Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
5 items a Victorian can't live without

Today’s blog was written by Jessica Stillman, School Outreach Coordinator at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.

Within these brick walls are stories of family, hard work, urbanization, and an era long gone but not forgotten.

This building is Spruce Lane Farmhouse in Bronte Creek Provincial Park. Today, it is a living history museum designed to share stories from the Victorian era through objects that fill the home.

Think of five elements around his home without which you cannot live.

What kind of story do the five elements you chose tell about your life and the period in which you lived?

We can’t ask the original owners of this house what items they would choose, so we chose a few that probably would have been on their list over 120 years ago.

No ordinary cabinet

Imagine being able to prepare an entire meal while standing in one place and only having to walk away once you’re ready to cook.

This is the appeal of owning a Hoosier style cabinet. Considered a kitchen utensil in Victorian homes, it hides more behind its doors than just storage space (although it has plenty of space). It incorporates a variety of functional pieces designed to make meal preparation easier.

tallest cabinet

Look inside for the flour sifter, recipe book holder, spice rack, and tin-lined drawers for storing bread.

It has hangers and hooks, places for the rolling pin and sugar, and it even has an enameled work surface! Some Hoosier-style cabinets also come with meat grinders, ironing boards, or pull-out desks.

This cabinet was a must-have for speeding up meal prep. Everything is in its place and with purpose!

Some like it hot, but not too hot!

The front parlor of Victorian-era homes was typically used to receive and entertain guests.

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This meant it was an ideal place for the lady of the house to show how they kept up to date with the latest trends.

fire screenfire screen

It is this lavishly decorated room that reflects the social status of the family. This meant that it was important to consider the comfort of their guests when hosting.

A fire screen, although it was also a decorative element in the room, was placed in front of a fireplace to divert heat.

Why bother making a fire if you’re going to divert its heat?

Simple: save Victorian ladies from the embarrassment of wax-based makeup melting on their faces.

Of course, it also helped spread the heat of the fire around the room, which was important when entertaining guests in the front parlor.

But we don’t think his social status can be saved from a face-melting experience.

Feeling faint?

Do you feel a little weak during a social gathering?

fainted sofafainted sofa

Not to worry, the fainting couch in the back lounge was a private place where the women could catch their breath.

What caused women to faint to such an extent during the Victorian era that fainting couches became a household feature?

It was a hot trend, but can you guess which one?


Their uptight nature was known to make breathing more difficult, so fainting couches gained popularity as a way to keep fashionable guests comfortable.

A perfect combination

Spill holders combine home decor with practicality. Many Victorian homes lacked electricity, making fire an important source of light, heat, and a way to cook.

While matches did exist, they were still quite expensive. Instead, the flame would be transferred from one place to another through a spill.

container spillsSpills

A wood chip, a piece of paper, or a wooden spiral worked as a spill.

It’s always best to have a spill on hand; so spill containers were found throughout the house.

Hidden in plain sight, these small decorative stands would be made of glass, wood, iron or earthenware to match the charm of a room.

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The savior of ceramics

While the invention of the flushing toilet occurred long before the Victorian era, the lack of indoor plumbing and water pressure meant that many homes, especially on farms, still relied on water closets.

A privy is a toilet usually found in a garden hut, which meant that when nature called you had to take your business outside. Consider the difficulty of using an outdoor toilet at night in a Victorian farmhouse.

With no electricity or flashlights, you had to light a candle or flashlight to guide you to relief.

urinal collagePotty

Bring the urinals! To avoid having to go outside at night, both adults and children would place a urinal under the bed. While some urinals may be simple and unpretentious, they began to take on a more decorative look to match the aesthetics of the Victorian era.

Some were delicately handcrafted porcelain with intricately painted decoration, such as flowers or the Taj Mahal, while other decorative qualities came from the shapes of the urinal itself.

Form and function were clearly considered in these ceramic saviors.

Today here, tomorrow no longer

While the usefulness of these items may seem lost today, each of us has an item that we cannot live without.

These elements intertwine to tell a story about our daily lives. While it may seem mundane to us, imagine how historians will tell our stories one day.

I can’t imagine that the Breckon family, the original owners of Spruce Lane, would have imagined their stories would be shared this way in Bronte Creek Provincial Park.


While Spruce Lane doesn’t look exactly like it would have when the Breckons lived here; Using historical records, photographs and family stories, it has been restored to reflect life in 1899.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the charm of this building and the stories it tells. Walking through the doors of Spruce Lane is like stepping back in time.

Visit Spruce Lane Farmhouse in Bronte Creek today!

Can’t get to Bronte Creek soon? Explore Spruce Lane Farmhouse virtually with our 3D tour!