Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A London House 1810-11

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Loretta reports:

The same French visitor who deplored British dining habits admired London’s houses.
Each family occupy a whole house, unless very poor . . . These narrow houses, three or four stories high,— one for eating, one for sleeping, a third for company, a fourth under ground for the kitchen, a fifth perhaps at top for the servants . . .

The plan of these houses is very simple, two rooms on each story; one in the front, with two or three windows looking on the street, the other on a yard behind, often very small; the stairs generally taken out of the breadth of the back-room. The ground-floor is usually elevated a few feet above the level of the street, and separated from it by an area, a sort of ditch, a few feet wide, generally from three to eight, and six or eight feet deep, inclosed by an iron railing; the windows of the kitchen are in this area . . . you cannot pass the threshold without being struck with the look of order and neatness of the interior. Instead of the abominable filth of the common entrance and common stairs of a French house, here you step from the very street on a neat floor-cloth or carpet, the wall painted or papered, a lamp in its glass bell hanging from the ceiling, and every apartment in the same style:—all is neat, compact, and independent, or, as it is best expressed here, snug and comfortable . . .

On the foot pavement before each house is a round hole, fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter, covered with an iron grate; through that hole the coal-cellar is filled without endangering the neatness of the house. The streets have all common sewers, which drain the filth of every house. The drains preclude that awkward process by which necessaries are emptied at Paris, poisoning the air of whole streets, during the night, with effluvia, hurtful and sometimes fatal to the inhabitants. Rich houses have what are called water-closets; a cistern in the upper story, filled with water, communicates by a pipe and cock to a vessel of earthen ware, which it washes.
—Louis Simond, Journal of a tour and residence in Great Britain, during the years 1810 and 1811, Volume 1(1817 edition).

Illustration from Thomas H. Shepherd's London in the Nineteenth Century.


Mystica said...

What an interesting post.

Sarah said...

ha ha and when I struggled to describe an area for readers who might not be familiar with the concept in Death of a Fop I could have used this delightfully simple one of 'a sort of ditch' - frightfully degrading to the self respecting area lol!

Louise K said...

How wonderful! These buildings (as per the illustration) are still here and in use!!

Love the blog!

Michelle Griep said...

Excellent detail...thanks for the info!

Laurie Gold said...

Loved this article and wonder if this style house is the basis for the U.S. brownstone, which are several floors featuring very few rooms per floor.

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