Houses at the beginning of this century were very primitive indeed, mostly made of stone from the nearby quarries. Some of the earliest, I think, were those of Lord Street in Trimdon Foundry. It is presumed they may have been erected for the foundry workers before the foundry was removed to Spennymoor. It is because of these works that that area of Trimdon Colliery became known as The Foundry. Lord Street was a long street with only two gaps, a rough narrow pave-ment at the front door and a dirt path at the back. The doors were made of tongue and grove panels opening and closing by means of a sneck. There was one room downstairs into which the front door opened, and attached to the back of the house was a lean to over the back door. This was a sort of pantry with a tiny window above some wooden slats which could be moved to let in some fresh air. In the window's ridge were often found eggcups. Folks would recognise the patterns and so remember who lived in the house. Nails on the inside of the back door provided the hanging place for towels or pit clothes. Outside the back door was a large nail on which hung the tin bath which was used by the miner every day when he returned from his shift and by the rest of the family on a Friday Night for their weekly bath. Buckets of water, pails of coat and wash up dishes were kept in these sculleries.
The fireplace was the main part of the living room. It was a huge black leaded affair about six foot square. The fire itself was about a foot and a half up with plenty of space for the ashes to drop underneath. At one side was the boiler which had to be kept full of water so that warm water could always be at hand. The other side of the fire had the oven which often had a round door that let down to act as a shelf when placing or taking out the cooking. There were no thermometers and it was amazing how the housewives knew how to fire the oven to the correct temperature for baking cakes etc. A steel fender would surround the hearth and hold the fire tools which could be up to 28 inches long and which were very heavy. Mainly there was a poker and a coal rake which was used for raking down the coals onto the fire after they had been thrown earlier onto a shelf at the back of the fire. Needless to say, these fires never went out. We had an exceptionally large fireplace which could easily take five buckets of coal onto the back shelf.
All this had to be cleaned regularly every day. The ashes were taken out either by raking them from under the fire and putting them into a bucket or by remov-ing a heavy, and often very, very hot metal box which might have been made by someone at the pit for you and which fitted snuggley into the space under the fire grate. Either way, the ashes were taken and thrown into the midden or the netty. Then the under bars, the oven and the hearth slab had to be whitewashed. Some people had a posh hearth, perhaps purchased by saving their red stamps at Thompson's stores. These comprised a coloured and patterned metal piece which was the same size as the hearth and which only had to be washed. Black leading and polishing also needed to be done on a weekly basis, usually on a Friday.
The sides of the fireplace had flat upright slabs and a mantelshelf resting on top. The slabs were painted various colours at various times and the mantelpiece had a deep frill tacked all round. This frill could be velvet, embroidered linen or crochet work. I remember one crocheted in macrame with covered marbles hanging from it. The mantel shelf would often hold what would now be called priceless ornaments - china dogs, brass candlesticks, brass ornaments, porcelain vases and a tin tea caddy. The vase would often be used to hold any written notes or money to pay bills. Underneath the mantel shelf there would often be a string, a pole or better still a brass rod which was used for drying wet clothes and towels.
On the floor, in front of the fireplace would be a slippy or hookey mat the length of the fireplace. A wooden armchair would stand at one side and a rocking chair at the other. The floor which was made of bricks, stones or cement would be covered with canvas or linoleum. The window would have a white paper blind. The blind would be tacked onto a wooden roller so that it could be easily renewed when dirty. The so called lace curtains were draped each side and fastened back with crocheted bands. Some folk had what was called a false blind. This was a narrow strip of material with a fancy edge at the top of the window which covered the top of the roller blind. In front of the window was a square table covered with a baize cloth. This was a sort of oil cloth with a flannelly lining which could be wiped clean with a dish-cloth. As well as being used for meals it was used for baking, ironing, washing up etc. Seating was usually a form at the back and the front with a stool or a chair at the end.