‘The Changing Domestic’ peeks into the kitchens of yesteryear to see how they have been equipped and used. Tastes, habits, and lifestyles may have changed radically since the Victorian era but this online exhibition offers an insight into understanding how and why things have changed.
Many of these objects could be examined up close as part of Elmbridge Museum's temporary display 'The Changing Domestic' at Cobham Library in 2017.
Before the middle of the Victorian era, kitchens had large, solid fuel ranges and were spaces used only for cooking. Dirty tasks such as washing dishes, cleaning vegetables and doing laundry was done in a separate room called a scullery. A scullery was a small room at the very back of the house, usually with a single tap and a window; it was sometimes called a ‘wet kitchen’. The Victorians were big fans of kitchen gadgets, one of which can be seen here.
Right: A Victorian Sauce Economizer box, c.1874. Left: The Sauce Economizer, to ration how much liquid was poured.
A sauce economizer is a simple pouring device that helps the user ration how much liquid they are pouring. Pourers like this one are now commonplace in modern kitchens, showing how simple solutions to everyday problems stand the test of time.
Early 20th century kitchens
After the First World War, kitchens became more like the ones we occupy today – gas ovens were commonplace, homeowners (well, their wives) did their own cooking and electric appliances started appearing.
Before the First World War, having servants was common, however, this was not the case after war because households couldn’t afford to employ them. Unlike Victorian city accommodation, new houses built in the 1920s and 1930s had kitchens but they were small, possibly for this reason.
Kenwood Chef mixer, 1957-1960.
Late 20th century kitchens
The objects you can see here mix modern design with great functionality. From the 1950s onward, kitchen appliance manufacturers started valuing design as much as use. ‘Space age’ automated machines, such as the revolutionary Kenwood Chef or the Quickmix shaker (below), made kitchens shiny, sleek and totally modern.