Many of the Friends will be old enough to remember much of what they see in the cottages of the Colliery Village. Even in the nineteen forties I can remember that we only had the gas lamps for lighting, an old iron fireplace for heating and baking, and clippy mats on the floor.
The big clippy frame was always set up in the room near the high pedal organ on which Granny played her hymns. It was an ongoing thing. In size I think that the new proggy mat was more of a carpet and everyone in the family had a go at it including myself. I can't remember it being finished.
In our kitchen you would have found a gas stove and as in the Colliery cottage of 1913, an old farmhouse table, a proper larder that kept food cool, and a poss tub and stick with a large wringer for the washing.
At the time I was living with my grandparents for some reason. They lived in a Sunderland bungalow very much like the 1913 colliery cottages in many ways. Things hadn't changed much in the thirty odd years between the two.
Monday Was Always Washing Day.
Washing day was just that. A hard day's work for Granny with a little help from her grandson. Everything was linen. Wet Linen was particularly heavy to handle and I remember that it was my job to hold the sheets as they went through the wringer as she struggled to turn the handle.
Now Granny never swore.
But she got as near as you could get when my attention would stray and I let the cotton sheet ball up into a lump that stopped the wringer.
I'm sure that the washing was hung up in the back lane between the two
rows of houses. Not to be recommended today!
A vehicle wanting to come down the back lane on washing day had to knock on each door to ask the women to take down washing from the lines - so it didn't happen very often.
What Did Grandad Do in the Coalhouse?.
Grandad had the cleanest coalhouse in the street. Just like the colliery houses of 1913 at the bottom of the yard were the netty and the coalhouse. Enough said about the netty but grandad had a different use for the coalhouse. I don't remember where he put the coal but he used the coalhouse as a betting shop.
In those days one way of making extra money was to be a bookies runner. Taking bets scribbled on the back of cigarette packets or what ever came to hand and running to the officially registered bookie. It was highly illegal with dire consequences if caught.
But gambling was very popular and Grandad was a bookies runner and clever enough never to get caught- so he said.
The coalhouse was ideal. Get rid of the coal. Open the coal hatch. Men strolled passed, looked to see no bobbies around then threw their betting slips through the hatch. Grandad collected the bets and took them round to Harry the bookie.
Each time I visit the Colliery Village cottages I have a quick peek into the coalhouse to see who's there.
What happened when coal was delivered? The coalman would bring the coal from the horse and cart in heavy sacks slung over his shoulders and empty it straight through the coal hatch. You'd need to know when a load of coal was due. But, as I said, Grandad was clever.
Any Colour As Long As It's Black.
My grandparents were born as Victorians and still preferred the colour black for almost everything. Most of the things you see in the Colliery cottages would have still been typical of the same cottage up to the nineteen fifties. One addition was the radio.
I took the accumulators (batteries) down to the local garage about once a fortnight to be charged up.
Grandad would stand to attention when the national anthem was played on the
radio. There was a big family bible on the sideboard, everyone still wore
black and Gran played hymns whilst we all sat round singing. The Holy
City was a firm favourite.
In lighter moments she got out the music hall song book.
In these modern times so much has changed in so few years that I feel the work of the Museum and especially the Friends helps to preserve these valuable moments of the past for the future. It is important because we can learn so much from our past.
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