logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

Washing facilities for guests
in Victorian and Edwardian households

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Old matching china jug and bowl for washing oneself where there was no access to a bathroom - common in the early 1900s, blue and white.

Old matching china jug and bowl for washing oneself where there was no access to a bathroom - common in the early 1900s

Old matching china flower-style jug and bowl for washing oneself where there was no access to a bathroom - common in the early 1900s.

Old matching china flower-style jug and bowl for washing oneself where there was no access to a bathroom - common in the early 1900s, flower design on white

China jug and bowl sets for washing oneself. The jug would be filled with hot water and taken up to guest bedroom. The guests would pour the hot water into the bowl and wash themselves. Sometimes the soap dishes and chamber pots were in matching china.

In the early 1900s when I was a child growing up on the working class Huxley housing estate of Victorian-style terraces, it was not considered reasonable to expect guests to wash in the sink in the scullery alcove the way that the rest of the family washed everyday.

So guests had hot water taken up to their bedroom in an elegantly decorated china jug - see the picture on the right. A matching basin was in the room to hold the water on an equally elegant stand. The one in our house had a marble top which I very much liked.

In more well-off houses, the decorated china jugs and bowls were part of matching sets which included soap dishes, chamber pots and shaving jugs. Some were very pretty indeed.

A typical old washstand in bedrooms used by visitors in the early 1900s.

A typical washstand in bedrooms. Note the decorative matching china set of a basin, jug and soap dish. Also note the towel rail and the bucket for slops.

Sketch provided by Rosemary Hampton from her book: A Jersey Family: from Vikings to Victorians (2009). SEE INSIDE THE BOOK.

Our jug and basin set were seldom used for guests though. My mother used the basin for mixing Christmas puddings and my father used the jug for making home-made wine.

If a guest had a bath with us, the copper had to be lit to provide the hot water. This then had to be carried upstairs to the bath in the offroom, where of course there was no running water.

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