Born at Lapford in January 1897, the son of Samuel Cornwall Challice, the village blacksmith and farrier, I am also the descendant of a long line of villagers bearing the name Challice, and recorded in the Lapford Church registers from the early 1500’s. While my branch of the family were blacksmiths and farriers and served the village in that capacity for several generations, others of the family carried on many and varied occupations. Recorded are farmers, serge weavers, butchers, millers, tailors, sawyers, carpenters, farm workers, lace makers, shopkeepers, bakers, dressmakers, a school mistress and a non-conformist Minister. I was born and lived in a cottage, now demolished, three dwellings below my grandfather’s forge, now known as “The Old Forge”. Built of cob with a thatched roof, in a row of similar cottages, that were at one period in the past, occupied by serge weavers, depressions worn in floor boards were a silent witness to the operation of the loom pedals. Skeins of woollen material had also been found under the thatch.
A narrow cobblestone border separated the front wall of the cottage from the roadway. The front wall having been lime washed, was white. There were four small windows and a doorway in the front wall of the cottage. The doorway being raised above the road was provided with cobblestone steps. The front door gave entry to a passage way, which led through the cottage to the back door and to the garden, linhay and an earth closet.
Originally, the front door led directly into one of the two ground floor rooms, but a wooden partition had been erected to alter the ground floor layout. With the partition there was now a living room, passage way and a small utility room, in which domestic chores, not suitable for the general living room, could be carried on. This small room, about eight feet by four, received its light from a small window, about two feet square, deep set in the cottage front wall, and also from a glazed section of the wooden partition. The thickness of the cob wall in which the small window was set provided a very useful shelf. A plain wooden table was in use for the preparation of food and other domestic purposes. Drawers were available for the storage of cutlery and other kitchen articles. A heavy wooden stool – or form – unpainted, with a top made from a single slab of oak, some six feet long and about fifteen inches wide and one and half inches thick, stood against’ the partition. This stool was used as a stand for the water buckets. These buckets filled with water from the village pump, were the containers of the household supply. While some properties had their own supply from a well, drawn by windlass or pump, most cottagers depended on the village pump. A galvanised iron bowl, resting on the stool was provided for the ablutions of my father and myself. My mother and sisters were provided for in their bedrooms. The stairs to the bedrooms were at the end of the passage-way and the underside of the stairs could be seen at the end of the utility room. Brooms, brushes and other household articles were stored under the stairs – all space was used. Behind the utility room door was a tallboy with several drawers, used for the storage of the smaller articles. My father’s shaving mirror and “tackle” were kept on the top of the tallboy, and movement near this area was definitely “taboo” when shaving was in progress. The cement floor of this room had no covering except for a rug, usually made from a hessian sack. A towel roller, with a “runner” towel, was fixed to the inside of the door, and a shelf was provided on the wall for the storage of saucepans and other kitchen utensils. The wall surfaces of this utility room were plastered to some semblance of smoothness, and white-washed with the usual lime solution which was renewed from time to time. The wooden partition, abutting the passage-way and the door were painted with a serviceable colour.
Leaving this room and stepping across the passage-way and through a doorway, one now entered the “living room”. The passage-way at this point, as also the doorway, had a low ceiling, and it was necessary to lower one’s head in the passage and doorway when making entry to the living room. This room, about ten feet by fifteen feet in area and about eight feet to ceiling, had walls of cob, plastered and covered with wall-paper. The decision to cover the walls was carefully considered, as the cost, even with paper at three old pence a roll, affected the family budget. Much thought was given to this. Many cottage interior walls were just lime-washed, as were all ceilings. Household budgets were very finely balanced in those days, by necessity.
The only window, giving light and outlook to the village road, was deep-set in the front wall, four feet square with a number of small glass panes. This window opened outwards, and the deep window recess formed an excellent shelf area and was used by my mother to grow and display house plants. Her favourite plant, the cactus, in the growth of which she was very successful, usually had pride of place. A roller blind of dark material, fitted close to the window, and operated by a cord and pulleys, gave privacy. Spring blinds were not often found, probably had not even been invented. A wooden curtain rod, about one and a half inches in diameter with turned wooden knobs fixed to the ends, with curtain rings, also made of wood, was fixed to the wall over the window aperture. Curtains of patterned lace material, usually white and known as Nottingham lace, were hung on the rod chiefly for decorative effect. At the opposite end of the room was the cooking range, which formed a focal point for the living room. This range provided the only heating and cooking facilities for our family.
Made of cast iron, the range had a flat top with a section in it of about twelve inches cube, forming a “grate”, in which fuel – coal or wood, was burnt. A movable set of iron bars in the front, kept the burning fuel in place. Hinged plates, top-and front, were provided to allow either an “open” or “closed” fire. A “closed” fire was essential when the oven needed to be heated. The oven, closed by a hinged cast iron door was made of sheet iron. It had four sides and a back, with an open front. Removable sheet iron shelves, adjustable up or down were also provided. A system of flues and dampers directed the heat from the fire in the grate around the oven to raise the degree of temperature necessary for cooking. With the dampers open, the heat and smoke by-passed the oven, while the heat warmed the living room and the smoke was exhausted up the chimney. The oven heated when dampers were closed. By the use of wood as fuel to help out with the more costly coal, the sweeping of chimney and flues was necessary more often to remove soot and ash. The flues needed, and received, a thorough clearing of soot and ash after every cooking session when the oven was used. Users of the modern electric and gas cooking facilities would not like the old-time coal and wood fired range of the days gone by.
In many kitchens, a solid mantlepiece of wood construction surrounded and “set-off” the range, and the shelf on the top was used to exhibit family bric-a-brac. The cap badge of the, Somerset Light Infantry Volunteers, of which Regiment my father had been a member, could also be seen. In the centre of the room, a rectangular dining table stood, also six chairs and an arm-chair to complete the set. Two drawers in the table contained cutlery and table linen. A coloured cloth covered the table when it was not in use for meals. It is, perhaps, interesting to record that the dining chairs were purchased in 1892 at Chard, Somerset, for just five shillings each (25 decimal pence), and that two of them are still in use today (in 1985).
My mother, to maintain the condition and polish of the furniture, used a homemade polish, a mixture of beeswax and turpentine, plus a good supply. of “elbow grease”. The beeswax was a product from our own bees.
During the period that I am recording, the early 1920’s, many household aids were home made from recipes handed down through families. Among the furnishings in the living room was a 30-hour, striking, grandfather clock, standing like a sentinel just inside the doorway. The hands and face of the clock were of brass and its “strike” was hourly. The works were activated by the “pull” of two heavy cast iron weights attached to chains and the winding drum. A long pendulum . controlled the mechanism. The original door of the clock case that gave access to the winding chains and pendulum was removed and replaced by a carved oak panel, on which my father had carved a mythical figure of a dragon. This oak panel came from discarded wood panelling removed from Lapford Church during the work of restoration carried out by Thomas Howard Woolway, and is still on display at my home here at Exmouth.
Other furnishings were a small Victorian era sofa, not particularly comfortable, a chiffonier, veneered in a mahogony finish, an American organ, played by my sisters, a small table about two feet square, made of iron by my father and in use supporting a glass fronted display cabinet, a home made bookcase containing family books, many of which were school prizes awarded to my sisters and myself. An aspidistra plant was almost a “must” in most village homes, and we had a fine and large example. To display the plant my father had made a small pedestal table especially for it. He obtained a turned Newel post, probably from Thomas Woolway, then carved an oak table top eighteen inches square, cut out and fixed three suitably shaped pieces of oak for supporting legs, and a table was the result.
As well as the afore-mentioned kitchen chairs, there was a wickerwork “basket” chair and also an ordinary canvas deck chair. This chair being adjustable, was very useful to my mother for nursing and bathing activities close to the. fire’s warmth. To contain the “fire irons” – tongs, poker, shovel and coal scuttle, and also to contain any hot coal or burning material falling from the fire, an iron fender stood on the floor in front of the range. A home-made hearth rug was on the floor in front of the fender, and had been made by my mother from a piece of hessian sacking of suitable texture and size. Using the hessian material as the base, strips of cloth about inch wide and nine inches long were “stabbed” (inserted) into the hessian and knotted on the underside. The cloth to provide the strips for the rug were obtained by cutting up my father’s old Somerset Light Infantry uniform, a hard-wearing field grey serge of good quality. An excellent “rag-rug”-resulted, giving years of wear.
In the corner of the room stood a home-made piece of furniture known as a “what not”. Made by my father, it comprised three corner supports made by threading wooden cotton reels on to round iron rods, each support about five feet high. Three triangular wooden shelves, suitably spaced on the corner supports, were used to display family bric-a-brac. A small wooden knob on the top of each corner support and a coat of paint completed the “what not”.
It will be noted that anything that could be made was made, and anything that could be used was used. The floor of the living room was made of cement, but it was also covered with coconut matting, a hard wearing and a reasonably priced form of floor covering and very popular.
Various pictures hung on the walls’, a head and shoulder portrait of my father, also landscapes and floral motifs, a framed certificate from the Worshipful Company of Farriers – an ancient London craft guild – which gave my father the status of a journeyman farrier and a qualified registered shoeing smith. This, by examination, entitled him to use the letters R.S.S. after his name.
My reference to our American organ indicates that music was a part of our family lifestyle. This organ was the successor to an earlier harmonium. These organs were “reed” instruments, and were operated by air under pressure passing the reed in the organ pipes. Bellows, operated by the musician by foot movement supplied the “wind” pressure necessary. The keyboard was of eight octaves, and a number of regulating “stops” were at the musician’s disposal. These small organs could be found in many local cottages, the piano rarely.
Oil lamps and/or candles were the only sources of household illuminations when darkness set in. A “reading lamp” was therefore a very necessary article in the house-hold. Many were often quite decorative. Candles were usually used when moving around the house, especially in the bedrooms. The risk of fire required everyone to be careful. Candle lanterns were also used outdoors at night-time.
Moving out from the living room through the doorway into and along the passage-way towards the rear of the cottage, another doorway led into a roughly built back room. It would appear that at some earlier period a linhay type structure had run along the mar of the cottage next door. Now a dividing wooden partition gave each cottage a separate utility area under cover. This part of the cottage was known as the “back house” – a brick built structure about three feet square and two and a half feet high, with a galvanised iron pan or bowl fixed in the centre and sealed in by cement. A fire in a grate underneath the bowl heated the water in it for laundry purposes. The usual fuel was wood, the bowl had at one time been made of copper – hence this structure was known as “the copper”. A hand operated mangle or wringer, various baths or washing trays of wood or galvanised iron, a heavy wooden stool or form to support baths or trays when in use, were all stored out here. A supply of cut wood-fuel would also be found for wash day use. The mangle or wringer, was a very useful and necessary item of household equipment. As a wringer, it was used to remove water from clothing etc. after washing to expedite the drying process when later hung out on the outdoor line. Used as a mangle, the machine pressed by rolling articles laundered, into a condition similar to “ironing”. Hand ironing by “sad iron”, however, gave a better finish. The mangle/wringer had two rollers, made of apple wood turned in a lathe to a smooth, even surface. Each roller was about three feet long and eight inches in diameter, and had a fixed centre driving spindle of iron on which to rotate. A hand-wheel, connected through a train of gear wheels, caused the rollers to rotate inward to each other and an adjustable screw regulated the pressure of the spring that imparted pressure on the top roller. Subsequently that pressure was transferred to articles of clothing etc. passing through. The iron frame was provided with wheels for movement in the washroom. Many wash tubs or trays were constructed of wood and might be described as large wooden barrels that were out in half. Usually purpose-made by a cooper for wash-day use, hand apertures were cut in the sides near the top edge, to allow for ease of handling. These wash tubs held about twenty gallons of hot or cold water. Coal and wood fuel was stored in a bunker, and a section cut from a tree trunk formed a solid chopping block for use when making wood kindling. The floor of the linhay/ wash-house was of cobbles. A permanently closed door in the corner of the back house if opened, would give access to a room of a similar area to our living room. Whilst originally a part of our dwelling, this room had been at some time before our tenancy let to our neighbour, and kinswoman, Mrs. Eliza North, for use as a wash-
house, fuel store and general purposes room. This room was windowless and had no chimney, therefore a washing “copper” facility was not possible. Entrance to this room was made via a doorway in Mrs. North’s front garden. This kind of over-lapping was often to be found in old village properties, and was usually amicably accepted. As Mrs. North was my grand-father’s cousin, we were very happy with her being our close neighbour. When our cottage was later sold (for £70) Mrs. North vacated the room. We had left Lapford when my aunt, Emily Sanders nee Challice, purchased the property from Thomas Tucker – Mason. At the rear of the row of cottages, of which ours was one, was an area of land used as garden plots. Extending the whole length of the six cottages, the ground, however, was divided into only three ‘plots, and allocated to the Rounsefells, Martins and us. The plots were about equal in area and were all cultivated. Our plot was very conveniently situated in a position just behind the “Forge” dwelling where my grandparents, William and Mary Challice resided. Consequently a footpath was made between the back entrances of both cottages and regularly used. Whilst the “Forge” had access to the garden area, no land had been allocated, and the two cottages in the occupation of Eliza North and Ann Challice had not even access, having no back entrances. Across the garden p]ots and facing the backs of the cottages, was an open fronted linhay, extending the full length of the row of cottages. Built with a cob rear wall and a thatched roof, this linhay was divided into three equal sections, one far each dwelling having a garden plot. Earth and bucket closets were built into each linhay section. These were the only sanitary facilities provided. The linhay was also used to store wood fuel, garden tools and other material. In wet weather a useful place for drying clothes etc., after weekly washing, also a very popular play area for us children. This linhay was of historical interest, as it had been originally erected and used by the old time hand loom serge weavers who had lived and gyred in the adjoining cottages for the process of drying and stretching the newly woven serge material and for processes in the finishing of the serge they had woven. The linhay was then known as the “stretch”. It is very unfortunate that in the name of progress and expediency the “stretch” has been demolished. Thus is past local history destroyed and much is lost. Re-entering the cottage through the back door and then passing through the “back house” and into the passage-way, one found on the right the stairway leading to the bedrooms. Going up three stairs, turning half left and up three more stairs, we found ourselves in the landing bedroom. Originally this cottage had only two bedrooms, and it was necessary to pass through the landing room to gain access to the other larger room. To provide the bedrooms with greater privacy, a partition was erected by my father to make the landing room into an enclosed small bedroom. This partition also provided a passage-way to the other, larger bedroom. A small corner section of the landing was curtained off to provide a place to hand and store articles of clothing. The partition my father erected was lightly made of wood and canva A door, of course, was provided in the partition. Illustratio cut out from pictorial magazines of that period, depicting war scenes of the Boer and Zulu wars, also the Russo-Japanese conflict, were pasted on the outside of the partition. I spent many interesting moments looking at these scenes. The resulting rooms formed by the erection of the partition, was of a size to allow a double bed, room for the dressing table and also a wash stand. There was also adequate floor space around the bed. A corner of the room was curtained off to act as a wardrobe for clothes. A small window opening out to the village road gave light and ventilation, and the ledge formed in the thick cob wall at the window was cushioned to form a very good seat. A rail on the side of the wash stand held a towel. Illumination was as was usual by candlelight. The walls and ceiling were whitened. From the landing one used two wooden steps or stairs to enter the larger main bedroom doorway.
This was the family room and was nearly square, except that the chimney breast masonry made one wall very irregular. This room was made into two by a wooden partition. Half of the room window was therefore in each smaller room made by the partitioning. However, having two rooms was much more convenient. The inner room was occupied by my parents and had just enough furniture as was considered necessary – a four poster bed with the usual canopy and curtained sides, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a wash-stand with jug, bowl etc. and a large wooden chest to store spare blankets and bed-linen. A chair or two were also in the room. Various pictures were hanging on the wall and also an “American” clock. These wall clocks, imported from the U.S.A. were comparatively inexpensive and were quite popular. The clock case of wood was boxlike and about eighteen inches wide, thirty inches top to bottom and about five inches deep. A glass panel in the front door of the clock was part clear to expose the clock face, and the lower part of the glass was decorated with a floral motif. The movement of the pendulum could be seen through the glass, and the clock operated for thirty hours on one winding. As well as visually showing the time of day, the hours were also announced by a small hammer striking a flat wire coil, thus causing the coil to vibrate, making a pleasing sound, but not loud enough to be obtrusive in the bedroom. My sisters occupied the second bedroom which was furnished similarly to our parents room except that an ordinary double bed was used and not a four-poster. My brother and myself used the “landing room”. The elm board of the bedroom floor had been worn smooth by generations of users and the polishing by the women of the house. An interesting feature to be seen on the flooring were the deep indentations that had been worn by the operation of the foot treadle of the serge weavers loom. Weaving of serge was an old time trade at one time actively carried on at Lapford. To obtain the best of the daylight the upper rooms were used by the weavers and, perhaps the air flow was better to make working conditions pleasanter.
In 1769 John Challice, 1800 Roger. Challice and 1804 Robert Challice were weavers, and one of them possibly lived and worked in the cottage we then occupied. We may surmise, but we will never know. Village records are non-existent, and census returns are only from 1841, so it is quite impossible to locate the actual position of the dwelling of any village family. I know, from records that at this period there were six related branches of the Challice family at Lapford.