Thursday, 31 May 2012


Antiques fairs in Yorkshire are mostly very traditional affairs (see above)

(and below). 

Sometimes a seller takes a flight of fancy - just look at Val's Tartan & Tweed creations...

Occasionally, when the attic is bursting with bric-a-brac, we join the stall holders to do some selling, though Mr N has to be dragged complaining to this task - there's not enough action for him! In fact it was very hard to keep track of him at our last venue, The Antiques and Art Fair at the Harrogate Showground.

He could sometimes be spotted - chatting...

...or buying,

Or diving into someone else's box of treasures.

"I can see you there - come out NOW & sell some of that junk!"


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Little Miss N

Little Nina, pictured here with her big brother and sister, is one day old today!


Monday, 21 May 2012


I'm not sure if I am using the Friends' phrase correctly but I certainly felt favoured when I found this fine cotton Quaker bonnet at an antiques fair in South Yorkshire on Sunday. The kindly, humble and peaceful beliefs which are the Quaker faith have always attracted and intrigued me, partly because one of my own great grandfathers was a Friend in Norwich, though he was unique in my history - it was not a family faith.

As I went on round the fair, I found another seller with two samplers whose  plain style gave their origin away. (I was thrilled to buy these too.)

Simple Quaker samplers were worked with alphabets, often with Roman lettering and with unusual double letters as in my example above.

Sometimes a simple verse, with good advice, was embroidered in red

or black

or green.

These two samplers, so similar to each other, are almost certain to be from the same South Yorkshire family, the Fitzgeorges from Warmsworth near Doncaster. Mary Fitzgeorge signed and dated one sampler in 1838.
Research was enjoyable and produced some interesting information.
One of Britain's first Friends Meeting Houses was built in Warmsworth, in about 1706, by William, son of Thomas Aldham who was a close friend and supporter of George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker faith. Proof that there were strong Quaker connections to this small South Yorkshire village.

As for the Fitzgeorge family: Mary was the granddaughter of Edmund Fitzgeorge, born 1758, who had, as a baby, been abandoned at the Foundling Hospital in London. As a young child he was sent to the Foundling Hospital in Ackworth, Yorkshire, which later became a renowned Quaker School. He was later apprenticed to a blacksmith and is buried in Warmsworth churchyard.
Mothers whose babies were abandoned at the Foundling Hospital left a token, so that they might be reunited with the right child if their circumstances improved - sadly, many of these still exist at the Foundling Hospital Museum. Of 16,282 babies left at the London Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760 only 152 were reclaimed.

It is known that Edmund's token was a blue ribbon.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Romantic Ripley Castle came into view on a misty morning and we arrived for Arthur Swallow's new event, the Antique and Architectural Salvage Show at Ripley - not the Derbyshire one, not the Surrey one, but Ripley, the early 19th century model village, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The medieval Castle put  me in the right frame of mind, so did the time-worn, iconoclasted church monuments...

...also the mossy stones in the graveyard, but where was Mr N?

          Nothing much worth salvaging in this heap of rubbish, but he had made a new friend.


Enough nature study - the Salvage Fair had opened! A bit like the cute partridge above, it was small, but perfectly formed. It should, we hope, encourage the growing taste for historical recycling, even here in the North where shabbiness is regarded with suspicion by some and patination is cured with a Brillo pad.



Sunday, 13 May 2012


At last a pause in the pouring rain! 

This called for a bit of a treat, so we packed our picnic hamper and set off towards the moors of North Yorkshire for a bit of scenery, history - and antiques hunting, of course. Pickering was our destination - a busy market town for hundreds of years, it is now also a magnet for those interesting folk, the Re-enactors. We hear that Re-enactors may be divided into three main groups: the Farbs - "far be it from authentic", the Mainstream - mostly sticklers for correct period detail, but if they can't find genuine woad they will not loose a wink of sleep, and the Progressives - one fine linen stitch in the wrong place and you are dead (longbow, blunderbuss, guillotine...)
Happily this means that, despite Pickering being rather remote, it has a plethora of antiques shops and is well worth a visit.


In need of a little spiritual lift we walked up the hill to the parish church of St Peter and St Paul which contains some spectacular 15th century wall-paintings, sadly rather over-restored by zealous Victorians.

In days gone by, when Master N would submit to such educational visits as this one, his favourite Pickering painting was the depiction of the Descent into the yawning Mouth of Hell (see above). "Tha' mun think on, lad" Mr N used to tell him.
Just as we did in those far off days, homeward bound, we stopped for lunch by the river at Sinnington...

...then wandered over to the little churchyard. We do enjoy reading gravestones and contemplating the mouldering heaps where "the rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep" (Thomas Gray). We wondered, wistfully, whether John Raven missed his young wife Milkey - he would surely never have dreamt that she would die before him.

In melancholy mood we entered the little Norman church of All Saints and  solemnly reminded ourselves of the Ten Commandments.

Luckily we already own a modest Houfe and Mr N has a useful combination Wife/Servant/Maid. We have no use at present for an Ox or an Afs and when it comes to other covetable things, well, in the world of antiques everything has a price and this is often negotiable.
So, without a stain on his conscience, Mr N went home happy with a few bits and pieces for his new Brown Study.


Monday, 7 May 2012


The May blossom is out in these parts (though it's much too cold to cast any clouts) but Mr N and I are completely bemused about the precise whereabouts of May Day. The Occupy protesters in New York had no doubt about the date - we saw them on TV, on 5/1/2012.

But there wasn't much sign of a dance around a Maypole, let alone a political rally, anywhere near here on May 1st last week, so we hoped the first Sunday of the month, yesterday May 6th, might provide a traditional spectacle to liven things up. However the only event around was an arcane May festival with a Gaelic name, Beltane, at Thornborough Henge which, among other folksy things, involves burning hawthorn branches while a Green Man lurks in the bushes hoping for a glimpse of the May Queen - a bit scary, we think.

How we longed for a return to the time when (come what may) the first of the month was May Day. Milkmaids would dress in their finest clothes for this occasion...

...and dance around a Milkmaid's Garland, hoping to collect some pennies in return for their pretty display, as depicted in this painting by Francis Hayman circa 1740. You will note that the Milkmaid's Garland is a curious pyramid-shaped structure bedecked with polished metal domestic utensils; tankards, pans and silver plate, all finished off with flowers and ribbons. Some strong girls would even don this hefty headgear themselves.

The tradition of the Milkmaid's Garland and this seasonal busking faded into history about 200 years ago, but we still have the Queen of the May and her attendants, with some villages still boasting a Maypole for the traditional annual Ribbon Dance (click here for a very polished version).
Here is my mother's school May Day in 1930s Berkshire. Note the economy-style  Maypole - a gas-powered street lamp.
So here we are, it's May Bank Holiday today, the 7th of May! Surely this MUST be May Day, though there's nothing much happening around here apart from a beer festival at Ripon Cathedral. Aldborough has a lovely Maypole - let's go and see if the crowds are gathering...

Fantastic! The ribbons are ready for the dance - but look, there are no dancers and no celebratory crowds...

                           ... wait a minute, here is a sign.

Oh, so THAT'S when it is!


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Pester Power circa 1845

Found in a pile of papers yesterday - obviously little Victorian darlings were very much seen AND heard.