Top UK babies' names from the 1950s

1950s baby girl
Rank Girls' names Boys' names
1 Susan (7) David (2)
2 Linda (24) John (1)
3 Christine (3) Stephen (44)
4 Margaret (1) Michael (3)
5 Janet (8) Peter (4)
6 Patricia (2) Robert (5)
7 Carol (12) Paul (28)
8 Elizabeth (15) Alan (8)
9 Mary (4) Christopher (16)
10 Anne (6 *) Richard (11)

(*) Ann was number 6 in 1944 and Anne number 20, Ann was 11 in 1954.

Figures in brackets are the rank of the name in 1944

Girls' names

Girls' first names are more at the whim of fashion than boys' names. The top two girls' names in 1944, Margaret and Patricia, dropped to places 4 and 6 in 1954. Whereas the top two boys' names just changed places.

The newly fashionable girls' name in 1954 was Linda. Linda, at number 2 in 1954, was following an American trend. It was the second most popular girls' name in the USA in the 1940s. Famous US Lindas born in the 1940s include Linda McCartney (born 1941). Famous UK Lindas born in the 1950s include Linda Lusardi (born 1958). Ironically Linda, the second most popular girls' name in the decade after the Second World War, was of German origin.

Elizabeth may have been helped by HM Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953. It was an event that gripped the nation. Many people bought a television for the first time to watch it. But Elizabeth was a popular girls' name for many years and was number 15 in 1944.

The popularity of Anne over Ann may have been down to Princess Anne born in 1950.

Popular names in 1944 that were not in the top ten in 1954 were:

The figures in brackets are where the name came in the UK top 100 girls' names for 1954.

Girls names and social class

Between 1947 and 1973 John W Leaver compiled a list each year of the most popular Christian names given to girls and boys in birth and adoption announcements in The Times. He sent the list to the Editor of The Times each year and it was published in the Letters Page.

His list of girls' names for 1954 was as follows. Figures in brackets are where the names were on the top one hundred names of all births from 1954.

Source: The Times 10 January 1955, page 7

Unfortunately Mr Leaver's list was of all given names, not first names. I sampled first names published in The Times in 1954 for three months of the year (January, May and September to avoid seasonal bias). The resulting top ten was:

One point to note is that Ann/Anne was more popular as a second name than a first.

This list is not representative of the whole country. Only the well off and socially connected announced births in The Times. Mr Leaver's list also only included those that gave the names, most did not.

There was some debate amongst The Times' readers about the popularity of Mary. Mr David Rutter of Thornaby Parish Church in Yorkshire and Mr H A Stockley from St Mark's Church, Regents Park, both wrote in to say that they had baptised very few Marys. The name Mary dropped in popularity in the UK from 4 to 9 between 1944 and 1954.

Mr Rutter offered a comparison to Mr Leaver's list. In a later letter he published the names given to children baptised in the Parish of St James Clerkenwell, London in 1754. Remarkably some of the names popular in 1954 were also on the 1754 list. The top girls' names were:

This was a smaller sample than Mr Leaver's list in The Times. Nevertheless, it shows that traditional girls' names had not gone out of fashion by the 1950s, particularly amongst better off people.

Posh and popular girls' names

Using my list and the list of all first names registered in 1954, I was able to separate girls names into four groups: 'posh' names, 'moderately posh' names, popular names and classless names.

'Posh' girls' names

These names appear in the top twenty names published in The Times, but do not feature in the top fifty names registered in the UK.

Classless girls' names

These names ranked highly in both lists.

Popular girls' names

These names were in the top twenty for the UK, but did not rank highly in The Times lists.

Moderately posh names

Catherine and Helen ranked well in The Times list, but were outside the top twenty in the UK, but did score above the top fifty.

Boys' names

Fashions in boys' names were less volatile than girls' names. New entrants were Stephen (44 in 1944), Paul (28 in 1944) and Christopher (16 in 1944). Unlike the girls' names they do not follow trends from the US. None of these names were in the top ten in the 1940s or 1950s in the USA.

Posh boys' names

The top 10 boys' names announced in The Times in 1954, according to Mr Leaver were:

Figures in brackets are where the names were in the list of first names for 1954 in the UK.

Other boys' names in Mr Leaver's top tens from the 1950s were:

Since Mr Leaver's list was all given names, I also produced a sample list for 1954 of first names:

Only Simon and Alan are not common to both lists.

The is also much more similarity between the top ten list of names in The Times and the the list of popular names in the whole UK. The only 'posh' names were Simon, Timothy and Jonathan. The only names that might stand out as 'moderately posh' were Charles and Nicholas. Also Stephen is high the UK, but only number seventeen on my version of Mr Leaver's list .

The list for 1754 of boys names from the Clerkenwell Register as supplied by Mr Rutter were:

The figures in brackets are where the name came in the UK top 100 boys' names for 1954.

There was less similarity with the list of girls' names. William was still popular in 1954, but less so than in 1754. John continued to be popular. Thomas, Joseph, Samuel, George and Daniel were less popular in the 1950s.

Conclusion

Boys names were less influenced by fashion than girls' names. Boys' names did change over time, but slowly. Names such as George, Thomas, Joseph, Samuel and Daniel were less popular in the 1950s, than the 1750s. There was less difference between 'posh' boys' names and popular boys' names.

'Posh' girls' names seem to be quite static over time and changed little between 1754 and 1954. Popular girls names were a mix of some of the 'posh' names and some fashionable names. The fashionable names changed frequently.

References

I compiled the information in the table from 'First names - The definitive guide to popular names in England and Wales', by Emma Merray and published by HMSO in 1995. The information refers to the year 1954.

Read more:

Add your comments


Name
Comment
To prevent automated Bots from spamming, please enter the text you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
 
   
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history