A picture of the kitchen gradually emerges from Sid’s memories and Bess’s notes certainly confirm the picture. The stone floored kitchen seems to have been the most occupied room in the farm. The wall that looked out over the foldyard had small arched windows with bars and by one of these was a small table. Along another wall was a wooden settle and I imagine that in the centre of the room there would have stood a large table that was used for preparing meals and devouring them on less formal occasions.
The dominant feature of the room was the large open fire. It was alight almost all the time and at times was used to cook the familys meals. In Sid’s recollecton, it was fired by buckets of coke, sometimes two or three at a time. Across the hearth stretched a long spit, suspended by two black iron “dogs”, which rotated the meat very slowly. Beneath the meat there stood a very large pan to catch the meat juices as they fell. The juice was used by whoever was passing by to baste the meat to ease the burning. Gravy was also prepared on the fire. Sid remembers his aunty May (Wakefield) crouching there with a ladle or spoon full of sugar held over the fire. When it turned brown it was used as the gravy browning. For other cooking there was a coal or coke fired double oven that had large, flat plates to heat the black iron cooking pots. On one of the walls was Sid’s father’s muzzle loading duck gun and some powder flasks.
Sid’s great uncle Will, who was probably his mother’s uncle, sat in the kitchen at times with a loaded gun and shot the sparrows who searched the chaff in the foldyard for grain. The wretched corpses were then gathered up and made into uncle Will’s favourite delicacy, sparrow pie. Uncle Will also had a very proud boast; he had never done a day’s work in his life. He often stood outside the farm, leaning on the fence by the brewhouse with his big belly protruding and exchanging the time of day with passers by. “How be master Willum?” came the query. “I moan’t grumble,” came the reply.
At other times he could be found within the house, often with his gramaphone complete with its brassy trumpet, playing his favourite tune. This was a recording of the famous Harry Lauder singing “Keep Right On to the End of the Road.” It seemed to be played repeatedly with Uncle Will accompanying the chorus. Bess recalls him as being rather eccentric. He didn’t believe the world was round nor could he understand the presence of aeroplanes. But there are other stories about Uncle Will or ‘The Guv’ner’ as he was known and the following quotes are almost verbatim from Bess’s notes.
One day Will was taking a ride on the shaft of a hay wagon when he slipped off and the iron rimmed rear wheel rolled over his right wrist. He rose to his feet, got back on the shaft and brought the horses and the wagon safely back into the rickyard. He then went to the pump and pumped ice cold well water over his crushed wrist until it went numb. He then went into the kitchen where his sister, Ann Maria, sat by the open fire in her black leather chair. He told her what had happened to him and he instructed her to bring a cloth and some scissors. She cut the linen cloth into strips and tightly bound his wrist. He took a long swig of whiskey from a pewter jug which was always kept in the kitchen cupboard. He then lay down on the black, horsehair sofa under the wall clock. He remained there for best part of a week, only getting up from beneath the check horse blanket when he needed the lavatory – a good-ish step to the end of the garden! At the end of the week he gradually resumed his various tasks around the farm and in due course, made a complete recovery using his wrist much as before. He sometimes complained of “the rheumatics,” but at no time did it occur to him to trouble the doctor.