Allen Hammond (b.1894): Habits & Beliefs – Writing Lives

Allen Hammond (b.1894): Habits & Beliefs

The interview balances two sides of Allen’s characters: the first being the innate ideological implications that his childhood emphasized, the second being the habitual responses he had to his surroundings and the responses towards Berger’s questions. Allen often talks about money first when referring to his family: ‘my sister and my brother they both worked. They didn’t earn a lot’- although this is a short interview, this is the only time we hear about his siblings- and their only mention was how much value they held towards the family dynamic. In fact, there almost no nostalgia or reflection on the emotional ties towards his family in the interview- the lack of this may be an implication of Allen’s pre-occupation with showing his families worth towards the viewers, their respectability amongst the community is more important than anything else:

‘[In] 1900, however, those cherished principles about class, order, work, thrift and self-help, epitomized by Samuel Smiles and long taught and practiced by the Victorian bourgeoisie, had molded the minds of even the humblest. […] Docilely they accepted a steady decline in living standards and went on wishing for nothing more than to be ‘respectful and respected’ in the eyes of men.’ (Robert Roberts)

Perhaps, Allen is so indoctrinated in evaluating his respectability (especially in the nature of the public medium) that his blind acceptance of his bleak living standards as a child creates a vision of the working-class ideology during the early 20th century.

It’s important to mention how Allen’s point of view is so localized as a child, therefore his lifestyle is pretty much original to Liverpool. He explains himself that only rarely would he leave:

‘We got out now and then. Very seldom. But you had to pay for those sort of things. […] Somebody would collect the money every week and they would hire a charabane like and you’d go just outside Liverpool-perhaps ten miles outside Liverpool in a day. But that was the farthest we ever went.’

So as a child, his only experience culturally was living in Toxteth, with the occasional excursion ‘just outside’. The influence of this microcosm interaction from a child to adulthood can’t be overlooked. The implications of this also affect how Allen‘s viewpoint was affected by various belief systems that surrounded him during the time.

Allen recollects many social drives that attempted to help the working class, which vary from charity work to religious communities. For example, he converses about the first time he got a pair of boots at eleven years of age, ‘there was a mission, sort of a religious community. They used to collect old clothes and they used to take them round. […] The police in Liverpool used to give needy cases what we used to call ‘doe’s clothes’.’ Not only does this create the bleak image that the working class in Liverpool had to wear prisoner’s recollected clothes to survive, but also Allen talks about his embarrassment for asking for help:

‘I followed a policeman on one, for nearly half a mile, trying to pluck up courage to ask him ‘would he please put my name down for doe’s clothes’. When he turned round, my courage failed and I just turned away when I went home and told my mother she was going to kill me’

The egocentric complex of respectability is so vital to Allen’s mother that he expresses the idea that she would be angry at him wanting clothes from the organization- ‘Don’t you ever dare’, she said. ‘We’ll manage without anything like that’. She was very proud my mother’.

There is a thematic understanding that Allen’s mother is proud enough to be anxious about her families image amongst the community, which surrounds the Hammond family. Perhaps it’s safe to say that many other parents in the era “were anxious to deploy a taste for high culture as a means of distinguishing themselves from their self-assigned class”. (Hinton James) Therefore, by inheriting a habitual and practical sense of higher taste, we see Allen’s mother pro-actively attempt to elevate herself and her children from the cultural grasp of poverty.


Memoir: Hammond, Allen, Programme number:P404/4. Transmission; 26 August 1963. Granada Television. Typescript, 15 foolscap sheets, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, available at

1-Hinton, James. ‘The “Class” Complex’: Mass-Observation and Cultural Distinction in Pre-War Britain’, Past and Present, no. 199, May, 2008

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *