Object 6 – Heating, Cooking, Laundry


A History of Newmarket Farm in Twelve Objects

Object Six – Heating, Cooking, Laundry


Object Six – Heating, Cooking, Laundry

Looking west at Cottage

Looking west at Newmarket Cottage

  • The base of the cottage’s only fireplace – used for both cooking and heat in the nineteenth century – is the brick structure to the left, built into the east wall of the original south facing kitchen to allow more space inside
  • The base of a probable laundry copper is to its right, built against the east wall of the north facing scullery.

Fuel for the Fire

  • Coal, not Wood, was the most likely fuel source for Newmarket Farm cottage when it was built in 1830
  • By the 1700’s coal was the primary source of domestic fuel for heat and cooking in urban areas
  • Old photographs and paintings of the South Downs between the Adur and the Ouse show them as being almost completely free of trees (with the exception of some plantations, such as those of the Stanmer Estate)
  • On visiting the South Downs near Brighton in 1777 Dr Johnson wrote it was:
    • “… a country so truly desolate that if one had a mind to hang oneself at being obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree from which to hang a rope”.

Archaeological Evidence for Coal Fire (1)

  • A coal fire requires more oxygen than wood, so it needs a grate;
Part of a cast iron coal grate?

Part of a cast iron coal grate from the Newmarket Cottage excavation.


Archaeological Evidence for Coal Fire (2)

  • A domestic coal fire gives out more heat than wood, so it needs a fireback (normally cast iron) to protect the brickwork;
Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney

Part of a cast iron fireback embedded in masonry near base of demolition rubble near base of chimney.


Archaeological Evidence for Coal Fire (3)

  • Coal and rusty nails;
    • Large quantities of burnt and unburnt coal were excavated
    • With the coal were generally large quantities of rusty nails and small fragments of charcoal
      • The rusty nails suggest secondhand timber was also used as fuel;
Coal and rusty nails

Coal and rusty nails.


1830 Fireplace; Cooking

  • The 1950’s bulldozer destroyed the actual hearth
    • So we can only make an educated guess at what it looked like;
Inside a good quality mid-Victorian agricultural labourer’s cottage; 'Dorset Life'

Inside a good quality mid-Victorian agricultural labourer’s cottage; DorsetLife.co.uk

  • Newmarket Cottage residents were poorer, but the fire-place would have been very similar;
  • All their cooking would have been done over such a fire.

Object Six – Heating, Cooking, Laundry;

Laundry Copper

Laundry_copper-Wikimedia

Laundry Copper; Photo from Wikimedia

  • We only have circumstantial evidence for a laundry copper:
    • In the nineteenth century they were built in most houses
    • But neither the Phipps nor the Latham family remembers one when they were children at the Newmarket Cottage
      • However, by the twentieth century they were rarely used
    • The last tenant of the nearby Cambridgeshire Farm – a smaller labourer’s cottage which the Lathams lived in before they moved to Newmarket Farm – remembers it had a copper which was no longer used

Washday Monday

  • Laundry coppers were lit on Monday washdays
  • The 1900 House reconstruction television programme discovered the laundry could take twelve hours, starting from very early morning
  • The Victorian Farm television reconstruction discovered it required fetching 58 buckets of water
  • Both these programmes were of mid to late Victorian times, after the invention of the domestic mangle in 1850 – it was an expensive item until mass production reduced its cost – so Newmarket Farm Cottage housewives would have had an even harder time for the first few decades
    • Many villages and farm estates had communal laundry facilities – either provided for free by their employer, or for a small charge – but this would have been too far away to have been used by this remote cottage.

Previous: Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers

Next: ‘Object 7: Food and Drink’

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