York Castle Museum is a lot of fun. I’ve been there several times and it never fails to delight. The museum was founded in 1938 and is housed in 18th century prison buildings constructed on the site of the Norman castle. The galleries include a full-size reconstructed Victorian Street, ‘Kirkgate’, much of it based on real businesses and people. Plus, there are some wonderful rooms, recreated from past eras, where you can take a trip back in time and/or marvel at how quaint/tatty/awful it all once was. I guess it depends on your age and state of mind; nostalgia’s not what it used to be. If some of them look horribly familiar, it is merely indicative of your wide knowledge and vivid imagination. Or perhaps you like period dramas.
Take a look at the Victorian parlour. Now tell me you don’t remember a time when it was common to have a piano in the house, lace mats all over the place, hideous gilt-framed pictures on the wall, a good china tea service and one of those multi-tiered tables in the corner? You still have all of that? Well, bless you; you’re looking great.
The early 20th century farmhouse seems more alien to me – it actually looks older than the Victorian parlour. But I liked the dog and was impressed that he remained so still, and quiet, whilst people took their photographs.
I’m certain they’ve got the 1940s kitchen all wrong. Surely, Ascot heaters were much, much later than that? Perhaps this is cutting-edge stuff. But you still see clothes driers with pulleys to haul them up to the ceiling today – don’t you?
The living room from the 1950s was immediately recognisable, despite me being much too young to ever experience anything like it... The TV, the Coronation Coach, the tray, train set (a Hornby?), electric fire, leather pouffe, décor – all very familiar, yet so far removed from a living room of the 21st century. You can almost see father, pipe clenched between his teeth, reading the newspaper on the settee; of course, he is wearing a jacket and tie. Messy though - mother must be down the pub.
And, finally, a kitchen of the 1980s – I’m assuming that decade, though in many ways it could be the 1970s. Apart from the Vesta ready meal, the contents of the kitchen cupboard and worktop don’t seem that far away. But you won’t find coffee sets and kitchen units like that in too many showrooms these days. Microwaves only really took off in Britain in the 1980s and 90s – though invented in 1947, the first domestic ones were not sold here until 1974; I’m proud to say that I learnt to use one just the other day.
We can all recognise that these rooms are manifestly from another age. But I’ll bet the perspective is very different, depending which side of 30 you’re on.
Find out more by visiting York Castle Museum website.