What were family homes like?

Illustration of a typical house and family during World War One with Mother, Father, Mother's Sister and three children standing outside their home Sister Alice, Mother, Father, Aunt Constance, brother Jimmy, and sister Victoria outside their home

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In 1914 there were big differences in homes, depending on how rich or poor a family was.

The richest 'upper-class' families owned land and had two houses, one in the country and one in town. Their homes had 20 rooms or more. A rich family living on more than £5000 a year could afford a number of servants.

Interactive house

An illustrated house

Explore an interactive house from 100 years ago.

A bank manager earning £600 a year was 'middle class'. His family lived in a house with 8-10 rooms, and could pay one or two servants.

A manager in a small factory had a smaller house with 6-7 rooms. He could afford to pay one servant, perhaps a housemaid who did the cleaning. Many families in 1914 had no servants.

Manual workers

'Working-class' people worked in factories, on farms, or in heavy industries such as coal mining and steel-working. They earned £50-£100 a year, or less. Families lived in cottages and joined-together 'terraced' houses with 3-4 rooms. Many of these small homes had an outside toilet and no bathroom.

The very poor, who often didn't have jobs, lived in overcrowded and dirty 'slums'. Whole families sometimes lived in one room in badly-kept houses and tenements (apartment blocks). They had to share a toilet with other families. Old slums were being cleared, but in 1914 there were still plenty in the big cities.

What were houses made from?

Three women and children gathered around a gramophone at home during World War One Women and children gathered around a gramophone at home during World War One

The government makes a survey of how many people are in the country and what they do every ten years. This is called a 'census' and it is very useful for historians. The 1911 census showed there were more than 7 million homes in Britain. Many old houses were made of stone but most new homes were built of brick. They had chimneys (for coal fires), tile or slate roofs, wooden gates and windows, and iron drainpipes and gutters. Towns and cities were growing, and there were new homes in the suburbs, areas just outside towns.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes with suggestions providing ways for pupils to actively imagine and investigate what family life was like at the time of World War One.

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