Labour saving

After 27 years, today was Barbara’s last day at work. She’s taken voluntary redundancy (she maintains it was a question of volunteering or, a little further down the line being given it anyway). It was a bit sad because no-one was at the office today because they had things to do elsewhere. This wasn’t on purpose, just bad luck.

They had cakes and card and present yesterday but who wants to be alone on their last day? When I left at 3:45, I felt a bit sad leaving her alone.

But enough of that. Today at lunchtime I went down to the basement. I’d seen mention on various maps throughout the museum of a gallery in the basement as well as something called The Garden. The thing is, we’re in the basement so I wasn’t sure where the rumoured Garden actually was. Well, I figured it out and visited today.

Firstly, the Garden is a big play area for little kids. I’m not sure what’s in there but there were a lot of delighted shrieks when I walked passed.

Behind the Garden is The Secret Life of the Home, a gallery devoted to labour saving devices around the home. Actually, they say that but there’s also TVs, radios and phonographs which really only saved the labour of the servants who used to entertain us with their strange frolicking. But enough about the class struggle, these objects clearly had their own part in the destruction of this particular barrier.

Irons, washing machines, cookers, vacuum cleaners…you imagine it, it’s here in all its glorious evolutionary steps from the Mesolithic* to modernity.

Here’s a very cute little sewing machine.

1877 Weir chain stitch sewing machine

This was a cheap British version of an American model and sold for 55 shillings (£100 today). Apparently it wasn’t that good as a sewing machine but appealed to people because it looked good in the home. So design over substance started in the late 19th century then. And I thought it was a modern thing! Only goes to show…

Here’s a teas-maid from 1904. It works by the alarm releasing a plate which allows a match to strike and light the spirit stove. Once the water is boiled, the kettle tilts and pours the tea out. Presumably the tea leaves had been sitting in the water all night and the milk in the cup. Still, a good way to ensure a lie in on a Sunday.

1904 Teas-maid

And what has to be the most elaborate way to core and peel an apple I’ve ever seen! Mind you, it also pops the apple off afterwards so you can put another one on straight afterwards.

Apple corer and peeler

And, naturally, one of life’s real labour saving devices, courtesy of Mr Crapper.

Thomas Crapper's gift to humanity...his name

This cistern is from 1900 and, while it has Crapper’s name on it, it was actually patented by someone called Albert Giblin in 1898. Just imagine, rather than not giving a crap about something you could actually be not giving a gib!

The whole gallery is quite fun and imaginative. There’s lots of things to play with and turn and test – there’s an early burglar alarm that they dare you to try and outrun and an automatic door that isn’t.

It made for a nice lunchtime.

* Actually, not really back as far as the Mesolithic.

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1 Response to Labour saving

  1. mum cook says:

    Had a great laugh over Mr Crapper I thought the sewing machine was a Treadle both my grans had one you worked them with your the apple peeler. as you said sounds like a lot of fun. love mum

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