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A drawing room in 1830

By the 1830s this room was a female domain, used primarily by the women of the house for activities deemed appropriate, like reading or painting. There was also a growing interest in interior design, with a number of influential publications giving advice.

Blue room with blue sofa, upholstered blue chairs and chess board Photograph by Em Fitzgerald

What's happening

It is mid-afternoon and a mother and her daughters are gathered in the drawing room.

The mother is relaxing on the sofa, reading her monthly magazine and catching up on the latest fashions.

At the central table, her eldest daughter is practising her watercolours, while the younger daughter is writing a letter to her cousin who lives on the other side of London.

She has set up the chessmen on the games table at the back of the room, ready to challenge her brother to a game of chess when he comes home from school.

Objects to look out for

Blue sofa with ornate wood detailing Object number 2/1937

Sofa, about 1820

Sofas became common in homes in the early 1800s.

They were much more comfortable than previous types of seating and show how the main living space was becoming more informal and relaxed.

Wooden table fitted with chess board. Beneath the board is a beige bag in which to store the chess pieces. Object number 2/1996-1-2

Needlework and games table, about 1815

This small table is very versatile. As well as a reversible backgammon and chess board, it has a removable book rest for reading.

The silk bag you can see underneath was used to store embroidery and needlework.

Folding wooden table Object number 85/2013

Centre table, about 1830

Large circular tables like this could be used for many different kinds of activities. Families used them for reading, writing, eating light meals and playing parlour games.