It is not surprising that so many collectors find vinaigrettes a fascinating subject. These small boxes, used for holding a sponge soaked in sweet-smelling vinegar, were made in an endless variety of shapes and decoration. Their inner grilles were delicately pierced for the escape of the scent in charming and often unexpected patterns. Vinaigrettes were made in great numbers from about 1780 to 1890 and since most of them arc of silver or semi-precious stones, they are not costly and are within the reach of the most modest collector. The real ancestor of the vinaigrette is the pomander. These were used in England as early as the fourteenth century as containers for aromatic vinegars and spices to sweeten the air and as an antidote to infection. The derivation of the word is from the French “poimne d’ambre” meaning apple (or ball) of amber. (Amber or ambergris is a waxy substance with a pleasant odour). Pictured: A late 17th/early 18th century silver filigree pomander. Spherical form, with all-over filigree scroll work, central ribbed band and hinging in half, each end applied with small circular finial-like detail, diameter 2.5cm. Estimate £500-£600. Image Copyright Bonhams. In the sixteenth century compounds of scents were used instead of simple balls of ambergris or musk. These two were included, but were mixed with other costly oils possessing antiseptic qualities, such as camphor, sandalwood or myrrh, the whole being mixed to a paste with rose water. A very odd ingredient quoted in many recipes is “garden mold” which was used to keep the mixture moist and firm. This compound was called “pomander”; it was only later that the term came to be used for the vessel which contained it. There are many quotations in wills and inventories to show this development in meaning. An entry in the Privy Purse expenses of Henry VII for the year 1492 mentions a “box with pomandre”, while a similar entry for the Princess Mary, his grand-daughter, for the year 1542 includes a “pomander of gold”. The earliest type were based on the “muske ball” and were spherical in shape, hinged in the centre and pierced for the escape of the scent. Queen Elizabeth I wore pomanders among her other magnificent jewels when sitting for several portraits. In one of these (in the National Portrait Gallery) she is seen as a mature woman between forty and fifty. She wears a looped necklace of pearls and a jewelled girdle from which hangs a pomander, set in the middle with a gem surrounded by scroll work and with a small pearl drop from the base. It may be that this is the same pomander mentioned in the list of new year’s gifts to the Queen in 1577 when she was forty-five. The entry reads “A juell of golde being a pomander on each side a poynted dyamonde with a smale pearl pendant”. This short sentence describes the essential features of’ the early pomanders — they were small, lavish, their use was a social grace and their value such that they were a fit present for the Queen. From 1580 dry perfumes were carried in powder form. They were kept in containers divided into six or eight compartments and the different scents were mixed or used individually as desired. The most common form was apple or pear shaped with six segments folding into a central column, each segment having a sliding lid with name of a perfume engraved on it, usually lavender, musk, rose, rue, citron and civet. Several examples exist in the shape of a book which opens, the two halves being divided into sections. Other types vary from a flower with opening petals to a skull hinged at the cranium and divided into six compartments. There are enough of these extant to show that it must have been a fairly common form. It may seem odd that such a gruesome model as a death’s head was used for an ornament in daily use and it is generally supposed that it was an association with the horrors of the plague. Another reason is suggested by a silver pomander dated 1682 made in the form of an apple bearing the impress of teeth or teeth marks. This is hinged and inside is a small skull, itself hinged to contain the scents. The outer case is engraved with the in-scription “from man came woman — from woman sin — from sin death”. The image of an apple to the seventeenth century mind immediately recalled the temptation of Adam and the fall of man from grace to sin. The skull represents death, the inevitable result of’ sin. Many pomanders had a compartment in the base for a sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar and when their use began to decline in the last quarter of the seventeenth century this section developed into a separate container called a sponge box. There are many early recipes for aromatic vinegar and its therapeutic properties were recognised by doctors who normally carried a stick with a sponge box set in the head as a precaution against infection. Most vinaigrettes range in size from 1″ to 4″ long and were carried in the hand or tucked into a glove. As many as eighty per cent of vinaigrettes were made in Birmingham and that of these more than half were made by a limited number of specialised makers, the most important being Samuel Pemberton, Joseph Taylor, Matthew Linwood, Joseph Willmore and Nathaniel Mills. Any large collection shows great variety both in the outer case and inner grille. Apart from geometric shapes, books, bags, watches and even fish were quite common. There is, however, a broad development of style. As would be expected those made from 1780 to 1800 correspond with the neo-classical style then fashionable. From 1830 they were made with very heavily embossed scenes on the cover, usually of castles or large public buildings but these “castle” vinaigrettes are uncommon and expensive. The grille is as significant to the collector as the outer case. The earliest were simple drilled holes but as early as 1800 delicate […]
This was a fun era; nowadays, people look back and cruelly refer to it as the decade which taste forgot – but at the time, we didn’t realise we were living in a cultural wasteland! The seventies was a colourful decade which still incorporated the sixties swirling psychedelic patterns. Large flowers – especially daisies – were on everything from ceramics to soft furnishing, and even baby items weren’t immune from the floral embellishments. A particular favourite shade was orange, often teemed with brown or green, while lilac, turquoise, purple and hot pink also featured strongly. Towards the end of the seventies, though, earth colours of sage green and sludge became fashionable, as designers rebelled. We were getting back to nature. In Britain the decade was off to a flying start when the first ‘Jumbo Jet’, a Pan American 747, flew into Heathrow Airport in January 1970. Four years later, supersonic passenger service was inaugurated when Concorde took to the skies. The switch to decimal currency caused problems for a while until we all understood the new-fangled money, while 1973 saw the introduction of Value Added Tax. A lady politician with a penchant for blue suits, handbags and neatly permed hair became the first-ever British woman to head a political party when she was chosen by the Conservative Party as its new leader in 1975. Just a year earlier, the country was stunned after aristocratic Lord Lucan was named as the prime suspect after his children’s nanny was murdered, and his wife viciously attacked. He disappeared and has not been seen since, though reports of sightings still make the headlines. The classic rock opera movie, ‘Tommy’, was released in 1975. It featured Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, towering over the other performers in an amazing pair of 4ft. 6ins high platform shoes. Other notable movies from the decade included ‘Cabaret’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Superman’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘Grease’, ‘Star Trek The Motion Picture’ and all-time favourite, ‘Star Wars’, which spawned countless toys and dolls. Television ratings were dominated by the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise who attracted viewers in their millions. ‘Glam Rock’ was very much the in-thing, with T. Rex, David Bowie, Gary Glitter and Queen topping the charts, and pop fans were still reeling from the shock of the Beatles break-up. The sudden death of Elvis Presley was another tragic blow to the music industry. Amongst the soon-to-be-indispensable discoveries were floppy disks, laser printers, video-cassette recorders, post-it notes, liquid crystal displays, food processors, cellular phones and walkmans. Walt Disney World opened in Florida, changing the face and expectations of holiday entertainment, while in Britain the 1970s was the decade of the package tour. Flared trousers, platform soles, kaftans, maxi-dresses, cheesecloth tops, afghan coats edged with fleece, huge sunglasses, cowbells, braid, beads and fringing were all part of the fashion scene. Punks emerged in the mid-seventies, amazing Londoners with their spiky coloured hair, safety-pinned, ripped clothing and studded flesh, while, in complete contrast, delicate Laura Ashley dresses adorned fashionable young ladies. Innovation was the keyword in the world of dolls. Manufacturers experimented with all kinds of movements; dolls danced, sung, cart-wheeled, roller-skated, blew kisses, wrote their names, grew their hair, laughed, inflated balloons and generally had a jolly good time. The majority of the performing dolls were battery-operated, though clockwork occasionally appeared. Another popular device was the pull cord mechanism, though this wasn’t so robust and was prone to snapping or to a deterioration of the device, causing it to spin. Teen dolls were also big news, with Pippa, Action Girl, Daisy and Tressy all vying with Sindy, who was still going strong, while a beautiful baby doll called First Love was launched by Pedigree as a rival to Palitoy’s Tiny Tears. Larger size teens were in vogue too, especially those with ‘growing hair’ such as Sheena and the Crissy series. And, by complete contrast, simple rag dolls such as Holly Hobbie and Sarah Kay, or hard vinyl Sasha dolls with dreamy, barely-there features, were purchased by those who wanted to rebel against the high-tech playthings. Katie Kopycat, Penny Puppywalker, Baby Won’t Let Go, Miss Happy Heart, Tracy Tea Party and Baby Alive are amongst those which today’s collectors seek out; they are remembered with affection and are classics of their time. Many of the dolls, despite being made or marketed in the United Kingdom, used American moulds or technology and therefore have US counterparts, though often bearing different names. Katie Kopycat, by Palitoy, was a distinctive girl with a hard plastic body and limbs which were unusually jointed at the elbows. Her head was of softer vinyl with blonde hair and painted eyes. Katie came with her own desk and could write or draw with the aid of a pantograph. Bradgate’s Penny Puppywalker was operated by means of an air-filled pump, which allowed her to take her puppy for a stroll, while Miss Happy Heart’s chest contained a ‘beating heart’, a controversial mechanism which unnerved many people. This doll, resplendent in a red and silver lame mini dress, was made by Bluebell. Kenner’s Tracy Tea Party, a pretty girl with a beaming smile, made herself useful by pouring tea and handing round the biscuits. She was distinctive with her jointed wrists and twist waist, and could also bow and seductively flutter her eye-lashes. Palitoy’s Baby Won’t Let Go had ‘magic gripping hands’, while Baby Alive, by the same company, could be fed a special food, sold in powdered form and mixed with water to make it palatable. This was one of their most successful dolls. Other Palitoy successes included a series of talking dolls operated either by pull cord or battery. As a tie-in with the nostalgia trend, many of these were dressed in Victorian-type print dresses and white pinafores. Perhaps the two most distinctive dolls from the era were Pedigree’s Popsy Posy and Palitoy’s Blythe. Popsy, clad in a flower-power trouser suit, could assume all kinds of strange […]
Often referred to as a “Pioneer for the Modern Movement”, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a talented architect, artist and interior designer.
Tunbridge Wells is located in Kent about 40 miles south-east of London, and situated in a pleasantly wooded district. In the seventeenth century, before many fine trees were cut down to provide fuel for iron-smelting, there was so much timber that woodwork became the town’s staple industry. For over two hundred years, local makers specialised in this distinctive wooden ware which has become known as Tunbridge Ware. The rise and fall of this craft was linked to tourism, developing techniques and eventually changing public tastes. A special kind of Tunbridgeware had undoubtedly been made in the neighbourhood for many years before the mention of it by Celia Fiennes, who gave an account of a visit to the place during the reign of William and Mary in her famous book Through England on a Side Saddle. She says she saw “all sorts of curious wooden ware which this place is noted for.” Another observant diarist, Fanny Burney, also noted, in 1789, that the Tunbridge ware shops were a feature of the town. A street market formed one of its attractions, and here the crowd of fashionable idlers used to buy gifts for members of their families who had remained at home. Such gifts were known as “Fairings ” and consisted of toys and dainty pieces of bric-a-brac from local workshops. Celia Fiennes mentions that the Tunbridge woodwork of her day was “delicate, neat and thin ware of both white and Lignum Vitae wood.” The first Tunbridge wares were undecorated but in the second half of the 1700s more decoration appeared. Some were painted in colours on a whitewood background or painted in black to imitate oriental styles. Print decorated wares also emerged in the 1800s, often showing views of Tunbridge Wells and other local attractions. The district possessed a number of very skilful woodworkers and cabinet-makers, and it was one of these, a certain William Burrows, who devised an ingenious method of decorating wooden articles with a species of mosaic. He founded a factory and saleroom at Gibraltar Cottage , where he began to turn out specimens of his improved Tunbridge ware. Mosaic, of course, means a picture or design created by the fitting together of hundreds of pieces of marble, wood, or other suitable material. Each separate fragment had to be laboriously fitted into its place until the picture was completed. Even then only one mosaic resulted from days of toil. To get over this difficulty Burrows hit on the scheme of assembling a number of thin strips of appropriately coloured woods into a block, about twelve to eighteen inches deep, so that their ends made up the desired scene or pattern. Bound, and glued under pressure, the strips were finally formed into one compact whole. A circular saw was next employed to shave off wafer-thin slices from across the block, and each of these layers now became a veneer which could easily be glued to the article it was to decorate. The final stage consisted of hand polishing, a process that called for much experience. In time the quality of the ware declined, polishing was replaced by the use of varnish, which was easily chipped or scratched. The drawing from which the craftsman made up the design was divide up like a Berlin woolwork pattern. The method, of course, required extreme skill, particularly in selecting and arranging the various wood strips in the correct colours to take their particular places in the design, but once the block had been assembled and the layers of veneer cut from across it , the rest was simple to a trained cabinet-maker. An immense variety of woods, British and foreign, were used , and in only one case was the natural colour tampered with white holly was stained with Tunbridge mineral water to give it a unique shade of grey. Green was obtained from fallen oak branches stained by a fungus which imparted a rich shade of the required colour. William Burrows had a brother, Humphrey, who also began to make the ware at Jordan House, and the story goes that one of their apprentices left his employment and made known its mysteries to one George Wise, a cabinet-maker living in the neigh bouring town of Tonbridge, who later started a rival firm which continued in his family until the death of another George Wise in 1876. Their factory was situated on the bank of the river near the Great Bridge. The manufacture of mosaic ware was also adopted by Messrs. Fenner and Nye, a firm of woodworkers founded in 1720, at their factory on Mount Ephraim. Later Edmund Nye carried on alone, until his business was finally acquired by Alderman Thomas Barton in 1863. Tunbridge ware’s popularity grew over the 1800s and it was even favoured by the young Princess Victoria. Local makers drew lots to present Princess Victoria with a single example piece of their artistry. A work table described as ‘veneered with party-coloured woods from every part of the globe’ and ‘lined with gold tufted satin’ was given to the royal visitor. Tunbridge ware at the Great Exhibition of 1851 At the Great Exhibition of 1851 Tunbridge ware was represented by three major manufacturers: Edmund Nye, Robert Russell and Henry Hollamby. Edmund Nye exhibits included an elaborate “Marine Table,” a wonderful mosaic of a sailing ship at sea consisting of 110,800 pieces of wood. Besides this masterpiece there was a book stand decorated with the representation of an Indian butterfly which, with the pattern surrounding it, was made from 11,000 pieces of English and foreign wood. Also there was a superb workbox decorated with a view of the ruins of Bayham Abbey. This was made of 15 ,000 pieces. Tunbridge ware could be had in a variety of objects. Tables, tea caddies, rulers, workboxes, holders , fruit or bread baskets, candlesticks, chess tables, pencil boxes, stationery cabinets, and pin trays were but a few of the many items decorated with wood mosaic. At first the designs were of a simple type and were often geometrical, such […]
Muffin the Mule was a puppet character on the British children’s television show For the Children that first aired on the BBC in 1946. The show featured a wooden puppet mule who would interact and dance along with human characters. Although the show was very popular with children, it also had an appeal for adults. The humour and wit of the show made it entertaining for all ages. Over the years, Muffin the Mule has become an iconic figure in British culture. He is often referenced in popular culture and has been featured in commercials, movies, and books. For many people, Muffin the Mule is a reminder of their childhood and a symbol of British culture. We take a brief look how Muffin the Mule was created and look at some of the Muffin the Mule collectables and Muffin the Mule merchandise over the years in this Collecting Muffin the Mule feature. (Click for current Muffin the Mule collectibles on ebay). The original Muffin the Mule puppet was created in 1933 by puppet maker Fred Tickner for puppeteers Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth. Although we know him as Muffin, the puppet was originally unnamed. The puppet was part of a puppet circus made for the Hogarth Puppet Theatre. The couple had met while they were both working as puppeteers in London. They married in 1932 and decided to open their own puppet theatre. The original Muffin the Mule puppet was made from papier-mâché and had a wooden head. It was operated by two strings, one attached to each side of the head. Muffin was used for a short while but as Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth moved on to more experimental and dramatic puppetry he was put away, re-appearing some 12 years later 1946. Bussell and Hogarth were working with presenter Annette Mills (sister of actor John Mills). Annette Mills named the puppet mule “Muffin”, and it first appeared on television in an edition of For the Children broadcast on 20 October 1946, where she performed as a singer, pianist and story teller. She wrote the songs and the music, including Muffin’s popular signature theme song “We Want Muffin! (Muffin The Mule)”, some of which appeared Muffin the Mule songbooks, as well as making records. Ann Hogarth wrote the scripts for the series. The show ran on the BBC until 1955 when Annette Mills died. During the show Muffin the Mule used to clip-clop and dance around on top of a piano which was being played by Annette Mills. Annette and Muffin would interact and the show appealed to not only children but to adults as well. Other characters were later added to the show including Prudence the Kitten (who went on to have her own show), Mr Peregrine the Penguin, Sally the Sea-Lion, Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich, and Morris and Doris the field mice. As Muffin the Mule’s popularity grew a range of merchandising, toys and comics were created mainly on Muffin but a few products were created featuring other characters. Lesney created a die-cast movable puppet which according the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh was “the first toy to be marketed under licence as a result of a successful TV appearances”. Other items include Toy Television Sets, a Muffin the Mule Pelham Puppet, games, Metal figures by Argosy Toys, licensed pottery, tins and much more.
Each year during the run up to Christmas I make a special trip to London and head straight for the prestigious department store Harrods. The purpose of this annual adventure is not to admire the festive window displays or even take in the electric atmosphere as people frantically cram their baskets full of Christmas goodies. For me this special journey is so that I can purchase that particular years exclusive Harrods Christmas bear to add to my growing collection. Pictured right: Harrord Christmas Bear 1986 The tradition of Harrods celebrating each Christmas with a specially designed teddy bear began in 1986 with ‘Snow Bear.’ This 13” snowy white plush bear appeared in the Christmas catalogue wearing a green and red knitted hat on his head which was decorated with Christmas designs and the word ‘Harrods’ in white across the front. He also had a removable matching scarf around his neck but unlike the bears which followed he was not graced with the Harrods logo and was not foot dated on his left paw. An extremely rare and sought after bear the mere fact that he was not foot dated does cause confusion with collectors as a full set of anniversary replica bears were produced in 1995 and this included the replica of the 1986 bear. The differences between the original bear and the replica are that the second issue bear does have the 1986 date and Harrods logo on his left paw and his knitted hat and scarf have a slight variation to the pattern. The Harrods archive department informed me that generally collectors check the ‘tush tag’ – but of course a collector needs to know what the authentic ‘tush tag’ looks like in order to tell if the bear is the genuine original 1986 bear, the 1995 replica or even a copy. In fact even the Harrods archive department are not in possession of the original as the archiving didn’t begin until 1989. Although they have acquired the other early bears this elusive 1986 example is proving almost impossible to find as they seldom appear on the open market and when they do can sell for in excess of £600 – a vast improvement of its original £14.95 retail price tag. This first bear proved such a success that Harrods made the decision to produce an exclusive Christmas bear for each year thereafter which people could only buy during the holiday season. They also decided that the bears would carry the year date and Harrods logo on the left paw. 1987 saw the release of the first foot dated bear, made with beautiful soft brown plush again he wore a festive knitted hat with a green bobble on top and a matching scarf with green bobbles on each end. This bear is also desirable with collectors and some are prepared to pay over £100 to own him. Pictured left: Harrods 1993 Christmas Panda bear In 1988 a cream plush bear – very much along the same design theme as the earlier two – was released however, in 1989 Harrods produced their exclusive bear in the form of a simple white plush polar bear as it tied in with the store’s theme of ‘White Christmas.’ In 1990 Harrods went back to producing the more traditional looking bear until 1992 when a grizzly was released, again to tie in with an American theme. The following year their Christmas bear was a plush panda. During the 1990s the Harrods Christmas bears had become increasingly popular especially with the Japanese collectors. However, these collectors wanted to know more about the bears themselves, whether each had an individual name and what were the stories behind the bears? So in 2003 wearing a bright red duffel coat, ‘William’ was released as the first ever named Christmas bear and in 2004 ‘Thomas’ arrived. However, in order to satisfy the curiosity of the collectors and to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Christmas bears in 2005, Harrods produced a special booklet for the Japanese market in which all the bears up to that date were retrospectively given names and background stories. The 2005 Christmas bear, ‘Nicolas’ also had ‘20th Anniversary’ embroidered on his right paw and his tag contained his Christmas story which read that ‘Nicolas had grown up in the Scottish highlands of the Harrods Balnagown Estate and it had become a tradition for all his friends, the other Harrods bears, to spend the winter months together in the old mill of the Balnagown Estate by the stream. Here they would celebrate the holiday season, trimming the old mill with Christmas decorations, enjoying a feast of Christmas treats and playing in the snow.’ 2009 sees the newest Christmas bear ‘Maxwell’ join the twenty-four strong hug of furry friends. Made with a super soft caramel coat he has warm chocolate brown eyes and is snugly wrapped up in a cherry red hooded jumper which has embroidered Christmassy items such as a festive tree, gingerbread man and Christmas pudding around the bottom. Maxwell is a friendly little soul and loves shopping at Harrods. His tag says that ‘he buys lots of gifts to make his family and friends smile but because he is so special he is even invited into Father Christmas’s secret Harrods workshop, a place where only select toys are allowed. Together with his friend George (another plush Harrods bear released this year) the two bears travel around the store with their favourite place being the Candy room where they eat lots of colourful sweets and plan their next exciting adventure!” Pictured right: Maxwell the Harrods 2009 Christmas Bear Priced at just £19.95 Maxwell is a definite must-have for any collector of bears. In fact this is one of the reasons that Harrods Christmas bears are so appealing, they tick all the right boxes where collecting is concerned as only one is released each year, they are easy to obtain, are more than affordable for every pocket and aside from being delightful have the probability […]
Of the approximately 360 known Pot Lid designs a number feature scenes related to the life and works of William Shakespeare. These Shakespearean Pot Lids include locations relevant to Shakespeare’s life: The room in which Shakespeare was born; Anne Hathaway’s house; and Shakespeare’s house on Henley Street in Stratford upon Avon. A couple also relate to Shakespeare plays including Hamlet and As You Like It. The majority are thought to have been produced by F. & R. Pratt at Fenton, Stoke on Trent. From the 1830s manufacturers would package their wares such as toothpaste to meat paste in small ceramic pots with lids decorated with appealing images in the hopes that this would help them sell more of their product. They must have thought that Shakespeare was a popular theme as a few of the Shakespearean pot lids are some of the most common designs found. In terms of rarity the most commonly available is The Room in which Shakespeare was born, 1564, Stratford on Avon then Shakespeare’s House Henley St Stratford on Avon then The Residence of Anne Hathaway Shakespeare’s Wife. These three can normally be found readily available on ebay and auctions from £10-£20 / $15-$30. Bright examples in nice frames may sell for £30 / $45. There are considerable price variations and we have seen some dealers asking over £100/$150. One of the rarer pot lids is one that features the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford On Avon. The church is believed to be where William Shakespeare was baptized in 1564. It is also where his funeral was held 52 years later in 1616. The church has a plaque on the wall commemorating his baptism. Parish registers recording baptisms, marriages and burials still exist from Shakespeare’s time although the original building dates back even further, to 1210. For over 800 years then, the Church of the Holy Trinity has been an important part of Stratford life – long before Shakespeare was born and long after he died. Today, it remains an active Anglican church and a place of pilgrimage for Shakespeare fans from all over the world. Bright examples in good condition are estimated at £40-£80 / $60-$100. As with many pot lids variations on the theme are the rarest, most collectible and most valuable. In relation to the Shakespearean pot lids, some are found with an ornate leaf and scroll border. The two featured are Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare’s House. The lids show a picture of William Shakespeare to the central top and the words are written in scroll leafs to the bottom of the lid. The design adds a great deal to the look and often the price. Pot lids featuring scenes from Shakespeare plays can also be found including Hamlet and His Father`s Ghost and a pot lid featuring a number of scenes from As You Like It. Related Pot-Lids – one of the earliest forms of visual advertising
English glass of the early eighteenth century was plain with the Queen Anne taste for simplicity clarity, and as such there was no for applied decoration. Several factors saw this change including a period of peace with the Treaty of Utrecht, which was signed in 1713, and led to an opportunity for the glasshouses of Silesia, Bavaria and Prussia to increase their exports to London. The passing of the Excise Act of 1745, whereby glass was taxed by weight, led to growth of drinking glasses of slender proportions, using smaller bowls of curved profile on air-twist stems (cotton twists, opaque twists), sometimes combined with white or coloured enamel twists. The reduction in the content of lead in the metal deprived it of the deep glow of the earlier body, and there was a move to applying decoration in the form of engraving, gilding and enamelling. Pictured: Bonhams Beilby Goblet Record Price at Auction. The Prince William V Goblet. A highly important Beilby enamelled and gilt Royal armorial Goblet, circa 1766 The deep round funnel bowl painted in colours and gilding with the arms of the Nassau Princes of Orange encircled by the Garter and surmounted by a crown and mantling, the lion supporters on a ribbon bearing the motto JE.MAIN.TIEN.DRAY, the reverse with a white butterfly and floral sprig beneath the signature in red, traces of gilding to the rim, set on a multi-knopped stem and conical foot, 30.2cm high Signed Beilby Newcastle pinxit in red enamel. Sold for £109,250 inc. premium at Bonhams, New Bond Street, November 2011.The art of enamelling had long been familiar in Germany. The process required a paste combining equal parts of lead and tin, together with colouring matter, mixed with a flux and an oil medium. This prepared enamel was then painted on the glass, fired at a low temperature and reannealed by allowing the enamelling furnace to cool gradually. German glass was harder than the English metal and more suitable for enamel decoration as the colours were less likely to flood in the firing, but the reduction of lead content in English glass following the Excise Act made it a readier vehicle. This enamelling method was used by William and Mary Beilby of Newcastle who adopted the technique, worked entirely in the tradition of German independent decorators or “hausmaler” by purchasing plain vessels from the glasshouses of their home town and decorating it in their home. The style of their work was entirely individual and belongs in spirit to the English interpretation of Rococo. William Beilby (1740–1819) was the fourth child of a Durham jeweller and goldsmith William Beilby Senior. One of a family of seven, William was placed as an apprentice with a Birmingham enameller in 1755 and while he was there the family moved to Newcastle. A younger brother, Thomas, went to Leeds where he found employment as a drawing master and is later recorded as having his own academy. When William returned, perhaps in 1761, his father was still in business, while a younger brother, Ralph, and his sister Mary (1749–97), were also at home. Ralph was an engraver and earned a reputation for his industriousness and his willingness to undertake any type of engraving. In particular he was an heraldic specialist and engraved coats-of-arms and crests on silver. Thomas Bewick, whose exquisite wood engravings were later to reveal a sensitive and poetic artist, was apprenticed to Ralph in 1767 and lived in the Beilby home. It is, in fact, to Bewick’s memoirs, written many years after his life with the Beilbys, that we owe so much information about the family. Bewick states that both William and Mary had “constant employment of enamel-painting on glass,” and while William also taught drawing in the town, he evidently instructed his young sister so that she could help him in his enamelling. As well as armorial decorations, there are examples of landscapes painted in colours to which Mary may well have contributed and also a series painted in white enamel with flowers, avian motifs or picturesque scenes of ruins and figures. The enamel of these monochrome decorated pieces has a faintly bluish tinge. Of the type of wine-glasses chosen for decoration, the bucket-shaped bowl provided the larger surface for painting, but small glasses with straight-sided or ogee bowls and straight stems containing white enamel twists, are also found. The series continued probably until 1778. Mary is known to have had a stroke in 1774, while the household was probably broken up by Ralph Beilby and Thomas Bewick going in to partner ship three years later. Mrs. Beilby died in 1778, when William and Mary evidently gave up their workshop and left Newcastle for Fifeshire. By this time English glass had abandoned the Rococo manner and the moment for such individual achievement was over.
Crackers About Christmas by Tracy Martin No festive dinning table would be complete without one of our greatest British traditions – Christmas crackers. Each year we all gather around and politely ask the person sitting next to us if they would pull a cracker. Then out floats the corny jokes, the even more tacky gifts and of course the unflattering coloured paper hats. Whether this is a tradition you love or loathe collecting unused Christmas crackers is an explosive collectors market which would never have existed if confectioner Tom Smith hadn’t discovered a sugar coated sweet. Tom Smith – The Bon-Bons Tom Smith discovered the ‘bon-bon’ (sugared almond) sweet whilst on a trip to Paris in the 1840s. Wrapped in twists of coloured paper he realised this sweet would sell well in London as up until that point most were sold loose in paper bags. Proved right the bon-bon was a renowned success but only over the Christmas period with the problem being sales virtually stopped once the festive season had come to an end. In order to encourage orders all year round Tom added a small love moto which he placed within the paper. Once again sales were most successful around Christmas so with this in mind Tom decided to develop his seasonal sweet wrapping and cash in. A flash of inspiration came one day after he had thrown a log onto his burning fire as a big crackle exploded from the log which made Tom jump. This sound was the necessary spark that he had been looking for in order to enhance his ‘bon bon’ and make it more desirable to the buyers. The only problem being that Tom had to find a way to recreate the bang which would add excitement to this sweet. An Explosive Success After two years Tom finally discovered that if a strip of saltpetre, something that is familiar in today’s crackers, was pasted to two pieces of thin card at each end was pulled the friction created a spark and then a crack. He had to do much experimenting though because sometimes they burst into flames, thus ensuring Tom had a few burnt fingers. By 1860 Tom Smith had finally perfected his cracks resulting in his ‘Bangs of Expectation’ being born. Keeping the sweet and the moto inside but adding this noise gave his new confectionary a little more excitement which proved popular with the children and amusing for the adults. The buyers couldn’t get enough of this new novelty sweet and he became inundated with orders. Tom then began to refine his concept. He kept the moto but no longer placed sweets inside the paper, instead he added surprise gifts. Tom then renamed his new innovative novelties as Cosaques because the noise made was similar to the sound of the Cossack’s cracking whips as they rode through Paris during the French and Prussian wars. The Cosaques or as we know them today -crackers, were such a phenomenal success that Tom took the idea overseas. This wasn’t such a good move as one Eastern manufacturer stole his idea, copied it and shipped a consignment of crackers to Britain just before Christmas. Tom was horrified but wouldn’t be beaten so he set about designing eight different varieties of cracker, working day and night with his staff they were ready in time for Christmas and were distributed right across the country. After this there was no looking back as Tom was now the biggest manufacturer of Christmas crackers. Cracker Collecting When it comes to the serious business of collecting Christmas crackers there are a few key things that collectors look for. The design on the cracker and the box imagery is important, also what novelties can be found inside define much of the rareabilty and of course the obvious point that people only want boxed ones that haven’t been pulled. As with collecting anything condition is also important and the better the condition – i.e. not too much fading to the crackers or box, no tears and still with their surprises inside – the more money can be commanded. Early Crackers Throughout the Victorian period there were many themes to the boxes of crackers with Japanoserie being one of the most prolific. Inspired by the popular operas of the time such as Madame Butterfly and The Mikado these cracker boxes were decorated with images of Japanese Geisha girls and inside the surprises were miniature versions of Japanese pottery. These Japanese inspired crackers continued right thought to the outbreak of the First World War and Tom Smith crackers often featured Oriental themes. Topical events were also often used such as the ‘Votes for Women; Suffragettes. There were two different boxed sets produced – the ‘anti’ packs which made fun of the women and the ‘pro’ packs which joined allegiance with the women as they were made in the purple, green and white house colours of the Suffragette movement. However, even if a few boxes of these crackers survived they would be near impossible to find as both collectors of Christmas crackers and those that collect Suffragette memorabilia would be fighting to own them. The ‘Bank of Love’ crackers released by Tom Smith in 1884 was a popular choice with young people holding parties as the crackers box depicted a bank where you find love. So if the party hosts or guests were looking for a potential wife or husband these crackers was the perfect ice breaker. The same design was also reissued as the ‘Toy Bazaar’ and ‘Lowther Arcade.’ The early 20th Century brought a whole host of fresh ideas for cracker box imagery and the crackers themselves. On 22nd November 1922 the archaeologist and Egyptologist, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings. On 16th February 1923 he opened the tomb and first saw the sarcophagus of this Egyptian King. This discovery fuelled the public’s interest in Egyptology and Tutankhamen ephemera were available everywhere – including on boxes […]
Strawberry Shortcake Dolls Toy boxes suddenly started to smell delicious in 1980! Delicious fruity scents of cherry, lemon, raspberry, blueberry, lime and – most of all – strawberry filled our homes. Here was a toy we really didn’t mind buying for our children. The perfume drifted from a series of dolls, of various sizes, who inhabited the ‘World of Strawberry Shortcake’. The most popular sized doll stood five-and-a-half inches tall, was jointed at hip, shoulder and neck, and was made from a hard vinyl. All the dolls had certain characteristics which makes them easily identifiable even today, twenty years later. Their most noticeable feature was their rounded heads, which were slightly larger than they should be, giving the dolls a top-heavy appearance. They all had tiny moulded bumps for noses, and their mouths resembled the letter ‘U’. Each doll had different colour hair, which normally, though not always, gave a clue to the doll’s name. But of course, the most outstanding characteristic of all was the gorgeous perfume. The dolls were marked on the back of their heads ‘American Greetings Corps 1979′, and were made by Kenner. Each doll came with its own little blow-moulded vinyl pet, and they were sold packaged in cellophane-fronted, brightly decorated boxes. The pair cost Â£4.75, which was quite expensive for the time – they weren’t really pocket-money toys. Picture left: Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossomand Blueberry Muffin Originally there were twelve dolls in the set; Strawberry Shortcake with Custard Kitten, Huckleberry Pie with Pupcake Puppy, Lime Chiffon with Parfait Parrot, Butter Cookie with Jelly Bear, Raspberry Tart with Rhubarb Monkey, Orange Blossom with Marmalade Butterfly, Cherry Cuddler with Gooseberry Goose, Lemon Meringue with Frappe Frog, Blueberry Muffin with Cheesecake Mouse, Angel Cake with Souffle Skunk, Apple Dumplin’ with Tea Time Turtle and Apricot with Hopsalot Bunny. In addition, there were two slightly larger figures who were the ‘friendly foes’ – Purple Pieman with Berry Bird and Sour Grapes with Dregs Snake. All the dolls were beautifully dressed, and it is difficult today to find them complete, because the tiny garments were so easily mislaid. Socks, tights and shoes, especially, were soon lost, and around 1984 Kenner stopped including shoes with the dolls. The boxes were marked accordingly – so it could well be that if you now find a shoeless Strawberry Shortcake, she didn’t have any in the first place! Th e little socks – the ones which fit the babies are minute – are easy to recognise, as they are green and white striped. Green and white are theme colours throughout the World of Strawberry Shortcake, and crop up several times – such as on Pupcake’s ears. Later, more friends arrived – Almond Tea with Marza Panda, Crepe Suzette with Eclair Poodle, Mint Tulip with Marsh Mallard, Cafe Ole with Burrito Donkey, Plum Puddin’ with Elderberry Owl, Peach Blush with Melonie Belle Lamb and, last but not least, the twins Lem and Ada with Sugar Woofer Dog. There was also a strange, smiling pink and white dinosaur called Fig Boot. Pictured left: Strawberry Shortcake Babies Strawberry Shortcake is simple to spot. She has bright red hair, freckles, a floppy hat and a red frock topped with a white pinafore. Today, she is the most commonly found of the dolls, and the one which everyone knows. Angel Cake’s hair is white and curly, and she wears a pale green dress trimmed with white broderie anglaise and a lilac ribbon. Almond Tea has bright purple hair, a lilac trouser suit with yellow floral sleeves and a super yellow flower-shaped hat, while the bespectacled Plum Puddin’s hair is blue, and she is dressed in a pretty purple striped and spotted dress with a spotted hat. The only male doll is Huckleberry Pie, who wears a nifty plastic ‘straw’ hat, and blue dungarees with green and white striped turn-ups. The cute babies are four inches high, and include Apricot, Cherry Cuddler, Apple Dumplin’ and yellow-haired Butter Cookie who is dressed a yellow-flowered white outfit and yellow bonnet. Apple Dumplin’s hair is curly orange, and she wears a yellow romper suit with an apple motif. She also has a yellow mob-cap. Apricot wears a sweet apricot-coloured bib-fronted suit and a hat shaped like a large teacosy, while little Cherry Cuddler has a white dress trimmed with red cherries and a red mob-cap. Pictured right: Berry Baby Blueberry Muffin and Strawberry Shortcake Perhaps the most unusual of the dolls, harder to recognise as a member of Strawberry Shortcake’s world, is the Purple Pieman. Standing nine inches tall, he has a long narrow face which contrasts with the round heads of the others, moulded purple hair and eyebrows, and, most distinctive of all, an impressive purple moustache, almost three inches across! His purple trousers are moulded onto his skinny legs, and he wears a turquoise top, white apron and floppy chef’s hat. At his waist hangs a yellow ladle, and his Berry Bird clips onto his arm. Purple Pieman is cinnamon scented. The other friendly foe, Sour Grapes, is a thin lady of similar build to the Pieman, with a pointed chin and high arched eyebrows. She wears a long mauve dress decorated with grapes, and has moulded-on lime green gloves. Sour Grapes has purple hair with blue streaks, a pale lilac chiffon scarf, and she wears a pet snake around her neck. Her legs are purple! Many of the dolls were later issued wearing party outfits, which had fuller skirts than than the basic costumes and though for the most part the colouring was the same, these dresses were very pretty with lots of braid, lace and frills. Cafe Ole’s dress, for instance, was orange-patterned, with a pink bodice, white frill at the hem trimmed with pink ric-rac braid and edged with green lace. She had a matching hat. In addition, a selection of clothes were sold separately; each pack included an outfit for the doll and a matching one for the pet, and amongst them was nightwear, rainwear, […]