Bert's Town - Part 05 - The Birthplace Museum
w/e 28 June 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
D H Lawrence's Eastwood

Victoria StreetAt the end of Part 04 we had reached D H Lawrence's birthplace in Victoria Street (left) and I had hoped to start this next part with perhaps a couple of shots inside the Birthplace Museum before continuing along the Blue Line Trail but we found so much of interest that I've devoted the whole of this part to our visit. Thanks are due to Broxtowe Borough Council for allowing me to take photos inside the museum and to the staff working there, especially to Kath (the lady on the left in this picture) who showed us round and shared her vast knowledge about the Lawrence family making the visit so informative and interesting. One piece of information that is not commonly known is that Bert was christened David Herbert Richards Lawrence but dropped the "Richards" and as we do know, preferred to be called Bert. School parties often tour the museum but we can heartily recommend a visit to all ages.

The Parlour

The museum and exhibition centre actually occupies two adjacent properties but connecting doors have been installed between them. The first room we looked at was the front room or parlour of the former home of the Lawrence family. Furnished in the style of the period and still illuminated by means of a gas light, the room contains a piece of furniture that actually belonged to the family. The cabinet on the right in the image above reflects the taste of Bert's mother whose upbringing showed she favoured quality items of furniture. The parlour was not for everyday use and right up until the 1960s and perhaps even beyond, it was only used on special occasions in many similar houses in the country. The chenille tablecloth with a lace mat and potted aspidistra was also a required Window displayfeature in parlours.

We know that Lydia Lawrence, Bert's mother supplemented their income by selling haberdashery displayed in the front room window and this has been recreated in the museum. Customers though would not have been allowed into the room or even served at the front door but would have had to go to the back door to complete their transactions. Lydia's Kent accent and her middle class background set her apart from the local population and her business venture was not a roaring success by any means.
Living Room

The back room of the house was the main living area and served as a dining room, lounge, kitchen and even bathroom when water heated in the coal-fired range would be used for all the family to take their turn in a tin bath (that usually hung from a nail in the yard outside) in front of the fire. There was no running water in the house; all water had to be obtained by using a pump outside and was used sparingly. Note the shallow sink on the right of the picture. The range was also were the cooking was done and flat irons heated before newly washed clothes were pressed on the kitchen table. In many homes like this, miner's clothes would be draped to dry in front of the fire an a daily basis. In the museum there are examples of Davy lamps on the table as well as a water bottle and a "snap" tin for the miner's victuals. The door on the left of the picture leads to the yard outside.

Across the yard are the outside toilets and also the washroom. This particular washroom was moved to the museum when a nearby property was modernised and was reconstructed here numbered brick by numbered brick. Our guide Kath, told us that many visitors to the museum said that many of the exhibits like this made them feel old as they could remember similar rooms in their lifetime. I spent the first twenty two years of my life in a two up, two down cottage and can easily recollect when my parents had a copper in the corner of the kitchen removed. Features like this were common until the 1960s when the austere post war years were replaced by more affluent times and people could afford to modernise their properties. Seeing this washroom though just illustrated to me how far we have come as a society in the last forty or fifty years and just what a hard life it was in this mining community in Bert's time.
Main Bedroom

Upstairs the front or main bedroom contains a second piece of furniture that belonged to the Lawrence family. Although not in this house, the table that fits over the bed was used by Lydia Lawrence. She died just as Bert's first novel, The White Peacock was being published and the story goes that Bert rushed one of the first copies of the book to his dying mother. Although she probably did not read it, it is quite possible that it came to rest on the table. Little anecdotes like this certainly bring history to life.

Back BedroomThe second bedroom (right) would normally be used in Victorian times for the young girls in the family. The wallpaper in this room is authentic to the period scraps having been found in the cupboard, dated and reproduced and to be honest it would not look out of place today. The boys of the Victorian families would usually sleep in the attic and the museum has also recreated a room in the style of the time. However as the Lawrence family left this property for The Breach in 1887 before Bert was two years old it is likely that he would still be sleeping with his parents in the main bedroom.
Art Exhibition

As on the ground floor a connecting door has been installed on the upper floor between the two properties and this allows access to the exhibition centre at the museum. Here there is a room showing a ten minute video and in another room is a collection of watercolours by DHL. Although best known for his writings he was no mean artist and I was particularly taken with his "Landscape With Windmill" picture (bottom right). The desk (top right) is on loan from the Nottinghamshire County Council and is the late Victorian pedestal desk used by Bert when he worked briefly for J. H. Haywood on Castle Gate, Nottingham about 1901 (see Historic Nottingham series Part 9). The room also contains a couple of information boards about Bert's artwork including the one pictured above about his more controversial works which now reside overseas following a 1929 showing in London when they were seized by the police as "obscene" and were moved to prevent them being destroyed.
The Lawrence Family

The landing in the exhibition area is dominated by a reproduction of a photo of the Lawrence family. With Bert from left to right are his older sister and brothers, Emily, George and Ernest at the back and in front his younger sister Ada, mother Lydia and father Arthur. The picture from 1895 which would make Bert about ten years old was taken by Phillips and Freckleton at their premises in the Market Place, Nottingham. By that time the Lawrences had moved again to Walker Street in Eastwood and the excursion was a joint venture with their neighbours the Thurlbys. The women and children made the journey in a carrier's cart following the men who had set off earlier on foot and true to form had used the outing as an excuse for a pub crawl.
The White Peacock Tea Shop
Leaving the exhibition, we returned downstairs to pass once again through the main entrance to the museum which also serves as a gift and souvenir shop and out onto Victoria Street. The shop in Lawrence's time had been a greengrocer's and opposite now is another shop that in honour of the author is called the White Peacock Tea Shop (right). We returned up Victoria Street to Nottingham Road and in the next part will continue along the Blue Line and Literary Trails in search of more of the D. H. Lawrence connection.

Back to Part 04
 Bert's Town Index
Forward to Part 06

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