Cunneber, Gladys (b.1918)
After leaving school in the late 1930s, Gladys Cunneber of Taunton completed a course in housecraft at the Battersea Polytechnic, London.  She returned to Taunton and subsequently worked for the electricity department as a demonstrator of electric cookers, which were then comparatively new.  Later she joined the Ministry of Agriculture in the Rural Domestic Economy Department and gave cookery demonstrations to a variety of organisations across Somerset.
Sound File
Listen to Gladys Cunneber - 1.66MB Duration 3:21 min.

AH: And when you’d done your two years then, what was the next step?


GC: Well, I came back to Taunton and, then of course, one had to look for a job and 1938 it wasn’t easy to get a job, but I was very, very fortunate, because in Taunton the electricity department moved from a very small office in St. James’s Street to a lovely new situation on the corner of Fore Street, where they had a purpose-built electricity department with offices and showrooms and demonstration theatre and so on and I was very fortunate to get the post of the assistant demonstrator.


AH: And what did this entail then?


GC: Well, this meant that one had to do, of course, showroom work, that is salesmanship, and taking the accounts and so on, and also giving weekly demonstrations on cookery, using, of course, electrical equipment.  And we used to have to do service visits, people who… In those days of course the electric cooker was very new. There weren’t very many people using them, so when they were installed, we went along afterwards to make sure that they were being used properly and to give advice on how to use the electric cooker or any other electrical appliance.


AH: What kind of homes were they going into then, these electric cookers?


GC: Well, quite a lot were going into the council houses that were being built at that time, because they could hire an electric cooker for about two shillings and sixpence a week, which in those days was quite expensive, or they could have a wash/boiler, as they were known as, for about a shilling a week and the electricity was very cheap.  We had what was known as a two-part tariff and electricity was a third of a penny a unit, very different from these days, of course.  And so they went into all types of houses.


AH: Because lighting, people had lighting quite early on, didn’t they?


GC: Oh yes, they had electric lighting.


AH: But it was the main power.


GC: Yes.


AH: That obviously was coming in during the '30s then, into homes.


GC: That’s right, it was, yes.  And of course, the electricity department in those days was owned by the Taunton Borough Council.  It was a local, because at one time they generated their own electricity, but of course, as more and more electricity was being consumed, they transferred to the grid system.  And of course, so that people were able to hire the cookers, though I think they could probably hire gas cookers as well, but they were encouraged to have electric ones in the Council houses.


AH: That’s interesting. Which sort of areas in Taunton then were these new houses going up?


GC: Well, on the eastern side of the town, Roman Road and around there and, also Wedlands and so on. There was a terrific amount of council houses being built in those days.


AH: This was just before the war then?


GC: That’s right, yes.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in June 2000. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.