10 September 2012

The Breach House: D. H. Lawrence in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire

I revisited the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence (1885–1931) in Eastwood earlier this year, although I'd not been to The Breach House before, which is now 28 Garden Road. The Lawrence family moved here in 1887 from 8a Victoria Street, and as it was an end terrace house it was an improvement; it also had a porch (just visible in shadow on the left here), a small scullery, and most important of all a relatively large  garden. It belonged to the colliery owners the miner Arthur worked for, and cost sixpence (2½ pence) more a week to rent than their former home. David Herbert was two years old, and the rest of the family consisted of his parents Lydia and Arthur, his elder brothers Ernest and George, his elder sister Emily and his younger sister Ada.
To some, this is known as the 'Sons and Lovers' house because of Lawrence's representation of it in his novel of 1913. This area Lawrence fictionally referred to as 'The Bottoms': the house faces a slope, and the children used to play there.
The front, south-facing room was known as the 'parlour' and was only used on Sundays and special occasions.
The kitchen also served as the living room.
Through the kitchen door is the scullery, with the shelves of the pantry (or larder) opposite.
Outside is the water pump on the left. I'm unsure if this would have been used by the Lawrences then: they may have had tap water from the scullery as shown above – I'm not too strong on the history of water supply. On the right is a device for heating water.
The rusty bracket of the pig hook.
The spacious garden, where it certainly can't always have been idyllic:
Lawrence's fictionalized description of living in the house in Sons and Lovers is probably very similar to how he and his family experienced The Breach House:
'The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits, went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash-pits.'
The ash-pits were emptied regularly by the night soil workers, but the smell if the wind was blowing towards the south, particularly on a hot day, must have been scarcely tolerable. (The lavatory was on the left of the photo, with a small area for coal storage on the right.) In 1891 the Lawrences moved to better accommodation: a brand new rented house on Walker Street, which didn't belong to the colliery company.
We greatly appreciated the opportunity The D. H. Lawrence Society provided, through Heritage Open Days, to see Lawrence's other museum in Eastwood. The house is not normally open to the general public, and the two upper floors now provide holiday accommodation.
Other blog posts I've made about D. H. Lawrence are linked below.
The D. H. Lawrence Heritage Trail, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire

D. H. Lawrence in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire

D. H. Lawrence and the University of Nottingham, England

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