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Archaeology of domestic life in early 20th century Britain

The aim of this blog is to publish data on early 20th century buildings, whilst this is still accessible. Much material of interest to the historian is being destroyed through 'home improvements' and DIY, and objects are increasingly being divorced from their context through dispersal after the death of their owners. By creating an easily accessible contextual record of material culture, it is hoped that those interested in this period of history may have a resource through which the details of domestic life might be studied.

If you have any artefacts of interest, or make discoveries during the process of your own investigations that you would like to share, please contact me!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Building B Kitchen: walls & floor - furniture traces

Construction work upon what was the kitchen area has enabled work to begin on exploring the stratigraphy of the wall surface, in conjunction with features identified through a brief study of the floor surface.

('Kitchen' with scullery door just visible on left side of picture)

The floor coverings were taken back to reveal quarry tiling, as might be expected. Close to the wall adjoining the scullery were deep recesses in the floor surface. By considering photographs of interiors from the 1930s, contemporaneous descriptions of kitchen areas, and on oral testimony, the preliminary assumption was that these features might represent depressions made by a large dresser.

(Left: Wall next to scullery door, with position of depressions outlined. Right: close up of features)

However, when the recent wall covering was removed (after recording), a number of features were revealed to suggest that these depressions belong to a second phase of use, relating to conversion to the room as a second living room (see fireplace post), indicating the position of a small settee

(Top circle: abrasion probably caused by shelves. Bottom: by settee / sofa)

Towards the top of this wall section, abrasion was noted, at a position that might correlate with that caused by shelves. This was much narrower than the marks on the floor, suggesting that the two marks were unrelated (i.e. not likely to indicate the presence of a dresser, as originally thought), though this does not exclude the possibility of a lighter dresser once being in this location. A further abrasion, most probably caused by the position of a sofa against the wall was also noted, and may correlate with the depressions noted on the floor, being much wider.

Placing this abrasion within the sequence is problematic. This abrasion, unlike the other, had been partly filled in with buff-coloured filler. Textured wall paper had been compressed into the grove created within the wall surface, suggesting that it belongs after a secondary phase of decoration. No bright green paint has been found within this sequence, and therefore it cannot be correlated with any certainty to the second phase, during which the 'range' was removed and replaced with a domestic fireplace, although this seems most likely, considering that it would have been a significant obstacle to cooking within this room. It more likely support a change of room use (to second living room) that might correlate with the construction of a lean-to scullery, and conversion of the old scullery to a kitchen.

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