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Basketry - The Nursery

Some of you may have listened to your grandparents’ memories of ‘The Nursery’. Maybe not if they were factory workers or farm labourers, but the nursery was a significant room in the Victorian and Edwardian homes of the British middle class and wealthier families. Indeed, your grandparents may have had fonder memories of their Nanny than of their Mother or Father. In some households the young children were visited by their parents only occasionally. They may even have been dressed up and presented to them formally in the living room. Publications such as ‘Everywoman’s Encyclopedia’ and ‘The Housewife’s Reason Why?’ offered much advice, from location within the house to the type of oil suitable to be burnt in the lamps. The siting of the bed opposite the window was particularly important, in that if the child looked directly towards the light he or she would be less likely to develop a squint. There should also be a long distance view so that the child did not develop short sightedness.

This period coincided with the boom in the wicker furniture industry, so it was no wonder that much nursery furniture was made of willow or cane. When the railway station at Athelney was connected to the main line in 1906, special sidings were built for the wagons that would transport locally made willow furniture to the London market. This was a time when whole rooms were fitted out with chairs, tables and cupboards of willow and cane, whole or split. Wicker furniture also fitted in well with the prevailing ideas of ‘light and airy’ for a nursery, rather than the heavy Victorian Gothic style mahogany pieces.

If the family was on the move, by coach, train, or ship, what better than a cot in a folding frame. This example from Coates Basket Museum has a stand with white china castors that packs flat easily - with no nuts and bolts to lose!


This is a Nursing chair that would also have been in the nursery. It was designed in Somerset and would have been made in white willow - dating back to a time before the 'buffing' of willow had been invented.


These baby scales, also in Coates Basket Museum, were used to weigh Sarah Evans.


And, finally, somewhere for the dirty linen

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