A Thousand Fancies….

The power of objects to inspire a thousand fancies
Charles Paget Wade

Charles Paget Wade, a poet, architect, artist-craftsman and not forgetting keen collector of eclectic objects, to inspire.

This collection can be seen at Snowshill Manor, which Wade gave to the National Trust in 1951. The collection of course would not be complete without costume (2,200 items of 18th to 20th century to be precise) which is stored at Berrington Hall. The collection is cared for by Althea Mackenzie, Costume Curator.

This year Berrington Hall is bringing to life the Georgian interiors of the Hall by displaying costume, from The Charles Paget Wade Collection, Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre and COSPROP (costume from The Duchess and 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice).

The displays shall enchant visitors by taking them on a journey, peeping into the lives and fashion of Georgian society.

Over the course of the year there will be an array of costume from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and costumes worn in Pride and Prejudice (1995) British television period drama and the film The Duchess (2008).

Pride and Prejudice was filmed at various locations including Lyme Park (exterior of Pemberley, Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire) and Sudbury Hall (interiors) both owned by the National Trust.

The Duchess was filmed at locations such as Chastworth House, Bath (including the Assembly Rooms and Royal Crescent) and Clandon Park.

The Duchess, a selected display of costumes from The Duchess (2008), includes the wedding dress worn by Keria Knightly on until 30th June 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

‘Wearing The Garden’ looks at Georgian men’s fashion. The influence of gardens on fashion reveals an extravagant display of stunning waistcoats with embellished woven silk brocades. This exhibition will feature costumes from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on until 30th June 2014.

‘Big Bottoms and Small Waist’ reveals a display of undergarments through the centuries. This exhibition will feature undergarments from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on display from 1st July until 31st August 2014.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ a selection of costumes and accessories worn during filming of Pride and Prejudice in 1995. On display from 1st August until 31st October 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

If you want to see if costume can inspire a thousand fancies, why not make a visit to Berrington Hall or see the blog featuring The Charles Paget Wade Collection written by Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager.

I certainly felt inspired by my visit! What will inspire you today?

This post was written in collaboration with Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager at Berrington Hall.  If you are interested in writing a post in collaboration with the author of Textile and Dress Historian please email textileanddresshistorian@gmail.com.

Sophisticated Selfridge

Yesterday evening the winter waiting was over. Our TV’s saw the delights of the opening episode of the second series of Mr Selfridge on ITV One.

We find ourselves in 1914. On the one hand World War I is about to begin and on the other Selfridges is celebrating its 5th anniversary.

The glamour of perfume and cosmetics appear to have found a place in the store. However fear not, the classic accessory of gloves is still to be seen adorning many a female hand and gentlemen or too, including Harry Gordon Selfridge.

The fashion of 1914 takes us from the rigid Victorian era where corsets were tightly laced to the Edwardian era where fashions loosen up towards a modern style.

Let’s step back in time for a moment. Harry Gordon Selfridge born during 1858 in Wisconsin, United States. In 1890 at the age of 32, Harry married Rosalie Buckingham. During 1906 Harry and Rosaile made a visit to England which would change their lives forever.

On his travels Harry noted that stores in London had not adopted the ideas that stores used in the United States. This encouraged Harry Gordon Selfridge to travel across the ocean from Chicago to England to open a store in London in 1909.  A store that would revolutionise the idea of buying goods. To make a spectacle of shopping, a sense of theatre by luring potential customers into the store to peer upon the most beautiful displays.

Selfridges is still flourishing today after 105 years!

Stitched Cloth or Exemplum

The word sampler is from the Latin ‘exemplum’ – an example

There was a time when needleworkers did not have the use of pre-printed patterns. This meant that when ever they noticed a design or motif that they liked it would need to be captured (stitched) as an example, for future reference.

A cloth would be stitched to form a small example. Soon the cloth was referred to as a ‘sampler’, as it would have randomly placed designs or patterns. Perhaps one day the design or pattern would be embroidered onto a pocket, cuff or hem line. You could almost say that the cloth was a working diary of a needleworker, collected over their lifetime.

Peruvian Nazca Sampler 2nd Century BC
Peruvian Nazca Sampler 2nd Century BC

The earliest examples of cloth used to record stitched patterns or a design is thought to have been worked by the ancient Peruvian Nazca culture.

A sampler developed into a embroidery produced, by young females, displaying a demonstration or test of their skills in needlework. It would often show some form of figures, motifs or have decorative borders. On occasions the needleworker would embroider their name and the date.

Jane Bostocke 1598
Jane Bostocke 1598

The history of this type of sampler dates back to the 16th century. The earliest dated example, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London was made by Jane Bostocke in 1598.

Borders were introduced in the 17th century and by the mid-1600s alphabets came into common use. We also see religious or moral quotations, suggesting that the finished sampler was methodically organised.

By the 18th century samplers seemed a complete contrast to their predecessors. These samplers were stitched to demonstrate knowledge than to preserve skills.

Samplers are scattered all around the world and can be seen in various locations or settings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has a sampler made by the Peruvian Nazca culture from cotton and camelid hair. Records suggest the sampler was produced in the 2nd century BC.

The Victorian & Albert Museum, London has samplers by Elizabeth Parker and Jane Bostocke. The earliest dated sampler in Hull Museums Collection was produced by Elizabeth Clark in 1742, with an alphabet and flower motifs. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge has samplers dating from the late 16th century to 20th century. There is a stunning piece worked by Mary Derow in 1723.

I am even surprised to find ‘The Sampler Tea Room & Museum’ in Pembrokeshire. Samplers can be seen at a variety of National Trust properties in historic setting such as Tintinhull House, Somerset; Berrington Hall, Herefordshire; Hill Top, Cumbria and Montacute House, Somerset.

Please contact each individual museum or National Trust property before making a visit to check if the samplers are on public display or if you are required to make an appointment in advance with a curator.

Jacobean Sampler
Jacobean Sampler

Today, samplers are widely used but for a leisurely activity. You can purchase a kit with the pattern, cloth and threads required to produce your own work of embroidered art.

Without the care and expertise of museums and national trust properties these fragile pieces of embroidered cloth would be lost forever and the makers forgotten.

The History of Afternoon Tea

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
Wrote Henry James in Portrait of a Lady

Kitchen Talks, Duchess of Bedford,
Kitchen Talks, Duchess of Bedford.

Drinking tea has a long history, with a huge impact on Britain.  First introduced to England from China during the mid-17th century. Hence, to buy tea in Britain was expensive, a luxury item imported from another country. It has been said that tea was believed to be therapeutic as well as delicious! Yet, the social history of tea reveals many things about Britain from fashion, the decorative arts and even the designs of gardens.

Anna, The Duchess Of Bedford (1783-1857)
Anna, The Duchess Of Bedford (1783-1857)

The tradition of afternoon tea is credited to Anna Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the mid-1840s. Anna felt famished between lunch and dinner, which had advanced to 7.30pm or 8pm. Anna, along with other ladies began to take a meal of tea and cake in the afternoon, at first surreptitiously in their boudoirs or bedrooms. By 1850 tea had become customary in all fashionable houses. Hostesses tried to outdo each other with the most splendid display of fine bone china.

Teapot, Killerton House (NT)
Teapot, Killerton House (NT)

What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea? 
J. Grayson Luttrell, 1930

At first tea was served in the Drawing Room after dinner, as one of several beverages.  Then drinking tea soon became an afternoon event. Afternoon tea reached its peak during the early 1930s due to popularity of tea-dances.

Afternoon Tea 1930s
Afternoon Tea 1930s

Traditionally, the upper classes served a ‘low’ or ‘afternoon’ tea around 4pm, consisting of crust-less sandwiches, biscuits, cakes and, of course, tea. Low tea was served on ‘tea tables’ rather than dinner tables. Middle or lower classes had a ‘high’ tea later in the day at 5pm or 6pm. A typical ‘high’ tea would consist of ham, salmon and salad, trifle, jellies, sponge cake, white and brown bread, currant teacake, cheeses and tea.

Tea Caddy, Silver C.1902-1906
Tea Caddy, Silver C.1902-1906

This Silver Chinese, Tea Caddy, is an accessory for the ritual of tea drinking.
On display at the American Museum In Britain, Bath.

Fashion For Tea

Over the years there seems to have been many quirks of etiquette whilst taking tea. Once sitting down in your seat your purse must be placed on your lap or behind you, against the back of the chair, out of view. Unfold your napkin and if you are leaving to ‘power your noise’ and returning, place your napkin on your chair. We see ladies wearing flamboyant hats and elegant gloves, of course! Dress worn for taking tea has been described as ‘Tea Gowns’ or ‘Tea Dresses’ considered to be your most elegant attire. Below is a selection of dress worn for taking tea.

Lastly, it is worth noting that Anne Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford was a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria from 1837-1841.  It has been know that Victoria sponge takes it name after Queen Victoria, who so did enjoy a slice of sponge with her afternoon tea!

 Tea, Britain’s favourite drink!