Based on childhood recollections
of working class family life in north London in Edwardian times.
Where I lived as a child in the Victorian-style
houses of the Huxley Estate in Edmonton (now Enfield) there were three bedrooms,
the smallest of which was also referred to as the off room. The sketches on
the room layout plans show the arrangement.
The main bedroom where my parents slept
My parents' bedroom was the largest of the three bedrooms and was at the
front of the house. It had two windows, a fireplace and two built-in cupboards.
Their bedstead was iron with brass knobs and the mattress was a feather one.
The bed always had a clean white cover over it, called a 'marcella'
(short for a 'marcella bedspread'). It had
a honeycomb appearance, and was edged with a white fringe. Round the lower part
of the bed was a valance made of white damask which served to hide shoes as
well as the chamber pot which was a necessity at night in houses such as ours
with no indoor lavatory.
There was a very nice large chest of drawers made of solid wood. The top
drawer was bevelled and my mother kept it polished so that it gave a lovely
The dressing table looked dainty and attractive, although it was actually
an improvised affair, made of two large packing cases. It had white muslin patterned
with orange and green tastefully draped over it. On top was a large rectangular
mirror supported by swivel arms which could be adjusted for users of various
Washstand with the customary marble top and the
matching jug and bowl. In this photo, taken in the Museum of Nottingham
Life, the jug and bowl set are made of enamel which would have been cheaper
than decorated china.
There was also a washstand with a marble top on which resided a large toilet
jug and bowl-cum-basin, a soap dish and a vase-like thing for toothbrushes.
These items were for display only and for the occasional use by guests, because
my parents always a washed themselves downstairs
in the scullery. My mother, though, did use
the bowl for making Christmas puddings and my father used the jug for his home-made
There was a fireplace in the room, as there was in every room, but it was
very rare indeed for it to be lit. It would have been an expense that couldn't
easily be justified, particularly when the kitchen
was always kept so warm and cosy. Also coal fires were extremely labour intensive.
Attached to the fireplace was a shelf made of stone.
Above the fireplace hung a middle sized picture. Actually it was a bible
text that remains indelibly in my brain. 'Trust and hope'.
There were two built-in cupboards which served as wardrobes, one on each
side of the fireplace.
There were no curtains to pull after dark. Instead there were venetian
blinds which could be pulled down and closed tightly. They were made of
wooden slats which were heavy and completely inflexible.
There were lace curtains at the windows though. They hung from white cornice
poles on brass rings.
The floor was covered with oilcloth.
The middle bedroom
The middle bedroom had two single iron bedsteads, an inset cupboard, chest
of drawers, all on the same pattern as my parents' the front bedroom. There
was a chair between the two beds with a candlestick on it. All three of us
children slept here until my age dictated that I should go into the off room.
The third bedroom - the offroom
The third bedroom was very small, but furnished in the same way as the other
bedrooms. The most significant thing about it was its large cupboard with its
full-sized bath inside.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.