Kitchen Bed Near the Fire – February 1919

I know a lady — whether English or Scottish I am not sure — greatly interested in the housing question who has very strong views upon the kitchen bed, as being both unhygienic and indecent. And I fear there are so many modern people of the educated classes with like views that there is a serious danger that this highly characteristic feature of the Scottish cottage may be discountenanced when it comes to re-building.

Now I have no love of box beds, but if I had to bring up a family in a cottage, I’d choose one with a recess bed in the kitchen so placed as to have a good view of the fire. It’s such a handy place on which to deposit “the wean” whether sleeping or waking. The mother can go about her work and keep an eye on her infant at the same time. The little creature will sit up and watch, as from the box of a theatre, the panorama of the household.

A cradle on the floor of a kitchen is a nuisance and the greatest draught is on the level of the floor. The English working-class kitchen is very small. There is usually a “settle” — a wooden bench with a back — in the corner next the fire, and the cradle, to be out of the way, is placed on that. Many a time I have been sorry for the babes lying in these hooded cradles in a corner with no glimpse of the world possible to their enquiring eyes.

How much brighter, airier and healthier the couch or the recess bed. Children, from infancy are sociable creatures, and love the innermost buzz of whatever is going on. The isolation of the sickroom is abhorrent to them.

Well I remember trying to keep one of ours upstairs beside a bedroom fire, in obedience to the stern instruction of the doctor. “Blow ‘at fi’e out! was the peremptory counter order of the invalid. “But, darling,” I pleaded. “the doctor would be very angry if he came and found little John downstairs.” “When doctah come, Don tell him blow ‘at fie’e out.”

And after the doctor had paid his morning visit, I wrapped the willing invalid in a big shawl and carried him down to a cheerful parlour fire when he quickly recovered his health content. If there had been a kitchen bed in which he could have lain and watched me prepare the dinner that would have been better still.

The kitchen bed is, in highly respectable houses, put to a use that would shock beyond expression, the refined sensibilities of our hygienists. Covered with a double thickness of clean white towel, the newly baked scones and pancakes are laid upon the bed as they leave the girdle and covered with another cloth, lie there until the baking is completed.

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