Monday, 4 March 2013

A LIFE STORY IN THREE CHAPTERS


Just once a year, at the beginning of March, a prestigious and respected school in Wakefield lets its hair down and hosts an Antiques & Vintage Fair. The sellers are a mixture of professional dealers, ladies who dabble and mums having fun. A couple of years ago, at this fair, Mr N bought me a book of school sewing samplers, worked by a Quaker girl in the early 19th century.


Inside the hand-marbled covers are fine examples of plain sewing.







The seller parted with this wonderful book, made by her Quaker ancestor, because her own offspring had no interest in their family history.


Last year she sold me this handsome carpet bag, embroidered with coloured wools, but I was not very sure about its connection to the previous year's purchase...



...though this note, tucked inside, was written in language befitting a Friend.

"My Darling, 
This is the last piece of wool work our precious Walter did ere he left our happy home at Kingston. I have treasured it more than 24 years! I feel sure thou wilt value it for his sake as well as mine. Accept it with Mother's love."

It was dated 1898. I did not know that the bag was connected to the family story and, foolishly, I sold this precious memento. Last Saturday, the annual antiques event took place again. This time our friendly seller remembered me and brought the next chapter of her tale...


...tucked inside this simple wooden hat box.


Here is a faded photograph of her great grandmother, Patience, possibly taken on her wedding day. Along with this I found names and dates - enough to work out that the embroidered bag was sewn by her long dead brother and given to her by their mother. Patience married Alexander, a successful businessman whose distant ancestor, Jacob Hagen, was a merchant from the Netherlands, born in 1685. Throughout the family's history the children, girls and boys, were sent to Quaker schools; Stramongate in Cumberland, Earls Colne in Essex and Ackworth in Yorkshire (where my sampler book was probably made), pictured
here, below.

Ackworth School

Tissue paper layers hid more treasures - a tattered brown envelope with an exotic Brooklyn postmark...



...contained pink and white knitted silk bootees "For the Baby Girl."


The last layer revealed a wonderful silk Quaker bonnet and collar, probably the very garments that Patience wears in the faded portrait, along with a fine piece of printed muslin - from her wedding dress? I wonder if I shall be lucky enough to be entrusted with another chapter next year (do I deserve this honour after parting with the bag?) If not, I shall treasure the glimpse I've had into another family's story. That has always been a large part of the excitement of antiques for me.


***
                                                       

24 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and interesting story. The book with the samplers is wonderful....those lovely buttonholes. The hat and the booties.
    Such interesting history.

    Sorry I've been absent so long.
    Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it really is a wonderful collection!

      Delete
  2. A most touching story, Nilly. I think it's really amazing to be part of such tangible history and I'm so glad you are and can share it with us. Yes, a shame about the beautiful carpet bag but great to know its part. Axxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like Janice mentioned a little while ago, it's really the connection with people that makes an antique interesting to me.

      Delete
  3. The book of sewing samplers is simply lovely - although it serves no purpose in todays world it is a treasure of how industrious and skilled the young women were.
    I can well imagine how you regret parting with the bag, sell in haste and repent at leisure - but at least you still have the photographs of the bag and letter.
    Another of your very interesting posts Nilly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rosemary - I love it when you share your knowledge of objects too.

      Delete
  4. This is fantastic Nilly. It is exactly what being interested in antiques is for me...real social and family history threads...just wonderful. I spent some years on the fringes of the antique trade, and never quite got to grip with the idea of making a living out of it...somehow, just finding treasures like these and preserving them for future generations seems to be at the heart of it. Unfortunately, it can have the effect of turning your house into a museum...and a very cluttered one at that....so hard to decide what to keep ! This is a wonderful collection though, and deserves pride of place. J.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too Janice! Today I found an album full of Victorian photos and cuttings from a country house near Goole - including one entitled "My room at Eton". I shall have great fun finding out about the family involved - so long as I can keep my socialist tendencies suppressed!

      Delete
  5. How much I love these stories,
    I find them fascinating and intriguing.
    Beautiful you walk in our hands the story
    and artifacts of unknown people.
    I love your post.
    Love Susy x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i do agree Susy - thank you!

      Delete
  6. ~ Such a touching post, Nilly...I don't think I could have sold the beautiful, carpet bag, as it reminded me of Mary Poppins's bag.....and I always admired this in the movie! I know You are in the antiques trade and you couldn't possibly keep every thing... Fascinating story as always!....Love Maria x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree about the Mary Poppin's look of the bag. How silly of me - and I've just bought a pair of prim and shiny black lace-ups to go with my black coat & hat!

      Delete
  7. I am always amazed when someone doesn't care about their own family history.
    I guess if everybody did there wouldn't be anything for the rest of us to buy? All treasures for sure, but I love the "buttons" and the wooden hat box.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So am I Gayle, but there's no sign of my offspring showing any interest in their history yet. I'm pinning my hopes on my granddaughters, in a few years...

      Delete
  8. What another fascinating story Nilly, I love to hear them. That book of sewing samples, the marbled cover to the actual samples of the pleating and buttonholes is just a joy, even the handwriting is gorgeous. I do love to hear the family history, I bet you were thrilled when you discovered what was in the box, how amazing a pair of baby bootees and the bonnet. You will certainly look forward to next year to see another piece of the family history. jayne x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes the book is wonderful! I've been so lucky & privileged to be able to buy these treasures that I can't really believe the seller will part with more.

      Delete
  9. What a wonderful story! I love the sampler book - what a treasure. Such a shame you sold the bag, but you weren't to know. M x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The sampler book is my favourite too - that's the thing about what we do, isn't it, we never know what treasures will turn up next!

      Delete
  10. You have treasure there Nilly, such exquisite workmanship. Can you imagine knitting those bootees nowadays?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not such fine, silk ones. Chunky wool with colourful pom-poms, maybe!

      Delete
  11. Fabulous! The sample book is a wonderful record of a young girl's skill in needlework . I once passed on something similar and still regret it to this day.
    The hat certainly looks like the one in the photograph...
    Julie x
    Hope you have your thermals for Swinderby!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, the forecast is for "feels like minus 9", I believe - and possibly snow...

      Delete
  12. Another wonderful and interesting post. What wonderful treasures there are still to be found 'out there'. Such an interesting story... I wonder why the pretty bootees had not been worn.
    Loved reading this.
    Ruth

    ReplyDelete
  13. I can only imagine that people treasured some gifts so much that they wanted to preserve them as keepsakes. These were sent from far away New York so might have had a special significance.

    ReplyDelete