Alton Webteam: December 2016
The house in which I was born and grew up was a three storey, double fronted one, so it had a lot of rooms. They were all needed as we were a large household. At one time there were my parents and seven children, a grandmother, and for several years, a maid. There was no central heating, no electricity and gas only for lighting except for a gas ring in the kitchen. The adults slept on the first floor (not literally!) and we children and the maid slept up under the roof in the three attics. We went to bed by candlelight.
There were fireplaces in most of the rooms but I never saw any of the bedroom ones lit except when someone was ill. It would have meant someone carrying buckets of coal up several flights of stairs to reach the attics. There was no insulation and we had never heard of double glazing.
During the Summer months, the house was pleasantly warm, but Winters were decidedly arctic on the upper floors. We had an oil stove which could be carried around. What I remember about it was the smell of the paraffin, the pleasant warmth, and the patterns on the ceiling cast by the holes in the top. Mother lit the stove when bedtime approached and we all had the benefits in turn. The bedding, however remained icy cold, but we often had bedsocks and hot water bottles, both rubber and the stoneware type.
Winter is creeping over the British Isles, and despite all our modern methods of keeping warm, our beds may not be the warmest of places into which to thrust our bare feet! We may not find bedsocks or hot water bottles in the shops, but don't be discouraged! You can make the modern equivalent of the warming pan or hot water bottle out of recycled materials. Find an empty biscuit tin (surely no problem at Christmastide), and fill it with any metal objects you can find lying about most houses. I used odd nuts and bolts, spanners, a heavy cold chisel scissors, knobs and hinges, in all about 5kg. Put the lid on and place the tin in the oven for about half an hour with the setting at 150C.
This is hotter than boiling water, so use oven gloves to put it in the bed long enough to warm things up. it isn't much different from the pans to be seen in museums or hanging up on the walls of old inns, but much safer!
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