Time, space, and memories; the father's chair and grandfather clocks in Victorian working-class domestic lives

Doolittle, Megan (2011). Time, space, and memories; the father's chair and grandfather clocks in Victorian working-class domestic lives. Home Cultures, 8(3) pp. 245–264.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2752/175174211X13099693358753

URL: http://www.bergpublishers.com/BergJournals/HomeCul...

Abstract

This article traces the ways that gendered and generational family practices were remembered across time in the context of working-class homes in Victorian Britain. Two everyday domestic objects: the father’s chair and the grandfather clock are examined and analysed, drawing on John Gillis’ work on ritualised family spaces and contested notions of time (Gillis, 1996). Both these objects resonate with the contested use of domestic space and the layered meanings of family time in working-class lives, not least because both are often remembered in autobiographical accounts of home and family. The special place of the father’s chair highlighted the feminising of the home and accompanying development of rituals to welcome and ensconce the father in his domestic domain each day. The sound of clocks underpinned the bringing together of industrial time, separating leisure and work for those at school or employment away from home, and at the same time conveying the cyclical nature of family life and its everyday routines from day to day, year to year and generation to generation. Memories of chairs and clocks embedded in autobiographies offer important evidence about the images, sounds and sensory experiences which resonated most powerfully when remembering and composing a the hierarchies and tensions of working-class family life.

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