months.

The price of gas, too, has rapidly risen, and correspondingly more money is locked in the meter.


The staff at the Gas Showroom in High Street is always very accommodating. They deal with a stream of visitors each week in the quest of shillings – usually asking for ten shillings or a pound’s worth at a time. Mainly they can help, sometimes imposing a ration of five shillings per head!

Electric meters are emptied quarterly. At the Rushden office of the East Midland Electricity Board we were told there was no question of rise in cost, but that it was true that rural customers are more electricity-minded to-day than was ever known in their parents’ day, and that an increasing amount of electricity is being used.

Three weeks of every quarter is spent in slot meter collections. It is a complete fallacy that the slot system is a saving on the quarterly accounts.

There is no hold-up with the shillings after their collection as far as the Board is concerned. They are in the bank overnight.

The banks refute any shortage in shillings. One official told us they are always pleased to meet any demand from individuals. Often, after what would appear to be the three-month hold-up, they are “swamped” with shillings. They are always able to summon a supply from out of town if necessary, but the need has rarely arisen.

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