Monthly Archives: May 2012

No. 8: behind the façade

Front room: panorama from front door


What follows over the next three posts are the (often mundane but frequently telling) traces of human action that may be used, in conjunction with other forms of evidence, and alongside comparisons of similar contexts, to consider the changing use and significance of the front room of No. 8. Amongst the minutiae are more general discussions on living conditions in this house at different times – since its construction during the late Victorian period, and in comparison with those of today – exploring the impact of technological transformations upon daily life.

Many of the descriptions of household features and practices below may seem unnecessary to older readers, who might in varying degrees be familiar with the early 20th home. But it is just these ‘small things forgotten’ that get lost in history – seen as everyday and unimportant, they are rarely recorded and pass from memory; these details often hold the key to unlocking the human stories of the past.[i]

If readers have personal or family memories that might expand upon this information, and would like to share their thoughts, please comment at the bottom of the post, or contact the Project Director. Many details have surely been missed, and some may have been misunderstood. Many of the features described below potentially survive in other local terraced houses: if readers living in comparable homes may be able to add to these discoveries, so please send in information if encountering similar evidence of earlier activity. If readers based outside Derby would like to contribute information, a geographically wider project (with similar aims to Dec20) can be found here.

This first post on the front room will begin by describing the room, looking at architectural and decorative features. The second will consider ‘home comforts’: warmth and lighting; and the third will consider decoration; the fourth will explore the social and cultural significance of the front room.


On entering through the front door, the visitor steps straight into the front room, which is a comfortable size for a small terraced house (though slightly smaller than some of the other houses in the terrace), measuring approx. 10 1/2’ x 11 1/3’ (c. 3.21 m x 3.46 m).


From the front of the house, it was evident from the chimneys that a solid fuel open grate originally heated the house. This is evident on entering the room, in the projecting chimney-breast, which measures 31.5 cm deep by 1.37m wide. (The next post will consider heating, and the ways in which occupants used the alcoves over time, by considering the introduction of electricity). In common with many terraced properties, the original grate of No. 8 was removed some time ago (certainly before 1999 – probably several years previously. The exact form of the original grate is uncertain, although considering the construction date, it is likely to have been a slow combustion register grate, (in contrast to the earlier arch plate) consisting of an iron rectangular plate, canopy, and frame (which commonly contained a surround of glazed ceramic tiles), lined with ceramic fire-bricks.[ii] Without removing the flooring (which wasn’t possible during the survey) the size and form of the hearthstone is unknown; but stone hearths were increasingly tiled during and after the late 19th century.

Chimney-breast: enhanced image, to show position of earlier fireplace

The position of early fireplaces within terraced (and other) houses can often be seen in rough outline, in cases where the fill (often plaster-board, the join with the wall feathered with plaster) isn’t flush with the wall surface (see the subsequent post on the front bedroom – such an outline is clear). In this case, a professional – who was clearly a very good plastered – filled in the hole left by the previous fire, so it’s quite difficult to see the traces of earlier features (which are further covered by wallpaper). This is even harder to see in photos, so filters have been used to enhance the outline (see above). It is not possible to be certain whether previous residents acted in the same way as many other occupants of terraced houses in the 1930s – 50s: by removing the ‘old fashioned’ cast iron grate, and replacing this with a ‘modern’ fireplace.

Whether or not this was the case, previous owners later fitted a gas fire in the place of an ‘open fire’: this was of a style found in the 1980s (which may still be purchased today). At some point in the past 5 years, the gas fire was removed for safety reasons, and the fireplace finally sealed. These seemingly practical and individual changes relate to broader social and cultural transformations; as there’s quite a bit of information to fit into this post, some of the factors behind changes made to heating, cooking, and lighting facilities will be discussed in the next post on ‘home comforts’. following post will examine decoration.


An area of plaster has been removed from an interior wall (between the front room and the stairs) – hidden from sight within the cupboard of the right-hand alcove. As expected for work not destined for display, the finish is much rougher than that of the brickwork at the front of the house (see the previous post). This interior wall is again built using a Flemish Bond, and would have been covered with two or three coats of lime-based plaster.

Interior wall


The floor feels different beneath the visitor’s feet today, compared to how it would have done originally: modern cushioned laminate flooring overlays the original timber floorboards. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to get to see beneath the modern surface to be certain of the finish of the boards throughout the room. However, the alcoves either side of the chimney-breast now contain shelves and modern (1990s or earlier) cupboards. The floorboards are visible within both cupboards, and as would be expected from comparisons with neighbouring and similar housing elsewhere, they are likely to be ‘deal’ (pine), or fir.

Floor boards, within left alcove cupboard (also showing early blue distemper)

These boards are not stained, which is unusual for a house of this age and type (as can be seen in a photo of floor boards in the back bedroom; this form of decoration will be considered in a subsequent post); they are also relatively ‘fresh’ (compare with those in the back bedroom, when this information is posted). This may indicate that boards have been replaced, perhaps due to rot, or to insect infestation, such as woodworm; alternatively, the floorboards may have been sanded – an act that became particularly popular in the 1980s-90s – which removes decades of patina that demonstrated past taste; though they are not varnished, which often followed sanding). The discovery of fragments of wallpaper, tightly sandwiched between the wall and the ends of the boards, perhaps supports the possibility that the boards have been replaced, although subsequent modifications may have pushed the paper into this position, or boards may have been lifted in fitting or modifying gas piping. The style of the wallpaper (which will be considered in the post on decoration), suggests that if replaced, this was undertaken some time ago (perhaps 1960s-70s). Another indication that, if replaced, this was not done recently, is the beading that seals the gap between wall and skirting board (a technique to reduce draughts); this seems to have previously run around the room, but since been removed (perhaps when the previous – since removed – floor covering was fitted, between the late 1980s and mid 1990s). This beading overlies the ‘fresh’ boards, and underlies paint that pre-dates the 1990s decorative scheme, which also overlies the adjacent skirting board.

Floorboards and beading in right alcove cupboard


Skirting board on back wall of front room

Around the base of the walls, what is likely to be the original skirting board can be seen. When painted, it is often difficult to determine the age of skirting board, as modern replacements commonly replicate early profiles, although early skirting boards often have less crisp lines than modern examples (original board are sometimes damaged, decay through rising damp, or may be removed during modern damp proofing). Within the left alcove cupboard, there are only partial remains of skirting board; the paint on the wall – perhaps like the later wallpaper (see the subsequent post on decoration) – continues down to the floor. This may indicate that the builders did not fit skirting board within this corner, suggesting the presence of a fixture (such as a fitted cupboard) within this corner during early occupation. A further clue supports this interpretation: paint remains suggest that the skirting board turned at right angles from this stub to meet the face of the chimney-breast. In addition, the vibrant blue wall colour appears only in this alcove: from the skirting board stub in this alcove, and in the right alcove, the wall finish is different.

Paint on skirting board stub suggesting a return across the left alcove to join the front of the chimney-breast

The pattern differs in the right alcove cupboard. Here a power socket was fitted or modified during the late 20th century on the wall of the chimney-breast. This has led to the removal of the short stretch of skirting board on this wall, revealing the original surface and subsequent early decorative traces at the point where it joined the skirting on the back wall of the alcove (a subsequent post will discuss decoration).

Skirting board in right alcove cupboard: removal of the chimney-breast piece of board has revealed the original wood finish of the board, and the wood stain and paint above

As many (especially builders and DIY enthusiasts) will know, though decorative, skirting board has a practical purpose: by leaving a gap between wall plaster and floor – the skirting covering this gap – rising damp could to some extent be limited. It is also a useful buffer to protect the wall from wet mops!

Plaster mouldings

The plaster moulding in the centre of the ceiling (the ‘ceiling rose’) suggests the location of one original light fitting (see the following post): again it had a practical purpose: the painted or varnished moulding made it easier to clean accumulated soot residue from suspended gas lamps.[iii]

Ceiling rose, No. 8

As well as the moulded plaster ceiling rose that is a common feature of terraced houses of this date, moulded plaster  cornice lies between the ceiling and walls. This feature went out of fashion during and after the 1920s, when increasing concerns over hygiene saw the cornice as a dust trap.[iv]

Cornice, front room of No. 8

Many houses of this date are fitted with usually wooden picture rails – these features continued to be fitted in houses during the interwar period (although the profiles were usually simplified during the 1930s), but were often removed during and after the 1950s, during modernisation. Removal of wallpaper from the chimney-breast during renovation revealed no indications that a picture rail had previously been fitted; it’s not been possible to remove wallpaper elsewhere in the room to see if this is representative. However, the walls in this room (and in other rooms) that are painted (and not papered) have no indications that a picture rail was previously fitted; there were also no signs of picture rails in a neighbouring property; further investigation of other neighbouring properties may answer this question.


Interior window frame

The front room of No. 8 is bright – not only due to the magnolia emulsion that is ubiquitous within modern houses, especially rental properties such as this. The window, which fills much of the wall behind the front door, lets in quite a lot of light; this may relate to legislative changes made not long before the house was built. The Public Health Act of 1875 provided guidelines for byelaws on room and window size for newly constructed houses; although the adoption of such guidelines by local authorities was a gradual process, c. 1600 councils had adopted the national models by 1882.[v] Concerns over the need for sufficient air and light to limit disease instigated the development of byelaws during and after the 1860s to regulate the construction of smaller houses; the height of the rooms (in comparison to earlier ‘cottages’) also aided airflow – a concern that was to continue into the 20th century.[vi] Maps suggest that when No. 8 was built, the aspect was as open as today (being situated across the road from a graveyard, beyond which were the railways lines of the goods yard), and that light filled the room as it does today.

The previous post discussed the original form of, and subsequent changes to, the window as seen from outside the front of the house. These changes are also visible from the inside: much of the original frame is intact, although the glazing bars have been removed, in order to insert two large panes (the significance of fitting ‘picture windows’ was also discussed in the previous post).


Door between the front room and lobby to the original kitchen

The door that faces the visitor as they enter from the street is probably one of the original fittings of the house. It is in a style typically found within terraced houses built during the late 19th – early 20th century: there are four panels, each of which are framed by thin architrave. However, this door may not have originally come from this door frame. As can be seen, previous residents have stripped the paint from this door; occupants often undertake this task themselves (using either a heat gun or chemical paint stripper), with the door in situ – there is some evidence of this (burn marks and ineffective paint stripping) on this and other doors in the house. But doors are otherwise often removed and taken to professional paint strippers (where the doors are dipped in vats of caustic chemicals); and when returned – as all the doors of the house are often removed, stripped, and refitted, at the same time – they are not always put back into their original frame. There are a few clues that may point towards a door being replaced within a different frame to that from whence it came: the original position of locks can often be seen, as can the latch housing in the frame – sometimes these features do not align. But if doors have been subjected to professional paint stripping, shrinkage (which can frequently be seen by cracks and gaps in the panels) must be taken into account. The removal of paint, to expose the ‘original’ timber fabric of door became popular in the 1980s (and continues today), in part relating to a taste for original features. However, this practice in no way reflects Victorian, Edwardian, and interwar tastes: doors were almost always painted (with the occasional exception of the oak and mahogany doors set within panelled rooms) – this will be considered in a following post on decoration.

Burns to the door, suggestive of DIY paint stripping, and remnants of early varnish or paint

Doors of this type were often boarded over during the 1950s-70s, in order to attain a flat surface, which was seen as modern (flat door surfaces began to appear within wealthier houses from the 1920s onwards). This can often be detected (as it can with this door) by the presence of small holes around the edge of the door, where panel pins held a sheet of hardboard in place; many of these coverings were removed during and after the 1980s, when tastes for ‘antique’ fittings became popular, although some still remain in place today. The presence of a large hole in the door, indicating removal of the original handle, and the fitting of a (probably more ‘modern’) higher in the door, may date to this phase of modernisation.

Location of early lock, and adjacent housing, and position of previous handle, and position of panel pins (circled in red) from previous door covering

Having described the main features of the room, the following posts will go on to consider utilities (such as gas and electricity), decoration, and social significance of the front room in No. 8, by making comparisons with similar houses, by exploring written, visual, and oral history, and exploring the changing use of the room.


[i] See Deetz 1999, for a wider discussion of the importance of examining the ‘common place’ traces of daily life in historical archaeology.
[ii] New designs in register grates (which incorporated iron doors that could be used control the flow of air into the chimney) were developed locally (by Derwent Foundry Company, Derby); the slow combustion grate, developed in 1870, more economical than previous grates, as the solid base reduced the air flow from beneath;  this type was replaced c. 1900 by re-introducing the bottom grate, but with an ash-pan reducing the updraught (Everleigh 1983: 9, 11-3)
[iii] See Yorke 2006: 85
[iv] See Bowden 2009: 367
[v] Upton 2010: 40-1.
[vi] See Upton 2010: 47; Meller 2009: 401

Works cited

Bowden, Sue 2009 ‘Consumption and consumer behaviour’, Chris Wrigley (ed.) Companion to Early Twentieth Century Britain, pp. 353-72

Deetz, James 1999 In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life

Everleigh, David J. 1983 Firegrates and Kitchen Ranges

Meller, Helen 2009 ‘Housing and Town Planning, 1900-1939’, Chris Wrigley (ed.) Companion to Early Twentieth Century Britain, pp. 388-404

Upton, Chris 2010 Living Back-to-Back Yorke, Trevor 2006 The 1930s House Explained

Poverty and poor conditions in 1930s Derby: experiences of ‘Working class wives’

The following post presents extracts taken from a book that was used as a local history source for Dec20, as it contains some useful comments on poverty and ‘slum’ housing in 1930s Derby. It contains references to household income and budgets, and diets, as well as housing conditions  employment and gender in the 1930s, in locations outside Derby, extracts from which it is hoped will be posted here in the future.


Margery Spring Rice, niece of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, wrote Working-class wives. Their Health and Conditions in 1936 (published 1939). This records the findings of a ‘survey of the conditions of 1,250 married working women, based on information collected by the Women’s Health Enquiry Committee’.[i] This committee, founded in 1933, consisting of ‘representatives from certain women’s organisations and on an entirely non-political basis’, was formed ‘to investigate the general conditions of health among women, especially among married working-women, in view of indications that ill-health was both more widespread and more serious than was generally known.’ Investigation was ‘as far as practicable’ to determine:

1.      The incidence and nature of general ill-health among working-women.

2.      Its possible causes, such as lack of medical treatment, poverty, bad housing, over-work.

3.      How far women observe the ordinary rules of health and hygiene, and the extent to which a certain amount of ill-health is accepted as inevitable.

Thirty-nine Derby families submitted information and comments to the survey (in response to a pro forma questionnaire), a sample of which is contained withinWorking-class wives, providing insight into the effects and experiences of housing conditions within working-class homes during the mid 1930s; this is reproduced below (alongside the account of one woman from a nearby village or town). The text has been copied verbatim, retaining original spelling and grammatical errors.


‘An elderly woman in Derby suffers from bad neuralgia, for which the doctor advised the extraction of all her teeth ; the remedy she takes in strong tea ! She has bad rheumatism for which she merely rubs herself ; mental depression for which she says there is no remedy ; and headaches which she caused by bad eyesight for which she wears spectacles from Woolworth’s because the Doctor advised spectacles. She had had nine children of whom only one is living, and two miscarriages. She lives alone with her husband,- an unemployed labourer, complains that her house is extremely inconvenient, and that her work is too hard for her. But she has money enough for a fair diet, and frequent visits to the pictures and the public house.’

Not from Derby, but from somewhere relatively near-by: ‘Of an unhappy elderly woman outside Derby, the visitor writes “This woman is very miserable ; she has no leisure occupation and cannot read or write. She cannot go out much as her leg is too bad ; she only goes to the shops once a week when well enough”. She suffers from nerves, headaches (due to worry of husband’s unemployment,) – general debility and shortness of breath, and a very bad ulcerated leg. “Her leg has been bad for over twenty years ; for two years she went three times a week to the Infirmary for treatment (10 miles distant) but had to stop two years ago owing to husband’s unemployment ; she said the lotion obtained at the Infirmary did much to ease the intolerable pain, but she cannot now afford the fares (1/-) or the lotion. “The ulcers have now burst.” She has eight children ; only one, a son of 23 now lives at home. “He’s a brass-glazer and a big man, requiring adequate food. He gets it,- the old people do not.”’

‘Mrs T. Of Derby, whose housing conditions are described [in the following extracts]… “sits down for feeding the baby, but takes her own meals standing. She is in poor health, having had bad kidney trouble with the first and third babies … Her surroundings are squalid, and there is no water or sink in the house … She has never been to a talkie”. (Extract from visitor’s report.)’

‘As examples of bad sanitation we may quote a woman in Derby who lives in a house in a slum court entered through an archway in a slum street. The visitor says “She has no facilities for cleanliness at all. The surroundings are squalid, the houses jammed close together and the court very narrow, and festooned with unsavoury articles of clothing. At the end of the court is the row of tub lavatories shared with the other cottages. The Corporation clears the tubs twice a week. She gets water from a tap at the end of the yard.” …The woman is 24, she has three children under five…’

‘And now for the vermin. The wife of an unemployed labourer in Derby lives in a cottage where “The bugs which are present and breed in the rotting woodwork cause endless extra work in an endeavour to be clean. It has been necessary to sit up at night to keep the bugs off the small baby [original emphasis]. The Corporation is said to have refused to fumigate the place at present. The job has to wait until the end of the slum clearance scheme.” (Investigator’s Report.) The woman has poor health. She is “languid and weary …husband has had two months work in 3 years. Difficulties connected with lack of money and a house infested with bugs.” She has about two hours, leisure (three children). “Sit down no energy for walks no money for pictures.”’

‘Mrs. V. lives in a slum street of small houses in Derby. She is 40, and has three children, two girls and a boy; her husband is a Railway Porter. Her housekeeping is £1 19s. 0d., which she budgets for the week in the following way [all duplications are as in the original; the data has been tabulated for the purpose of this post]:

Item amount pounds shillings pence
Rent 11 0
Coal 2 bags 2 10
Death Insurance 9
Gas 1
Sugar 4 lb 9
Tea ½ lb 9
Matches 3 boxes 3
Milk Tin 7 1/2
Rice 1 lb 4
Lard 1 lb
Butter 1 lb 9
Flour 7
Bacon 9
Ambrosia 1 0
Potatoes 4 lb 4
Butter beans 2
Cake 6
Fish for cooking 6
Bread 2 0
Meat 1 6
Potatoes 8 lbs 6
Greens 3
Prunes 6
Custard powder 1 ½
Suet 2
Milk for week 1 6 ½
Papers 6
Soap 5
Wash power 3 ½
Blue 1
Starch 1
Golden syrup 9 ½
Cooking Apples 2
Suet 2
Bacon 9
Biscuits 6
Gas 3
Cheese 3
Cake 6
Cocoa 5 ½
Oxo 6
Stewing Meat 6
Peas 2
Box savings for stockings or Doctor 2 3 ½
Total £1 18           10

N.B. Potatoes are here given twice making 12 lbs. In all which is a reasonable amount.

Her own diet for a week is given as:-


Breakfast:      2 slices of toasts and dripping, 2 cups of tea

Dinner:          Half a small rice pudding and mug of lentil soup

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter, 1 boiled egg, 2 cups of tea

Supper:          1 slice of bread and cheese, ½ pint pot of Ambrosia


Breakfast:      2 slices of bread and poached egg, 2 cups of tea

Dinner:          Roast beef, 2 spoonful of butter beans, 2 spoonful potatoes, boiled rubarb pudding, small helping

Tea:                2 cups of tea, 2 slices of brown and 1 white bread,

6 prunes with custard

Supper:          Bread and Butter (½ slice) ½ pint Ambrosia


Breakfast:      2 slices of Bread and dripping, 2 cups of tea

Dinner:          Small piece of beef, 2 tablespoons of potatoes, piece

of Yorkshire Pudding, 1 Baked Apple

Tea:               2 cups of tea, 2½ slices of bread and jam

Supper:          ½ pint of Ambrosia


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, 2½ slices of bread and butter and golden


Dinner:          Stewing meat, 2 spoons of mashed potatoes, cabbage

1 spoonful boiled suet pudding

Tea:               2 cups of tea, 2 slices of bread and butter, boiled egg

Supper:          ½ slice of bread and cheese, ½ pint of Ambrosia


Breakfast:      2 cupfull of tea, 2 slices of bread and golden syrup,

1 banana

Dinner:          Boiled fish, 2 spoons of mashed potatoes, cheese pudding

Tea:              Bread and Butter, 2 slices, 2 pieces plain cake, 2 cups

of tea

Supper:          ½ pint Ambrosia, 3 biscuits


Breakfast:      Toast and dripping, 2 slices, 2 cups of tea

Dinner:          Mashed potatoes 2 spoonsful cabbage 1 spoon boiled

suet pudding with jam

Tea:                Bread and butter, 2 slices, 1 boiled egg

Supper:          ½ pint Ambrosia, 3 biscuits


Breakfast:      3 slices of bread and butter 2 cups of tea

Dinner:          Piece of fish baked, mashed potatoes 2 spoonsful,

4 tablespoons of rice pudding.

Tea:               Bread and Butter 3 slices 1 piece of cake 2 cups of tea

Supper:          ½ pint pot of Ambrosia

The house is very bad. It has not bath, the boiler is broken and the Landlord refuses to mend it: there were bad floods in 1932, and several feet of water in the house, since when it has always been damp ; the W.C. is 25 yards from the house ; there is a rag and bone shop in the yard next door, and this gives out unpleasant smells ; the house is hemmed in by factories. Mrs. V. says she was quite well till seven months ago, when her husband had a serious illness. She was then six months pregnant, but in order to eke out the income she went out to work a little, and had to nurse her husband in the house which made the work very hard. Since then she has been feeling very ill, and has great difficulty in nursing the baby who is now four months old. The Health Visitor says she’s a sensible woman, and the husband is very good to her, and being himself a trained ambulance man, he is very useful in illness.’

‘Mrs. D. of Derby is 35 years old and has five children (all boys) and lives in a small Corporation house. Her husband is an unemployed labourer and her housekeeping is £2 1s. 0d. of which she gives the following particulars of expenditure: – 

Item amount pounds shillings pence
Rent 12 6
Gas and Electric Light (6d. each) 1 0
Clothing Club 3 0
Boot Club 1 0
Coal 2 cwt. 3 0
Milk 2 9 ½
Bread 3 3 ½
Insurance 1 6
Margarine 2 lbs@ 4d. 0 8
Butter ½ lb @ 1/- 0 6
Sugar 6 lbs 1 3
Tea ½ lb 0 9
Cocoa ¼ lb 0 4
Lard ½ lb 0 3
Cheese ½ lb 0 3
Eggs 1 doz. 1 6
Bacon 1 lb 0 11
Self-raising flour 1 bag 0 5
Loose peas 1 lb 0 4
Matches 2 boxes 0 2
Soap 1 lb 0 5
Wash powder 1 packet 0 2
Starch 1 packet 0 1
Soda 1 lb 0 1
Salt 1 packet 0 1
Cooked ham ¼lb @ 1/10 0 5 ½
Old potatoes 0 6
New potatoes 1 lb 0 3
Onions 1 lb 0 2
Radishes, spring onions, lettuce 0 6
Cauliflower 0 2
Oranges 0 3
Meat (beef) Pieces @ 1/3 1 3
Mutton Breast @ 8d. 0 4
Corn beef ½ lb 0 3
Pieces of Codfish 0 5 ½
Sweets for kiddies 0 2
Total 2 1 0

Mrs. D. also gives her complete weekly diet:-


Breakfast:      2 slices of bread, two pieces of bacon, two cups of tea

Dinner:          ½ pint of water, 3 potatoes, two tablespoons of peas,

small bit of beef small portion of rice pudding

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter, an egg, two cups of tea,

piece of cake

Supper:          1 Cup of cocoa


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, slice of toast and butter

Dinner:          2 tablespoons of potatoes, stewed meat and gravy,

½ pint of water

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter and jam, 2 cups of tea,

1 piece of cake

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, 2 slices of brown bread and butter

Dinner:          3 potatoes, 1 tablespoon of cauliflower and stewed mutton, stewed rhubarb and custard

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter and radishes, 1 piece of cake and 2 cups of tea

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa and a slice of bread and dripping


Breakfast:      Two cups of tea, slice and a half of bread and dripping

Dinner:          3 new potatoes, 2 tablespoon of peas and sausage,

½ pint of water

Tea:                2 cups of tea, 2 slices of bread and butter, one tomato

and one piece of cake

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa and a slice of bread and dripping


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, slice of bacon and slice of bread

Dinner:          1 new laid egg and chipped potatoes, 1 slice of bread,

½ pint of water, 1 cup of cocoa at 11 o’clock

Boiled fish, 2 spoons of mashed cheese pudding

Tea:                2 cups of tea, 2 slices of bread and butter and lettuce,

and 2 small cakes, 1 orange at 3 o’clock

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, 1½ slices bread and butter and jam

Dinner:          2 slices of bread, 1 slice of bacon, 2 tablespoonsful of tomatoes and ½ pint of water

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter and 1 boiled egg, two

cups of tea

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa


Breakfast:      2 cups of tea, 1 slice of bread and jam

Dinner:          2 slices of bread and corn beef, ½ pint of water

Tea:                2 slices of bread and butter and radishes and onions,

2 cups of tea

Supper:          1 cup of cocoa

It should be particularly noticed here that there is only 2 llbs of margarine and ½ lb of butter a week for 2 adults and 4 children (aged from 9-4 ; – there is also a baby of 3 months whom Mrs. D. is nursing.) There are only 1 doz. eggs and yet she says she eats 3 a week herself ; and only 3d. worth of oranges,-the only fruit.’

‘Mrs. A. of Derby is 25 years old and has four children, a girl of 6 years, three boys of 4, 3, and 1, and is pregnant. She lives in a four-roomed cottage in a slum court which is due to be demolished in slum-clearance scheme. There is no gas or copper, only oil lamps for lights and the water has to be fetched from 40 yards away in the yard. There is no W.C. only a tub lavatory which the family have to share with others. Her husband is an unemployed labourer and the total income is 35/-.[ii] This is divided into the following regular payments:-     

Item amount pounds shillings pence
Rent     5 0
Clothing Club     2 0
Pot Club     1 0
Coal     2 8
Pram and Furniture     1 6
Insurance     1 0
Tobacco for husband     1 0
Total   2 1 0

Leaving £1/0/10 for food, cleaning materials, and extras.

Mrs. A’s. own meals are given as:-

Breakfast:     Cup of tea, porridge and milk, 1 slice of bread and butter

Dinner:          New potatoes and bacon, cup of tea

Tea:              Boiled egg, 2 slices of bread and butter, 2 cups of tea,


Supper:         Bread and cheese, 1 cup of cocoa, 2 spoonfuls of

condensed milk


As can be seen, the diet for each family is in many ways similar, although there are also evident differences between each household; similarities are also found when comparing the Derby households with those in other industrial towns. To put the costs into perspective, a contemporary investigation into conditions within London records some of the incomes from which ‘housekeeping’ money derived. An out of work (redundant) coal man received the following ‘dole’: ‘17s. for himself, 9s. for his wife, and 2s. for each child’ (in his case) ‘a grand total of 36s.’ – nearly the same as ‘Mrs. A.’ of Derby.[iii] The weekly wages of a (male) shop assistant was £2, and of a labourer ‘lucky enough to be permanently employed’ (economic decline had reduced many industries to half-time work – and pay) 35s.; a night-watchman received 30s. a week, his wife 15s. for a ‘daily job’ (probably domestic service, possibly ‘charring’; a female factory worker was paid 27s. each week, and ‘attendant at a local cinema’ (perhaps ‘usherette’) received 18s..[iv] These wages have been confirmed as typical within Derby at this time.[v] To put ‘Mrs. D’s’ household finances into context, 10 years earlier (in 1926), Birmingham tenants had to earn a minimum of £3 10s. each week in order to pay the typically high council house rents (£4 a week in order to rent a ‘parlour house’); the dole (the only income of the family at the time of the survey, and which would have been time-limited) obviously fell well below this level.[vi]

Due to the anonymity granted to the participants, it isn’t possible to be certain of the location of these household from this text. However, considering the reference to imminent slum clearance, it is possible that ‘Mrs. T.’ and ‘Mrs. A.’ both lived on the edge of Derby’s ‘West End’, as demolition of housing within this area – part of the scheme municipal ‘slum-clearance’ that had begun in the late 19th century – is recorded around this time.[vii]

‘Mrs. D.’ inhabited a ‘small Corporation house’; many of the suburban council housing estates in Derby were constructed during and after the 1950s, although the 1920s saw the development of housing in the Victory Road area, and the 30s further housing around the outer ring road. Considering mention of the floods, ‘Mrs. V.’ perhaps lived close to Markeaton Brook, and perhaps near to the Railway; Friargate area is therefore possible. Streets affected by the floods in this area are noted here (the blanked-out text is Ponsonby Terrace; this street should probably be discounted, as family history records that these houses were kept in relatively good condition).

As the content of data has made for an already long post, discussion on the significance of this and similar surveys, and the attitudes towards poverty that they embody, must be relegated to a future post.[viii] Suffice it to say at this point, Working-class wives confirms what social memories make clear: that many households in Derby experienced conditions as harsh as those witnessed in other towns. It is often stated that Derby was relatively prosperous during the Depression, due to the wide range of industries providing sufficient employment. This may indeed be so, but to some extent this undermines the experiences of those who did experience poverty; there was not only significant unemployment, but also the common experiences of underemployment and poor pay. It remains a useful source of information on how women of the day not only managed the household budget in very difficult circumstances, but also endured extreme hardship for the sake of their families.


[i] Background on Working-class wives. Their Health and Conditions can be found in Davey Smith et al. 2001: 215-24

[ii] Sanitary facilities will be discussed in a subsequent post; for further information, see Bell 1999.

[iii] Chesterton 1936: 33, 80

[iv] Ibid. 82-3, 103, 114, 212

[v] See Goodhead 1983: 15

[vi] In 1931, unemployment benefits were restricted to 26 weeks, and limited to only certain industries Laybourn 2009: 381-82; Upton 2010: 146

[vii] Images of West End buildings under demolition in 1937 can be seen here; see also Palmer 1997

[viii] This will probably be posted on the associated website, which considers broader issues of poverty, inequality, and class distinction; if so, a link will be posted


Bell, David 1999 Nottinghamshire Privies. A Nostaligic Trip Down the Garden Path

Chesterton, Mrs. Cecil 1936 I Lived in a Slum

Davey Smith, George, Shaw, Mary (eds.) 2001 Poverty, Inequality and Health in Britain, 1800-2000: A Reader

Goodhead, Elsie Elizabeth 1983 The West End Story. Derby During the Depression. A Social and Personal History

Laybourn, Keith 2009 ‘Social Welfare’, Chris Wrigley (ed.) Companion to Early Twentieth Century Britain, pp. 373-87

Palmer, Derek 1997 The Demolition of Derby

Upton, Chris 2010 Living Back-to-Back

No. 8 façade: modernisation, individuality, and structural change


Past owners and inhabitants inscribe their presence and existence upon building façades. No. 8 (Dec20 case study) provides a typical example of this: though originally constructed in the same style as neighbouring buildings (probably at around the same time and by the same builders), there are differences between this and other houses, which themselves often in some way differ to one another. This variety reflects the stories of the street, each modification marking a point in time when someone connected with the resident (whether tenant or landowner, builder or painter) interacted with the house. And, although we often think of such transformations as purely personal choices, unrelated to wider social, political, and economic change, this is rarely the case. Some of the more noticeable changes will be considered briefly below.


A glance along the street would suggest that it has changed little since its construction during the late 19th century – bar the move evident signs of modernity: the few cars belonging to residents, the church hall now built over the old graveyard, the tarmac covered road and pavement, and the numerous television aerials. But standing outside the front of No. 8, some of the changes made to this and adjacent buildings become obvious. The latest change – not to the house itself, but the installation of a feature directly outside the house – is the replacement of the street light last year by the City Council.

Façade, No. 8

This is the product and development of changes made to planning legislation in 1990, which included regulations surrounding ‘listed’ buildings – those recognised for their historic significance – and the designation of conservation areas: places of “special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. In this case, the Victorian origins of the street has been emphasised by the style of the light – or ‘lantern’ as the work specification refers to this feature.

Cable box

Another relatively recent change seen along the street is the installation of equipment for cable TV and phone line, manifest in the faded brown plastic boxes appended to the fronts of houses – somewhat incongruous with the ‘re-Victorianisation’ of the smart new old-fashioned ‘lantern’. This was undertaken during the late 1990s – early 2000s, and both reflects broad technological developments, and transformations in the use and meaning of domestic space – at a time when the home was increasingly seen a place of entertainment and leisure. Such changes, in conjunction with, for example, economic developments (such as supermarkets offering inexpensive alcohol), and other technological developments (such as ‘home theatre’ equipment), have affected local economies. Social venues (such as public houses) that were hitherto significant community locales increasingly found (and continue to find) it difficult or impossible to survive, further affecting social relationships outside the home, and influencing the transformation of community identities.


Hanging bracket, No. 8

A seemingly insignificant recent feature is the painted wrought iron bracket beside the door, which has in the past been used to suspend ‘hanging-baskets’ of flowers. Whilst the hanging-basket might simply be seen as an aesthetically pleasing injection of colour and individuality to an otherwise repetitive (and perhaps to some, bland) scene, it might also be seen in the context of notions of respectability, that were powerful in the late 19th – early 20th century, but which remain important today.[i] An earlier ornamentation on the façade of No. 8 might be represented by a wooden block in the wall above the bracket (before modern plastics were widely used, wooden pegs or blocks were inserted into the hole, and the screw inserted into the wood):

But the most noticeable changes are those made to the door and associated features, and to the windows.


Doorstep, No. 8

To the right is the front door; and beneath the door is a step – another important feature bound by notions of respectability; and one that relates No. 8 to broad social and cultural changes in the 20th century. The original doorstep (which it can be seen from some of the houses in the street was of stone, with a rolled edge) has been replaced by a rectangular ‘terrazzo’ step – a common addition to mid 20th century houses. The primary motivation behind such a change might have been practical: the stone was perhaps significantly worn through pedestrian traffic, and the terrazzo step is hard wearing; however, the other steps in the street seem to have worn well. Another motivation may again relate to changing social and economic conditions and attitudes. Associations between cleanliness and respectability were often manifest through treatment of the front doorstep in late Victorian and early 20th century Britain.[ii] At many terraced houses, it was scrubbed clean each day and reddened, or whitened  with pipe-clay or lime donkey stone – an arduous and time-consuming task (and particularly unpleasant on cold days), but often seen as an essential chore. However, conditions (which included over-crowing and poor sanitation facilities) sometimes meant such a task wasn’t practicable – and in some cases the door ‘step’ merely consisted of a stone threshold.[iii] It is possible that, as more women experienced changing work patterns, the terrazzo step enabled this task to be abandoned.[iv] The fortunate households with sufficient disposable income often paid ‘char’ women to do the ‘dirtier’ and more strenuous household chores, including step cleaning and whitening. Though a sign of respectability for the resident or home owner, step cleaning some who undertook the task found it humiliating.[v] One piece of family history may provide some insight into this. The memories of Mrs. H. relates how her grandmother, Ethel Wood (nee Morton), lived with her (i.e. Ethel’s) two small daughters (after one had died in a road accident) during the early 20th century in an almshouse in Derby; she struggled to support them and herself, after her husband had abandoned her. In need of any extra money, she was paid a penny each day to clean the steps of her more affluent sister, who lived in a larger house, a few streets a way; this situation carries a sense of shame and degradation in family history.[vi] The employment of children to do this task perhaps enhanced these feelings.[vii]


Remains of scraper, neighbouring property

Boot scrapers were commonly found in many Victorian terraces; considering the time taken in cleaning the step, this was perhaps a well-used feature. There were often made of stone, and fitted with a usually flat iron bar, which is nowadays commonly missing – as can be seen in the case of another house in the street.[viii]

Boot scraper No. 8

Sometimes they are removed completely; the invention and widespread ownership of vacuum cleaners from the 1960s onwards may have made them less necessary. Although it is possible that No. 8 was not in fact fitted with a scraper, the disorderly bricks (attempts have been made to sustain the Flemish Bond of the other brick courses, although this has necessitated substantial trimming of some of the bricks used) suggest that a scraper was at sometime removed (although if this is the case, it appears that old bricks were used to fill the remaining recess.


Front Door

The door is a 1930s replacement, made of timber with a leaded stained glass light. Immediately above the door is a cast iron number plate (perhaps fitted at the same time as the door). And the original light above the door – which is can be seen from neighbouring properties once consisted of 10 small panes – has been replaced by reeded obscure glass, again perhaps at the same time as the door (it is interesting to see early – perhaps original – crown glass in the light above the door of the adjacent house). The door has been painted several times since it was first fitted, although the original colour is yet unknown.

Many local terraced houses have been fitted with similar doors; the date of this change is perhaps significant. House ownership was becoming possible for members of the lower middle class – in some cases, for well-paid working class families – during the 1930s. But house purchase was still beyond the majority; nevertheless, improvement are common during this time, which will be discussed as each room in No. 8 is explored.

With regard to notions of home, the front door is one of the most important features of a house: it is the interface between the inside and outside world – between the familiar and predictable, and the strange and potentially dangerous. The door may be used a tool of power and autonomy, as others are prevented or allowed to enter our domain. But ‘behind closed doors’ not only stands for privacy – it may also stand for concealment and confinement: the home is not always safe.

The door furniture is mostly of lacquered brass, fitted sometime before 2001, perhaps incorporating an attempt at ‘period’ style; but the usual wear to the finish – which, in theory, provided a traditional look, but without the effort of regular cleaning – detracts from the appearance, which is now somewhat shabby.


Ground Floor Window

To the left of the facade is a 2 light sash window; although the two sliding frames are intact, the retention of original windows (some containing early, possible crown, glass) within many of the neighbouring properties indicate that an astragal (wooden glazing bar) previously divided the upper light into 18 panes, and the lower in two.  Above this window, more drastic changes have been made by the complete removal of the original sash window, and by its replacement by a two light, top hung, casement window. Fortunately, both windows retain their original stone sills.

First Floor Front Window

It may be presumed that these changes took place before Conservation restrictions were put in place: if new windows are to be fitted nowadays, they must replicate original style and (to some extent) materials. The insertion of ‘picture’ windows was common practice during the 1970s and 80s); although often seen as a step forwards aesthetically, one of the main reasons behind such a change was the ease of cleaning such windows, in comparison to those with many small panes of glass.[ix] Relationships between such acts of modernisation, and between changing gender roles and the increasing number of women that worked outside the home, might be conjectured.

The Chimney

From the top photo it can be seen that the original chimney stack remains, accompanied by possibly early chimney pots (as many houses in the street have the same type of pot, as can be seen from the second photo). This differs from many terraced houses, where pots are often removed, or replaced with cowls, as they are no longer needed, thanks to gas fires and central heating. The remaining chimneys and their pots place these terraced houses – like many thousands of Victorian (and earlier, and later) houses in Britain – in the contexts of British industry and technology. As a nation then with plentiful supplies of coal, this was the fuel of choice for industrial areas. But as notions of comfort, technology, and economies changed (which incorporated the effects of changing gender roles – as more women worked outside the home), other forms of heating became preferable, which, as noted, sometimes led to the transformation of chimneys.

The chimneys also give a clue as to the use of interior domestic space: their placement within fixed points in the home to a large extent determined use of each room. But other factors – economic circumstances, notions of ‘respectability‘, illness, and changing concept of ‘comfort’ – influenced how these facilities. This will be discussed further as we move through each room of the house in future posts. For now, external remains make it apparent that sources of heat were provided for the front and back rooms; the double chimney pots suggest that the rooms above were also served with fireplaces – although other evidence indicates that they were rarely used: this topic will be covered at a later date.

The Guttering

Finally, the original cast iron guttering has been replaced during the later 20th century with plastic guttering – a cheaper, perhaps more easily maintainable, alternative, but not in keeping with the style of the house.

Guttering of No. 8 on the right


The narrow facade of No. 8, whilst seemingly demonstrating attempts at individuality, in exhibiting aesthetic choice, and in undertaking ‘modernisation’ in relationship to personal needs, these changes embody broad social relationships, political power, economic change, and technological developments. The process of change continues, as the house undergoes another decorative renovation. The interaction of individual, family, community and nation is writ upon the house, as are the different ways of life that each generation experienced.

Next, we enter through the front door, to look behind the façade…

If you have any information, memories, or photos to share that relate to the topic of this post, or have evidence for life in the past in your house, please contact the Project Director.


[i] For mention of hanging baskets on working class houses in the early 20th century, see Foley 1977: 7; see also Upton 2001, fig. 62. Window boxes and plant pots on window sills may embody similar notions of pride, although occupants perhaps gained greater benefits from the blooms, which were often seen as ‘cheerful’ in the absence of a garden: see Layton (1977 [1931]: 2), though were also found on sills of houses with gardens (Upton 2001, see figs. 12, 25, 48, 62). Upton (2001, fig. 67) notes the establishment of a Window Gardening Society in Birmingham in 1904; boxes and pots were of course often the only option for tenement housing.

[ii] See Muthesius (1982: 55, 238), for a brief discussion of the development of associations between cleanliness and respectability, and of the role of whitening in social differentiation. Lime-wash had been used (being painted on exterior walls) during the 19th century in the belief that this would prevent contamination from infectious disease (see Upton 2001: 35, 85); this may have further associated notions of cleanliness with step whitening.

[iii] An example of a whitened step fronting a terraced (or back-to-back) house in Birmingham during 1904 can be seen in Upton 2010, fig. 65; however, a sign indicates that the house was occupied by a building contractor, and perhaps suggests middle-class pretensions, despite the ‘poor’ location. A photo that possibly shows a local example is in Palmer 1997: 91, though this may simply be due to very light stone, or the use of paint – it is in any case a local business (The Nottingham Castle Public House): ‘respectability’, and especially signs of cleanliness, were perhaps particularly necessary. Probable examples are in Palmer 1998: 77, top left (Bridge St.), and 118, top photograph, left (again Bridge St., 1930s). From most photos of local terraced houses, it appears that whitening, at least, was not as widespread or regular as memories might suggest; however, the possibility that step reddening is less easy to detect in early and poor quality black and white photographs and their reproductions remains. For an account of local practices, see Goodhead (1983: 26, 27); she mentions that, in the nearby West End, some cleaned and whitened their steps, but this was not universal. Mike Green (Green n.d.) mentions the step reddening; he goes on to describe the morning ritual of scrubbing and whitening (using pipe-clay) the front door step (and scrubbing an arc of pavement beyond the step) of two-bedroom terraces houses within inner-city Derby during the interwar period. Memories from outside Derby also record this task: in Kettering (Hankins 1999: 23); and in Liverpool.

[iv] There are records of men or more frequently, boys employed in domestic service undertaking this task (Thompson 2005: 77); but it remained predominantly ‘women’s work’, amongst those of the least tolerable kind.

[v] Step cleaning and whitening in the Edwardian Period is noted, e.g., in Arthur 2006: 198; Horn 2001: 12; Thompson 2005: 24. For the interwar and wartime periods (particularly in the context of domestic service) see: Dawes 1973: 84-5; Horn 2001: 181; see also Goodhead 1983, for local history. See also Muthesius 1982: fig. 27.

[vi] Pers. com. Mrs. H., Derby, 2011

[vii] For an Edwardian example, see Thompson (2005: 24); for testimony relating to ‘step girls’ in earlier decades, see Layton (1977 [1931]: 9).

[viii] See Muthesius 1982: fig. 28, for a more complete example. Due to erosion and heavy use, the bars sometimes needed replacing; this is mentioned in the late Victorian fictional Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith, for example.

[ix] The somewhat risky techniques of window cleaning are outlined in Green (n.d.; see also Hankins 1999: 23)


Arthur, Max 2006 Lost Voices of the Edwardians

Dawes, Frank 1973 Not in Front of the Servants. Domestic Service in England 1850-1939

Foley, Winifred 1977 No Pipe Dreams for Father. Scenes from a Forest of Dean Childhood

Goodhead, Elsie Elizabeth 1983 The West End Story. Derby During the Depression. A Social and Personal History

Green, Mike n.d. Pre-War and Derby Memories

Hankins, Ken 1999 A Child of the Thirties

Horn, Pamela 2001 Life Below Stairs in the 20th Century

Layton, Mrs. 1977 [1931] ‘Memories of Seventy Years’, in Margaret Llewelyn Davies (ed.) 1931 Life As We Have Known It, by Co-operative Working Women, pp. 1-55

Muthesius, Stephan 1982 The English Terraced House

Palmer, Derek 1997 The Demolition of Derby

Palmer, Derek 1998 Westenders

Thompson, Paul 2005 The Edwardians. The remaking of British society

Upton, Chris 2010 Living Back-to-Back

Woolf, Virginia 1977 [1930] ‘Introductory Letter’, in Margaret Llewelyn Davies (ed.) 1931 Life As We Have Known It, by Co-operative Working Women, pp. Xvii-xxxxi

No. 8: Exploring a late Victorian urban terraced house

NO. 8: background and historic environment

The first house to be investigated – ‘No. 8’ – is located on the northern outskirts of the modern City of Derby. It’s not what would be called ‘slum’ housing: much of the housing that was described in this way was demolished in the 1950s-60s. It is, however, an interesting case study, typical of many of the small terraced houses built during the 19th and early 20th century for urban industrial workers. The opportunity to investigate this house in detail, during a spell of decoration (in preparation for the property being made available for private rental), has revealed some interesting early evidence – particularly for previous decorative schemes.

This 2-3 bedroom  house  was built c. 1890, as one of a ‘dead-end’  terrace of 8 houses, which lies in an area with a long and interesting history (that includes a Roman fort and settlement, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, probable Viking, later Medieval, and post-Medieval, activity). However, for the purpose of this project, focus is upon the late Victorian housing, which was (at least at first) largely occupied by those employed within the many industries that were in walking distance of the street, and occupation of this housing into the 20th century.

The street (pictured above) was named after Sir Alfred Seale Haslam, who it is reputed built the street to house workers in his foundry. These houses, though basic, were distinguished from many of the nearby ‘poorer’ houses – not only by difference in size. Additional space in comparison to some local houses (such as the typical two-up-two-down, which itself was a ‘cut above’ the local ‘back-to-backs’) was provided by the annex, which gave the occupants an additional upstairs room, and a scullery downstairs; an additional small room next to the scullery  perhaps represents a coal-house. The scullery is likely to have housed a ‘copper’ – as suggested by the remains of a chimney in the room above (this will be reconsidered in a future post).

Plan of No. 8, 1900-1901, showing position of ‘privy’ at the bottom of the garden

This compares favourably to many local households, which often had to rely upon an external wash-house, frequently shared by several other families; some did not even have access to shared facilities. In addition, No. 8 was provided with a separate toilet (albeit at the bottom of the garden), for personal (i.e. family) use; again, many local households had to share sanitary facilities (this feature will be also considered in more detail in a subsequent post). Small ornamental details also show attempts to go beyond the purely utilitarian: a moulded brick string-course decorates the façades.[i] But when we look inside the property in a subsequent post, it can be seen that the social status of this house was still below that of other nearby terraced houses.

String course, No. 8 front façade

Other features demonstrate the changing building regulations of the day: building regulations were increasingly being introduced. From the 1860s – 70s it was necessary to suspend floor-boards upon joists (to limit damp), rather than laying boards directly upon earth, with the insertion of ‘air-bricks’ to allow air-flow – the example for No. 8 can be seen below. Damp proofing courses were also increasingly incorporated at the end of the 19th century; the modern Tarmac pavement covers any early damp proofing at the front of the house, although a lead course can be seen at the back of the house (this will be discussed in a future post). Laws governing drainage, stability, and air flow had been incorporated within the Public Health Act of 1875, and further regulations were defined within bye-laws during this and subsequent decades.

Ceramic air-brick, front of No. 8

A wall at one end of the street separates these houses from the smaller houses beyond; the other end of the street leads onto a now tree-lined recreation ground.[ii] A church (built in 1851) is accessed from this quiet street; though now sometimes busy, due to the church hall, for the earlier years of occupancy, pedestrian traffic past No. 8 is likely to have been light: the modern hall overlies what was a graveyard.

Union Iron Foundry, City Road

The industrial ties may suggest the apparent care in constructing what were comfortable and spacious working class houses. After  a fire in 1873, Haslam rebuilt the nearby early 19th century Union Iron Foundry (which in 1868 he had renamed as the ‘Haslam Foundry and Engineering Company’), and subsequently extending the building, which can be seen today.[iii] Haslam was a pioneer manufacturer of marine refrigeration machinery, which enabled international trade in consumable to develop.[iv] Family (to which at some point I will return) and oral history relates that the factory manufactured munitions during WWII; it has long been familiar to locals as ‘Bliss’s’ (after becoming part of the E. W. Bliss Group).

Factory roof can be seen on the mid left edge of the photo (taken from end of the street: see photo above, showing church)

Maps, and historic environment records of extant remains, note other industries near to the street (within 500m). The list  includes further iron foundries and engineering works, boiler works, an electric light works, timber yards and saw mill, several corn millscement and plaster worksdye works, and St Mary’s railway goods yard and a railway station serving the Derby – Leeds line; a textile mill  and the Silk Mill were situated across the nearby River Derwent.

Restored St Mary’s Wharf railway buildings; see Palmer (1997: 69-71), for early photos

The good preservation of these buildings (both domestic and industrial) has led to designated as a conservation area; despite this recognition of historic significance, and of the architectural value of the buildings, plans are currently under way to largely demolish the Union Foundry.

For further information on the area within which No. 8 is situated, the church that lies a few metres from the building houses a Heritage Centre, which provides local history exhibitions.

If you have any information, memories, or photos to share that relate to the topic of this post, or have evidence for life in the past in your house, please contact the Project Director.


[i] See Muthesius 1982: 236 ff., where the social significance of ornamentation is discussed.
[ii] Ibid., for a short discussion on the social significance of such segregation.
[iii] Clay, P. 2008.
[iv] Ibid.


Clay, P. 2008. An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment for Proposed Development at the former Union Iron Foundry, City Road, Derby (SK 353 372).

Muthesius, S. 1982 The English Terraced House

Palmer, Derek 1997 The Demolition of Derby