At the start of the 20th century, getting fresh water enough to bathe was a luxury indeed. Even into the 1960s in some poorer parts of England where there were outside toilets and no bathrooms, a tub full of hot water was so difficult a commodity to raise that a bath was a once-a-week affair, a tin tub in the kitchen filled by boiling kettles, in which father bathed first, then mother, then the children.
Most striking of all, I believe, would be the relative quiet. To be sure the towns would be busy with the hubbub of life and commerce but do me a favour right now… Close your eyes and listen, you might hear birdsong, but what else can you hear? Cars and trucks going past? Aircraft? Sirens? The whine of a power saw or other power tools?
But of all of these differences, it would be the ones you couldn’t see which would be the most deadly – diseases such as cholera, scarlet fever, pox of various types for which there was no cure. Infections were common, untreatable, and often fatal. Sanitary products from toilet paper to tampons did not exist, let alone the convenience and relief of an aspirin for headaches or other kinds of medications on which we rely today.