Tag Archives: History

The Rocking Dog Remember Me Project

Remember Me,Rocking Dog

Remember Me

Real Live Rocking Dog and I have been walking together for a glorious ten years now. Many of our walks have taken us close to the war memorial on Whiteshill Common, Hambrook. I have often stopped and looked at the names on the edifice, many of the surnames have seemed very familiar to me. Having been brought up in a village close by I have more than likely rubbed shoulders in years gone by with the sons, nephews, grandsons and maiden aunts etc.. of those commemorated on the memorial.

For a while now I have been wanting to research those 53 WW1 names on the memorial to link in with next years Armistice centenary. Then my plans became more bold, I decided I wanted to visit the graves/memorials of these fallen soldiers. The challenge has begun.

As we are heading through France and Belgium next month I have started to research the resting places of all those inscribed names. I am ashamed to say I was incredibly naive to think that the majority of these servicemen would be in a couple of cemeteries. Thus far I will need to visit 18 French cemeteries and 2 in Belgium. There are some Commonwealth graves in local churchyards and one that I will visit in the Rhondda, Wales. Others are off limits due to their location or security risk (Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia), Azerbajan, Israel, Gallipoli and Greece). The biggest of the cemeteries I need to visit is the Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 casualties. Meanwhile other cemeteries to visit have only 100 or so casualties. I am wondering which I am going to be most moved by, the enormity of Thiepval or the intimacy of the smaller cemeteries. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world. Most of those commemorated there died during the Somme Offensive of 1916.

I have been using Ancestry.co.uk, the Commonwealth Graves Commission site and local archives (including Frenchay Museum) to conduct my research. The research has led me to war memorial plaques at Marlborough College and the Australian War Memorial. It has also uncovered stories of the near blind villager who knitted a large quantity of woollen mittens and socks for those in the trenches at Gallipoli. There are stories of a villager housing many Belgian refugees and other locals who were instrumental in organising & sending out Christmas parcels to the soldiers of the villages. These parcels were an amazing morale boost for the men at the front. Others nursed at a temporary hospital tending the wounded, whilst others managed poultry to lay eggs for the patients.

As 2018 beckons I want to start compiling A4 sheets (which will be laminated) of the lives and deaths of these soldiers. With the current householders’ permissions I hope to attach one of these “Remember Me” sheets to a door or gate where the soldier was bought up, schooled, worshipped or worked. I will hopefully be able to track down photo’s and personalise each history. These soldiers will simply not be allowed to be just a name on a war memorial. Thank you to kind friends who are knitting poppies to attach to the histories. Pretty please sometime later I would love to buddy up with anyone who has a super duper laminator!

I am hoping that the culmination of all this will be a vintage tea next November. The icing on the cake would be if ancestors of those commemorated came to pay tribute to their relative, and of course to eat Rocking Dog cake.

I include photo’s of my Great Aunt Susan who was called up to be a nurse with the Expeditionary Force in the first few days of the war. Another photo shows my two great uncles, one of whom (David Cresser) served in Gallipoli with the Anzacs. He also had the honour of raising the Union Flag in German occupied Samoa. Finally another photo shows my Grandfather John Warrington Scott (top right, bit of a lad!) He served with Royal Engineers and was very badly gassed in the trenches. Thankfully all these relatives returned home to Scotland and New Zealand.

Have you got relatives who served in WW1? As the 2018 centenary beckons let us Remember Them.

Have a good week and stay cosy, autumn seems to have arrived! Love Rocking Dog x

 War Memorial Rocking Dog

War Memorial,

Frenchay Church,Rocking Dog

Frenchay Church

Commonwealth Grave,Rocking Dog

Commonwealth Grave

Royal Engineer Grandfather,Rocking Dog

Royal Engineer Grandfather

My Great Uncles WW1,Rocking Dog

My Great Uncles WW1

Gt Aunt Susan WW1, France,Rocking Dog

Gt Aunt Susan WW1, France

Q: ” How Do You Think Up Things To Blog About?’

This Rings A Chord!, Rocking Dog

This Rings A Chord!

At the Country Living Build A Business Day on Wednesday one talented “girl” having discovered I blog regularly asked me “How do you think up things to blog about?” A lovely question. In short, I thankfully rarely find it difficult to find something to spout on about!

For me, I need space to think. This brain space is normally found when I am doing the early morning walk with Real Live Rocking Dog.

I am really inspired by nature and though living only a 10 minute drive from Bristol my home is set down a wild wooded lane. The changing seasons and local flora and fauna always make regular outings on my blogs. Yesterday wild lilac bowers lined a favourite walk, the scent and colour of the blooms set me thinking. Expect a purple post soon!

As a child I used to love the school nature table. Jam-jars of tadpoles, Old Man’s Beard, Rose-hips, conkers, wild flowers and Beech masts would all make appearances throughout the year. I am a nostalgic soul and like my own seasonal nature table (no tadpoles I hasten to add!). I sometimes style a “table” for one of my blogs. Meanwhile foraging for sloes, blackberries, wild garlic and damsons provide the opportunity to make edible preserves etc..and in turn informative blogs.

Once the walk is over there is plenty of material to talk about back at the Rocking Dog Kennel. A crumbly 230 year old house with a past history of having been a bakery and an overflow mortuary for the local undertakers it has characterful bones. There has been damp, old death watch beetle, walls to take down and nudey ladies to paint over. There have been battles with listings folk, chimneys to de-nest and a summer spent scaling scaffolding brushing on 90 litres of faux “Dead Salmon”. There was the electrician who informed us of his dodgy bowels, a kitchen fitter who needed a cardiac team and a slap dash plumber who left water so deep in our kitchen that we had ducks swimming across the floor. Worse were the no show painter quoters, necessitating myself and broken shouldered husband to paint a 30 foot high ceiling on a VERY wobbly scaffolding tower. Blog material a plenty!

My makes, edible and non edible make appearances regularly and I often include instructions and recipes. The main photograph on this post made me laugh. It very much sums up eating in or out.. when I shout “don’t touch ’til I photograph it!” We all need to eat, and food doesn’t need to be elaborate to blog about. Good photographs, a degree of styling and a recipe often get people liking a food post.

I really love “my” city, so will blog about markets, parks, shops and eating haunts. I love championing people who are really good at what they do. Outside of Bristol I love to blog about events and exhibitions, Chelsea Flower Show and Kaffe Fasset’s exhibition at The American Museum, Bath particularly stand out for me.

Ancestry and the history of objects are pastimes I enjoy and I sometimes use researched material in a blog. Many of these posts are personal to my family and I. I hope they are a lasting written archive of family memories, the provenance of objects and distillation of ancestry. I would like to think that these posts are enjoyable to read for non family members.

As a self confessed magpie I love items with a history and which have been well used. Yesterday morning I was looking at our lovely linen cupboard, it’s so funny that you live with things for so long that you sometimes forget to notice them anymore. I don’t know anything about the cupboard apart from that it’s made from oak, heavily carved and when we bought it 28 years or so ago it was covered in white paint. Maybe I need to do a research blog post as I did for the lovely little Gladstone bag bought last summer.

Occasions such as Christmas provide brilliant opportunities to blog on gift making, decorations, wrapping, wreath making, festive food etc…etc..Additionally there are shop windows, festive events, other peoples decorations to blog about. It’s a blogging feeding frenzy! Pop up events, Charity Burn’s Nights and Rocking Dog sales feature in my blogs as does styling work.

Travel at home or away gives the opportunity for new experiences to be reported on and photographed. On travel I like to blog, but I hope I don’t brag. Wherever I am I really like to get to know how people live, what the locals eat, how they shop and their working lives. In Cuba we spent an hour watching two young athletic men take a primary school PE lesson. These children were seemingly having so much fun just running in teams against each other along a public tree lined walkway. Simple insights like this would make suitable blog post material.

Day to day, if a present needs wrapping it doesn’t take any longer to wrap a present for a blog shoot. As regular readers know I love a good piece of wallpaper, magazine or Chinese newspaper to do a creative wrap.

Sometimes I can be serious, especially if I think there is something I feel needs saying or telling.

General points: I try to steer clear of sex, religion and politics (though Donald Trump’s name has crept into one or two of my posts-oops!). My blog I would like to think is for a little bit of escapism. Peoples’ lives are busy with many difficulties to navigate. I really am no different even though the blog may suggest a picture perfect life!

It can be demoralising to put a sizeable quantity of time to put a blog piece together and for likes to be unforthcoming. I sometimes question why I should carry on…but something and more importantly some people keep me on going. Persevere!

I sincerely hope I have answered the question, and yes I burn the candle both ends!

So here endeth my Friday post. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Love Rocking Dog x

Nature Table, Rocking Dog

Nature Table

Home &.......,Rocking Dog

Home &…….

....Garden!, Rocking Dog

….Garden!

Alternative Wrap, Rocking Dog

Alternative Wrap

Food Eaten In ....., Rocking Dog

Food Eaten In …..

...And Out!, Rocking Dog

…And Out!

Charity Events, Rocking Dog

Charity Events

Peek In My Wardrobe!, Rocking Dog

Peek In My Wardrobe!

My City, Rocking Dog

My City

My Makes, Rocking Dog

My Makes

My Travels, Rocking Dog

My Travels

My Family, Rocking Dog

My Family

Latest Kitsch Purchase. More Worthless Crud!

Mother Of Pearl Virgin Mary, Rocking Dog

Mother Of Pearl Virgin Mary

Rocking Dog loves a bit of kitsch! This is especially true when mixing shells and Virgin Mary’s together.

The car needed a minor fix and this gave me the opportunity to do a quick trawl down Gloucester Road, Bristol. Nationally Gloucester Road is often hailed as a fantastic example of how a thriving inner city street should be. It is full of independent shops and cafe’s, with literally a butcher, a baker and candlestick maker. It also has some great charity shops. My latest Mary was found in the Heart Foundation shop for £3.49. I know it’s more crud for the kids to clear and be exasperated over when i’m dead and buried … but I will love her! She even has a shell to fill with holy water, but a Roman Catholic I am not.

I have always loved religious grotto’s (I blame Bernadette of Lourdes) and so enjoyed the amazing kindergarten pastiche in Umbria. A truly amazing un-religious grotto can be spied in the grounds of Goldney Hall, Bristol. Constructed in the 1700’s it uses shells, rock crystal, and quartz as a backdrop for atmospheric rock pools, fountains and statues. Yummy!

Our Kitchen has it’s very own sprinkling of religious devotion. When we moved to the house Mr Dursley left us his Victorian Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross depict Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion. They are commonly found in Roman Catholic Churches, together with places of other religious denominations. Fourteen in number they are arranged in order, and groups or individuals stop at each image and say prayers and reflections. Each Good Friday the Pope leads the Stations Of The Cross around the Colosseum in Rome. The Stations of the Cross are also known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked. I know not where Mr D acquired our Stations of the Cross. At first glance they look like carved stone, but are in fact plaster bandages on wooden batons. There is a lovely note on the back of one of them saying that they were cleaned in the 1920’s by two gentlemen. There are three missing, so if by any chance there is someone out there with the remaining plaques…..

For a religious imagery fix I enjoy a night in with Romeo and Juliet. Of course the appropriate wine to drink would have to be Blue Nun!

Italian Kindergarten Virgin Mary, Rocking Dog

Italian Kindergarten Virgin Mary

Mary Overload, Rocking Dog

Mary Overload

Kitchen Religion, Rocking Dog

Kitchen Religion

Unlocking A Gladstone Bag’s Secrets.

Unlocking History, Rocking Dog

Unlocking History

At Redland Fair despite having a stall I managed to escape for a little while! In a cardboard box looking very forlorn I discovered a somewhat desiccated Gladstone bag. I was a little doubtful as to whether it could be revived, but thought i’d take a chance on it.

For a few days the bag sat sadly and patiently on the kitchen table, waiting for me to come up with a cunning renovation plan. In the end I settled on Kiwi Suede & Nubuck Foam Cleaner together with some Kiwi brown shoe polish. My Army spit and polish days came in useful and the results have been startling.

Then came the lovely brass catch, and with Brasso doing it’s magic I noticed the engraved inscription. I Googled the name and address not really expecting anything-but the little bags history literally unfolded!

This bag was almost certainly owned by Christopher Sewell, a jeweller with a shop in Berkeley Square, London. I returned to the newly polished bag to check for any stray diamonds, but alas no! During my initial search I found a fascinating news snippet from a Tasmanian newspaper reporting a London jewellery robbery at Sewell’s shop in 1913. £4,000 worth of items were taken (1,000 pieces) and the value of this hoard today would equate to more than £408,000.

Following on from this I put Christopher’s name into my Ancestry.co.uk account. With the help of public members trees (also researching a Sewell connection) I was able to gain a snapshot of his life. He was born in Uppingham, Rutland in circa 1836, the son of a farmer with 90 cows.

How he rose to live and work in one of London’s most exclusive addresses is something of a mystery. In the 1871 census he is shown to be living in Westbourne Grove and his occupation is Jeweller manager. Also living at the address is his wife and three year old son, a servant, two employees, a visitor and aunt. By the 1881 census Christopher is now widowed and living at Davies Street (the address on the brass clasp). Christopher’s son does not appear in the census but a three year old daughter does. There are two general servants together with an apprentice jeweller. An unmarried niece is listed too, and at twenty three perhaps she has the responsibility of looking after Christopher’s daughter. In 1991 Christopher is now 54 and has remarried. His daughter (Elizabeth Mabel) is now 13 and there is one servant.

Christopher Sewell died in London on 1st March 1898 at the age of 62. His widow Margaret is shown in the 1901 census to be head of the household and classed as a working jeweller. Perhaps she was was in the building in 1913 when the robbery occurred. Christopher Sewell. Ltd, Jewellers of 4 Davies Street appears in the phone book even in 1961 (Mayfair 0226). A four bedroomed flat in Davies Street recently sold for £10 million.

Eventually by 2am I had decided that I needed to stop delving into a family tree that does not belong to me! Nevertheless it has been fascinating to give a little bit of love and history back to the bag. I would love to know one more thing though, how did it end up in a tatty cardboard box at Redland Fair?

Happy Birthday Sorrel! I hope you enjoy this little bags provenance, and keep on going with a bit more spit and Kiwi! Furthermore, i’m sure you’ll love it more than any Gucci, Chanel or Prada bag. Do our menfolk realise just how low maintenance we are?!!

The gorgeous little vintage fabric purse is by the lovely Ellie Goodridge of Jelly Jam. Love it! But as they say the best presents are the ones you want to keep yourself!

Gladstone Bagged, Rocking Dog

Gladstone Bagged

Leather Graffiti, Rocking Dog

Leather Graffiti

Foxy Purse, Rocking Dog

Foxy Purse

Nellie’s Diary Entry. Remembering VE Day.

The Ages Of Nellie, Rocking Dog

The Ages Of Nellie

I have been thinking about the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I have also remembered my Grandmother Nellie’s diary entry for 8th May 1945. It simply read “War Over. Blackened fireplace.” I love the statement, you’d somehow expect something a little more euphoric after five and a half years of war. It is difficult to fathom her apparent lack of elation considering the family lived on the Essex coast. My Mum recalled witnessing the red glow of London ablaze, terrifying Doodlebugs and the constant drone of aircraft. There were frequent air raids and Mum hated the smell of the rubber gas masks. I remember her telling me that she felt particularly sorry for babies encased in the specially designed Mickey Mouse masks. I don’t think we can appreciate just how simply terrifying it all must have been. Together with the impact of rationing, worrying about loved ones, sleep deprivation, housing and transport difficulties life must have been fraught for the nation.

So…. my Grandmother felt the compelling need to blacken the fireplace on VE day. Nellie’s diary unfortunately was not one of those diaries worthy of inclusion in a museum to demonstrate the plight of those on the home front. Indeed entries were sparse but there were monthly “Red Letter Day” entries. Nellie’s husband Newsome was employed in a reserved occupation and thus at home. Pregnancy could have been a definite and inconvenient wartime possibility.

Wartime rationing left Nellie with a compelling need to hoard food and when she died in 1975 there was much to deal with! I remember numerous jars of Heinz Sandwich Spread, Marmite and Shipphams paste. There were tinned peas, packets of Typhoo tea and bags and bags of sugar. Most disturbingly there was a large bucket of eggs which had been preserved in Isinglass. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried air bladders of fish, and it was used to preserve eggs during WW2. The Isinglass would be dissolved in a bucket of water and then the eggs would be submerged in the solution. It would preserve the eggs for between 6 months and a year. We take eggs so much for granted today but during the war the standard weekly ration for a person was 1 egg or a packet of dried egg which equated to twelve eggs. Vegetarians were allocated two eggs. My late Dad recalled loving omelettes made from dried eggs.

Nellie’s 1975 eggs had a grey furry appearance and looked decidedly unappetising, especially in the eyes of three squeamish teenagers! As my mother had also grown up with a wartime “waste not” mentality the eggs in their bucket lurked for a month or two in our house. Eventually, even Mum realised she couldn’t quite bring herself to use the egg hoard.

I include photo’s of family, especially of my Dad who loved his time at sea during WW2. War for Doug strangely provided a wonderful opportunity to see the world, and he sent numerous letters detailing his travels. A stash of letters sent to his aunt and uncle survive and describe in detail stops in Malta, Egypt, the Far East and Australasia. I find it fascinating that my Dad could write, whilst serving in the QARANC in Germany my Mum was always the one who wrote. Very occasionally Dad would add his name and a kiss, and I appreciated that.

Doug’s Certificate of Service has helped me pinpoint where he was in the world at particular points in the war. Indeed I discovered that his ship HMS Belfast, took part in the Scharnhorst Action in the Arctic Circle. The German Battleship “Scharnhorst” was destroyed with the loss of 1,932 men (36 survivors) on 26th December 1943. A few years ago whilst on a cruise up to The North Cape I found it very poignant that I was sailing in the same waters that my Dad was sending and receiving coded messages deep in the bowels of The Belfast. Furthermore, I thought of all those from both sides who had perished at sea, and I shed a tear for them.

I am grateful that my Dad’s letters have miraculously survived, together with a touching archive of naval photo’s, documents and medals.

We as a generation have witnessed the passing of the last veterans of WW1 and now are likely to witness the sad demise of the last veterans of WW2. I feel it is vital to try and gain first hand accounts of war and the home front whilst we still can.

My Dad Could Write!, Rocking Dog

My Dad Could Write!

From A Boy To A Man. WW2, Rocking Dog

From A Boy To A Man. WW2

Fading Family Photo's, Rocking Dog

Fading Family Photo’s

Postcards From The Front To The Sanitorium

Postcards From The Front To The Sanitorium, Rocking Dog

Postcards From The Front To The Sanitorium

When my siblings and I were growing up we were always aware that our dad Doug did not ever want to lick someone else’s ice cream or to share a glass. He couldn’t abide spitting and couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to sip wine from the Communion Cup!

He later told us that prior to his birth, his mother Emily had been in a sanitorium at the age of 21 for the treatment of TB. She in fact had to have part of a lung removed. TB Bacilli are passed through sputum, and thus a sneeze, a cough or dribble could pass the infection on. This therefore was the reason why Doug didn’t want to share food or spit on the rugby field!

Emily’s illness can be dated by some postcards which have survived a century. These postcards were sent from her sister Susan, serving as a nurse in France and her brothers Colin, David and Walter who were serving in France and the Middle East. The postcards include images of a mosque in Cairo, a Bedouin lady, pansies, the Dead Sea and interiors of French churches. There are also autographed photographic postcards of the brothers in various uniforms. From the postcards I can certainly deduce that Susan had a very sweet tooth as two of her cards mention a parcel of sweets not having arrived and then another saying thank you for a parcel, “You evidently anticipated my wishes, for when I wrote three days ago I asked for sweets”. Brother Walter who was a sergeant major sent one card from Blackpool where he was convalescing for a war injury, a postcard from one hospital to another!

Emily’s treatment in 1915-1916 would have consisted of bed rest, a nutritious diet, surgery and possibly Creosote inhalations. Fresh air would have also been prescribed. Many hospitals incorporated new balconies where patients could be wheeled out in their beds. In inclement weather black mackintosh quilts would be provided. I was very envious of a friend who bought a bargainous sun house that swivelled around on a circular track. This was originally from a sanatorium, for the use of TB patients and it allowed the patients to “move” around with the sun.

Treatment of TB even today is very tricky and lengthy. It involves large doses of antibiotics. In 1815 one in four deaths in England was due to TB. Even 100 years later when Emily was being treated, 50% of those who went to a sanatorium, died within five years. There was quite a stigma attached to the disease as it was often linked to overcrowding, malnutrition and poverty. I am unaware of how Emily’s treatment was funded, though the family were reasonably prosperous. These of course were the days before the NHS.

Eventually, Emily did recover and she was advised to move from Edinburgh to somewhere more rural for good country air. Incidentally, Edinburgh was sometimes called Auld Reekie, translated it means Old Smokey! She moved to the border town of Kelso, and there she met John Warrington Scott (my grandfather) who had been invalided out of the Royal Engineers having been gassed in the trenches….. and the rest as we say is history!

Emily and Brother Colin, Rocking Dog

Emily And Brother Colin

Century Old Postcards, Rocking Dog

Century Old Postcards

Handsome Siblings, Rocking Dog

Handsome Siblings

Rocking Dog Spring Bride Lacy Bunting

Over Gilding The Magnolia!, Rocking Dog

Over Gilding The Magnolia!

Rocking Dog returned to the sewing room and reacquainted herself with unfinished projects. A productive day was spent with beloved Bernina and lots of scrap vintage lace. Lengths of lacy bunting were sewn whilst listening to the Archers Omnibus. It felt very indulgent, but after bathing a very grumpy and grubby dog it was calm respite! Real Live Rocking Dog is destined for his quarterly grooming session on Monday. Rather like the person who cleans before the cleaner arrives, I am the person who baths the dog before the doggy bouffant appointment!

Anyway back to sewing..Rocking Dog is going to have to spend some serious time chained to the sewing machine. A stall at Redland Fair on Monday 4th May needs stocking. If you haven’t been to the Fair before it is a great place to pick up reasonably priced plants, bric a brac, pottery seconds, cakes, vintage clothes etc.. There are various entertainments and good food to chomp on. Additionally you can try your hand at bowling on the manicured green. A blissfully sunny day would simply be perfect for Redland Fair 2015. Best Redland Fair purchases to date are a beautiful tiny old wooden Buddha, glazed nesting dairy bowls (Steve Carter, St Werburghs Pottery), old suitcases (my coffee table) and gorgeous vintage fabrics.

As for my lacy bunting I have concocted various lengths in whites and ecru. Blowing in the spring breeze with a bower of Magnolia blossoms it would be perfect for a spring wedding.

Some of the vintage lace used in my bunting came from lace doilies, dressing table mats and antimacassars.
It was only recently that I became aware of the meaning of the word antimacassar. An antimacassar is a small cloth to protect furniture from Macassar Oil. This was an oily hair preparation used to style hair, and it was particularly popular in the Victorian and Edwardian era’s. The oil was commonly made from coconut or palm oil and combined with ylang ylang. These exotic ingredients were purchased in the port of Makasser, Indonesia and hence the name. Antimacassar is also used to describe the wide flap on a sailors top, again this was to prevent the hair oil spoiling the sailors uniform. Poor Annie Chapman who was Jack the Ripper’s second victim was described as an antimacassar maker. Here endeth today’s history lesson!

Lacy Treasure Trove, Rocking Dog

Lacy Treasure Trove

Beloved Bernina, Rocking Dog

Beloved Bernina

Vintage Lace, Rocking Dog

Vintage Lace

The Garden Is Waking Up!

Spring Is Around The Corner, Rocking Dog

Spring Is Around The Corner

The garden is waking up and I wish I would wake up to the fact that I need to get digging!

How lovely to find flowers bursting into life. Some, like the little wild violets need to be looked for carefully. Their scent is immediately recognisable as a smell from my childhood. I remember caravan holidays in West Bay in Dorset with the little shop on site selling perfume scented with violets. The little green bottles were often decorated with pixies, and labels stating “A present from West Bay’.

There are many buds on the Japonica bushes and I hope that this in turn will lead to a good crop of autumnal fruit. It makes the most delectable blush coloured jelly which tastes wonderful with cold meat and poultry.

The clumps of croci remind me of a very happy and informative visit to an Umbrian Saffron farmer in October. Incredibly, 50,000-75,000 croci are required to produce the 70,000-200,000 threads for 450g saffron. This spice has been used for cooking, textile dying, divine offerings, perfumes and medicines throughout history. Cleopatra reportedly used saffron in her bath to make lovemaking more pleasurable. There is evidence to suggest that Saffron is beneficial in treating Major Depressive Disorder and to relieve symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome. Meanwhile on a culinary note I love Delia’s recipe for her Saffron Roast Potatoes!

I WILL GET DIGGING!

Pretty, Rocking Dog

Pretty

Innocent, Rocking Dog

Innocent

Purple, Rocking Dog

Purple

What’s In The Box Rocking Dog ?

Uninspiring Box, Rocking Dog

Uninspiring Box

An interesting question, which i’m going to answer shortly! I thought i’d share another Fabric of Life story with you.

In 1985 Andyman’s paternal grandmother died, and in the course of clearing her little flat in Inverness, Andy’s parents came across a very uninspiring old shirt box stowed on top of a wardrobe. They were completely unaware of the boxes contents and no doubt like everyone they hoped for a crammed box of crisp bank notes! Alas it was not to be, however in its own way the boxes contents were much more interesting, for it contained a wedding day in a box.

On the 19th April 1929 Agnes Marshall (known as Nancy) married David Ferguson at Lochgelly Parish Church in Fife, Scotland. This box contained Nancy’s wedding dress, stockings, wax flowers from her veil, some wedding photo’s and a pair of hand painted silk wedding favours. At a later date a little pom-pom’d leather babies shoe had been added to the box (in all probability belonging to Andyman’s father or uncle).

My mother and father in law had never seen any of the contents before, it was a true revelation. I wonder whether had Nancy had daughters and granddaughters she may have shared girly time showing off her wedding finery. A few years ago my in laws kindly bequeathed the box and its contents to me knowing of my interest in textiles, nostalgia and clutter!

When it came to photographing all the items for this particular blog I became keenly aware of the fabrics and their manufacture.

Somewhat thankfully the dress has avoided being ravaged by moths. Had this dress been of silk I rather this dress would have been thrown away long ago. Instead it is made from Art Silk (Artificial Silk), most probably Rayon which became really popular in this era as a cheaper alternative to silk. Rayon is made from purified cellulose, usually from wood or cotton. Silk, satin and velvet were still favoured by high end designers at this time, but for the mass market, department stores started carrying less expensive garments using these newly developed semi-synthetic fibres.

As for the style of Nancy’s dress- it is daringly calf length. For the first time in centuries women’s legs were seen, with hemlines rising to the knee. World War 1 and the Women’s Rights Movement had done much to emancipate women. Women ditched restrictive clothing including waist nipping corsets, and dresses became functional, flattening the bosom rather than accentuating it! At around the time of this family wedding, collars and bodices were abandoned. Therefore Nancy’s dress was right on trend, with drop waisted shift shape, having no collar, calf length and using one of the revolutionary new fabrics. It also includes hook and eye fastenings on one of the side seams. Many of these fastenings were made by Newey’s of Birmingham from 1791. Unlike buttons they obviously allowed for a flatter, less bulky seam.

Wedding In A Box, Rocking Dog

Wedding In A Box

Deco Dress, Rocking Dog

Deco Dress

Bridal Party 1929, Rocking Dog

Bridal Party 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy’s dress also includes metallic thread to embellish the three dimensional Hydrangea style flowers. Over time where the dress has been folded, rust spots have rather cruelly marred it. With its twinkling silvery metallic glints it must have looked really pretty on it’s one outing in the spring of 1929. Though outwardly sweet, it is somewhat crudely made, with a machine finished hem and rough seams. With no label, I have no idea of the provenance of the dress, perhaps it was made by a competent seamstress rather than a departmental store purchase. In the photo’s the dress has been accessorised with veil, some sort of cape andMary Jane heeled shoes.

The stockings are again of a Rayon type fabric and though in near perfect condition one of the pair has a small hole at the knee. My late Father in Law remembered his mother telling him that she had tripped badly on her wedding day.

As for the other accessories in the box, the wax flowers are one cluster of what would have been a pair. They formed part of Nancy’s veil regalia and consist of wax blossoms with yellow cotton sepals, together with a spray of artificial heather (no doubt for luck), green bias binding trails and celluloid leaves. Meanwhile the silk “favours”are possibly the 1920’s equivalent of giving a bride a lucky horseshoe, however, I could be completely incorrect on this point. These braided satin shields include hand painted initials of bride and groom, together with their marriage date and rose decoration. The colours are still very vibrant even after 86 years.

So that’s what’s in the box! I only wish I could get my own wedding dress in a mere shoe box. Alas, I was one of those 1980’s Princes Diana dress brides and i’m afraid my frou’y meringue is somewhat unceremoniously stored in a large bag under the bed. Like Nancy’s I rather think the moths will give it a wide birth, layers of nylon tulle really not catering for the destructive creatures’discerning palate. Anyone curious enough to want to see my dress on a future blog post send me a pleading request, I may somewhat embarrassingly consider it!

Rayon Hosiery, Rocking Dog

Rayon Hosiery

Wax Flora, Rocking Dog

Wax Flora

Wedding Favours, Rocking Dog

Wedding Favours

Not In My Tree

Whose Baby?, Rocking Dog

Whose Baby?

It always makes me sad to see old photo’s and photograph albums lying rather forlornly in charity shops, flea market stalls and the like. Sometimes I feel sufficiently sad to want to give these photo’s a home! I appreciate that I am very sentimental, and it would be completely alien to me to part with my personal cache of family photographs. I am therefore always curious as to why photographs are abandoned and discarded. Over the years I have amassed a small collection of “not in my tree” photo’s including an album with incredible photo’s of WWI Gallipoli and ANZAC soldiers recovering in an Oxford hospital (if only I could find it!) Other photo’s date back further and provide a wonderful historical document of fashion, housing, class, toys, prams, uniform etc..

Thus the lovely chubby baby above is no relation to me. You are left to wonder whether the baby reached adulthood, lost its endearing chubbiness and the hopes that they lived a happy life. We presume from the clothing that the baby is a girl, but one hundred years ago babies were dressed very similarly. This baby could indeed have served in WW1, a casualty, a survivor, a hero, a deserter, who knows.

My Dr Zhivago fur and velvet clad mother and child are in fact Danish. Dated on the back of the photograph 1902, these are obviously wealthy Copenhagen residents. My lovely sister gave me this photo a number of years ago, so even relatives know me well enough to know that i’ll love a “not in my tree” photo!

The montage of photo’s featuring children are an eclectic collection of children from different eras and social backgrounds. How stern the spectacled nanny (?) looks. Her starched apron features the embroidered words “All for Jesus”, and the photograph has been taken at the Salvation Army Photographic Studio. Is this baby a foundling, a baby to be adopted, a promotional photograph, a conundrum never to be solved. I love the photo of the girls with babies in prams, so reminiscent of “Call The Midwife”. Alas there are no dates, no names, no anything to tell us who these sweet girls are.

The Mother bathing her baby in the enamelled bath was a very exciting project. I found some glass negatives in a cigar box at an indoor junk market about 25 years ago. There were the faintest magical tracings of what the images could be, and I duly purchased the plates for a few pounds. For a while the plates lay cocooned in their cigar box home but eventually my dear dad found a super keen photographic enthusiast. The plates disappeared into his dark room and voila! this beautiful image appeared. I love the way the photographer has captured the mother’s smile as she tenderly sponges her calm baby. Another very special “not in my tree” photo.

Lastly, an entire album of one woman’s coach trip travels in the late 1950’s. There are the glories of Venice, Rome, Pompei, Capri, Florence, Interlaken and Windermere! There are the chair-lift rides, the group photos, full 1950’s skirts, the bags and the shoes. How did this meticulously ordered album end up unloved and unwanted?

So a little glimpse of my somewhat bonkers “not in my tree” photograph collection.

Dr Zhivago Photo, Rocking Dog

Dr Zhivago Photo

Montage Of Childhood, Rocking Dog

Montage Of Childhood

Cigar Box Photo, Rocking Dog

Cigar Box Photo

1950's Coach Trip, Rocking Dog

1950’s Coach Trip