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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

The early 1940s kitchen:
the sink and draining board

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As explained on the 1940s house page, the most up-to-date 1940s English suburban semi-detached houses were built in the 1930s. However by the end of the 1940s, with the war over, fitted kitchens with fitted sinks and draining boards were beginning to come in to better off households.

Stoneware sink, common in kitchens and sculleries before the 1950s.

Stoneware sink, common in kitchens and sculleries before the 1950s. The left hand edge of a wooden draining board can just be seen on the right.

For the 1930s and 1940s kitchen, you must imagine the white wall tiles and the basic taps coming out of them.

The sink and draining board that I remember in my parents' suburban kitchen in Edgware were almost certainly fitted in the late 1930s.

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The sink

The design of the sink was like the early 1900s sink of my mother's childhood except that there was a hot as well as a cold tap. Both taps came out from the white tiled wall. I have never seen an identical arrangement in any of the museums I have visited, so there is no accurate photograph.

Enamel washing-up bowl, common before the 1950s when plastics came on the market.

Enamel washing-up bowl, common before the 1950s when plastics came on the market.

The sink was the standard large white stoneware. (Stoneware is made from a special clay and fired at a very high temperature so that its hardness resembles stone.)

The sink was mounted in position on metal brackets. It held a white enamel bowl for washing up and a dishcloth. On the floor underneath the sink was a space with various other bowls and buckets plus the household soap with a carton of washing soda, both of which were used for washing up.

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The draining board

Old white enamel draining board, mounted against the sink on metal brackets.

White enamel draining board, mounted against the sink on metal brackets.

The sink had a white enamel draining board attached which I never saw on other housing estates of the same period. Elsewhere all the draining boards seemed to be wooden. In fact, it took me some years to find an enamel one to photograph. I finally found one in Llanerchaeron House in Wales.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer
webmaster

Wooden draining board, common in early kitchens and sculleries

Wooden draining board, photographed in Tilford Rural Life Centre.

Our enamel draining board was mounted on metal brackets at the side of the sink.

I always thought how clean our draining board looked compared with the wooden ones. Bare unvarnished wood always looks rather grubby when wet. I suspect that enamel draining boards were more expensive than wooden ones. They did chip, though, which left black marks.

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The end of these sinks and draining boards

Years later sink and draining board arrangements were replaced by integral sink units. There were no integral sink units in ordinary 1940s houses, in spite of what museums and magazines may imply. I cannot of course speak for better-off households.

Before the mid or late 1950s, the space under the draining board was empty, except for the occasional bucket or bowl. When my mother was persuaded to part with her old mangle for a spin dryer, that was where it went.

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