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COTTAGE DISPLAY

View of the reconstructed cottage interior

This reconstruction represents a one-roomed Cardiganshire cottage of the mid-nineteenth century, built of stone and clay, with thatched or slated roof (not shown). There would have been a small attic, entered via the ladder by the fire, in which older children would sleep. Sometimes a partition would be put across the cottage in line with the foot of the bed, making a separate living-room and bedroom.

The fire on the ground has a lath-and-plaster chimney hood over it, and a fire-crane for hanging pots, kettles and cauldrons. The crane has a lever to adjust the distance between the fire and cooking pot, thus controlling the speed of cooking.

The baking pot, with straight sides, was the only oven. Bread, pies etc were placed on a griddle or bake stone (a large flat iron disc), and the pot placed upside-down over them. Burning peat was placed over the pot to provide all round heat.

On the mantel-piece is a tea-caddy - a wooden box with a lock. This was to restrict the use of expensive Indian or China tea. Herb tea would have been made from plants in the garden.

Also on the mantle-piece is a rushlight holder and hanging on the wall to the right of the fire is a gresset - an oval pan for making rushlights. Thousands of rushes or reeds were collected from wet places and most of the green skin was removed, revealing the sponge like pith. The reed was soaked in hot animal fat in the pan, allowed to cool briefly, then re-dipped several times. The lighted reed was held in the rush-light holder. They burnt for about 20 minutes

To the left of the fire is a candle box made of metal to stop mice and rats eating them. Candles were made of tallow (animal fat), bee's wax, whale oil or paraffin wax. Normally wax candles were used only in church and chapels or by royalty.

Between the fire and the door is a table with wooden plates, typical in south Ceredigion until recently. There is a rack for wooden spoons above the table. Wooden spoons were made by hand, using a special knife with a curved blade.

By the ladder is a salt-box. Salt was one of the few things that had to be purchased The box has a leather hinge, since salt would cause iron hinges to rust quickly.

By the salt box is a knife-cleaner. Iron knives became rusty easily and these were cleaned by rubbing them on the damp board which had been rubbed with sandstone (kept in the box at the bottom).

By the salt box is a knife-cleaner. Iron knives became rusty easily and these were cleaned by rubbing them on the damp board which had been rubbed with sandstone (kept in the box at the bottom).

On the left of the fire is a box settle or seat. Freshly laundered clothes would be placed in the bottom to keep them aired.

Next to the settle is a typical Cardiganshire dresser, c 1820, with open shelved base. The crockery was given to the museum with the dresser, and was once in daily use.

There is no known reason why there were normally so many jugs on these dressers. Some may have been presents, mementos of visits to other places or an annual purchase from the local fair. The wooden bowls were used for cawl - a soup of vegetables with some pork, eaten with a wooden spoon.

On the lower shelves of the dresser are a wood bowl; a crock used in cheese making and various pottery food containers.

Next to the dresser is a wainscot, or box bed, with paneled head and foot and curtained sides to prevent draughts and provide privacy. The main frame is of oak with panels of carefully selected pine which shows few knots. The mattress of straw is supported on interwoven rope. There was once a skirt of fabric around the base. The ceiling panel was painted white or cream to reflect light from the candle or rushlight on the shelf. The mattress is stuffed with feathers. The cover is quilted in red and fawn wool. Note the quilting pattern which was done simply to hold the filling - often an old blanket - in place.

Underneath the box bed is a truckle bed drawn out at night, where the younger children could sleep.

A clock hangs on the wall between the dresser and the bed; this inexpensive type of clock was popular where a long-case (grandfather) clock was too expensive. Near the window is a small round 'cricket' table, once covered in cloth and a food cupboard.

Around the room are glass-paintings of the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John painted on the inside surface of the glass.

The books were generally religious and educational. Most families would have had a large illustrated family bible which many would have learnt to read at Sunday School: after 1870 most children went to day school.

On the floor there may have been a rug made out of rags from old clothes. There may have been a chamber pot in the cottage with a Ty Bach (toilet) in a small hut outside, over a hole in the ground. A tin bath would be kept in a shed and brought in for the family bath time.

RECONSTRUCTION OF A CARDIGANSHIRE COTTAGE, ABOUT 1850

A-Z COTTAGE

DISPLAYS IN THE COLISEUM

COTTAGES IN CEREDIGION