The domestic life of the bourgeoisie in Barcelona in the 20th century

In Barcelona, as time went by, the family houses of the bourgeoisie in Ciutat Vella were left behind. The bourgeoisie established themselves in the great modernist houses of the Eixample quarter. In these houses we found different apartments. Generally not only the owner family lived, but they also rented houses to other families. This was the case of such iconic houses as Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Casa Amatller or Casa de les Punxes

The hierarchy of the floors

During the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a great difference in social class between those families that could have their own home and those that could not. Among those families without the possibility of owning their own home, there were some with sufficient economic capacity to rent one of the apartments in one of these.

 

The first buildings of this type had similar characteristics. The Cerdà plan established a maximum height and this did not prevent finding solutions to make more floors in height than could be built in principle. Therefore, in the Eixample district it is common to find half-buried floors (where today we can find different businesses) and mezzanines at half height. All the apartments where the owner family did not live were rented, so it was important to get the most out of them. When commerce came to the neighborhood, the first floors were dedicated to stores.

 

The owners always lived on the main floor. One explanation for this fact is the lack of elevators in most buildings, since it was a very recent invention. The upper floors were the most difficult to rent. Not only did they have the difficulty of having to walk up and down, but they were also socially discredited.

Service and Parenting

Today we could consider it a social privilege that parents can have time to be with their children, since it implies some conciliation between work and family life. In contrast, at the beginning of the 20th century the distance between parents and children was the clearest symbol of economic and social importance. The more privileged the parents were in these terms, the more service they had contracted and the more part of this service took care of the children’s education.

 

In some families, the distance was such that until the age of eighteen the children did not sit at the table with their parents. At a bourgeois house we always found at least a cook, a waitress and a nanny. In addition to the nanny, we also found the figure of the wet nurse, that mother so precarious that she breastfed the children of the bourgeois family in addition to her own. Sometimes, the wet nurse lost her milk and then became a dry nurse.

life of the bourgeoisie in BarcelonaThe popular summer holidays

Summering outside the city was not a common occurrence during the 19th century, only a few families went on vacation near Barcelona such as Sarriá, Vallvidrera or Bonanova.

At the beginning of the 20th century the small town of Caldes d’Estrac and its thermal waters became popular. It was common to see the bourgeoisie of Barcelona parade along the Paseo de los Ingleses, the center of the bourgeois social life of the place. It was easy to reach Caldes by train and later by car. Today, Caldes d’Estrac, is still known for its thermal waters and to be one of the favorite summer places of the old bourgeoisie.

During the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, many things happened in Barcelona and its bourgeoisie. Among them, the construction of the Eixample of Barcelona. This was one of the events with more impact on the bourgeoisie of the city, if you want to know more about it, do not miss our article on the Eixample of Barcelona, history and curiosities.

If you also want to know how the bourgeoisie lived in this new Eixample under construction, you can discover it in this other article on the life of the Barcelona bourgeoisie in the Eixample.

Sources: Permanyer, Ll. (2015) La Barcelona d’ahir: L’esplendor de la burgesia. Barcelona: Angle Editorial.