Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Benson WI

OUR president Yvonne Wadley welcomed all members and visitors to our April meeting before introducing our

OUR president Yvonne Wadley welcomed all members and visitors to our April meeting before introducing our speaker for the evening, Tony King.

Tony treated us to a fascinating talk called “How things we can’t do without came about”. We heard how hard life was in Victorian times for the very poor who just about survived, as opposed to the upper classes who had at least five members of staff whose role was to make life as pleasant as possible for their employers.

During the Second World War things started to change with returning soldiers wanting a better Britain.

At this time 157,000 prefabs were built as temporary housing, although many still stand today. In 1950 there was a boom in house-building with the cost of a semi-detached house being £1,500 and £1,859 for a detached.

Today every household has running water but this wasn’t always the case with water being accessed from a community pump.

Thomas Crapper introduced the first flushing toilet in 1881 but these brought problems due to the increased volume of water being pumped into the cesspits, which then overflowed into the River Thames.

People drank the water and subsequently there was an outbreak of cholera which claimed the lives of 10,000 people.

During the period 1813-1937 gas was widely used in the home. Street lights were developed which meant that people could now go out on to the streets in safety.

The world’s first power station was opened in 1887 in Deptford and electricity gradually took over from gas in the home, although it wasn’t until 1930 that the first electric cooker began to replace the gas stove.

The electrically powered harness corset was introduced so that ladies could fulfil their desire to have a 22in waist and the electropathic belt was developed as a cure for  constipation!

Over the next few years electric hair brushes, electrically heated socks, toasters, kettles, irons and all sorts of implements were introduced into the home.

However, it was not until 1920 that the first twin-tub washing machine replaced clothes being washed by hand and in 1950 the first launderette was opened in England.

Refrigeration of food in the 18th century was undertaken by ice houses in which large cubes of ice were shipped from the Arctic.

In 1923 a revolution took place with the introduction of the Fridgidaire and models with a freezer compartment followed in 1939.

In Croydon the very first self-service supermarket was opened.

Keeping warm indoors was not only costly but very ineffective and in 1873 the death rate from hypothermia increased drastically. However, in 1920 the home began to be heated by the gas fire.

Radio replaced the organ as home entertainment and television was introduced during 1925 at which time a 12in x 10in screen would cost £1 per week.

In Victorian homes the carpet sweeper was used to clean the linoleum but in 1900 Henry Cecil Booth invented the vacuum cleaner with many imitations to follow.

Tony was thanked for his fascinating talk and I think it made us all realise how grateful we are for the inventions of the past which make all our lives today so much easier.

Our members Pat Stevenson and Tessa Keys were thanked by Yvonne for the delicious refreshments and Jenny Grinham for the flowers. The raffle was won by Eileen Hunt.

Benson WI meets at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. Our next meeting will be on May 20 when the WI resolution will be discussed and voted upon. This will be followed by a speaker from Age UK.

Please join us, you will be made most welcome. For more information, please call Lin on (01491) 836800.

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