Daily Prompt: Our House
by Krista on March 3, 2014
What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us HOME.
By coincidence, just before this prompt was published, hubby had referred to the house where I grew up. It was the family home from the year before I was born until the year after my father’s death. Hubby (like our children) was only familiar with the modernised version of it. His comment was about it not being semidetached, but end of terrace.
That would be end of garden terrace!
My earliest memories are of the original house. It had a front door with a metal plate on the wooden doorstep and no porch – a small porch was built much later. The front door and the window to the left of it had decorative coloured panes of frosted glass. Inside the front door the hall was spacious and light, as there was a window part way up the stairs, known as the landing window. The stairs went up from the hall on the left almost opposite the door to the front room. This was the width of the room away from the front door. The window of the front room was proud of the front door, so that when the porch was eventually built the front of the downstairs became flat. We did not use the front room much. It had the best furniture and carpet. It also faced approximately north, so was rather chilly and dark compared with the back room, which adjoined it the other side of sliding wooden doors, rarely opened. The open fire was rarely lit.
Instead we reached the back room by going past the painted, panelled banisters of the stairs and turning our backs on the cupboard under the stairs. The kitchen door was on our left as we entered the back room, also variously known as the dining room or living room. This room had a tall dark brown mantelpiece above a grate. There were brown cupboards in the upper part of each alcove, with doors which opened into the room. The windows were small-paned French windows across the back of the room, with the door opening in the middle. Sometimes a child-gate would be fixed in place across this door.
The kitchen was not particularly large, although it was almost as long as the back room. It had an old blue enamelled solid fuel boiler in it, which must have been one method of heating the water. At this time central heating was very unusual and we did not have it installed until much later. In fact we had a different solid fuel boiler in the meantime. Opposite the door into the kitchen was the backdoor, which led into the garden. To one side of it was the kitchen sink, with a small widow above it and to the right was the built-in larder – a cupboard with shelves for food to be stored. The kitchen also housed the cooker and washing machine. With a table and stools on the other side the fridge (refrigerator) had to be kept in the hall!
Going upstairs the flight of stairs, with a stair carpet and stair rods to hold it in place turned for the final three steps. On the left was the bathroom, with a bath, washbasin and an airing cupboard above the hot-water cylinder. The switch for the immersion heater was inside the airing cupboard. (In the south of England it was not necessary to heat houses in the summer months, but hot water was required.)
Beyond the bathroom was the smallest room in the house. It was as long as the bathroom and kitchen, with the toilet facing the door. There was a small window above it and the cistern was high on the wall operated by a chain.
The back bedroom shared a wall with the toilet. It had a large window, looking out over the garden. The Anderson shelter had been demolished and the bricks reused elsewhere in the garden. There was a cypress tree fairly close to the house. The garden was unusually large for the locality.
The front bedroom was above the front room, but the windows were designed slightly differently. Both rooms had windows which turned a corner. Upstairs the angle was slanting, whereas downstairs it was a right angle. The upstairs had to be slanting, because of the adjoining property. It slanted at each end, rather like one of those dressing tables with a mirror in three parts. It must have been the only place in the house where it was possible to see the next door neighbours’ house from indoors without leaning out of a window!
The third bedroom was a very good size for this type of 1930s property. It accommodated a 4 foot bed, an arm chair and a chest of drawers and so made a fairly comfortable guest room. The door had been modified to open outwards onto the landing, instead of into the room. All the other doors opened inwards.
The landing was fairly wide. The stairs were separated from it by a continuation of the painted panels, with a handrail along the top, which continued by the side of the hall after a section where there was no rail. I can remember the time when we still needed a stair-gate as my sister was younger than I was.
There was no heating upstairs apart from a paraffin heater, which was variously used in the bathroom or in a bedroom if someone was ill in bed in winter. There were old gas fires in the two larger bedrooms, but they were never used. I do not believe we were able to use any gas at that time. It was reconnected after the area became a smokeless zone. By this time many alterations had been made, including the removal of the gas fires upstairs and blocking off the associated chimneys with hardboard and wallpaper.