A team from Hoby & District Local History Society recreated a cottage kitchen circa 1914, typical of those found in Hoby at the time of the First World War.
“A few months ago, when Vic first mentioned his idea of recreating a Hoby cottage interior at the start of the First World War, I had no idea what a fascinating but huge project it would turn out to be. I had recreated a 1952 kitchen two years ago with the enthusiastic help of many in Hoby and this sounded similarly involving. The only difference was that it was forty years earlier and beyond anyone’s memory. This would prove to be the biggest challenge.
In order to recreate a realistic cottage interior I had to have a good idea of my imaginary family. The Hoby area was unusual because of its popularity with the hunting set, its rich farmland and good communications. These attracted a wider range of people and jobs than you would normally expect in a village and gave me a bit more of a choice of what type of household to recreate. However, I decided to look at an ‘ordinary’, not very well off household because I thought it would be more representative of the majority of villagers who lived very simple lives and did what they could for their family then got caught up in the great adventure of war in 1914. I had given myself a sourcing problem in making this choice of household. We hand down and save the ‘nice’ things but not the ordinary stuff. I soon discovered that my usual generous sources of bits and pieces just didn’t have enough of the type of thing that was needed. It was necessary to do proper research, make lists and hunt for the right objects. My first new friend in the hunt was Dr John Wilson who gave generously of his time and expertise to assist me.
Choosing a room to recreate was easy – it had to be the one where the family lived. But was this a kitchen? The terms we use today don’t match the cottage rooms of a hundred years ago. Their main living room always had a range cooker which also heated water so was the warm room where most domestic activity took place. Not having a plumbed water supply meant wet activities usually took place in a ‘back’ kitchen or scullery. In my kitchen washing hangs around the fireplace and the washtubs and plungers are in evidence, though in reality the tubs might have been ‘out the back’.
If you embark on a project like this you need to visit museums to get ideas and friends to help you put your ideas into practice. My most useful research trip was to the Welsh Folk Museum near Cardiff where they have brought lots of vernacular buildings from all over Wales and rebuilt them. They have a row of six ironworkers cottages from Merthyr Tydfil, each furnished in a different period – one is 1919. I took lots of photos and modelled my range cooker and wallpaper on theirs. Mike Croft looked at my sketches of the fireplace, turned them into a proper working drawing, took measurements at Hoby Chuch and built a range cooker out of plywood! I then added card, glue and paint to complete the illusion, painted the wallpaper and made the rag rug. Diana Patterson helped with artwork – made a great window and lots more; Sue Croft organised costume loans; Tony Geary got the old clock working; Simon Frings and Gwyneth Whitehouse lent furniture and many friends, old and new, lent countless precious possessions. Other items came from charity shops, Ebay and the like…
Hopefully the finished kitchen was reasonably authentic but what is more certain is that the project was rewarding to be involved with and appears to have struck a chord with many people”.
Caroline Ellis August 2014
Hoby & District Local History Society meets every other month, usually at 7.30pm on a Wednesday in Hoby & District Village Hall. See this website for more information.