Thursday, 27 December 2012


Sometime in September or October my good friend J and I start planning our Christmas competition: Cleverest Themed Gift. We didn't mean for it to be competitive, but somehow each year hears one or other of us muttering, "YOURS was better this time, dammit!" not quite in the Spirit of Christmas... This year my theme was pretty basic.


J loves gardening and old books...

...fascinating worm poo!

A new box for compost stuff...

...and a Bridgewater bird and worm mug - sorted!


J's idea was this kit to help me on cold, early morning antique-ing trips...

...a lovely candle to warm my hands while I rub them with this luxury hand cream, or perhaps J's expecting power cuts this winter.

Super Scandinavian gloves - fingers free, ready for action!

A miniature hot water bottle, just 4 by 4 inches, can be popped anywhere that needs warming up

What on earth is this? A portable pin cushion for safety pins, just in case my knicker elastic fails?

A bright hair band so that Mr N can find me in the fog?

A handy necklace containing personal details in case I become lost and bewildered?

Oh, brilliant - a bag for treasure-seeking - I can't wait to get started!


Sunday, 16 December 2012


Time to wind down from the hurly-burly of the antiques trade with a visit to the altogether gentler world of vintage. As has been mentioned before on this blog, the model village of Saltaire near Bradford has become the vibrant centre of the Yorkshire vintage world with several shops and frequent Vintage Fairs, run by The House of Rose & Brown.

The recent December Vintage Fair took place in three packed rooms of the splendid Victoria Hall.

Ooooh! Lovely - just my style - very Martha Longhurst!

I'll bet this chaise longue saw some action in the '60s. Come to think of it, looks a bit familiar...

Oooh La La!

For Mr N the best bit of the morning came next - refreshments served by a lovely lady in a snood - or is it a hair net? We'd better ask Ena.


Sunday, 9 December 2012


The last big antiques events of the year saw freezing conditions at the huge Lincoln Showground Fair, followed quickly by the even huger, even chillier Newark International event. In fact, my cold-defying layers of clothing were so thick that my stiff little arms gave up all efforts to whip out my camera to record proceedings. (I am still kicking myself for failing to take a snap of the Tibetan monk in saffron robes, bare legs, sandals and a parka! Had he taken a wrong turn?) We sold a lot of stuff - and I bought a bit too; needlework, tins and things

My last-minute impulse buy seems to have been a result of the mind-numbing cold and my current obsession with sorting old family photographs...

Great Aunt Violet.

Great Granny Rosie.

A family friend.

Cousin Lydia.

Cousin Queenie (Newton Ferrers.)


Monday, 3 December 2012


There aren't too many box pews left in churches today. Most date from the 16th to 19th century and were designed to give privacy to worshippers. Sometimes they contained tables, fireplaces, windows, curtains etc. and sometimes they were available to rent. Here are some pale and beautiful examples at St Stephen's, Fylingdales, near Whitby.

I was reminded of this type of church interior when hunting for a great, great uncle on the other day. This useful resource can often provide an interesting history lesson (not to mention a wonderful collection of unusual names - my favourite to date is Eglantine Thonger.)
I was looking at this particular 1871 Berkshire census page and discovered a really useful occupation for a lady of a certain age: 

Here she is among the scholars, the carpenters and the under gardeners - Harriet Boult, aged 62, Church Pew Opener!

Those were the days, no need for an over-60s lady (with no pension) to worry about gainful employment. Her duty was to unlock private pews when required by their owners, while sometimes making extra money by renting out empty pews. 
My great grandmother had another good idea; widowed at 60, she started up a servant's registry office - matching servants to employers. The responsibility for angry, mis-matched pairs would be just too much for me!
At the moment, of course, buying and selling the quaint & the curious keeps me busy - and I PROMISE I'm not "a duffer", the Victorian name for a pedlar of cheap and rubbishy goods.
But  if I ever do need a gentler occupation, church pew opening sounds like a doddle to me...

..."this way, Sir!"


Sunday, 25 November 2012


Here is a Georgian Quaker knitted silk pincushion - I found this little treasure last week. (Well, another antique-hunter found it and agreed to sell it to me if I would only get up off my knees. "So undignified!")
These small pincushions (1.5 inches in diameter) are quite rare and were knitted by Quaker girls and women on fine steel needles called "makkin wires". They were often sold to raise funds for worthy causes. 
Some examples were made to help the anti-slavery movement.

Girls at the famous Ackworth Quaker School in West Yorkshire knitted them in sombre colours, rather like mine. Theirs are always bound with a loop of silk ribbon...

..but mine is from York, dated 1818 and bound with a knitted band, which adds much to its poignant story.

Around the band are the words, "A Trifle from the Retreat 1818." Below is a similar piece from York Museum which says, " The Retreat near York".

Founded in 1792 by a Quaker tea merchant William Tuke, The Retreat opened in 1796 and was a new kind of establishment for the mentally ill, a hospital which treated the patients with great kindness and with minimal use of cruel restraint. It is thought that these pincushions may have been made by patients as a kind of occupational therapy.

The Retreat, York.

Here is a petition signed by the servants working at The Retreat in 1827. They demanded that the committee should allow only the purchase of tea from East India, harvested by free men, and not tea from the West Indies because of the great oppression of the slave trade.


Monday, 19 November 2012


One Sunday afternoon, a couple of years ago, I was painting the landing (F&B Pavilion Gray) and listening to a very good BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (still on my "to read list" I'm ashamed to say) when the narrator said something that struck me to the core:
"Like so many Americans she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."
"How true!" I thought, "That may well be what we do. Are we so sad and are our lives so empty?"
Then, as I brushed the walls, I decided that in fact it is a very basic human (or even animal) instinct to collect, to decorate, to furnish, to feather a nest. Then I didn't feel so bad. 

Here, above, an early settler has surrounded himself with comforting clutter and mementoes, as well as the necessities of life. He probably would have felt quite at home in the manly room pictured below, suit-cases at the ready, trophies on the wall.

I was reminded of this Vonnegut quotation by a link on Ben Pentreath's excellent blog. This link is not for the those who faint away at the sight of the "f" word for it leads you to a website cheekily making fun of all the desirable bits and pieces that make up our hearts' desires and which clutter our houses with all kinds of old tat. Mr Pentreath is a leading figure in the London design world, an architect who has worked for the Duchy of Cornwall and the owner of the poshest gift shop in the country. Here is his new book, a feast for all who love decorating...

...and reassuring for we purveyors of stuff, for, as far as we can tell, human beings are still acquiring and collecting knick-knackery of all kinds with which to adorn their homes. 


and here,

Then they go home to do this


and this.

So it goes.