What can I see through the square window?
(small joke for those of us brought up in the UK)
One side of our house is quite close to the next building. It’s not another dwelling but a Reading Room.
To the naked eye the roof slope at the back appears to ripple up and down a fair amount and I thought it would make a useful photo to keep in mind when I eventually get to building a roof on this here 1/12th scale model.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Reading Rooms? We live in a small village – more a hamlet or group of labourers’ houses based around farm buildings. In the mid to late 19th century and early 20th, landowners and church organisations were given to providing Reading Rooms for the good of their workers. In this county a large number of small villages have a building that still bears the name. They were intended for the men only and operated usually on a membership scheme with an eye to keeping the workers out of the pubs and bringing their minds to higher matters.
You can still find these buildings all over the country, often turned into homes, businesses and, quite commonly, billiard rooms which still work on membership only. There are quite large, competitive leagues which play mostly in the spring and autumn. E’en as I type, they are meeting and billiarding next door.
In the original Reading Rooms improving books were provided, often on religious and moral subjects. The intention was to give an opportunity for self-help and betterment and moral discussion. Books provided might be those by Samuel Smiles with titles like “Thrift” “Duty” and “Self Help”. We have a copy of this one, stamped with the name of the RR it came from.
I’m not sure how many of the farm workers in the late 19th century would find longish, moral works to their reading taste, nor just how many would be that fluent in reading them at all. Perhaps one amongst them read out chapters from these tomes to a group of fellow workers(?). I’m not dismissing their ability to read but their fluency, and think it more likely that short articles in an improving newspaper/magazine might prove more comfortable fare. One of which, strange to say, I found used as a draught excluder in our house, having been stuffed around a nice square wood door frame by the original carpenter who was trying to fit it against the uneven surface of the random rubble stone walls. It dates from the 1890s (see “The Real Infill” and following 2 entries). One of the papers is the “Christian Herald” and has many short, inspiring articles, (often only one or two paragraphs in length).
There is very little detailed history of Reading Rooms available, but it is possible that fewer farm workers and more artisans may have used the facilities for their original intended purpose.
From around the 30s onwards, they were used as village meeting rooms, with women allowed to hold group activities too. In the 70s, when we moved here, there were still books in one or two of the Rooms around this area, but mostly they had been sold off or given away as the usage of the buildings changed.
The Reading Room here is part of a row of workers’ houses of the long, single storey, one room deep style, probably with parts built around the late 18th early 19th century. As you can see it could do with a little tlc on this back, north facing roof slope. But it does have interesting ripples in the slate work.
Here endeth the lecture on the rippley roofed Reading Room.