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.