Of Hearth & Home by @ginaconkle

posted in: Georgian Romance, Gina Conkle | 11

iStock_000010815814SmallHistorical romance opens the door for great research opportunities. Specializing in Viking and Georgian romance, I’ve read my share of non-fiction books on those eras.

But,just when you think you know an era, you get an “aha” moment.

Of late, homes in history has caught my interest. That’s not as exciting as say, “The History of Sex” (a head-turning book someone recently discussed with me), but some of the facts might surprise you.



Here are Three Historical Home Facts:


#1 In 1839, England’s annual death toll from fevers was twice the number of those lost by the allied armies at Waterloo.

The House of Lords made a point of discussing this national tragedy. Someone suggested the deaths were a direct result of rural cottages. The Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population was presented to the Home Secretary 3 years later.

It was the 19th century, but the findings were medieval. Horses were stalled by beds. Fowls roosted on bedsteads. Many cottage homes housed 10 to 12 people. Along with the unsanitary conditions, roofs leaked and many windows were stuffed with rags rather than repaired.


Tumble down fisherman's sheds at Prussia Cove Cornwall England UK Europe
Prussia Cove Cornwall, England


#2 You know where you are in England by the type of cottage.

The Cornish Longhouse (circa 15th century). These cottages of the west housed people and animals in a single roof line. Because the district is not heavily “treed” residents adapted with hardy stone structures (typically granite). Mortar was not used. Instead, boulders were embedded with mud, or mud was later jammed between stones to keep rain and cold out. With wood scarce, animal dung fueled home fires.




#3  Windows…eyes of a home or the tax man’s dreamiStock_000018873458_Medium

What’s the saying? There’s two things you can count on in life — death and taxes. England first imposed the window tax in 1696 and the dreaded levy wasn’t abolished until 1851. The particulars: The custom man levied a tax on the number of “openings” on any dwelling worth over £5 a year.

Hence, you’ll run across many a cottage and even larger homes with bricked over windows, thus eliminating costly “openings.”


These are a few of the historical tidbits on English cottages. Stay tuned for Viking longhouse trivia…

Now you tell me: What interesting historical “home” fact do you know? 


Georgian selfie


***This is “me” Gina Conkle, writer of Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. I took part in Take a Walk on the Historical Side at RT Book Lover’s Convention in Dallas, TX. This is my best selfie with mask (inspired by my character, Claire Mayhew from The Lady Meets Her Match). It was a blast!!

I attended the event with EmbracingRomance.com authors Ally Broadfield and Victoria Vane. You’ll get the full RT scoop from one of them.



Follow Gina Conkle:

A writer of Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side, Gina loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations. When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.

Latest posts from

11 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    Interesting Gina. I knew about the window tax. Extremely cruel to the poor who could hardly afford tallow and lived in virtual darkness.

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi Maggi, I’ve toured the “Closes” in Edinburgh and it felt like living in a cave. Makes me appreciate modern conveniences like electricity and air conditioning. I figured a Regency writer like you would know the window tax. 🙂

  2. Nancy

    They might not have known it then but from 1829 to 1849 there were two pandemics of cholera throughout the world. The fevers did lead to improvement in sanitation, water purification. It caused people to start rethinking the placement of privies and cess pits— many had been placed above the well or source of the water. The unsanitary situation of many of the poor did need correcting and it is too bad that it took the deaths of so many to make people pay attention.
    I do like windows and think the window tax which led to the boarding up of windows disgraceful. However , I have also lived in apartment complexes where a window by the front door was the only one in the unit. I used to call them air conditioned caves. I at least had electricity which provided light without noxious fumes.

  3. ginaconkle2013

    Hi Nancy, Thanks for sharing! This was, at times, a less cheery post to write. I started to write more about the sanitary conditions, but hit delete. You’re so right about the terrible proximity of wells and cesspits for much of history. I was thinking of making this a series and going more into cottage design and building materials over the centuries and regions. Good to know you love these historical details, too! It’s fascinating.

  4. Barbara Monajem

    I can’t think of *anything* at the moment (hardly slept at all, so brain is even less alert than usual), but I read a ton of interesting info about houses and homes in At Home by Bill Bryson. Wonderfully informative book.

  5. Alyssa Alexander

    That window tax…Honestly, what a strange thing to tax. Very sad, too, when you think about all the people who had to live in the dark. I’m not sure I could live without some decent windows!

    • Gina Conkle

      Hi Alyssa, yes, taxes are a sticking point and windows are an odd thing to target. I read a compelling essay on taxes, literacy, and national independence. It’s interesting how people endured the window taxes, but the stamp, sugar, and tea taxes were either short-lived and/or hardly tolerated. I like my windows too!

  6. Gina Conkle

    I’ve heard of Bill Bryson. Thanks for the book share, Barbara. I will have to check it out.

  7. jessicajefferson

    When I was younger I read The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England. I’d also purchased the same book except for 1800’s America at some big library sale – I know, what kind of teen girl checks those books out at the library. I just found all of it so interesting and now, just a few years later, I still pick it up to find fun facts. Thanks for sharing your fun facts!

  8. dholcomb1

    I like the decorative anchor plates used with tie rods (structural support) on historic homes made of masonry… some have an “ess” shape or a star . The star is especially prevalent in Pennsylvania–on homes and barns.


    • dholcomb1

      and life expectancy did go up in the 20th century thanks to eradicating/reducing diseases with antibiotics and vaccinations.