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For those of us who are keen “Call the Midwife” fans and followers, on the season premiere episode this year, as one of the doctors goes to see a sick elderly patient on the streets of poplar, as he parks up we notice a very familiar old site from their next door neighbours.
Their neighbours are moving out of the street as it is set to be demolished and all the residents requested to leave. During the scene you can see the removals porter, complete with traditional overalls and trench coat assisting the couple with a suitcase onto the back of the wagon. After which he proceeds to load onto the vehicle a large wooden chest.
During the 1950s-1960s, conventional moving boxes as we know them today were not widely available. So to make the process as straight forward and easy as possible for the removal men of the time to be able to stack everything neatly onto the wagon, they opted to provide disused and unwanted tea chests. And these are, exactly what they sound like. When tea was shipped over from India and transported around the British Isles, they would be sealed in these large wooden chests. These were durable, strong and robust, and the majority of the time still had the faint aroma of the tea they once contained. As the tea chest had to be split open to get to the tea inside they could only be used once by the tea industry.
However the removals industry saw an opportunity to use these more long term whilst helping their day to day performance. On occasion customers could sometimes get carried away and fill entire tea chests to the brim with books making the chest very weighty and difficult to carry, but overall during the period the system worked and as the world progressed so to did the removals industry.
Cardboard became the staple of general household removals, whereas traditional tea chests evolved into reinforced plastic tea crates, ideal for housing secure documents as they can be closed and securely sealed.