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Archaeology of domestic life in early 20th century Britain

The aim of this blog is to publish data on early 20th century buildings, whilst this is still accessible. Much material of interest to the historian is being destroyed through 'home improvements' and DIY, and objects are increasingly being divorced from their context through dispersal after the death of their owners. By creating an easily accessible contextual record of material culture, it is hoped that those interested in this period of history may have a resource through which the details of domestic life might be studied.

If you have any artefacts of interest, or make discoveries during the process of your own investigations that you would like to share, please contact me!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Lymehurst bathroom

Most of the original bathroom remains in situ, although the toilet has been replaced. Traces of a high level cistern are present on the same wall (although do not show up very well photographically), in a different location to that indicated on the original building plans (which was on the same wall as the window). By the 1930s, low level toilets were more frequently installed indoors.

The wall on the bath and cupboard walls have been tiled, and other walls painted, although the original paint is visible in places. This consists of a gloss cream or pale yellow paint, which corresponds with the colour remembered by one of the first occupants in later life (a child at the time), who informed a previous owner of this, and other information on the house. The bath exterior had been painted cream'; beneath this paint was a bright green gloss, which lay above a cream or pale green paint.

The airing cupboard doors have been stripped, although a stain is present. It was uncertain whether or not this was original, and if so, whether the doors were painted over by the early occupants (as was more common).

After removing the modern (1990s + vinyl), and what may be 1970s-80s (cork tiles) floor covering, a number of features were revealed. From beneath the cork tiles, a tin of dark stain (probably from the stairs) had been placed on the floorboards, suggesting that the bathroom floor was intended to be covered from the first phase of occupation. tThere were also lighter stains overlaying the stain from the stairs, and on the bathroom floorboards, suggesting that the cupboard doors may have been stained after the first phase, but before the cork tiles were laid. Green gloss paint from the bath exterior was splashed on the floorboards, suggesting that this should also date to before the cork tiles.
The sink had also been moved since earlier use, as indicated by the presence of a stain:

There's also an outline indicating the position of an electric switch on the wall - the rather unsafe method for turning on the lighting before the pull switch was installed - although the reflective nature of the modern silk wall paint means that this doesn't easily show up photographically


  1. Thank's a lot for sharing information about 20th
    century buildings, this is very helpful to understand our culture.
    cork tile flooring

  2. No problem! Glad it's of use / interest to someone

    I hope to post some more info. soon...

  3. Hi,
    I'm beginning work on the emotional geography of Home renovation but I come from and archaeology background. Sounds like we'd have a fair amount in common

  4. Sounds very interesting! I'd certainly like to hear more about this.

    I'm (very slowly, due to other commitments) writing a paper looking at social identities & use of domestic space in inter-war Britain (see:

    Due to recent retweet, I'll take a stab in the dark & ask if you're Sarah M, by any chance? (If so, I'll contact you through EH/SPMA)

    Otherwise, I can be contacted through Academia: I'd be grateful if you could keep me informed of your research, as it sounds just the sort of thing that I'd find useful.

    Not sure if I've posted this yet, but I'm hoping I still have a photo (or drawing) of a great bit of graffiti from Lymehurst (which seems to have been done during a phase of redecoration - I can't remember if this was in biro, which would've at least given a TPQ), which might be described as a 'contestation of gender relationships'! I'll see if I can find it.