logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

Kitchen furniture and furnishings
in a working class home, early 1900s

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The word kitchen has changed its name over the years. When I was a child in the early 1900s, the scullery was where the food preparation took place and the kitchen was the cosy, relaxing room where everyone in the family spent their time. Consequently kitchen furniture was of the living room sort.

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The dresser

There was a recess on either side of the fireplace. In one was a built-in cupboard and in the other was a dresser where the best dinner set was kept.

Jugs and cups were hung up on hooks on the shelves. In the lower part of the dresser were two drawers and below there was a small recess which was covered by a curtain. Boots and shoes were kept there.

In the drawers numerous odd things were kept. In one drawer were socks and stockings and in the other drawer were indoor games. Draughts was played on a draught board. We had two of these boards, one was made by my father from material like oilcloth and the other was a carpenter's joy and treated as such. I never knew what became of it. For us children the playing cards were mostly for playing Snap and Beat your neighbour out of doors, and of course Patience which has helped to pass away many an hour, both by children and adults.

a cribbage board and the coloured pegs used to show the progress of scoring

This photo of a cribbage board was kindly supplied by Denis Steele. His board has a compartment underneath to store the pegs which are used for inserting into the board to show the progress of the scoring. Denis reports that his recollection of his grandfather's much older crib board was of a larger and more ornate affair with a brasswork design on it.

Then there was cribbage, a card game where the scoring is kept with little coloured pegs on what was known as the 'crib board'. The pegs kept in a little compartment at the back of the board. My mother and father seemed to enjoy this game. I used to think it was an odd sort of game when I listened to them, scoring, "One for the knob, two for a flush", etc.

I did once join in a game of whist, not from choice, I might add. I could never remember whether my father had any trump cards and the odd remark would come from my father, "Bless me. (an expression of his) What did you do that for!?" My mother was a very good player and even won a number of small prizes at the Church Hall whist drive.

Another game that was kept in the drawer was Dominos. I didn't mind this as there was no skill, just luck.

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The table and chairs

Set of six early 20th century Windsor chairs with an antique wooden table

Set of six early 20th century Windsor chairs with a wooden table, photographed through the window of an antique shop.

The kitchen table an early 20th century home would probably have been white, unvarnished wood

There was a table under the window with Windsor chairs round it. Windsor chairs were standard in most homes).

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The couch

There was a sofa, known as a couch, which was well used in more ways than one. I am pretty sure that my mother used to have ten minutes rest on it after we had gone to back to afternoon school.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer

This couch was particularly convenient, being in the warm kitchen, because if you had had to go up into a cold bedroom for a rest, you would think twice about it.

To us children the couch was something to play on, and a place to put things under as a quick tidy up before my mother came into the room.

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The sewing machine

The other important piece of furniture was my mother's sewing machine. Apparently she had had it since she was eighteen and it was in constant use, but never at evening times as it was one of the things that annoyed my father.

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The floor covering - oil cloth

Oil-cloth flooring, common in houses in the early 1900s

Oil-cloth, floor covering, photographed at Tilford Rural Life Centre

It is almost impossible for a photograph to show the difference between oil-cloth and the more modern vinyl flooring, In reality it is not so difficult as oil-cloth, being thin has no resilience to it, shows cracks from wear and always seems to look rather grubby. Also the older fashion of the pattern is unmistakeable.

The floor covering as in most of the rooms, was oilcloth - a heavy canvas treated with oil and other substances to make it waterproof and hard-wearing, then printed and varnished. When it got worn, the varnish chipped off to show the canvass threads underneath.

My mother washed it with soapy water.

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The rag rug/piece rug

There was a large rug known as a 'piece rug' or a 'rag rug' in front of the fire. It was made from off-cuts of hard wearing-fabric such as serge and tweed, of which there was no shortage as women always seemed to be busy mending or making something in those days. The fabric was cut into lengths and looped through canvass, then backed with more canvas.

Old tool for making rag rug, also known as a piece rug

Tool for making a rag rug, held by Anne Davey. It was poked through the fabric backing, locked onto a length of rag and pulled back.

Rag rub or piece rug, common in working class households in the early 1900s and before

A rug, known as a 'piece rug' or a 'rag rug', common in working class homes in the early 1900s and made by poking strips of hard-wearing fabric through canvass and backing with more canvas.

Rag rugs were nice and warm to your feet and cosy, although I dread to think how dirty they must have been. Like a good many more things, though, they were put outside onto the clothes line from time to time to be given a good blow. Also when there was snow on the ground, they were dragged quickly across it - not enough to get really wet but just enough for the snow to ease off the dirt. The sun, wind and snow did much for things in those days.

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The pictures

There were numerous pictures on the walls but I only recall the water colours of lakes and mountains. They were hung from picture rails as illustrated on the parlour page.

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The window blind

Crocheted chairback, example of the common skill of crocheting among women in the early 1900s

This photograph from the 1940s illustrates ability at crocheting. My grandmother made a chairback like this for every chair in our three piece suite, and it saddens me now that no-one was particularly appreciative. Women just did those sorts of things at that time. Pat Cryer, webmaster

The window blind, like all the others at the back of the house, was linen with a deep fringe of lace made by my mother from macrame thread, crocheted. It was secured by a cord, hanging down from the centre. The knob to hold the cord was in the shape of an acorn and was called an acorn, although it was made in box wood.

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