Victorian life swap

A unique living history project at the Framework Knitters’ Museum

With lockdown back on and everyone’s plans cancelled, staff at the Framework Knitters’ Museum began to wonder what life must have been like without many of the things we take for granted. How different would life be without Netflix, wi-fi, TV and smartphones…not to mention indoor toilet facilities and simple things like an electric kettle?!

To find out (and provide a bit of light relief for everyone), our Museum Manager and his family moved into the museum’s 19th-century Manager’s Cottage – pictured above – and lived and worked there as a ‘Victorian family’ over the weekend of 21st and 22nd November.

Join us as we step back in time

To help us gain the most from our experience, local schools came up with questions they’d like us to answer about how life has changed over the last 150 years. We posted answers and what we discovered on the museum’s pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Jim Grevatte, Museum Manager (pictured above) commented: ‘With our ambitious redevelopment project, A Right Good Yarn (see below) now underway, one of our main tasks is to reconstruct the knitters’ cottages and understand just what their lives were like. And what better way to find out than to live how they lived in the very same building? It’ll certainly help us give our visitors a unique insight into the social history of our museum site when we reopen after lockdown.’

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Here are some of what we learned from the Victorian Life Swap:

Lack of personal space. Perhaps we don’t appreciate this enough. Even Jim’s family of 4 felt this, so imagine large Victorian families like the Parkers who had 12 children.

Everything seems so inconvenient to our 20c expectations e.g. needing the toilet in the night, getting water from the pump and ‘quick’ meals not being an option.

Temperature – Jim’s family were cold most of the time – even with lots of knitted scarves. And even the source of heat – the fire – only heats the immediate surroundings. Move away from the fire and you are cold again.

On the positive side, the family enjoyed doing things together, such as playing games and making things. Things that maybe don’t feature as much in our busy – and often separate – lives.
Altogether, a unique insight into a different way of life.

About A Right Good Yarn

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the FCC Communities Foundation, A Right Good Yarn will see a major transformation of the museum, with a new shop, cafe and refreshed visitor experience. This will include a tour around the back-to-back home of a framework knitting family who lived at the site in Victorian times.

The first phase of the redevelopment project has seen staff and volunteers stripping back changes made to the cottage over the years, revealing the hidden layers of occupation. This process has already told us a great deal about what it meant to be a framework knitter in the 19th century. Fascinating finds include fragments of clothing and personal effects behind fireplaces and under the floors – we’ve even discovered what colour each successive family painted their home!

To find out more about our progress with A Right Good Yarn and for the latest news on our Christmas activities, please keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages as well as our website.