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Viscountess Boudica’s Domestic Appliances

September 4, 2019
by the gentle author

Celebrating our tenth anniversary with favourite stories from the first decade

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.

(In 2016, changes to the benefits system meant that Viscountess Boudica could no longer afford to pay the rent for her council flat in Bethnal Green and she was transferred to alternative accommodation in Uttoxeter. I still hear from her regularly.)

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

You may like to take a look at

Viscountess Boudica’s Drawings

Viscountess Boudica’s Blog

Viscountess Boudica’s Album

Viscountess Boudica’s Halloween

Viscountess Boudica’s Christmas

Viscountess Boudica’s Valentine’s Day

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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Rachel Jowitt permalink
    September 4, 2019

    I often think about the Viscountess. I used to see her regularly as she lived near my workplace. Please wish her well from Bethnal Green!

  2. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    September 4, 2019

    Excellent appliances Viscountess! Hope you are doing OK in your new home x

  3. Marina permalink
    September 4, 2019

    We miss the Vicountess and her wit and creativity! Best wishes to her!

  4. Jill permalink
    September 4, 2019

    Oh how is viscountess Boudicca- I hope she’s happy in her new place, life in those days could be very very harsh. I remember the appliances. All very much a luxury in the 50s when I was growing up. We had a pillar box red fridgidare – very iconic, a creda cooker, a bush tv and various electric fires, one of which I remember burning my long tresses on on a cold morning! Those days …..

  5. Sue permalink
    September 4, 2019

    Such a shame the Vicountess had to move on. I hope she was able to take all her appliances with her.

  6. September 4, 2019

    as someone who prefers to sew on ‘vintage’ sewing machines (as they are stronger and better overall) I am so impressed with the domestic appliances of the lovely Vicountess Boudica – I am rather jealous as we are on our second washing machine in 5 years and had to replace our fridge 6 years ago (the previous one only lasting 4 years) – Adore the 1930s cooker….beautiful design

  7. mlaiuppa permalink
    September 4, 2019

    I’m so glad you still keep in touch with her. Such a pity she had to move. I hope she was able to keep all of her appliances.

    I have some vintage ones myself but have only done minor repairs that would make the Vicountess laugh. I have a vintage O’Keefe and Merritt stove that I use regularly but have only replaced the springs for the oven door, a handle and done some cleaning and adjustments on the burners. One day I hope to take it apart, replace all of the insulation and then thoroughly clean it and get some of the parts rechromed.

    I have a vintage fryer I am afraid to use.

  8. September 4, 2019

    I hope that Boudicca is happy in Uttoxeter. (I think that’s where she moved to.) Just thinking, ‘Happy in Uttoxeter’ would be a great name for an album or even a band. Their first single could be ‘Retro Appliances’ and all the royalties could go to Boudicca.
    Forgive my whimsicality but Boudicca makes me feel that way. ?

  9. Anne Scott permalink
    September 5, 2019

    I’m duly impressed with the Viscountess’ collection and her ability to repair the appliances! Love the yellow iron, and my favorite photo is the Viscountess sitting next to the Goblin Teasmade.

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