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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!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

1930s Christmas kitchen

Still undergoing renovation (awaiting a cast iron range of the correct style and date that fits), but it's now just about possible to get the general idea...

Living-kitchen in 1930s lower middle-class house, decorated in (exuberant!) contemporaneous  style:

1930s Christmas cake

Here's the end result of the cake made (using 1930s recipe as posted) in November, decorated with 1920s - 40s decorations ('snow babies' & bisque elves - in much need of renovation!) - although I didn't stir it well enough, it tasted great!:

Monday, 26 December 2011

Ada Chesterton: Women of the Underworld

When trying to read the inscription inside the cover of my first edition of Ada Chesterton's 'Women of the Underworld' tonight, I was somewhat surprised (especially as I've had this since October, or possibly before, and paid less than £20 inc. p&p) - seems it's been signed by the author:

Rather pleased about this!

I shall soon be writing something on what this book can tell us about domestic contexts during the 1920s...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Beautifully illustrated Edwardian - WWI Children's Christmas book

Edwardian - WWI Children's Christmas book has fabulous illustrations (colour and line drawings - unfortunately water-marked), by Ruth Cobb, Joyce Cobb, HGC Marsh Lambert, EA Overnell, R James Williams, Hussall (?), and Jacobs

Friday, 23 December 2011

Derbyshire Mummers plays and Guisers, 1920 & 1901

Mummers plays have a long tradition in Derbyshire, some continuing
into the modern era.

There's a reference to a Derbyshire Christmas Mummer's play, Christmas Eve, 1920, in the Nottinghamshire Guardian:

The Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Jan.1907, Vol.29, pp.31-32 describes Derbyshire mummers plays (with photos of Castleton Guisers, 1901: And article on 'The Old Tup', which would be sung by Guisers:

The Old Tup [Derbys. Ram]
As I was going to Derby
upon a market day,
I met the finest Tupsie
that ever was fed on hay.

Say laylum, laylum, Pityful laylum lay.
The man that stuck the tupsie
Was up to the knees in blood;
The man that held the basin
Was washed away in the flood.
Say laylum, etc.

And all the women in Derby
Came begging for his ears,
To make them leather aprons
To last for forty years.
Say laylum, etc.

And all the men in Derby
Came begging for his eyes,
To kick about in Derby,
And take them by surprise.
Say laylum, etc.

Elkes 1930s Christmas elves biscuit tin

Delightful tin with Christmas illustrations, for biscuits:

Sides of the tin (repeated on facing side, without text):

Label reads 'Elkes Assorted Biscuits This tin containsan  assortment of bisuits consisting of  many  of those illustrated above. Elkes Biscuits Ltd. Uttoxeter and Cardiff' (the company was formed in 1924, with a factory in Cardiff by 1937):

Edwardian Children's Christmas book to follow...


1920s artificial Christmas tree, and spruce decorated in 30s style

This tree is likely to date to the 1920s (though may date into the 30s), and is made of dyed goose-feathers. It has tin candle holders, and is placed in a dyed wooden block:

The decorations area mixture of 1920s-50s (20s ones are quite hard to get hold of now, and are pretty expensive!). The tinsel is modern, but of the thinner type, for a more contemporaneous appearance. As can be seen, the (modern ) candles have at some point suffered heat damage!

This spruce tree is decorated using 1930s-50s decorations, to achieve a 30s - 40s style:

1930s Christmas biscuit tin to follow...


Early 20th century (and a little later!) Christmas decorations

These Christmas lights look quite early - with fabric-covered cord, bakelte lamp-holders, and ceiling light socket fitting:

However, the label ('Japan Electric Lamp Man. Assoc') suggests that they date to after 1957 (see:

 The box decoration is also more comparable with post-war styles:

The following paper 'lanterns' may date to WWII, considering the limited use of colour (although the first has more than four colours):

 This Christmas decoration has close parallels in photographs dating to WWII (e.g. see Brown, Mike 2004 Christmas on the Home Front, Sutton):

This Christmas tree fairy is probably post-war, perhaps late 1950s -1960s:

 This fairy may date to the later 30s, but is more probably of post-war date:

Finally, this paper decoration may date to any time between the 30s and 60s, although the metal tags, and the 1/2 pencilled on the rear, suggest a relatively late date:

1920s Goose-feather Christmas tree (with some early decorations), and spruce tree decorated in 1930s style to follow...

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Ada Chesterton homeless in 1920s London: the end of the journey

I'm about to finish a draft of a short article discussing journalist Ada Chesterton's descriptions of her experiences of homelessness in 1920s London, as they appear within 'In Darkest London'. So I'll post her final words in this 1926 book, which describe her emotions after returning from her self-imposed fortnight on the streets, in February 1925:

"I went back to my own home raw with fatigue and with an added perspective of sorrow; but with a wider and deeper comprehension of the infinite loving kindness of the human heart. The outcasts never failed me. When I was spiritually hungry, my hands were filled to overflowing with those small deeds of kindness which flower to perfection in the darkness and bleakest soil. I had passed through a door little, of ever, used by the well-fed. I had experienced actual physical privations which women of the middle class may weep over, but cannot comprehend. I had touched the bottom of destitution; I had had no place wherein to lay my head. Never again can I look out on life with the same eyes; never again can I forget that all night long women are wandering to and fro upon the pavement, or trying to sleep in an alien bed.
And yet what I have seen has not made me hopeless, rather do I glory in the knowledge that starvation of body, or starvation of mind, cannot and does not, sear the soul of the outcast. And for this reason, and because I have had shown to me the beauty of giving, I cannot rest until I awaken the same desire to give among those women who, like myself, have always known the security, the peace, the contentment of a home.
And it will take much to convince me that among the twenty million women in this country, there cannot be found enough to join with me in easing the burden of our sisters, and removing the stigma that, in this city of almost countless dwellings, there remains a sorrowful multitude who, neither in home nor in bed, have permanent lodging."

It would only be fitting at this point to mention the Cecil Houses charity - founded by Ada Chesterton after her experiences - which continues to support homeless people:

And to provide a reminder of 'Crisis at Christmas' - supporting homeless people in London this winter:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

1932 Christmas Radio Times

Christmas Edition of the Radio Times, 1932:

Slide show of the contents:

Friday, 2 December 2011

Empire advertising: national identity in the kitchen at Christmas

I've previously come across some interesting packaging & advertising (will dig out further links) released by the Empire Marketing Board that encourages the 1920s & 30s house-wife to purchase cooking ingredients from sources within the Empire. I'm considering the effects of such propaganda upon identities, but have much work to do yet on this topic.

For now, the National Archives have a rather nice (Christmas-focused) slide show that includes some of this advertising:

"The time for wrapping up warmly and preparing for Christmas is now upon us.
Colourful images from our vaults show that past traditions remain. Have you made your Christmas pudding yet? Our Empire Marketing Board recipe, originally printed as a poster might give you some tips. Goods from past Empire countries were promoted in Great Britain to embed global economic unity using posters and other campaigns."