Nora Roberts Lowe - Dora Guest
Section: People around Brigg
Nora Roberts Lowe - Dora Guest
I was born on 13th June 1916 in the last house in Silversides Lane, near Brigg, Linconshire. This was one of three two-bedroom houses at the end of the unmade lane. There was a brook in front, a meadow at the side of the garden and another meadow in front of the house across the lane. The privy was behind the house. It had a bucket and wooden seat and the "Dilly" men emptied the bucket once a week. There was a large garden with a pig sty and chickens at the bottom. During the summer, Mother put the eggs "down" in waterglass for later in the year. There was a vegetable patch including rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants, a flower garden and apple trees. The milkman delivered milk in a large can at the door and ladled out the amount we required - usually three pints into a large bowl. With so much food produced at home, there was no problem of shopping. The grocer brought an order once a week and the fish man and butcher would come to the door.
I was the youngest of five children and conditions were cramped for two adults and five children, although my brother George left home when he was 16 and we moved to Mill Lane in Brigg in 1929 when I was 13.
Ration and economy were the operative words for housekeeping at our house. Mother had been a parlour-maid in very good service before she got married.
There was no water, gas or electricity. Water came from pump at back of house. Heating was a coal fire which had a side oven for cooking and a side boiler to heat water. A primus stove was also used for cooking, particularly in summer. Lighting downstairs was with oil lamps; candles were used upstairs. At that time, the whole family went to bed at 9 to 9.30 p.m.
The location was ideal for a child to play! Jumping dykes, paddling, finding eels. Violeting, blackberrying, cricket in the field, helping (?!) the farmer when mowing hay or helping(?!) father in the garden. We sometimes were rewarded with a ride on a cart. We had no money and few toys - e.g. marbles, a whip and top, but I felt I had an ideal childhood. Sundays were dominated by Sunday school and chapel. A highlight of the year was the anniversary at Easter. This involved practising singing or reciting for weeks beforehand and even meant a new dress! Once a year was Brigg Fair. The boys went, and I remember going with Mother and Father one year. We had very little money, but I do remember having a go on a roundabout - the cockerel was my favourite. Christmas was exciting. All the family played a part in the preparation of the puddings. Fruit was washed and spread on dishes to dry. Almonds had to be blanched and chopped. Candied peel was purchased whole and chopped small (I loved the piece of sugar from the middle). Nutmegs had to be ground. Of course, everyone had to stir and wish when the threepenny pieces were put in. It was magical when Mother iced the cake. I loved singing carols. On Xmas day we had a stocking - this contained an orange and an apple, a new penny, a piece of coal, nuts and one present - a doll, crayons or a book. There was always a nice dinner and tea. Little things meant a lot!
From Silversides, Father usually cycled to work. When I was five I went to school at Scawby - a 2 mile walk - a long way for little legs! The infants were on one side of the road, the seniors on the other. Initially we used slates and slate pencils; later we used pens with nibs and inkwells in the desks. There were 15 - 20 in my class. We all took a packed lunch. Games such as cricket and rounders were played in Scawby Park. The classes were labelled Standards 1 to 7 and most left school at 14 years old. I wore a dress or skirt and a jumper with socks and boots. When I was older I was allowed to wear black stockings with my boots!!
A week in the 1920s
Monday was washday - the busiest day of the week. Most houses had a wash-house with a copper, a table, mangle, dolly and tub. The copper was used to heat up the water - and not always for washing - potatoes were boiled there to feed the pigs ( lovely for a child to pinch and eat!!)
At Silversides, the copper was filled by Father from pump at rear of house - sometimes water from the brook was used when it was high enough - no pollution then. A fire was lit under the copper to get the water hot. The tub and the dolly tub were filled with water and the copper refilled for boiling clothes.
My Mother was never well due to duodenal and gastric ulcers so we had a lady who came on Mondays for the handsome sum of 1s 3d plus meals, to do the washing. She arrived at 8 a.m. and left about 6 p.m.
First she sorted the clothes into piles. First the whites were put in the dolly tub and rotated with the legs of the dolly and some were then put in the other tub for cuffs and collars to be scrubbed then the whites were boiled. The other coloured clothes were dollied after the whites in order of colour - dresses, pinafores etc. The soaps were white Windsor or Green Fairy and soda and carbolic were also used for cleaning persistent stains. It was a long and hard process.
When completed, the water was emptied and the tub refilled for rinsing with blue added to the rinsing water, even for coloureds.
Starch had to be made. The starch was mixed with cold water, and then boiling water was added to thicken it. This was used at end of washing process on most cottons.
Every drop of soapy water was used to scrub table tops, floors etc. Hot water was precious. The warmth and clean smell in the washhouse when done still remain with me.
In the washhouse were a large mangle and a table. The mangle extracted much of the water from the washing which was then hung out on long lines in the garden.
When dry, it was folded and if necessary dampened and left in a large basket to iron a day later.
I remember wash days because our evening meal was almost always cold meat ( from the Sunday roast) and fried up potatoes with milk pudding to follow.
Tuesday was ironing day - a less busy day. The fire was made up to get red heat so the irons could be stood in front of the coals to heat, although in the summer the primus was sometimes used. There were at least two flat irons - after heating it was usual to spit on them to test whether they were hot enough. They were rotated on the heat so as one cooled, a replacement was on hand.
Mother didn't have an ironing board - she used a thick cover on the kitchen table.
During the afternoon, a half-stone of flour was made up into bread.
Wednesday was the day for cleaning bedrooms. We all had feather beds which had to be shaken and turned regularly. Carpets were first brushed by hand, then the dusting and cleaning of windows. A massive baking session took place in the afternoon. Tarts, pies and cakes were made
Thursday was Market Day. The morning was devoted to a general clean. Mother always went out in the afternoon, visited a friend, and went round the Market.
Friday was a busy day. Brasses and cutlery were cleaned and the grate black-leaded. The steps, floors and the windows downstairs were all cleaned.
Saturday morning was sometimes occupied with more baking and bread making. The children all had duties. I had to scrub the outside lavatory seat and floor, for which I received 2d.
Sunday was a day of rest. Gladys, my elder sister, got up and cleaned before breakfast, which was always the traditional bacon and eggs. Mother cooked a traditional Sunday lunch - Yorkshire pudding and gravy first. I think it was the only day she sat down! Attendance at Chapel or Sunday school was a ritual.
The spring clean
The yearly spring clean was a long and painful process (especially to Father!). The sweep came and cleaned the chimney. Then the upstairs was tackled first. The carpets were taken up and outside to be beaten and marks cleaned off. Drawers were emptied, taken outside and scrubbed. Wardrobes were emptied and cleaned. What an upheaval! Ceilings were whitewashed even if papering or painting was not required. The stairs carpets were lifted once the upstairs was finished. Then downstairs - cupboards were turned out and the crockery, ornaments and pictures etc were all washed. The furniture was cleaned with vinegar and water, and then polished. Thank goodness it was only once a year!
Killing the pig
Late autumn was pig killing time. LOUD squeals would tell us that someone in the vicinity was killing their pig. Oh! the work and activity that went on when 'our' day came. The butcher was booked ahead of the day and it was a cruel, squealing, horrible business. The throat was cut, so you can imagine what a bloody business it was. Most weighed 10-15 stone. It has been known for the pig to escape before and in the middle of killing! Not ours that I can remember.
It was then put in a large tub of boiling water to clean and scrape hairs etc. Then hung for the night (left outside) on a special stand the butcher brought with him. I remember vividly having to have my brother take me around to the closet which was at the back of the house. It was so eerie seeing the pig hanging there.
After a day the butcher would come and 'cut-up'. Meat everywhere. Hams prepared and salted - eventually hung up in cotton bags on hooks. And a supply of lard for cooking.
Plates of fry would be prepared for certain neighbours. It was arranged neatly on the plate covered by a piece of 'curtain' or 'veil' - this being a membrane from the gut of the pig. When the fry was taken by the neighbours it had to be removed from the plate and the plate given back without being washed. This was an old superstition and always adhered to.
Meat was cut up and put on various trays to make pork pies and sausages. The proportion of lean and fat being very important. I still have Mother's sausage machine and remember having the job of cleaning the skins thoroughly before the sausages could be made. How did they cope without a fridge or freezer?
What we as children loved most of all were the 'scraps'. These were tiny pieces of skin and fat which were cooked in the oven until crisp. They now sell them as 'scratchings' in little bags in pubs, but oh! what a difference in the taste.
It is said that every part of a pig can be eaten (except the squeal!) , which is true. The brains on toast were delicious. Then last of all, the brawn would be made. Trotters, tail and chaps were used for this.
From: Heather Barratt Date: 19 Jul 2012 22:26 Subject: Brigg
What a fabulous true life story, I read every word.
My partner and I are 1940 re-inactors who love to keep all the past memories alive. We must not forget how lucky we all are these days.I remember the freedom as a child running in the green fields, jumping ditches and rides in a trailer. That is what I call a perfect childhood. Unfortunately this freedom is not possible today.
Keep this story for others to read.
Kind regards Heather M Barratt
Thought ..."First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" - Mahatma Gandhi