If you were working class

What was it like in Changed Times?

outsidedoor copy Okay… lets step inside a typical farmhouse and see what we can find.
We’ll start with a kitchen laid out in usual way for 17th century Scotland. Looks rather romantic but take a closer look everything is workman like, useful, nothing fancy or even comfortable. And how about cooking family meals using that fire?

womanfire2 copy

As for the woman cooking on the griddle … It’s back and forward from the table, bending, stretching, checking the flames. You’ll notice she’s  well covered by a thick linen apron for protection. And how about washing up with no running water, no just turning the tap on, maybe a well outside, or maybe it’s some distance away. Fancy carrying a heavy water bucket? …. And maybe the weather isn’t kind like raining or sleet or even snow … Or may be you couldn’t be bothered … so no washing up gets done … And then what?
griddlecookingJPG copy Work in the house was considered women’s work. It was expected. They had little choice but get on with it.  Dare one whisper it’s aye been?
fruit copy No fine china here. Wood turning, earthenwar, forged metal. Finery was too expensive and wouldn’t last. Practicality was the name of the game … and as little expense as possible.
pottery copy
bed copy 2
 And so to bed after a long days work.It might be a dark cupboard with a door to shut out the cold. There wouldn’t be much air in there especially if you shared the bed. A cupboard bed was usually in the kitchen. Maybe the door gave a little more privacy as well as keeping the heat in.
If you’re rich enough it might be a posh one with silk hangings and a horse hair mattress.
poshbed copy  The cleaning and washing of big items like covers, sheets etc was a major problem, took hours of preparation, hours of work, never mind the drying and folding, the ironing, and finally putting away in a big kist or chest of drawers.
And don’t forget you have to pull the water up from from the well first, lug it to the wash house or into the kitchen hen heat it up in huge pans. Not fo the faint hearted or the weakly.
Sometimes there would be a large metal basin built on bricks above a small stove. Basin would be filled with water. How many trips back and forward to the well?  The fire would then be lit, flames teased to a good blaze and gradually the water would come to the boil … gradually.
The washing itself would be done with wooden paddles.
Once washed there was still rinsing to do. Just think about trying to lift out heavy, sodden sheets, wringing them out then carrying them outside to a bucket with clean water or down to a steam, wringing them again then hanging up to dry … provided it wasn’t raining. And if it was ?
And don’t forget the big basin with the dirty washing water. It now needs emptying and cleaning.
And once everything is dry enough it’s time to carry it all in, heat up a heavy metal iron on the fire and do the pressing before putting the clean, fresh linen away with sprigs of lavender in between the folds.
Still seem romantic?  What did I say about ‘and so to bed after a long day’s work?’

So far we’ve touched on very little but maybe you’re exhausted by all that work. More later…..

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About ethyl smith

Historical fiction writer with Thunderpoint Publishing. Currently working on 17th century Scottish trilogy. Part one 'Changed Times' out April 2016
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