Just outside the National Trust visitor centre at Wicken Fen there stands an old cottage. It was once part of a small hamlet of dwellings occupied by those who made a living from the sedge fen. It's been renovated by the Trust and made to look as it might have done in the early twentieth century. Duck your head if you're over five feet six tall and come inside.
The first thing you notice is how small the cottage is - then you learn that this was once two separate dwellings! The front garden full of flowers is about right, though there should perhaps be more hollyhocks and roses from what I remember of growing up in a country area in the 1950s (and I don't think things would have been a lot different a few decades beforehand; things tend not to evolve very much when folks have little money).
A fairly typical living area. A large photograph like the one on the wall would be unusual, though wedding photos were often prominently displayed, being the only photo that many people possessed. There's one thing that such re-constructions always overlook though; there were always ashtrays in every home, even if no one in the house smoked they'd be there for visitors.
A good big mangle for washdays, though I didn't notice a washing line in the garden. Everyone needed one, usually with the line being raised up with a roughly made prop. I wasn't very impressed with the back garden; it was far too pretty - no chickens, not enough vegetables being grown, no rhubarb growing under old buckets, no muck-heap for the garden, no swing tied to an overhanging branch for the children, no dog kennel.....
Ah, baths in front of the fire, I remember that well, and very embarrassing it was for little boys when unexpected visitors called! But the bath wouldn't be there unless baths were taking place, it'd be stored out in the garden or in a shed.
A wind-up gramophone. It always surprises me how much people were willing to pay just to have a bit of music in the house. A radio, more often referred to as "a wireless set", powered by an accumulator battery, soon found its way into many homes. We even had a broken-down fiddle stored in the loft which someone must have once scraped away on. Needless to say it was even more broken soon after I got my hands on it!
I love the way the shelves have been beautified by being covered with artfully cut brown paper, I remember my mother doing the same.
Look at that workbench! That's just so typical of what men constructed in their sheds out of odd bits of re-used timber, not fussy but absolutely solid. The improvised shelves and hooks, the home-made tool-rack, the wood off-cuts carefully stored away for the day that "they might come in handy", they're all so familiar to me. If you look on the chair you'll see some duck-decoys under construction - these would be floated on the water to entice other birds to land nearby so they could be trapped or shot.
These curious bits of basketry are eel-traps which would be baited and submerged in the stream, the eel would swim in and then find that there were sharp inward-pointing spikes preventing it from turning around and escaping.
A few historical photos had been pinned on the wall showing the old ways of the fen.
A couple of boats in their shed. The top one has an enormous punt-gun mounted on it; the whole boat would be manoeuvred into position and the gun fired into a flock of wildfowl. The lower boat seems to have been used for harvesting reeds.
A home-made barrow and a selection of peat-cutting tools, all essential for those making a living from the fen.
And not forgetting the smallest and most necessary room in the house - or more often "out in the garden" - complete with torn squares of newspaper hanging on the wall.
Just down the lane there's an old Nissen hut. These pre-fabricated huts were used by the military as barracks or for storage and many were recycled after WWII as farm buildings or as workshops. At one time they littered the countryside, though nowadays you don't see so many.
Also nearby there's a pair of slightly more modern fenland cottages of the type that are still found all over the area. There's not a lot of room in them either!