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!

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