Banburyshire Family History

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The other day I went to our local Fish & Chip shop ("The Yoxford Rocket") and was very surprised to see a mangle for sale. Yes, a mangle! It was the spitting image of the wooden rollered mangle that my mother used until at last she acknowledged that even if you put the washing through using only the edges of the rollers it no longer extracted water. It was there, the proprietor informed me, because he felt that it was time his wife had a tumble dryer. As the asking price for the mangle was £80 he clearly did not intend being out of pocket.

mangle or wringer

Mangle on display
at the Apprentice House
Quarry Bank Mill,
Cheshire, England

His enterprise triggered something in my brain (what there is left of it!) and I started thinking about other common household items that we no longer see and I suspect many listers never will.

Anybody remember those mushroom shaped wooden implements with which my gran used to knock any residual character out of her boiled cabbage as she pounded it in the colander. Can't remember what they were called.

And what about oilcloths that used to cover the kitchen table?

And tapers, those very thin, long candles for lighting gas lamps, nightlights, etc. And candle holders.

What about those asbestos discs that used to be placed on the gas hob to spread the heat?

And crocheted squares to prevent you burning your hands on the old irons. They always smelled of scorching as I recall.

And tea cosies, shaving mugs and gas mantles. But I suspect I drivel on too much

Different world wasn't it?

Written by Len Denham


Granny Lucas had one of those massive wooden rollered mangles in her scullery. Besides being used to wring the wet washing it was also used to put through folded sheets, towels and table clothes, and they emerged looking "ironed". It was very heavy going using this mangle, a real feat of physical effort to turn the large handle. Perhaps a return to such domestic "aids" would combat our increasing obesity? It was the very opposite of the lightweight rubber rollered one my mother used.

Years later I had a washing machine with rubber rollers, too. Now this wasn't a nicely behaved electric model, but because I lived at the back of beyond it was powered by a ½hp. Briggs and Stratton petrol motor. Do not talk to me about starting those!!!!!!

Eventually the motor needed replacement and we were unable to locate one of the right horsepower, so, with some slight modifications a larger motor was installed. This wringer was above a large round washing machine with a rotary swishing action. It subsequently swished with far greater vigour and the clothes issued forth at speed! My sister and children came to visit, and she being helpful opted to help me with the washing. Of course I had grown used to the shennanigans of this machine but it was a surprise to her. She "caught" the washing as I put it through the wringer --- it was definitely a two (wo)man effort, and we were reduced to helpless giggles.

Of course these days my washing is spun and so no mangling is required. However it has it amusing moments, such as the other week with my new "bionic ears", I was startled to hear the water discharging with a noise like that rushing over Niagara Falls. Later, having my (elderly) rest I leapt up, thinking a disaster had happened, only to find that it was calmly changing function! Hearing with greater clarity after some years of everything becoming quieter, has its surprises.

Len, you mentioned so many things that were in everyday use in my youth. A house that we moved to after our own was bombed had electric light downstairs and gas mantles upstairs. The first thing my mother did was to have the gas mantles blocked. No way were we going to be gassed in our sleep! But that meant that we went to bed with a candle and were scared and wary of all the flickering shadows. Our stair well was enclosed and we hated going up for anything at night. Up was bad enough, but down was worse, and we belted down as if all the hounds of hell were after us. How we didn't fall and break our necks I will never know. Our feet scarcely touched the treads!

Oilcloth on the kitchen table, covered by a cloth at mealtimes --- and the cosy on the teapot! I don't remember Gran or Mum pounding cabbage in a colander, though, but then we fortunately were never served up boiled to death green "flannel" for dinner. That was left to a friend in NZ, who in every other respect was an excellent cook!

We all had those asbestos rings to stand hot pans on or tame the excessive heat from a ring. Gran had an electric range, we had a gas stove and Great-aunt Alice did all her cooking on an old fashioned coalrange.

For 13½ years on our isolated farm I cooked all our food on an old Champion woodfired range and it heated our water and aired our clothes, too. I went down there "as a lamb to the slaughter", but although not naturally domesticated by nature I soon learned to cope. It was a case of having to --- and it was there that I learnt to value some of the tools and utensils discarded in reticulated power circles!

The menfolk recommenced stropping old fashioned razors when razor blades became so scarce during the war. The shaving mug with its foamy suds, the little bead edged cloth over the jug and sugar bowl; the darning mushroom --- very much in demand with the current "make do and mend". Oh Len, you have transported me right back to those days!

We used buttonhooks and shoehorns for our shoes when I was small, prewar, too.

As for carpet beaters I don't remember any special beater, but rugs were regularly slung over the fence and beaten with whatever was to hand. Sometimes the whole rug was just banged against something solid until the dust flew!

Well I still have some items from earlier days. A buttonhook, darning mushroom, latchhooks of two types, a "dolly" (posher), and rubbing board, that I can call to mind without reflection. I used a treadle sewing machine for years, and have memories of Gran and Mum using the one at Webster Street prewar. Then later my Mum acquiring a little Singer hand machine from an elderly neighbour. These "trudged" manfully through almost every task. None of the histrionics of their more high tech brethren!

Probably a delve into drawers and cupboards would produce many more. Occasionally a power cut means that I bring out some of them! After all they only need me behind them. And of course the best of all is the broom ----- it is always there and of use!

Reflecting on how things have changed within our lifetimes, those far off days seem to be almost figments of the imagination. But they were very real --- and we lived them! As you say, Len, "it was a different world!"

Written by Muriel Wells


Being a whipper-snapper, I only remember a few things of yore! The Copper for boiling heck out of the clothes. The little ceramic gismo that held up the pastry on a pie. We had one, but usually used an upside down egg cup. More substantive though, pre-fridge, we had a larder. Small window with a wire mesh over, thick concrete shelf and brick walls. It kept food fresh for days, and even in summer it was cold.

Push lawn mowers, brace and bits, sharpening stones, soldering irons that went on the fire, and separate flux. Treadle sewing machines.

Blimey that's brought some memories back!

Written by Ian Huckin


I was born in 56' so not so old but was the youngest of ten so things had been going many years in my family, so things were still used that I suspect had been binned in other households (or maybe they hadn't? <grin>)

I was born across the road from the village station which was still lit by gas, we would help them light them which seemed a treat for some reason? We were still in the age of steam then, wherever you were and heard a train you would rush to get to a bridge over the track so you would be in the plume of smoke as it went under, why? I don't know but remember the thrill of it.

Also remember pie funnels. It was not until the end of the sixties when we changed the pot sink for a stainless steel one.

We also had a larder but it was a brick built room (as big as many kitchens are now) it had hooks in the ceiling for hanging game and meat, a long low thrawl and a window with a fine metal gauze over its opening to keep the beasties out. There was also a meat safe, basically a large wooden box frame with the walls made from fine metal gauze. We also has a Sunbeam gas fridge, I do not remember seeing a gas fridge since?

My mother would spend hours doing the washing in our "twin tub" a vicious device if you were not careful taking the spun washing out of the spinner (i.e. let it STOP first :-) The copper was still in the "wash house" (a shed) but out of use by then. There were many other old devices stuck in sheds.

Mum made every sort of jam, pickle and preserve which lasted all year (and more) fruit was preserved in Kilner jars and we had wooden racks (inherited with the house) that were for keeping apples in all year. They were like a large chest of drawers made from wooden slats, you picked your apples (not windfalls) checking them for damage, they were wrapped in newspaper and stored in the drawers with a small gap between each one. They kept for months, sometimes until the next years batch was ripe. Mostly "cookers" but some "eaters" as well. Mum was also a dab hand at Sloe Gin too :-)

There was so much more work involved with food then; but didn't it taste so much better.

Written by Nivard Ovington