A Victorian home

Welcome to 4 Clarence Road, Cheltenham (formerly 4 Pittville Terrace). Many people have made this house their home since it was built in 1832–3, and you can find out more about them when you visit the Museum. Our rooms are decorated and furnished as they would have been when the von Holst family lived here in the 1870s. 

The Kitchen

‘What place is more cosy on a cold winter’s night than the kitchen fireside?’ writes the author of an article in Cassell’s 1889 Book of The Household. Of course, they neglect to mention the immense toil involved in keeping going the source of that warmth, the cast-iron range. The household relied on the range for its cooking and hot water, and the maid would need to attend to the fire throughout the day, including during the summer months.

Our range was reclaimed from a Cheltenham property in the 1970s and installed when the Museum was set up in 1974. The distinctive blue and white transfer-printed tiles recall Landseer’s painting Monarch of the Glen. The Highland theme was very on-trend in Victorian Britain, when there was a craze for all things Scottish, owing to Queen Victoria’s love for Scotland.

The Sitting Room

Open-plan living is a very modern idea; Victorians preferred single-function spaces – for example, separating cooking and washing into two different rooms.

In this snug little room the mistress and the maid would have discussed the meals for the coming week and the maid would have done the household’s mending. If she managed to snatch a few hours for herself in the evening, the maid might have carried out her own sewing projects in front of the fire.

The Drawing Room

The late Victorian Drawing Room could be a crowded space, crammed with furniture and nick-knacks, all communicating the master and mistress’s wealth and status. It was primarily a feminine zone, where afternoon tea would be taken with callers while they admired the interior decor and ornaments.

The wallpaper in this room is hand printed from an original (1830) Cole & Son woodblock, the mica in the ink shimmering in the lamplight. Against such a backdrop the mistress would write letters, read, sew – and play the piano.

The bedroom

The bedroom was a place where people washed, used a chamber pot, gave birth and suffered sickness. All of these things could spread germs. As concerns grew around hygiene as the 19th century progressed, people were advised to keep bedrooms simple, well lit and easy to clean. By the 1860s, heavy wooden four-poster beds with curtains had been replaced by plain brass beds without hangings. Other essential furniture included a dressing table, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a washstand.

As the Victorian bedroom was a private space and not for show, it lacked the grand architectural features found in a dining or drawing room. Here, there is just a cornice and a picture rail, typically painted in a contrasting colour to the wallpaper and fabrics. The wallpaper in this room has been hand printed from an 1870s woodblock in the Cole & Son archive.