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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

The 1940s suburban house:
the hall and stairs

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Plan of the hall of a fairly typical 1940s suburban house

Plan of the hall of a fairly typical 1940s suburban house, based on recollections of 9 Brook Avenue, Edgware. Although many similar suburban houses had smaller halls, with different embellishments, the basic plan would have been the same.

See the 1940s house for how this hall plan fits into the plan of the other rooms on the ground floor of the house.

As explained on the 1940s house page, the most up-to-date 1940s English suburban semi-detached houses were built in the 1930s. All had the same basic plan, although my family was fortunate in that ours was larger than most.

What seemed to strike our guests was the relatively large sizes of the hall and kitchen. This page is about the hall.

Naturally, once inside the house, the personal preferences of the occupants showed, although these were dictated by what was in the shops at the time of purchase and what were hand-me-downs.

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The doors

Front door of a 1930s/40s English suburban house

Old style front door, photographed in the 1960s. In the 1930s and 1940s the wood would have been varnished wood, not painted. Note that the glazing is upside-down compared with what was standard along the road, as shown in the right hand photo. See the main text for an explanation!

Replacement windows in front door of a 1930s/40s English suburban house keeping the old stained glass

Replacement windows and doors  along the road have built the same glass into the double glazing.

At the time, our stained glass looked to me, as a very young child, like a monster with huge eyes and large shoulders, and I had nightmares about him coming out of the front door towards me. So my father had the windows re-inserted upside down. Then the nightmares stopped.

There was a non-descript coloured curtain that could be drawn across the door and side windows at night.

The doors to the rooms were varnished like the front door, but the panels were smaller with more of them.

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Typical hall furniture

Old hall stand for hanging coats and hats, a tall dark wooden piece of furniture with hooks, a mirror, seat with hinged lid over a container for gloves etc, and slots at the sides for umbrellas.

Hall stand, photographed at an auction. Ours was identical apart from the mirror  being smaller and oval.

What was bought in the late 1930s in the way of hall furnishings would have been typical in style in other houses furnished at that time because it was dictated by what was in the shops. Differences would have been relatively minor.

Our hall floor, like other hall floors, was covered in lino with a dark to medium brown marble pattern. My mother polished it regularly on her hands and knees till it shone.

There were four items of bought furniture, all in dark wood.

• A small table was tucked away inside the front door. It had a drawer with a shelf underneath. Later in the 1950s it was where the one and only telephone was located.

• A slightly larger square table stood by the door to the lounge (or 'the front room' as it was always called). It was a much more elegant affair, comprising a top and a shelf close to the floor. It had turned wooden supports and legs.

• Opposite this table was what was called the 'hall stand'. It was as tall as a man and had hooks for coats and hats, a small mirror and a small seat with a hinged lid over a container for gloves etc. There were slots at the sides for umbrellas. It came in several versions, and every house seemed to have one or another of them in its hall.

• Between the door to the kitchen and the stairs was a carved wooden wall-mounted clock.

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Typical hall and stair carpets

There were two types of carpet.

Stair carpet,1940s England: long narrow length held down at the edges of each stair with decorative rods and showing the wood of the staircase at each side

Stair carpet - a long narrow length held down at the edges of each stair with decorative clips and showing the wood of the staircase at each side.

Slip mat, commonly placed outside internal doors, in 1930s and 1940s Britain, probably to keep out draughts

Slip mat, commonly placed outside internal doors, probably to keep out draughts. Photographed in Tilford Rural Life Centre.

(Underneath the stairs was a glory-hole cupboard, hidden from view by a partition and door which matched the yellowish varnish of the stairs and banisters.)

Additionally there was a door mat inside the front door.


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Hand-me-downs and 'heirlooms'

Other items in our hall were not typical in that they were either hand-me-downs from older relatives; bought because they appealed to my mother, or - for the want of a better word - heirlooms. Not that the 'heirlooms' were particularly expensive. Their value was personal because of family associations.

Hall seat made from a broken grand piano - typical of the 'make do and mend' philosophy of the early and mid 20th century

Hall seat made from an old and broken grand piano.

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The walls

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Pat Cryer, webmaster

The hall walls were papered in a non-descript beige colour and I rather think that the paper was slightly textured. It was the same throughout the house.

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The 'drop' ceiling

Throughout the house, the walls were only papered to within about half a metre of the ceiling. The upper part was known as a 'drop ceiling'. Around the demarcation was a picture rail with a papered frieze below it. Pictures hung from the picture rails. (The drop ceiling and picture rail fashion persisted from the early 1900s, and probably before, until around the 1950s.

Ceilings were whitewashed.

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