While I was doing some jobs the other day I was thinking about what life must have been like in my grandparents day when they didn’t have any of today’s labour saving devices. When they had gas mantles and peggy rugs – and no way of getting the peggy rugs clean either!
If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while you might remember that my maternal grandad was killed in the First World War, so I never knew him.
My other grandfather had died before my brother was born, and he was five years older than me. So I never knew what it was like to have a grandad, which always made me sad when I saw my cousins who did have grandfathers, but c’est la vie as they say.
Grandmas and Gas Mantles and Peggy Rugs
My maternal grandmother, Ellen Bishop, was lovely. She was a very happy, warm woman and with the most amazing twinkly eyes.
Sadly the woman I loved was only a grandma for the first few years of my life as she developed Alzheimer’s disease. From me being about 10, I watched her start to deteriorate in front of me, to the point that she didn’t know me anymore. I can still feel how sad it was as I loved her so much. It’s such a cruel disease.
My paternal grandmother, Grandma Allen, was a different kettle of fish altogether. She was very strict, dour and definitely not a cuddly person, so as a result I wasn’t all that keen on going to visit her as I was always getting told off for something.
Grandma Allen had a big carved wooden table, highly polished with very ornate legs which sat in the middle of the room.
It was a necessity, as back then in the good old days, she had a gas mantle lamp hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room. She had to climb onto the table to pull the length of chain that ignited the mantles.
It looked something like this picture that I found on the internet, with a chain on each side, one for on and one for off. It’s from an interesting website I stumbled on called www.1900s.org.uk if you want to have a look.
I was sent up there occasionally to do the deed. It seemed very high and dangerous to me but if I got my hands on a gas mantle that needed changing and dared to grasp it a bit too hard, oh boy was I in trouble as they crumbled so easily. Many was the telling off I got for that one!
The gas mantle was inside the light fitting, a bit like a lightbulb. The gas burned inside it and produced the light. Looking at this photo and thinking back, I would imagine they were probably made from asbestos!
The polished table that I mentioned in the middle of the room had a heavy, almost tapestry like cloth that covered the whole top of it. And would you believe, every table leg was wrapped in padded cloths. The padding was tied on with string and then covered in hessian, for the sole job of keeping us grandchildren from kicking the legs while we were sitting at the table. We still got told off if we kicked the padding so really we couldn’t win, could we.
Singer Sewing Machine
She also had a singer sewing machine, the very old fashioned type that was like a piece of polished wood furniture. It had wrought iron sides and, wonder of wonders, a treadle at the bottom which she had to treadle with her feet to make it work.
The temptation to have a crafty rock up and down of the treadle with our hands was too much to bear. But oh my goodness if we got caught we were in for a right telling off might I tell you.
She also used to make ‘peggy rugs’ to sell to earn some money and had a big loom that she would put up in the front room.
There she used to make peg rugs out of old clothes that she’d cut up and sorted into colours, making the most wonderful patterns. This isn’t one of hers, it’s another one that I found online, but it’s the finished type of effect that she would create. The loom fascinated me with the hessian backing and the pieces of cloth being woven into the pattern.
Her sense of colour was amazing, even the crotched blankets she made were always so beautiful.
As my granddad died when she was just a young woman she had to make money to bring four children up. There was no benefits system in those days so if you wanted to eat you had to find a way of earning money.
I’ve got lots more memories which I’ll share another day. Needless to say it was only when I grew up and used to visit her that I managed to crack through that stern exterior. I found someone that I grew to love, but sadly I needed that love when I was a child, as I only had her as a grandparent.
Our generation all hold lots of rosy memories of our childhoods, of gas mantles and peggy rugs and coal fires and all the nostalgic things that we knew. As an adult can you imagine how hard life must have been for our parents back then? My mum always used to say that they weren’t the good old days, that they were damned hard days!
Join me on Facebook
Find out More
Have a look at the Visit Fylde Coast website homepage for more of the latest updates.
If you love the Fylde Coast you ought to sign up for our weekly email newsletter. It’s packed full of interesting things and will arrive in your inbox all 52 weeks of the year.
Join us on Facebook at our Visit Fylde Coast Facebook Group
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @visitFyldeCoast