Victorian home decor question

This last Christmas season, my wife and I were watching the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (the Alistair Sim one).

We noticed something odd about Scrooge’s house. The interior walls had nice wood paneling, wainscoting, etc, with a nice finish (although dirty because of Scrooge’s pennypinching neglect). But the floors were unfinished, hardly more than bare planks, with quite large gaps between them; more like an underlayment than a floor. Here’s a picture.

I have to assume that the set designers knew what they were doing, or that they actually filmed the interiors in a real house. So what explains the disparity between the high-class walls and the rough floors?

Was the house supposed to have a finished wood floor, but Scrooge had taken it up and sold the fine wood? Was the house supposed to have wall-to-wall carpet (which I didn’t think was a Victorian thing)? Were Victorian floors just rough, and one used various loose carpets to cover most of it?

Or is this just the set designers’ artistic choice?

I’m neither an historian nor woodworker, but the Raza family home (built circa 1850 in western NY) had smooth, but not polished, floor boards, and there were no significant gaps between them. They weren’t sealed or coated in a way typical of modern wood floors, but they certainly were a step-up from what was in the barn.

I don’t think it’s ever safe to assume that set designers (or costume designers or screenwriters, for that matter) know what they’re doing when it comes to historical recreations.

An ethnographer friend of mine was recently hired as a consultant interpreter on a historical TV series, and had to learn to hold her tongue when it came to pointing out all the glaring (to her) errors in the setting and costume design. Basically all that work had been done in preproduction and there was no time, money, or desire on the part of the producers to change any of it—it was all “good enough” in that few people without subject-matter expertise are likely to notice all the mistakes and anachronisms. Her job was basically limited to getting the actors and background artists to correctly pronounce the foreign dialogue and to act in a manner consistent with the culture and time period which the show is set in.

Of course, you don’t need to take my word that this sort of thing goes on—there are entire blogs and websites devoted to documenting obvious anachronisms in movies and TV shows.

That said, I too am interested in knowing whether these bare floors are period-authentic or the result of production budget or research constraints.

My educated guess…

Over time, floor boards would flex and wear where they joing each other. What might have been a nice fit would likely be a gap around the thickness of a coin after 50 years. It depends what these boards were laid on - 2 cross-layers of say, 3/4 inch board, or something thicker? How far between joists/beams? The edges of the boards would spall over time, without good humidity control boards would swell and shrink…

(Thinking back to the old buildings I saw in Europe they typically used wide boards for the floors to minimize the work and fitting required.

This - - third pic down is a good example, but of course 300 years before Scrooge and a lower-class house that’s been updated who knows how many times.

For what it’s worth, the lamp shades in Scrooge’s house don’t match.
Perhaps he was frugal.

Looking through my copy of The Victorian Home (Kathryn Ferry, Shire Books UK), all of the original illustrations show rooms which have some type of floor covering, either rugs, canvas floor cloths or wooden parquet rather than bare boards.

The floorboards in your posted image do look particularly rough though, even compared to the floorboards in my very modest Victorian London house. So it could be that those floorboards may have formed a substrate for a more elegant wood floor such as this:

which was uncovered in the library of a manor house I helped to renovate in Eastbourne (note the wood panelling around the walls).

It could be that this was the type of floor in your room originally, but the design team may have lifted it to showmthe grungier floorboards.

Could it have been the sound stage, and the floor was not intended to be seen on film?

Scrooge’s flat looks Georgian to me. The story took ploace in the Victorian age but Scrooge probably found older digs to be cheaper. He could have fixed things up a bit; Victorian style was far more ornamental & cluttered. But that costs money! The place might once have been a great town home, subdivided for lodgers.

This indicates that wide plank floors were not unusual in those days. Narrower planks were “better” because they took more work; now, old-growth wood is so rare that wide planks would be considered luxurious. There may well have been floor cloths or even fine oriental rugs–which fell apart with time or belonged to earlier tenants.

I suppose that’s a possibility, but it’s not nearly so much fun to talk about. :slight_smile:

I withdraw the question. :slight_smile:

Indeed. He inherited the house and “a few mean sticks of furniture” from Marley.

No, because as he scurries from the window to his bed at 20:43, here.

Not to say there couldn’t be errors, though. When he looks in the mirror after his reformation, it shows movement to the left of his face, bottom-left corner, apparently by a production-crew member. It’s also visible in the colourized version.

You can compare it to the John Leech illustrations for the 1843 book.

Blue socks, night caps and wood floors.

I have been it several Victorian and Edwardian houses, including a incredibly-cheaply built 2 story, 12’ ceiling Victorian - the problem is that it has no credible foundation - the concrete was poured in 3 sections, the porch was not tied to the rest of the house (just built beside it). The floor joists were 2x8x20 with a single crossbeam.
Placing a marble on the floor would have been amusing.

Anyway, ALL of these houses have/had white oak floors - the expensive ones used real tongue-and-groove, the cheapies used used 1/4" strips (and short ones at that) face nailed.

What is shown in the pic is badly installed sub-floor.

No self-respecting carpenter would leave gaps like that.

My (1919) house has the cheap strips over 1x8 redwood (yes the entire house is redwood) sub-floor.

My sister bought a Queen Anne/Italianate Victorian house. The dining room floor had a finished narrow board border around the edges, say to a width of 2’, but the center was untreated wide boards. We concluded that it was meant to be covered by a rug.

In the case of this movie, I’d say it was to indicate that he was too cheap to replace the original floor covering which may have worn out or been sold before he took possession.

I’m going with the too cheap to buy a rug idea too. I’ve been a lot of old houses and have never seen a floor that had consistant gaps. Maybe in a back hallway or other non public area had a split due to age from a lesser quality finish. But the public rooms including bedrooms had area rugs or beautiful planking.

Believe it or not kids, real hardwood floors were still the default in some post-war tract houses - I’ve seen cheapies from the early 60’s with raised floors (as opposed to slab) and real T&G floor covering.

If you ever build your own, please consider these upgrades:

10’ ceilings. I’m forever spoiled - I hate 8’, and can’t afford anything with 10’.

Basement. Especially if you are in an area subject to windstorms - tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. They also make re-models a snap - you can move the pipes and wires as you wish. When your plumbing is cast in the concrete slab, it becomes somewhat more difficult.

Hardwood floors and stained hardwood trim. If you want carpet/rug - put it over the hardwood. Adding hardwood to an existing is a waste - you have to tear out whatever is there, and maybe need to level the floor.

Premise wiring. If you ever want a wire sticking out of a wall, put it in the wall before the sheetrock goes up.

French doors, not glass sliders.

My dad had an pretty run down but still structurally sound Victorian when I was a kid. As I remember it, the living room, the room we kept a piano in (probably a “parlor” or “sitting room” of some kind; it had a small fireplace, while the large living room had a huge fireplace) and the dining room, along with the front hall that connected them all had pretty flooring of the type where the boards make a pattern radiating from the center of the rooms, while the back hall, kitchen, butler’s run (I think it was called - sort of a room with shelves for storage which also acted as access to a tiny downstairs toilet and sink) had very wide boards which hadn’t been kept up nearly as well. They were finished at some point, and didn’t have huge gaps like the OP’s picture, but they were a bit warpy and threatened with splinters in some parts.

I can’t recall what the flooring was like on the second floor, where the family bedrooms were. It was the wide not-so-nice wood up in the attic where the old servant’s bedrooms were, though, and up there they weren’t finished at all. Slippers with solid soles were a must, if you didn’t want a date with the tweezers.

So from a sample size of 1, I would interpret the floors in the OP’s link as a sign of miserliness, something that would have been appropriate in the living space of the servants or poor people, but not someone with Scrooge’s income. That Scrooge is sitting on them is supposed to suggest his parsimony. If updated to today, it might show a rich man driving a rusted out old pick up truck when he could afford a new BMW SUV.