Victorian value was no bargain

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE PAY more for beer, public transport and football matches than they did a century ago. But research released yesterday by Encyclopaedia Britannica into price movements over the past 100 years shows that most items available in 1899 are, in real terms, cheaper today.

The study says we have never had it so good, with the average wage up 44 per cent and most prices on everyday items down. A pair of jeans would now cost pounds 230 if the price had increased in line with inflation since 1899 as measured by the Office for National Statistics. Similarly, a 1lb bar of chocolate would now cost about pounds 4.31 and a packet of cigarettes would cost pounds 14.40.

The research also shows that the average weekly wage in 1899 was pounds 4.62, equivalent to pounds 265.90 today. However, the average wage is actually pounds 384.50.

But the price of a pint of beer today should be 24p if it had risen in line with inflation. It actually costs an average of pounds 1.90. Equally, those attending Arsenal football matches with a top-price season ticket paid pounds 1 in 1899, today's equivalent of pounds 57.50. However, Gunners fans now pay pounds 868.50. Public transport today also costs relatively more than in 1899, when a return journey from Crystal Palace to Ludgate Hill cost 6d, or pounds 1.44 in today's terms. The trip now costs pounds 4.60 with the cheapest travelcard.

The survey also details household brand names that remain as popular today as they were a century ago, including Jacobs Cream Crackers, Bovril and Pears Soap. James Strachan, UK managing director of Encyclopaedia Britannica, said: "Only a small number of brands have lasted. Some are more affordable now than they were 100 years ago and we wonder who will be the Jacobs and Levi's of the next century."

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