A Kitchen Tour

Mrs Smith’s Kitchen, 1990s.

15th February 1970

Visitors all came to see my mansion

Mrs Smith’s Diary

Welcome to Mrs Smith’s cottage, you have just walked into the kitchen, the space where Mrs Smith spent a good portion of her time. Cooking, cleaning, sitting with visitors and writing her diaries.

This image, taken in the 1990s while Mrs Smith was still living here, shows us what her visitors would have seen as they entered the cottage.

Mrs Smith kept an open house. Her kitchen door would be open all the time to welcome a steady stream of visitors throughout the week, recording each visit in her diary.

As a major source of village history anyone wanting to find out more would be sent over to see Mrs Smith, who could usually answer their questions.

Before tea or biscuits could be offered Mrs Smith would settle you into a chair by the fire.

For the size of the cottage there are a lot of chairs in the collection. It was of great importance to Mrs Smith that her visitors would be able to feel at home in her cottage, and regular visitors felt as if they could walk in and out as they pleased.

One of her carers remembers a conversation had when first meeting Mrs Smith.

Hilda: ‘Do sit down, dear’

Carer: ‘Thank you. Which one’s your chair?’

Hilda: “They’re all my chairs, but you can sit on this one.’

Taken from oral history notes.

The range is the largest feature in the kitchen, with its distinctive black leading it provided heat for the entire house as well as somewhere to boil the kettle and cook food.

This image, taken in the 1990s while Mrs Smith was still living here, shows the range in full working order keeping the kettle warm.

Well into her late 90s she would fill the stove top kettle, even though she had a perfectly good electric one. Resolving that the fire is going anyway so she might as well use it.

Mrs Smith would almost always have a fire going, even during the summer. However the heatwave of 1976 saw her not lighting the fire, being so out of the ordinary she recorded this in her diary.

14th June 1976

lighted the fire, first for 5 weeks.

Mrs Smith’s Diary

July 2nd 1979:

Tap in house. Up early. Washing done in good time, ironed then had a rest.

Mrs Smith’s Diary

Water is supplied to the cottage through this single cold water tap.

The tap was installed in 1979, at the order of North Kesteven District Council who had deemed her home not fit for habitation and were trying to move her into a newly built bungalow. The tap was put in shortly after her indoor toilet, because the council would no longer be emptying the privvy, another concession necessary to stay in the home she loved.

Installed in 1979 Mrs Smith didn’t approve of the new addition, choosing to continue using the pump in the village and the well in her garden. Navenby village is built on a number of natural springs, making the water from the village pumps much softer than the hard and often cloudy tap water.

There was never a sink put in under the tap, only a plastic wash bowl placed on table for washing up. A clear indicator of her dissatisfaction with this addition to the property.

Before the tap was installed Mrs Smith used pumps which could be found across the village, carrying fresh water into the home every day so that she could wash and importantly make hot drinks. There is more information about the Lion Head pumps in the Navenby Trail.

Electricity was put into the cottage in the 1930s, however Mrs Smith preferred the old ways of storing her food. Never investing in a fridge or freezer but opting to continue using her meat safe and pantry until she left the cottage in 1994. This images features the meat safe in the pantry, it was taken before the museum was closed for restoration works.

Like many people did in the past she would have done small but regular shops for fresh produce from local grocers, such as Rollitts in Navenby. Staples throughout her life included sausages, ham, butter, cheese, and fresh bread from Welbourn’s bakery. She would always have a loaf of unsliced bread so that she could cut away only very thin slices. When she moved into the care home made it clear that she didn’t like sliced bread.

She used her allotment, and the apple tree in the garden, to grow much of her fresh fruit and veg. Documenting what she had harvested in her diary:

July 22nd 1955

Gathered last strawberries & 2lbs of rasps.

July 7th 1963

We had first tates & peas from the garden

October 7th 1971

Betty pulled a bath full of apples

Mrs Smith’s Diary

To make her food go further and last longer she would spend time making jams, chutneys, and other preserves, alongside a host of recipes which could use up every last bit of food.

After strong winds blew the apples from the tree she would spend weeks making apple chutney.

July 9th 1952

cleaned wash house & baked. Bottle rasps.

October 15th 1974

made 4lbs apple chutney.

Mrs Smith’s Diary

Mrs Smith had a sweet tooth, keeping sweets and biscuits in her cupboards for visitors and a little mid-morning snack.

This image is of a Grantham gingerbread box from the cottage collection, this type of gingerbread originated in the nearby town of Grantham.

On her birthday people would come round with cakes, cards, and sherry, which she shared with all her visitors. After her 90th birthday she was having cake and sherry with her visitors for over a month.

October 28th 1982

[90th Birthday] Visitors all day… Cake & Sherry & Coffee … Birthday Ham. Princes’ Romano Sherry.

November 9th 1981

Betty & Tom came then Mrs L & Mrs M, all had cake and sherry.

November 18th 1982

Went to Rollitt’s for groceries & sherry. Mrs T came for cake & sherry. November 30th 1982: Mrs S had sherry and cake.

Mrs Smith’s Diary

This is an image of Rollitts shop on the corner of, what is now, East Road in Navenby. The Rollitt family ran the shop for over 200 years, Mrs Smith lived just down the road from their shop and she would frequently pop over for the essentials.

When people came into the shopping asking about village history the shopkeeper would take them to see Mrs Smith, who could often answer their questions.

More information can be found about the history of Rollitts, and other Navenby businesses, in the Navenby Heritage Trail.

April 5th 1951

Kitchen painted.

September 15th 1951

Nellie papered Hilda kitchen.

Mrs Smith’s Diary

With the walls only a brick thick and the only heat coming from the two small fire places, damp was a continual problem for Mrs Smith. The pantry had an air vent which ensured air could keep moving through the house preventing the growth of moulds, air flow was another reason Mrs Smith kept her kitchen door open as often as she could.

To keep her home looking its best she would frequently wallpaper and repaint all of the rooms in the house, patching any areas of damp that did come through between major redecorations. She never stripped any of the old wallpaper from the walls, leaving us a detailed record of the cottages decorative history. Much of this decorating work was done by the Holmes family, who ran a building and decorating business in the village. Mrs Smith did the books for the Holmes family and she became almost part of the family, regularly being invited over for Sunday dinner.

Any excess wallpaper, and even newspaper, would be used to line the shelves in her cupboards and the pantry ensuring that she made use of every scrap.