The Doric Columns
The Garrets - Rooms and Attics
Up and See My Garret
Ben 'e Hoose
The Garrets or Attic Rooms were in the pitch of the roof and were often the only affordable shelter for poor families to rent. Where the gutter line is defined was the Garret floor level and the walls sloped steeply in line with the Roof with the lower 3 feet providing unsatisfactory eaves storage cupboards adjacent to the end wall open grate firebox and chimney. This was oft the source of 'Blaw Doons' a sudden release of negative pressure from this well sealed from cold draughts space. The only source of balance in air pressure due to the heat of the fire coming from the chimney stack itself drawing back the black smoke and soot from the chimney into the living space and causing mayhem necessitating the opening of the main room door. This released all the hard won heating and defied the efforts of sealing all cold draught sources induced by the burning of a coal fire.
Forming a 2 roomed 'Butt and Ben' apartment with a landing annexe Box Room they were little more than 12ft by 8ft each in floor area and often contained a family of 2 Adults and 3 children with little room for visitors. The Butt was the main living area with a folding bed for adults and cooking facilities on the range by way of gas rings or coal fire. The Ben was generally the childrens sleeping area and wardrobe room.
The only place a man could stand was at the centre position where the 'But and Ben' lath and plaster partition was and for only 30" either side of it thus yielding only some 6ft 3ins headroom; also you could stand erect the approach to the Dormer Window. Much stooping was necessary if you had to move about. The cavities were alive with mice and rats (Lang-tails) and the house cat would be thrown in to the dark void to keep such vermin in order. No Insulation, No Electricity, - or toilets, Gas lighting and often no running water. Cast Iron Open Grate Fire Range with 2 ovens that gained uncontrollable heat from the central fire box. Coal was stored in a dusty old box room by the ton and eaked out thriftily by the shovelful with all manner of household waste that would burn or found off-cuts of wood or broken furniture. If the children went to bed in severe cold a shovel fiull of live coals would be placed in the formerly cold fireplace in that room. No concern of Carbon \Monoxide Poisoning in these circumstances.
the only illumination was by gas lamps which burned with an assuring and comforting hiss within an often exposed asbestos mantle which also provided nominal background heating of the room air. Pennies were always kept on the mantelpiece for re-charging the meter if the light began to fade and these would be hurriedly pushed into the coin - meter to continue the supply of gas.
Snow shed from such high pitched roofs in a winter's thaw was a real hazard to pedestrians and the 'shoosh' pre-warning had to be heeded promptly to allow you to duck into a doorway otherwise you would be standing in the path of a fast flowing snow avalanche falling from up to 4 storeys.
Old people with rheumatism or rheumatics would complain of their condition refered to as 'rooms and attics' - the places that induced such maladies with ever present cold draughts
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