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History / Whittakers Cottages
Exterior Working the water pump    
Living room fireplace Living room cupboard Back room Bed-room with bed, cot and bible

Whittaker’s Cottages are a pair of cottages from Ashtead in Surrey built in the 1860s. They are named after Richard Whittaker, an agricultural labourer who was the owner of the freehold land on which they were built. They faced directly on to the Epsom to Leatherhead railway line which opened in 1859. The cottages conform to a standard two-room plan. Each cottage is twelve feet wide & twenty feet long, with two rooms (one heated, one unheated) on each floor. One cottage (number 2, Whittaker’s Cottages) has been left unfinished to show the timber framed structure. The other cottage (number 1, Whittaker’s Cottages) is furnished with items from the Museum’s collections as it may have been in the 1890s.

The coming of the railway to Ashtead completely transformed the social & economic make up of the community. Its most visible effect was on the population which went from 729 in 1861 to 2,921 in 1911. Much farm land disappeared under new housing development. Between 1891 and 1915 the occupants of number 1, Whittaker’s Cottages were Henry Filkins & his family. By 1901 Henry & his wife, Harriet, had 8 children, 5 boys & 3 girls. Henry Filkins worked for the railway company, first as a railway porter then as a railway signalman. All the Filkins children would have benefited from at least 7 years’ education, first in the co-educational infants’ department, then in the separate girls’ & boys’ departments.

As well as enjoying Victorian Workshops here our visiting pupils are often to be seen happily involved in period household chores.

Suggested Topics

  • Unit 11 What was it like for children living in Britain in Victorian times?

  • This is an ideal venue to study the life of an agricultural labourer in Victorian times. 

Workshops Featuring this Building

Victorian Rural Life Household Tasks module Details
Collections Quiz   Details

Teachers Resources

The Filkins Family The Filkins family lived at No. 1 Whittakers Cottages from 1891 to 1914........... Details
Going to School circa 1880-1900 The Filkins children attended Ashtead Boys school and Ashtead Infants school, what was schooling like in those days? ........ Details
Feeding the Family The daily diet of rural workers, allotments and cottage livestock and food adulteration.... Details
The Temperance Movement The Ashtead branch of the C of E Temperance Society was founded in 1883 and by 1886 had 107 members with sixty four ‘abstainers’ and forty three ‘total abstainers’. ........ Details
Charitable Clubs and Friendly Societies in Ashtead Leg of Mutton friendly society, clothing club, coal club, burial club and the penny bank...... Details
Victorian Cottages Drawings of Whittakers Cottages and the contemporary view on the appropriate size for a labourers dwelling. Details
Fireplaces The Museum's buildings contain examples of the development of fireplaces from a simple open hearth through smoke bays to chimneys.  A tangible example of design evolution. Details