Skip to content

Viscountess Boudica’s Domestic Appliances

August 1, 2012
by the gentle author

Viscountess Boudica and her Berry Magnetic heater from 1940

When Viscountess Boudica invited me over to Bethnal Green to admire her domestic appliances, I was not quite sure what I might discover. Yet my expectations were surpassed by her magnificent array of vintage gadgets, gleaming in the half-light of her tiny ground floor flat, overshadowed by tall trees and sequestered behind discreet net curtains.

Like a high-priestess at a shrine, Viscountess Boudica presides over her treasured relics with gracious authority. These are the devices that freed women from the drudgery of housework in the twentieth century and Boudica tends her sacred collection, keeping each one sparkling clean and using them regularly, for cooking, washing and in all her daily chores – turning even the most ordinary domestic task into a ritual of religious intensity. Within the sepulchral gloom, Boudica’s colourful appliances line her kitchen with the irresistible glowing allure of pinball machines in a lost gaming arcade.

There is an intriguing mystery here, for Boudica is no literal-minded collector, ticking off her finds on a list. Instead, Boudica is on a spiritual quest, and each of her domestic appliances is a trophy leading her towards her ultimate goal – the Tricity 643 Cooker. This is the magic appliance that could transport her back to her own childhood and cure her fear of frying, as Boudica explained when she revealed to me the strange story of how it all began.

“It started with my search for the Tricity 643 Cooker. My mother had one. After she disappeared, my aunt was supposed to take me to school but when she came round one morning to the bungalow to collect me, Suzie her niece – that spoilt brat – she played up and my aunt had to take her out. “Here’s your eggs for breakfast,” my aunt said and she put them on the stove in a pan to cook, “All you’ve got to do is take the eggs from the pan and eat them.” I was only four and a half years old, and the eggs were spitting in the pan, so I had to stand on the blue library chair because the knobs were up high. They were push and turn. I managed to switch them off and move the pan onto the cold ring, but then my chair slipped and I fell onto the cardinal red floor. I had an ache for days. And of course, I always remembered that day and it gave me a fear of frying. So when I was older I thought, “I’ll see if I can buy one and go back to that day.”

I remember going out from the bungalow and walking down the lane to get the bus to the little villagey school a couple of miles away. When I saw my aunt later, little Suzie had a new outfit. My aunt said, “It’s your own fault, but now you’ve learned to switch it off you can make all the cakes up at the farm.” I was not even five years old, yet she said, “If you want to eat you’ll have to learn to cook, or you’ll starve, otherwise have a fag” - and that’s how I began to smoke. After that I started cooking, and my mother had a new man and I got pushed around to another of her boyfriends’ mothers. I used to cry and ask, “Where’s my mummy?” That’s how my life was, being moved from one to another, and I often ran away from home as well. They made me sleep with Greville, the lodger, and one night, when there was a terrible thunderstorm, I went up to my aunt’s side of the house and stood outside her bedroom door, where I heard her say to my mother that no man would want a woman that was a single mum.

For years, I tried to buy a Tricity 643, so I could go back in time to that moment and release myself, but I haven’t been able to because I can’t get the cooker. The dealers always sold me other appliances, they told me, “Buy this and we’ll get you a Tricity 643 next month.” I spent thousands of pounds on appliances without getting what I want, so I thought, “Oh well, I’ll collect them.” I’ve learnt to repair them all as well and, when I was at school, I even made my own working cooker with two rings. I sent away to Tricity to get the knobs.

Modern domestic appliances are rubbish. We are bombarded with foreign appliances when we used to manufacture these things ourselves here in Britain. They were made to last but instead we get these non-environmentally friendly appliances with a disposable life. I have begun to draw my own fantasy appliances now, because I thought it would be nice to have individual cookers instead of the boring mass-produced ones.”

Viscountess Boudica has rewired all her domestic appliances herself. She taught herself to do it, seeking spare parts from specialist suppliers and restoring broken old machines to perfect working order. Her fridge is more than sixty years old and she has cookers that are over eighty years old. When Boudica wants to cook her dinner she is spoilt for choices to suit her mood. All are as good as new and every one has a story to tell.

Proving to be an unlikely source of pleasure, knowledge and inspiration, Boudica’s beloved appliances have transcended the mundane. Today, Viscountess Boudica is proud to keep her secret temple in Bethnal Green to the lost glories of domestic appliances and, even after all this time, she has not given up hope of discovering a Tricity 643.

1960s Belling Classic Cooker

The fabled Tricity 643, drawn from memory – note the control knobs placed out of reach of a child.

1973 Hoover Constellation Vacuum Cleaner in pink

1930s Electric Cooker by E.E.Bond

Prescott Refrigerator, manufactured in Cowley, Oxford, late 1940s

1950s Baby Burco Washer-Boiler

1950s Parnell Tumble Drier

1950s Morphy Richards Iron

Wee Baby Belling Oven, Number 51

Goblin Teasmade 1940

1970s Black & White Valve Television by Ferguson

GEC Magnet Cooker 1930s

Drawings copyright © Viscountess Boudica

Be sure to follow Viscountess Boudica’s blog There’s More To Life Than Heaven & Earth

Read my original profile of Mark Petty, Trendsetter

and take a look at Mark Petty’s Multicoloured Coats,

Mark Petty’s New Outfits,

Mark Petty returns to Brick Lane,

Christmas With Boudica

Viscountess Boudica’s Blog

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Libby Hall permalink
    August 1, 2012

    Such treasures! Not just the domestic appliances but all the ornaments and pictures. I have admired Viscountess Boudicca’s taste in the past when I have looked at things in the background in previous days blogs.

    We even have some identical electrical wonders. The Goblin Teasmade – and the Baby Belling. (Only Boudicca seems to have TWO Baby Bellings!) What it doesn’t look like she has, though, are a 40s/50s set of aluminium pans specially made for electric cookers to save energy. They are three little triangles that make a circle so three separate things can be cooked at once on one ring. I never use these pans any more, so if Boudicca might like them I would like to give them to her.

  2. August 1, 2012

    Wonderful to see those appliances in working order! And they’re so beautiful to look at too. I’m so fed up with the if’-it’s-broken-just-throw-it-away way of life we have nowadays. Modern appliances don’t even last as long as the old ones. I admire Boudicca for teaching herself how to repair them!

  3. August 1, 2012

    well, I never! I too have a fear of frying and that began with eggs in a pan too. I leave that hissing side of things to my husband and concentrate on baking, much more civilised.
    This might very well be my most favourite post yet, I love everything about it and what a fine collection of dog ornaments. Boudicca and GA you are having a ball and I hope it is all making up for the misfortunes in Boudicca’s young life. How I covet the Burco washer boiler, so useful!

  4. August 1, 2012

    I have just seen Boudicas fridge from the 1940,s. I have one pretty similar which I inherited from my Grandad, Fred Sherriff. I always remember seeing it as a youngster in their house and was so pleased when I found out it still worked and that I could have it. I always said it must be as old as me but now I am thinking it may be quite older than me having seen this one of Boudicas! Mine is called “English Electric”. It is a dull yellow and also has rounded corners. Shame theier is no google images of it! I also have an old iron mangle in my garden which still works too!
    LOve your collection Boudica, thanx for sharing them with us x x x

  5. andrea permalink
    August 1, 2012

    A wonderful collection! But surely that Hoover Constellation is older than 1977?

  6. Adrienne permalink
    August 1, 2012

    Brilliant :-)

  7. Fiona Bascur permalink*
    August 7, 2012

    I’m glad that Boudica has found a passion in spite of not having enough love as a child.

  8. Jennie Kench permalink
    June 24, 2015

    Hello Viscountess Boudicca,
    I Love the pictures that you have posted on here…I was wondering if you are still using your Constellation hoover?My husband has 1 just like this which has been handed down to him but we have been trying in vain to get a suction hose which has unfortunately worn out!!LOVE his hoover soo much and it would be great to get this for his big 5-0 birthday.I would totally understand if you said No as it is such an iconic item…!Thanks again for your pictures.
    Take care
    Jennie X

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS