Monday, April 8, 2013

A Regency Warming Plate

It is common for me to come across late Victorian warming plates and dishes made of silver or silver plate, but I had never seen an earthenware version before. We were shopping in one of our regular antique shops and decided to purchase a mid Victorian European kitchen cupboard. This was not an impulse purchase, as we had actually been looking for one to fit beside our fireplace for a while.

As you can see it fits beautifully in beside the fireplace. These are wonderful as they are used to secure all the plate and silver of value. It has a locked draw on the top and bottom and shelves in the center section.

Anyways in purchasing this cupboard we also spotted an interesting stoneware warming plate. It had just come into the store that morning and was unlabelled. To add to this, Nic is amazing at bargaining and we ended up getting them both for less than their original total price, meaning that plate ended up being free.

On the way home I decided to play archaeologist and Google'd the maker and design. It was made by Rogers & Son in Stafforshire ca. 1820. I believe that this design was only produced from 1815-1825 and was made to celebrate the tour of an Indian Elephant called Chunee at the Covent Garden Theater, in England in 1810. One of the reasons that they may have stopped producing this design around 1825 could be because of the nature of his death.

Exert from Wikipedia
Chunee became dangerously violent towards the end of his life, attributed to an "annual paroxysm" (perhaps his musth) aggravated by a rotten tusk which gave him a bad toothache. On 26 February 1826, while on his usual Sunday walk along the Strand, Chunee ran amok, killing one of his keepers. He became increasingly enraged and difficult to handle over the following days, and it was decided that he was too dangerous to keep. The following Wednesday, 1 March, his keeper tried to feed him poison, but Chunee refused to eat it. Soldiers were summoned from Somerset House to shoot Chunee with their muskets. Kneeling down to the command of his trusted keeper, Chunee was hit by 152 musket balls, but refused to die. Chunee was finished off by a keeper with a harpoon or sword. The floor of his cage was deeply covered with his blood, and it was said that the sound of the elephant in agony was more alarming than the reports of the soldier's guns

More information about this story can be found at this blog.
The plate itself has a beautiful transfer design which is also on the raised base. This place is about 2inchs high and has a reservoir under the plate for warm water. The stoneware warms up quite quickly and can keep food warm for about 20 minutes. Normal hot water from the tap is very effective. It does not require the water to be boiling.

On the underside there is a large and small tube. From what I can work out based on trial and common sense you can pour the water into the larger spout and the shifted air is released from the smaller.

Anyways, we are both very happy in this plate and it's interesting provenance. It is wonderful to have such an amazing piece of everyday functional houseware.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hand Embroidered Fire Screen

When living in a small cottage it can be hard to protect the complexion from a large open fire. It would easy to just leave the room or move away, but one still wants to keep warm, just not on the face. It could just be my own personal issue, but after an evening of sitting by the fire I find that my face is reddened, my skin feels more taunt and dryer. The solution is a wonderful birthday gift from my husband. While he was on a recent archaeological dig in Launceston, Tasmania, he stumbled across this beautiful hand embroidered personal fire screen in an antique shop. He believes that it dates back to the early to mid Victorian period.

 The fire screen where it is stored (high above where my kittens can not get at it) next to the portrait of the amazing General Garibaldi. The front of the screen is made of blue silk velvet with silk embroidery and silk fringing.

 The screen itself sits on a brass cross that is highly decorated with a section at the bottom made of ivory. The back of the screen is a plain silk taffeta.

The base is very heavy and beautifully decorated.

 When it is placed on a side table in front of the fire place it only shields the heat that radiates upwards, thereby protecting your head from the heat of the flames.

Finally a close up of the embroidery. The screen has been decorated using cross stitch to create a floral design (unfortunately it does not photograph very well). The crosses are actually quite large in size and are definitely hand sewn by someone with developing skills as the stitches are not quite even in all places.

I love this screen and have only seen one other like it and it was in no where near as nice a condition as this one is. I am very grateful to my husband Nic for being so considerate of my needs in this lovely gift. If anyone has any further information to add about the dating or history of fire screens please let me know as I have only just started learning about them. And now I should stop procrastinating over my gifts and get back to my studies.

Victorian Brass Skirt Lifter

I have decided to start blogging about the amazing historical items I find, buy or am given. As last week was my birthday I received some amazing gifts. The first that I am going to share is this gorgeous horse shoe design skirt lifter, which was a gift from my very good friend Sandy.

 It is a total of 6 inches long (15 cms) and the horeshoe is 2 inches wide (5 cms)

 The disks at the bottom are not fixed, but rather they spin so that if the fabric is pulled it can rotate or drop about half an inch before it releases it (or creates a tear, this should not happen though)

  It works like a clamp with the horseshoe moving downwards to release the pads at the bottom. The horseshoe is then pulled upwards till it reaches a groove and clamps on the fabric.

This type of skirt lifter was mass produced in the 1870s until the 1890s out of pressed brass. They are also an essential item for any fashionable lady seeking to protect the fabric in the train of her dress. These often have black woven ropes attached to the top that are then either clipped into a belt at the waist (for sports and cycling for more adventurous ladies) or looped around the wrist (for more graceful motions such as dancing).

I would love to find a more specific date for this skirt lifter. However, as it was a mass produced item it fails to have any datable markings. If anyone knows anything about this particular type of skirt lifter please feel free to let me know.


Early 1860s Leghorn Hat and a Day at Government House

I have been very busy of late working hard on my Honours Literature Review at University. The amount of time and effort required for my studies this semester has left very little time for sewing projects. I have continued with both of my sewing groups, however, one is only two hours a week and the other is an afternoon twice a month. Other than those few hours, I have found little time to sew.

I have also been making a few changes to this blog. After a long discussion with my husband we decided that we not longer liked the name of the blog. We felt that it was simplistic and failed to express our interests and passions in living history. Yes, I used the "L" word. While we are not yet at the standard that we would like to be we do feel that we are no longer just 'costumers'. We live in an 1850s cottage, cook at times on fire (not as much as we would like), we experiment with daily living tasks of the Victorian era and we have a tendency to live in our period clothes. Thankfully, we have very understanding neighbours, who have recently also started bring guests to visit us. Apparently our home looks like a museum. I must say it is strange having people take photos of us in our home. I also hope to add more stories of our experiences and our treasures in this blog.

Anyways, back to sewing. Today we had an event at Government House in Adelaide. As members of the Victoriana Society of SA we are invited to be present at their open days twice a year. It is a nice opportunity to meet and greet both locals and interstate guest. We always have a wonderful, if somewhat tiring day. I had decided to wear my wedding dress, as it was feeling neglected and needed a good airing. Considering how fancy it is, there are not many appropriate events in which to wear it. I wanted to change up the look at little so I decided that I would finally decorate a felt leghorn hat that my husband had purchased for me a while ago. I was delighted to find that I had some wonderful trimmings in my stash that went perfectly with the dress.

 Me wearing it at Government House

As for the event, we decided to have a picnic lunch in style. We took a few of our folding chairs and a folding table to sit under a tree and eat sandwiches and a special cherry pie. It was entertaining having visitors taking photos of us while we enjoyed our repast.

Myself, Lady Dylis Mort, Mrs Ann Lawson and Mrs Sandy DiSessa

 Inside the ballroom

The Challenge 7# Accessorise
Fabric: 100% Wool Felt Hat
Pattern: None - I referred to fashion plates for the trimmings
Year: ca. early 1860s
Notions: pink velvet ribbon, pink flowers, pink silk ribbon, white fabric flowers, wax buds, natural/un-dyed ostrich feather and silk thread to attach the trimmings
How historically accurate is it? About 80%, the velvet ribbon is synthetic and the pink flowers had plastic bases unfortunately
Hours to complete: about 2 hours
First worn: I first wore it today as we were volunteering at the Government House open day, as guests of the Governor.
Total cost: None as the hat was a gift from my loving husband and the notions all came from my stash boxes.