HouseholdObjects used around the home
The two largest categories of waste generated by indoor and outdoor labour were packaging from household products, such as inks, dyes, blacking, blue, knife polish, sewing machine oil, scouring powders and furniture cream, and everyday items that were worn out or broken, such as footwear, buckets, kettles, crockery, tools and any household object one can imagine.
During my excavations, I have uncovered everything from bedsteads, picture frames and oil lamps to firearms, sewing machines, flat irons, mole traps, flower pots, chamber pots, watering cans, and kitchen range furniture. Smaller items include buttons, which might still have been attached to clothing when thrown away; sugar crushers, slate pencils, spectacle lenses, thimbles, pen nibs, broken utensils, door knobs, pins and metal fittings.
In 1870 many household substances were still being made at home. These included dye, silver polish, scrubbing powder and ink. The invasion of the market by cheap products in the decades that followed saved people the trouble of acquiring ingredients and mixing them themselves. A small bottle of ink cost a penny. The rough use and messy nature of many household products favoured stoneware vessels. But as glass became cheaper and stronger, and tins appeared, the transition to glass and metal began. By 1920, stoneware bottles had largely disappeared.
Clay pipes were another substantial category of waste, not surviving long in labourers’ pockets. Bowls and stems are common finds amid Victorian refuse. Fewer are found after 1900, when younger people were already switching to cigarettes. Like all paper and card, evidence of the latter inevitably rotted in the ground.
Crockery was far more abundant in the Victorian kitchen, in the age before enamel pans. Bowls, jugs and pots were used for fetching ale, cream, milk and other goods from the point of purchase, while other ceramic items, not used today, swelled the total of breakages, including candlesticks, spill holders, carvery plates, shaving mugs and umbrella stands. Garden rubbish, such as tiles, bricks and window glass was commonly discarded with household waste.
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In July 2015, Tom Licence and members of Norfolk Bottles obtained permission to dig on the site of the King's Lynn town ash-yard, which was the sorting point for refuse to the south of the town from 1883 until c. 1940. In later years the land was put to various uses,...
Have you ever wondered how the Victorians survived without tupperware, enamel pans, Pyrex and plastic? The answer is that they used far more crockery – all sorts of ceramic vessels, which broke with great regularity and emerge in thick and densely packed layers in...