Ilford B.C (before central heating)

Ilford Lane in the mid 20th century.

Ilford Lane in the mid 20th century. - Credit: Archant

Local historian John Barfoot remembers just what domestic bliss meant in Ilford in the 1930s.

The solid built Victorian house off Ilford Lane, had electricity installed at some point before 1934, the year my family moved in.

A dark and gloomy coal cellar helped to keep milk and perishable food cool during the hot summer months, I well remember those happy days that heralded long cold winters.

Recalling life before the advent of central heating and double glazing is my theme for this week’s stroll back down Ilford memory Lane.

At this time of year, before and after the Second World War, it would not be unusual to open the curtains in the morning and find the lace curtains frozen to the window panes – inside the house!

To make matters worse, the ashes of the previous night’s fire had to be cleared from the grate before kindling could be replaced to re-light the coal fire.

A block boiler behind the open fire, provided hot water for the kitchen and bathroom. We were fortunate to have a bathroom, some of the houses on the estate did not have this luxury until the 1950s.

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During the cold weather we had hot running water on tap thanks to the boiler concealed behind the open fire.

Warming our feet, sitting in front of the open fire, we suffered chilblains on our toes and had chilly backs as we listened to BBC wireless programmes such as ‘In Town Tonight’ and ‘Band Wagon’ during those winter evenings.

Lighting the fire after coming home from school had an additional hazard during the Blitz, a draught up the chimney when needed required holding an open newspaper across the open fireplace leaving a small gap at the bottom.

It worked well, but on occasion the fire suddenly bursting in to flames, accidently caught the newspaper alight, carried up by the draught the burning paper was in danger of catching chimney on fire and risked the wrath of air raid wardens during blackout hours.

The post war advent of many types of paraffin oil heaters to supplement the open coal fires and expensive-to-use electric fires, was very welcome bridging the gap, until central heating and double glazing came available.