In our series The Great War – Through a London Child’s Eye, we’re following “The Private Diary of Edward Hampton” to learn about life as a child in London at the outbreak of the First World War.
Life in 1914 was pretty much the same as today – children got up in the morning, had breakfast and went to school.
And after school, they still did their homework and played – although there wasn’t any television or the internet back then!
As well as going to lessons, children would help with war work at school.
They might knit scarves or socks to send to soldiers, collect tin cans for recycling, or work on the school’s vegetable plot, growing food for school dinners.
P.E. lessons were a little bit different in 1914 and known as ‘drill’.
Drill was introduced in schools to promote discipline and a degree of ‘soldierly’ fitness.
Girls and boys would have to do exercises like marching on the spot or activities to build strength, like boxing.
After school, boys and girls in 1914 would play outside with their friends, read or do jobs around the house.
If their house had a garden or a yard, they might work weeding and watering the family’s vegetable plot.
Lots of families kept chickens so they could have fresh eggs. It was often a child’s job to feed the chickens, collect the eggs – and clean up the muck!
On a Saturday morning, if their parents could afford it, children might go to the cinema to see a funny film or cartoon.
Back then, all the films were black and white and had no sound. Instead, a piano player made up music to suit each film.
Saturday night was bath night – there were no showers in 1914 – to make sure everyone was fresh and clean for church on Sunday.
In poorer homes, there was no indoor bathroom and so, instead, everyone bathed in the warmest room of the house, which was usually the kitchen.
Water was heated in a copper. There was a brick-built box underneath the copper, where a coal fire heated up the water and this was carried in buckets to a little tin bath tub.
Then each family member took a turn in the tub, using the same water!
Afterwards, the cold dirty water had to be taken out, bucket by bucket, and poured down the outside drain.
After church on Sunday mornings, most children went to Sunday school.
As well as Bible reading and hymn practice, they also arranged picnics and outings, as well as sports and games.
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The Great War – Through a London Child’s Eye is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.