Did you know that two fifths (40%) of people from Cardiff think the flushing toilet is the most significant invention in the last 125 years?

To mark its 125th year anniversary this week, UIA Insurance have released an exclusive survey of 5,000 people asking what makes Brits tick in 2015. Independent expert and Social Historian, Ruth Goodman (credits include BBC’s 24 Hours in the Past and Victorian Farm) visited St Fagans Museum in Cardiff to provide a comparison between 2015 and the Victorian era.

Independent expert and social historian, Ruth Goodman, with 1890 treasured item: the sewing machine

Independent expert and social historian, Ruth Goodman, with 1890 treasured item: the sewing machine

Here in 2015, we are a nation full of clean, tech savvy, sentimental individuals with 45% of us not willing to give up our daily shower and 29% saying our wedding band is in the top 5 of our most treasured possessions.

In comparison, 125 years ago in the Victorian era, we cherished a different selection of household essentials with the sewing machine and china tea pots taking the top two spots. “125 years ago it was often the sewing machine that held pride of place as the most desired item of household technology” comments Ruth Goodman, whose expert knowledge provided the 1890’s list.

1890 Top 10 Most Treasured Items

2015 Top 10 Most Treasures Items

1. Sewing Machine2. China Tea Pot3. Clock for Mantelpiece4. Piano5. Mirror6. Pocket Watch

7. Fountain Pen

8. Silver spoons

9. Bicycle

10. Wedding band

1. Laptop2. Car3. Wedding band4. Engagement ring5. Other piece of jewellery6. Wedding photographs

7. TV

8. Watch

9. iPhone

10. Family portrait

Here in Wales, over half (56%) of us place the most sentimental value on our personal photos, a third (33%) of us couldn’t live without our washing machines and a fifth (21%) of people from Cardiff would rather go without sex than lose access to the internet!

With the increasing innovation and availability of mass-produced consumer goods, there has been a real change in attitudes to disposable income. Retail therapy is now a common solution to the stresses and strains of 21st century life and modern luxuries are readily available to a larger cross-section of society, and no longer limited to the upper middle classes and above. Ruth adds, People past and present have often treasured most those things which they have had to go the extra mile for. In the Victorian era, the sewing machine was an expensive bit of machinery but it could halve a woman’s sewing workload and give a whole new class of people a chance to indulge in fashion. It soon came to be seen as a necessity amongst the middle classes – hard indeed to live without once you had been lucky enough to own one.” 

Ian Cracknell, CEO of UIA, comments, “It’s really important to us to understand our customers – what is important to them and what they hold dear. The survey results have generated some really interesting insights into the minds of the British public in 2015 compared to 125 years ago. Getting to the heart of what motivates us, what we attach sentimental value to and ultimately what we just can’t go without every day allows us as a company to really personalise our service.”