Setting up house

It is wedding season and I’ve been looking at a lot of wedding registries lately for a few friends who are getting married.  Most couples today register for “fancy” goods like china and expensive wine glasses, but also for “practical” goods like a dish drainer or trash can.  It got me thinking…when Thomas and Hannah Lee set up house at Stratford in the late 1730s/early 1740s, what did they need?  Granted, at that point they had young children and a household already, but I bet they needed new furniture and other items when they moved into the new digs.

Looking at the inventory taken after Thomas Lee’s death in 1750 (excerpt above – click to zoom), you definitely see a mixture of fancy and practical.  A clock worth 10 pounds and a “Chandeleer” worth 21 pounds are listed along with “a Parcell of Cannisters,” a coffee roaster, and “4 Water Glasses and other things” worth less than a pound combined.

Recently I’ve been trying to fill in our collection with the small, everyday sorts of things that I know would have been needed by residents of Stratford in their daily lives.  One of my most recent acquisitions for the collection is a small looking glass that would have been useful in a family bedchamber or upper servant’s chamber.  We see low-cost looking glasses in the Stratford household inventory, like in the Blue Room inventory in 1775, where appraisers found “1 small glass” valued at 3 shillings.  Not every room in the Lee household would have had fancy, gilded and carved looking glasses (although some would have!).  Like our own homes, the rooms at Stratford would have been decorated in a hierarchy – the fancy public rooms with expensive furniture, the more intimate family rooms that you used on a daily basis, and the private service rooms that only the staff or family would see.

Now I just need to decide which way to go with my wedding gifts…
Looking glass image courtesy Pook and Pook.