According to James Cleland the "habits and style of living" of citizens of Glasgow in the early 19th century were "of a very moderate and frugal cast. The houses . . . were almost without exception covered with thatch and those occupied by the highest class of citizens, contained only one public room, a dining room, even that was used only when they had company." At the start of the period there was probably very little to distinguish the interior of a middle-class house from that of a small tradesman. By the end of the period many new larger houses on the western edge of the city, aimed at the middle classes, were beginning to have more space and more contents and a greater level of comfort. Carpets were appearing, marble was replacing stone in fireplaces, mahogany or walnut replacing oak or pine in furniture. The beginnings of a revolution in consumption were making many more goods available and many of these would be on display in the dining room, with its table and sideboard where dishes and glasses would be on display.
The majority of the population had neither the resources nor the space for such display. With large families in small houses all rooms had to be utilised for sleeping. Many houses had to double as workshops with often the whole family involved in work. There might be a loom and a spinning machine, or a corner laid aside where shoes might be made or repaired or clothes sewn, a task which women of all social classes undertook. Furnishings and fittings were few, cooking was on a pot at a coal fire, water had to be carried from the street wells, and lighting, if any, was by a tallow dip. For many, sacks, rags and clothes had to make do as bed coverings. The home was not a place where comfort was expected. It was a functional place to sleep and occasionally to eat. For comfort and, if one could afford it, for food, one looked to the public house and the street pie vendor.
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