Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences


An Old Time Village.

THE village consisted of two or three small rows of houses and a number of thatched cottages, standing in fairly sized gardens; and at the east end the stocks and whipping-post still stood on a piece of ground by the side of the road. The cottages usually consisted of two, sometimes three, bedrooms, a living room and a scullery. The bedrooms were frequently without fireplaces or chimneys, and the lower rooms had brick floors, occasionally only earth, which was kept extremely clean and covered with a thin layer of dry sand. "The nicely sanded floors" were constantly washed and scrubbed with birch brooms, which were brought round the country done up in bundles by men, half gypsies, half labourers, from Forest Row and East Grinstead. Four or five carts followed a caravan, in which the men lived, and the right side of this was usually ornamented with 30 or 40 birch rods, arranged like a star, with the butt ends in the centre. One of these rods was frequently kept on or over the mantel-shelf in the sitting room, with a few pieces of china, usually broken.

Drainage, of course, there was none, as none was required. The cesspool, with its concomitants, was always at a considerable distance from the house, and was frequently emptied. There was little illness except phthisis, which was very prevalent, owing, no doubt, to the crowding and the want of ventilation in the bedrooms, all air being excluded except what got in through the crannies caused by badly fitting windows and doors. Measles was a very fatal disease in some years, when the rash came out dark and livid, and was called black measles. It was much more dreaded than scarlet-fever. The men had a curious habit, probably based on old medical practice, of being what they called "blooded" twice a year, at Spring and Fall. They walked, perhaps, three or four miles, often in parties, and usually on Sunday morning, to the doctor or veterinary surgeon and were bled to eight or ten oz. at the uniform rate of one shilling.

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