The father in 1999 was a warrant officer in the Royal Marines, so the family was limited to the 1900 income of a warrant officer. They bought things through an account at 1900 prices, but could only buy things that existed then. Fish and chips, yes; pizza, no. Cameras had to be the 1900 sort. Etc.
The mother, a school inspector in 1999, took a leave of absence: few middle-class women worked outside the home.
Their children still went to school in 1999, changing in and out of their school uniforms at a neighbour’s house. The family also still went to 1999 doctors and dentists.
The house was at 50 Elliscombe Road in Greenwich, London. It was restored to its 1900 condition. It had running water, gas lighting downstairs, but no electricity. It had a small stove for cooking and heating. The house was darker and colder than in 1999. It had chickens out back (for eggs).
The father and the three younger children loved it except for the food. But the mother and teenage daughter found it deadly dull: their lives were much more limited in 1900. The mother could not go out to work. The daughter could not go out with her friends at night.
Cooking and cleaning back then took over 100 hours a week. What takes a washing machine 40 minutes to do in 1999, took 12 hours of hard work in 1900. Cleaning was a constant battle against dust and germs and insects. It was a serious matter: back then many lost a child to disease.
The maid: The housework was too much for the mother, even with help from her husband and children. After three weeks she got a maid and pushed it all off on her. Because her husband was a warrant officer, she had the money to do that, as did most of the middle class. The maid was in-period too – which gave her great insight into feminism.
Clothing: They each had only three changes of clothing, but the clothing weighed three times more. The mother hated having to wear a corset. It tied in her waist so much it affected her breathing – but her clothes would not fit otherwise.
What they most missed from 1999:
- a washing machine,
- laundry detergent,
- clean clothes,
- safety razors,
- video games,
- pizza and fast food,
There was no telephone service or email, but the mail came three times a day.
Make-up: Middle-class women did not wear make-up. It would make them look too much like a sex worker. It was also not safe for your skin.
Entertainment: They did have a piano for music, but no one knew how to play it. Not having television, they found it hard to keep themselves entertained. Two of the children, though, wrote songs, a play and even something of a fashion magazine. The mother read more.
The best thing about 1900: they spent more time together as a family.
– Abagond, 2016.
- YouTube: The 1900 House – all 3.7 hours of it.
- How daily life has changed in the last 30 years
- The British
- An American Family – 1971
- Money in the time of the 1897 Sears Catalogue