Renovations, Stories & Finds, The Laurels History

A Victorian Basement Kitchen

Ever wondered what was in the basement of a Victorian home? Wonder no further and allow me to tell you: the Gate to Hell. My Aunt Sheila looked at me like I was mad when I informed her of my exact hypothesis and said “someone watched a few scary movies growing up.” Thinking back to my 6 year old self eating cake rolls and drinking Diet Pepsi at my grandma’s while watching the gate of hell open up under some fallen tree on the television I simply nodded and told her she was correct.

Honestly though, growing a pair (of work gloves) and heading into the depths of The Laurels was pretty scary the first few times I went down. Finally accompanied by my nephew and a shop vac, we started to sift through the dirt and uncovered an amazingly well preserved kitchen.

Sheila said there use to be a Green Baize Door just beyond the door at the top of the stairs, so the serving class got to spend most of their time in this lovely cave. Honestly though, there are tons of windows that are boarded up, so it was probably pretty nice once upon a time.

The basement is made up of 6 rooms; 7 if you count the locked room full of dead bodies, the Gate to Hell and one bike (seen through the vent grate at the bottom) behind the sub pump I have yet to channel my inner Merida to explore. This door likely leads to our neighbor’s basement…so that room is their problem, not mine.

You ready? Down the rabbit hole. I used flash…because I wasn’t going to fight with my camera as I was descending into hell.

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This opens into a thin room/hallway of sorts that the other rooms come off of. There are two more thinner rooms: one parallel to the left hand wall (opening there on the left) and one directly ahead on the right, just out of the camera view that looked as though it were lined with shelves at one point (possibly the larder?).

Am I loosing you? I can tell. Here, let me draw you a floor plan:

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Can’t see it passed the spiders? Me, too. Sorry.

Back to Room 1: Some buckling shelves line the walls and there is a big dark hole under the stairs full of loads of stuff.

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Lots of the original Bufton’s cookware made it in there. The whole basement is lined with sexy pants brick flooring…and mold.

The room to the immediate right opens up into the main room: a relatively amazing looking kitchen complete with:

  • kitchener (cast iron range in falling out of the fireplace below)
  • copper (giant cast iron pot with a round wooden lid set into brick above a fireplace to heat water for bathing and laundry…it’s that brick thing on the right of the fireplace that looks like it is about to topple to the floor)
  • A salting table? maybe? (out of the pic, more later)
  • LOTS of empty bottles
  • Crates
  • A few tables
  • Spark plugs
  • Shoes…no pairs, just 5 shoes and 2 soles
  • Dry rotted fabric of rubber suits, flour sacks, potato sacks, scarves, something knit and wooly (sweater?)

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The kitchener is falling to crap. You can see the right side of it in the fireplace there. I’ve found a few of the cast iron pieces to it in that dirt pile on the floor in front there that use to be stuff before 50+ years of damp turned it into amazing compost. I found a neat science experiment involving electricity and rust removal I will try on a few of the really bad pieces to see how it goes.

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This, surprisingly, is one of the nice pieces. I also found entire stove replacements for 30 quid (£30) at a salvage yard as a back up plan. Yes, I intend to reinstate this train wreck as well.

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That is a stone sink (see the hole in the middle?)…possibly a salting table for curing meat…with a metal wash bin/water basin to the right and a piper running down. There is a hole to the right of the window (on the side) where a pipe possibly was coming in. The tables amazingness was hidden under layers of glass shards (observe the missing window pane), potato sack fabric and apparently corroded gas masks. Because the last person to step foot down here was Guillermo del Toro and he really just wanted to mess with you.

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Drugs. From Boots the chemist…and a nice crockery. I found a tiny bottle of pills complete with fluffy white cotton wool in the dirt pile as well. Time couldn’t get through the child safety seal. Oh wait…we weren’t into that safety stuff back then.

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Shoes, with welts.

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industrial wine rack. Can you hear the hipsters clawing at the door to get in for it?

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Can you hear them now?

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Scroll back up to the fireplace photo, see that door to the right? That’s room…whatever: 5? There is no light in there but the sub pump and creepy locked door.

S: What if we find a dead body in there?

D: We close the door.

There is also a really bad ass Belfast sink that is going back in the kitchen as soon as I find a place for it.

Ok, now back up to the industrial wine rack, that’s near the door we came in through, see?

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That green painted tag on the door frame is from my father in-law’s brother Raymon…when he was a punk kid and tagged walls with his name. He is in his 70’s now, for perspective. The room we are about to go into is right off the left of the entrance to this room. Are you lost yet? Good, let me turn the lights out on you and see if you can make it out alive.

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Coal shoot to the front…along with a fancy container on the wall with a “smell gas?” sticker and the mold forest on the wall. The arch to the right is begging to become something involving alcohol and awesomeness. I think at one point it was something involving meat. It seems Kezzabeth has the same cellar as ours and hers still has the original cabinets…including a meat locker set into the archway. You can also see the inserts for what use to be a table or shelf below that. To do list: see if the table in the main room fits in this nook.

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And this thing:

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Which I think you are suppose to put a log in and then trust to hold still while you cut it? I don’t know for sure though. There is a coal shuttle in the background.

There you have it, the whole terrifying shebang.

The cleaning has commenced. You can read about it here.