Walnut Tree Cottage, Denny Abbey, Cambridgeshire

Last year in July 2016, we visited the Farmland Museum & Denny Abbey, just on the outskirts of Cambridge.  Its somewhere that over the last few years we have been meaning to visit, we actually did visit one year, but it was closed.  So we made an effort, checked that it was open and off we went.  I was so very pleased we did, the Abbey building is amazing, but that is for another post, this post is about a little cottage that is in the Farmland Museum part.  

The cottage built in the 1860’s is displayed as a typical farm workers cottage of the 1940’s and the notice board will tell you more information.  Please note that the electric heaters in some of the rooms are of course modern, some heat is needed during winter months.  

The sitting room is where the family would gather in the evening to sit around the coal fire and listen to the wireless.   Mother would knit and the children would play card games……not a TV to be seen anywhere, let alone a computer of any shape or form.

Lets take a look at the kitchen, a one tap sink, and that would be cold water, most probably from a well in the garden, lots of old houses had wells.  A kitchen range that you would have to keep alight during the day and bank up at night, so you could cook your meals, and any hot water you required. Also it would be a source of heat in the kitchen, no central heating to keep you all snug during the winter, just a kitchen range and the fireplace in the lounge.  Some bedrooms did have very small fireplaces, which if the weather was freezing, would give a little heat.  I did recognize the blue flour bin, I have one that I keep the chicken grit in.

Beyond the kitchen is the washroom, the brickwork in the corner with the lid on it was your wash tub.  You would fill it with water and in an opening underneath you would build a fire and this would heat the water and then you could start the washing, thats if you had any energy left.  In many old houses there would be an outer house that would be the wash room, we have had a couple of old cottages where these outer houses have been incorporated into the kitchens over the years.  There is a dolly tub, where you would put the washing in and twist the dolly around to clean the washing.  Then the big mangle would wring out most of the water.  All you had to do then, was hang out the washing on the line in the garden, and hopefully it was a lovely windy day to dry it all, this would normally all take place on a Monday.  Once the washing was dry you would iron it and then air the laundry on a wooden clothes horse, in front of a sunny window or in front of the sitting room fire.

Every housewife of the 1940’s would wear an apron or pinny, like these vintage ones hanging up on pegs.

We make our way up stairs, these stairs are blocked in on one side, with an understair cupboard.  There might have been a door on the stairs at one time to keep the upstairs warmer.

The master bedroom…maybe the quilt was made in the evening, downstairs in front of the fire.

The children’s room, at least they had a stoneware hot water bottle to keep them warm at night.

Now we make our way out to the cottage garden, full of flowers and herbs.   The herbs would play a large part in cooking and the making up of mixture for illnesses.  These mixtures could have been handed down through the generations.  My mother had one, the first sign of a cough or a sneeze, out would come the lemons, cut up and placed in a jug with hot water…..and if we were really poorly some honey, instead of sugar, a jug could last all day, it was given like medicine, little sips.  I swear it works, even now…..well it makes you feel good.  Never was a new potato or a pod of peas cooked without a sprig of mint, or lamb cooked without rosemary.   I know that many people still cook with herbs, but it was a natural thing then, you just used them, not a fancy thing, just a way of life when everyone cooked from scratch.  So a cottage garden, was just not a pretty space, it was a working space, every inch was growing some thing to eat or use.  You see a lot of marigold plants in cottage gardens, this is because you can use the petals for herbal ointments, teas, and tinctures that have been in existence for almost a 1,000 years…… and this applies to many plants in the cottage garden.  

Next post will be about the Nuns Refectory on the Farmland Museum.

14 comments

  1. Oh , I can so identify with this way of life. As a child ,Pop and Mom didn’t have much financially but we as children didn’t mind, except when it came to hoeing the large garden. Funny now that I’m a ” little ” older I rather enjoy the hoeing. Also spied that lovely old singer,😄

    1. Yes, we didn’t have much money, no car or phone, but we never went with out, but the same as you, we were not over fond of weeding 🙂 Thought you might see the singer 🙂

  2. When I was a child my mother had a washing machine with a mangle on it. But no dryer. Hanging out wet clothes in freezing weather is probably the coldest I’ve ever been! 🙂 A lot of things changed in the 50s and 60s. Most of it for the better. 🙂

    1. I should say I really like this post. Most of the time what you write about is new and fascinating to me. Once in a while it’s nice to hear about what we have in common. 🙂

      1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, I enjoyed writing it, I have a passion about herbs and so really enjoyed the garden. I think basically we are all the same, we just differ around the edges a little 🙂

    2. My mum washed by hand and then put all in a spin dryer, same thing as a mangle really, then on to the line to dry. Yes a lot of things are better, but maybe some of the values have gone a miss, but then I suppose that happens with every generation. But I am glad the internet came along when it did, could have missed all together ha ha 🙂

  3. The house in which my parents now live (both 81 yrs) has always been the family home. My great grandmother and a great uncle were still living there when I was a little girl. My great grandma was afraid of electricity, so even after the capability to have electricity came along, she refused it. The house was heated with two woodstoves and a cookstove. So much safer than electricity right? There was a pump in the kitchen for water as well as a pump in the pump house in the yard. The outhouse was connected via a covered porch. I always had to have my mom come with me. Light was provided by candles and kerosene lamps. Some of my best memories are of those days. Even now the house (with the required modern amendments) is full of the same household goods that have always been there. The yard is decorated by stonework created by my great grandmother. Two castles, a basket, sundial, birdbath, and various other benches and the like grace the yard. You would like those. I believe exposure to the place explains my extreme love of rocks lol. Enjoyed your post! Thanks 🙂

    1. Thank you Carla for your lovely interesting comment. Such a lovely story of your great grandmother and the electricity. It sounds lovely to still have a family home and all the memories that are associated with it. I remember when very small, we too had an outside toilet, and we had to run the gauntlet of a bad tempered Turkey each year….Christmas dinner growing in the garden 🙂 I am so pleased that the post brought back some lovely memories and I so enjoyed reading them, Lynne 🙂

  4. How quaint and lovely. This was an excellent post to read and I loved looking at the wonderful pictures.

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