Originally, the kitchen, scullery and pantry were all on this lower level. The Dickens family in 1812 probably employed one or two servants to help with the chores for only a few shillings week. Two items of particular interest are the small kitchen fire and stove used for both cooking and heating water. There was no running water, so water had to be heated in the kitchen and carried upstairs. The white dresser was originally built into the structure of the house and has always been a feature. It is the only existing piece of original furniture from when the Dickens family lived here.
Visitors in 1812 would have been shown into the parlour at the front of the house. It is furnished in the style of early 19th century middle class taste. The wallpaper is a modern reproduction but has been specially printed with 19th century rollers to closely match the original. The sofa is from c.1800 and has an accompanying table which would have been used for refreshments for visitors. The fireplace has a mirrored over-mantle with a classical design. The chiffonier or sideboard on the left was made in 1810 and the porcelain tea set was made in Shropshire in about 1780. The fire screen is decorated with fabric covered panels to shield ladies’ faces from the reddening effect of the flames. On the left hand side of the fire is the torchère, made of mahogany with an oil lamp.
The Dining Room
The wallpaper, curtains and carpet are reproduction but to designs of the early 19th century. The walls are decorated with framed prints by Bartolozzi and depict naval battles. The mahogany dining suite dates from about 1810, and the dresser dates to the 1770s, but had extra decorative details added in the early 19th century. Some of the Georgian glassware is deep coloured, other pieces have detailed cut decoration – all highly fashionable in 1812. The coffee pot, tray, sugar bowl and milk jug are Sheffield plate: copper covered with a thin layer of silver. This was cheaper than solid silver, which the Dickens family would have been unable to afford. The blue and white Staffordshire pottery in the dresser would have been for everyday use and commonplace in the 19th century.
This was the main bedroom of the house and where Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812. It is furnished with pieces similar to what would have been used by John and Elizabeth Dickens in their first married home. The four-poster bed is typical 19th century, designed in an elegant Georgian style. The tallboy, chest of drawers and mirror range in date from the middle 18th century to early 19th century. The fireplace would have kept the room cosy with the clothes horse in front to warm nightshirts, baby clothes and towels. With no running water in the house, washing would be done at the washstand in the corner with servants fetching the hot water and removing the waste water and slops.