Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Beamish - Part IV

Yeah, we need to do some more about Beamish, not least because I still have a million and one pictures to share. Also, I confess to being fascinated by the whole coal mining thing, which apparently started seriously over here as early as the mid-1500's when wood started becoming scarce in England. I can't promise not to keep coming back to this subject as I learn more and more!

One thing that struck me as soon as I saw it was the row of garden gates:

You see these often in this area, only without the gates and without the houses, but the sections of brick wall remain and it was good to see what the houses might have looked like. The cottages had good sized gardens and, from what I read in the museum, the miners were keen growers of vegetables. Mind, this scenario is in 1913, pegged as the best of times for miners in this area. This was the year with the highest production and miners were, after all, paid by the tonnage they produced from the mines.

There were several cottages but it wasn't until later that I read they were meant to show differing circumstances for Methodist (tee-total with 9 children, I gather) and Catholic households (not tee-total and with 12 children) as well as for one where the head of the household had been killed but his widow and family still had use of the cottage (that one wasn't available to view on this occasion).

I gather the family keeping the cottage was a later development and fairly local. You would think that for men to be willing to risk their lives they would need to know their families would still have a home. However, from what I've read, this wasn't the case in the late 1800's, at least not in Oklahoma.

I noticed some of the beds tended to have drapery, probably needed to increase at least a sense of privacy, and they had patchwork quilts, though this is largely an American craft, or at least the more detailed and ornate patterns are American.

"Crazy quilting" was more in fashion over here, as shown by this tea cozy. I've tried it and it's not as easy at it sounded.

Another form of craft I noticed were "proddy" or "proggy" mats, which apparently everyone made until about 5 minutes before I came over. I'm not a fan of them anyhow, I think the designs one

can do are too crude. Nevertheless, they were very useful and thrifty and I can't help but approve! Mom used to make hooked rugs ('hooky mats' over here, saved for 'best') and I still have several of hers in the loft.

Liz, from the sewing group, had just been describing her mother's chenille tablecloth and I couldn't imagine it. I was thinking of a fabric made with short bits of fiber drawn through cloth in a design and made into a -- usually white -- bedspread, sometimes a housecoat. I thought it would be an awfully bumpy tablecloth! So I was pleased to see what she'd been talking about, right down to the fringed edging.

I was also pleased to see a clothes dryer just like the one in my kitchen! We have a modern one in the garage but it is very rarely used.

These were genuine coal stoves, with ovens. They were an advance on the communal oven that preceded them, but were eventually replaced as they were too small to meet the needs of the

families. That whole idea of meeting the families' needs was another huge contrast with what I read about the conditions in Scotland.

This shows a back alley and they look pretty much the same today in the older houses a street or two away from mine, except that there are brick walls on both sides, of course.

The green doors on top are where the coal went in to it's out building. The black door near the ground was where the 'night soil' came out of the out house. The brick walls are increasingly being made over to accomodate garage sized doors -- for a garage or just for parking in the back yard.

Toilet facilities included a bowl and pitcher of water, and for night time, the 'gazzunda' (as in goes under the bed), specimens of which could be purchased at Tynemouth Fleamarket a few years ago. I thought it would make a great punch bowl or soup tureen, but Bill said no one would eat from it.

He had a good laugh before explaining to me what it was! In my defense, the one I saw was much more ornate, with a lid, and looked like a piece of china, which I suppose strictly speaking it was.

During the day one could use the out house

or have a bath in front of the kitchen fire of an evening.

The other cottages had stairs (with or without a rug to indicate financial status I suppose) to the single large room above the two below. This is where all the children slept.

We decided that if a widow took in a boarder she would pretty much have to join the children upstairs; well, one assumes that's how it worked, respectability being the watchword of the times.

In any case, I overheard it said that the front room (which included the parents' bedroom) was 'for best' and the kitchen was where everyone sat as a rule (my Grandmother didn't make that up by herself).

Then we have the laundry room. I don't know if this got moved into the kitchen in winter time or not; I don't know where everything else in the kitchen went to.

All in all, I thought the miners' quality of life in 1913 was pretty reasonable given the standard of the day for most people anyhow over here. (I gather most people my age remember their childhood in a house without indoor plumbing, something I still can't get my head around, but it will be to do with the age of the housing stock).

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

I'm older than you and don't remember ever having a house without indoor plumbing. When we lived on the farm in McClain County (1953) we did have an outhouse but I think it was old and there before the previous owners had put in a real bathroom on the enclosed back porch of the crummy old house we lived in.