If Walls Could Talk – Living Room

Some of my favourite TV shows include Grand Designs, and Restoration Man. I really enjoy seeing what houses can become, both the new and the old. It’s the way individuals plan houses and interpret them through their own lives that gives a house personality and life.

The current documentary series that I’ve been enjoying is Lucy Worsley’s ‘If Walls Could Talk’. It looks into the history of the house and delves into the past to discover how specific rooms have been used and how this has changed over time.

Lucy Worsley is a curator for Historic Royal Palaces and has particular interest in understanding the past by trying it out herself, including dressing in period costumes and participating in tasks that were common in the past. This series then is a quirky and intimate discovery of what living in the house has been like from medieval times through to the present. Episode 1 is about the Living Room.

5 Nifty Things I Learnt from ‘If Walls could Talk’ Episode 1:

  1. The fireplace has traditionally been the heart and the most important aspect of the living room. This has gradually shifted to the radio and then the TV as they were invented. The fireplace has also traditionally offered warmth and light and unfortunately, smoke – at least until chimneys were added.
  2. Which brings me to point two – chimneys have been around for a long time, but they were pretty expensive. Have you ever seen an English country house where the roofs are literally covered in chimneys? Well, when these houses were built the number of chimneys and therefore fireplaces you had, the greater the show of wealth and status.
  3. ‘To burn the candle at both ends’. You might have heard this idiom before; generally we use it to describe someone who is working too hard on a task. And, there is a type of candle that can be burnt at both ends! The English of the Middle Ages had a range of different candles to buy, but the type depended on the size of their purse. One of the more expensive types of candle was called a rushlight. A rush was covered in animal fat, the middle was placed in a tall metal holder, and on special occasions the candle could be lit at both ends. Et voila!
  4. During the Georgian period in England, visiting your friends and drinking tea in their living room after dinner was an incredibly fashionable thing to do. You might visit the homes of several friends in one evening and have a cup of tea at each one! Good thing the tea cups were rather small. Tea was a luxury since it was expensive to export from China. Drinking tea in Georgian England had a very specific etiquette as well as a large range of accessories used to brew and serve it.
  5. English Parliament placed a tax on windows 1696. Yes that’s right, on windows! The more windows your house had the higher the tax to be paid. Many house owners took to boarding up some of their windows just to avoid a higher tax! Check out my post about why this tax came about here.

Have you noticed an English house with several too many chimneys, or one with windows long since boarded up? Still prefer to have a fireplace as the heart of your living room? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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