CHATS ON HOUSEHOLD CURIOS
BOOKS FOR COLLECTORS
With Frontispieces and many Illustrations Large Crown 8vo, cloth.
CHATS ON ENGLISH CHINA. By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON OLD FURNITURE By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON OLD PRINTS. By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON COSTUME. By G. Woolliscroft Rhead.
CHATS ON OLD LACE AND NEEDLEWORK. By E. L. Lowes.
CHATS ON ORIENTAL CHINA. By J. F. Blacker.
CHATS ON OLD MINIATURES. By J. J. Foster, F.S.A.
CHATS ON ENGLISH EARTHENWARE. By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON AUTOGRAPHS. By A. M. Broadley.
CHATS ON PEWTER. By H. J. L. J. Masse, M.A.
CHATS ON POSTAGE STAMPS. By Fred. J. Melville.
CHATS ON OLD JEWELLERY AND TRINKETS. By MacIver Percival.
CHATS ON COTTAGE AND FARMHOUSE FURNITURE. By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON OLD COINS. By Fred. W. Burgess.
CHATS ON OLD COPPER AND BRASS. By Fred. W. Burgess.
CHATS ON HOUSEHOLD CURIOS. By Fred. W. Burgess.
CHATS ON BARGAINS. By Charles E. Jerningham.
CHATS ON JAPANESE PRINTS. By Arthur Davison Ficke.
CHATS ON OLD CLOCKS AND WATCHES. By Arthur Hayden.
CHATS ON OLD SILVER. By Arthur Hayden.
LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN. NEW YORK: F. A. STOKES COMPANY.
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CHATS ON HOUSEHOLD CURIOS
FRED. W. BURGESS
AUTHOR OF "CHATS ON OLD COINS," "CHATS ON OLD COPPER AND BRASS," ETC.
WITH 94 ILLUSTRATIONS
T. FISHER UNWIN ADELPHI TERRACE
First published in 1914
(All rights reserved)
There is a peculiar charm about the relics found in an old home—a home from which many generations of fledglings have flown. As each milestone in family history is passed some once common object of use or ornament is dropped by the way. Such interesting mementoes of past generations accumulate, and in course of time the older ones become curios.
It is to create greater interest in these old-world odds and ends—some of trifling value to an outsider, others of great intrinsic worth—that this book has been written. The love of possession is to some possessors the chief delight; to others knowledge of the original purposes and uses of the objects acquired affords still greater pleasure. My intention has been rather to assist the latter class of collectors than to facilitate the mere assemblage of additional stores of curiosities. It is truly astonishing how rapidly the common uses of even household furnishings and culinary utensils are forgotten when they are superseded by others of more modern type.
The modern art of to-day and the revival of the much older furniture of the past have driven out the household gods of intermediate dates, and it is in that period intervening between the two extremes that most of the household curios reviewed in this work are found. Although many of the finest examples of household curios are now in museums, private collectors often possess exceptional specimens, and sometimes own the most representative groups of those things upon which they have specialized.
The examples in this book have been drawn from various sources. As in "Chats on Old Copper and Brass" (which may almost be regarded as a companion work), the illustrations are taken from photographs of typical museum curios and objects in private collections, or have been specially sketched by my daughter, who has had access to many interesting collections, to the owners of which I am indebted for the illustrations I am able to make use of.
My thanks are due to the Directors of the British Museum, who have allowed their printers, the University Press, Oxford, to supply electros of some exceptional objects now in the Museum; also to the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, at South Kensington; and the Director of the London Museum, now located at Stafford House.
Dr. Hoyle, the Director of the National Museum of Wales, at Cardiff, has most kindly had specially prepared for this work quite a number of photographs of very uncommon household curios. The Curator of the Hull Museum has loaned blocks, and photographs have been sent by Messrs. Egan and Co., Ltd., of Cork; Mr. Wayte, of Edenbridge; and Mr. Phillips, of the Manor House, Hitchin. To Mr. Evans, of Nailsea Court, Somerset, I am indebted for the loan of his unrivalled collection of ancient nutcrackers, some of which have been sketched for reproduction. I have also made use of examples in the collections of private friends, and illustrated some of my own household curios, many of them family relics.
The story of domestic curios is made the more useful by these illustrations, and also by references to well-known collections. There is much to admire in the once common objects of the home, now curios, and it is in the hope that some may be led to appreciate more the antiques with which they are familiar that these pages have been penned. If that is achieved my object will have been accomplished.
FRED. W. BURGESS.
PAGE PREFACE 7
THE LOVE OF THE ANTIQUE 19
No place like home—Curios in the making—The influence of prevailing styles—A cultivated taste.
THE INGLE SIDE 33
Fire-making appliances—Tinder boxes—The fireplace—Andirons and fire-dogs—Sussex backs—Fireirons and fenders—Trivets and stools—Bellows.
THE LIGHTS OF FORMER DAYS 59
Rushlights and holders—Candles, moulds, and boxes—Snuffers, trays, and extinguishers—Oil lamps—Lanterns.
TABLE APPOINTMENTS 77
Cutlery: Knives, forks, and spoons—Salt cellars—Cruet stands—Punch and toddy—Porringers and cups—Trays and waiters—The tea table—Cream jugs—Sugar tongs and nippers—Caddies—Cupids—Nutcrackers—Turned woodware.
THE KITCHEN 121
The kitchen grate—Boilers and kettles—Grills and gridirons—Cooking utensils—Warming pans.
HOME ORNAMENTS 147
Mantelpiece ornaments—Vases—Derbyshire Spars—Jade or spleen stone—Wood carvings—Old gilt.
GLASS AND ENAMELS 173
Waterford, Bristol, and Nailsea—Ornaments of glass—Enamels on metal.
LEATHER AND HORN 185
Spanish leather—Cuir boulli work—Tapestry and upholstery—Leather bottles and drinking vessels—Leather curios—Shoes—Horn work.
THE TOILET TABLE 199
The table and its secrets—Combs—Patch boxes—Enamelled objects—Perfume boxes and holders—Dressing cases—Scratchbacks—Toilet chatelaines—Locks of hair—Jewel cabinets.
THE OLD WORKBOX 223
Spinning wheels—Materials and work—Little accessories—Cutlery—Quaint woodwork—The needlewoman—Old samplers.
THE LIBRARY 251
From cover to cover—Old scrap books—Almanacs—The writing table.
THE SMOKER'S CABINET 269
Old pipes—Pipe racks—Tobacco boxes—Smokers' tongs and stoppers—Snuff boxes and rasps.
LOVE TOKENS AND LUCKY EMBLEMS 281
Amulets—Horse trappings—Emblems of luck—Love spoons—Glass curios.
THE MARKING OF TIME 295
Clocks—Watches—Watch keys—Watch stands.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 309
Early examples—Whistles and pipes—Violins and harps.
PLAY AND SPORT 319
Dolls—Toys—Old games—Outdoor amusements—Relics of sport.
Dower chests—Medicine chests—Old lacquer—The tool chest—Egyptian curios—Ancient spectacles—Curious chinaware—Garden curios—The mounting of curios—Obsolete household names.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. OLD FIREPLACE, SHOWING SUSSEX BACK, ANDIRONS, AND TRIVET Frontispiece
2. ANDIRONS WITH RATCHETS 27
3. ORNAMENTED CRESSET DOGS 27
4. TELESCOPIC RUSH AND CANDLE HOLDER 27
5. RATCHET RUSH AND CANDLE HOLDER 27
6. ANCIENT ROMAN FIRE-DOG 37
7. SUSSEX GRATE BACK, DATED 1588 37
8. THREE SINGLE DOGS OR ANDIRONS 45
9. PAIR OF DATED SUSSEX ANDIRONS (1625) 45
10. PAIR OF SUSSEX ANDIRONS 45
11. SUSSEX BACK WITH ROYAL EMBLEMS 51
12. SUSSEX BACK WITH ARMS AND ROYAL INITIALS 51
13. FINE CARVED WALNUT WOOD BELLOWS 55
14. THREE RUSHLIGHT HOLDERS 63
15. THREE VARIETIES OF OLD OIL LAMPS 63
16. TWO WALNUT WOOD FLOOR-CANDLESTICKS 69
17. FINE PAIR OF ANCIENT SNUFFERS 73
18. HANDSOMELY DECORATED KNIFE CASE AND CONTENTS 81
19. KNIFE, FORK, AND SPOON 87
20. PAIR OF DECORATED SPOONS 93
21. TWO WOODEN CUPS 101
22. WOODEN FLAGON, WITH COPPER BANDS 101
23. A COCOANUT CUP (SILVER-MOUNTED) 101
24. A COCOANUT CUP (SILVER-MOUNTED) 101
25. COCOANUT FLAGON 101
26. EARLY ENGLISH BRONZE EWER 109
27. INSCRIBED SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY WOOD DRINKING CUP 115
28-30. EARLY CARVED WOOD NUTCRACKERS 115
31-34. MEDIAEVAL WOOD NUTCRACKERS 119
35-39. EARLY STEEL AND BRASS NUTCRACKERS 119
40. TWO ANTIQUE WARMING PANS 124
41. WELSH KITCHEN FIREPLACE 124
42. MECHANICAL ROASTING JACKS 127
43-46. GRIDIRONS SHOWING FOREIGN INFLUENCE IN DESIGN 131
47 AND 48. TWO WOODEN FOOD BOXES 135
49. A COLLECTION OF IRON FAT BOATS AND GREASE PANS 135
50. WOODEN COFFEE CRUSHERS AND PESTLES AND MORTAR 139
51. APPLE SCOOPS OF BONE 139
52. WOODEN PIGGINS AND PORRIDGE BOWL 143
53. WOODEN PLATTER, BOWL, AND SPOONS 143
54. BRASS CHIMNEY ORNAMENT (ONE OF A PAIR) 151
55. BLACK AND GOLD DERBYSHIRE MARBLE VASE 155
56. TEMPLE GUARDIAN, CARVED FROM THE GNARLED ROOT OF A TREE 159
57. CARVED PLAQUE STAND 163
58 AND 59. MINIATURE COPPER AND SILVER KETTLES 167
60. MINIATURE IVORY COFFEE BOILER 167
61. TWO OLD-GILT JEWELLED ORNAMENTS 167
62. THREE FINE OLD IVORIES 171
63. BATTERSEA ENAMELS 179
64. ANTIQUE DRESSING OR TOILET GLASS 202
65. THREE OLD SCRATCHBACKS 209
66. SILVER CHATELAINE TOILET INSTRUMENTS 209
67. ANOTHER CHATELAINE SET 209
68. FINE ORIENTAL LACQUERED BOX 217
69. SMALL LACQUER CABINET 217
70. A PAGODA-SHAPED CASKET 217
71. DECORATED JEWEL CASE 217
72. OLD SPINNING WHEEL 227
73. SPINNING WHEEL 233
74. OLD LACE BOBBINS 233
75. OLD PIN POPPETS AND ANCIENT PINS 237
76. THREE OLD WORKBOXES 243
77. OLD WORKBOX FITTINGS 247
78. ANCIENT CLOG ALMANAC 257
79. OLD COIN TESTER 265
80. MINIATURE SOUVENIR ALMANAC 265
81. ANCIENT WRITING SET 265
82. THREE CURIOUS PIPE-STOPPERS 275
83. BRASS TOBACCO BOX 275
84. COLLECTION OF HARNESS AMULETS AND TEAM BELLS 285
85. OLD WELSH LOVE SPOONS 291
86. FINE GOTHIC FRENCH CLOCK 299
87. SPECIMENS OF OLD WATCH KEYS 303
88. TWO ANTIQUE WATCH CASES 303
89. OLD SPINET 315
90. CURIOUS TYPES OF WHISTLES 323
91. QUAINT OLD TOY 323
92. A POWDER TESTER 335
93. A PRIMING FLASK 335
94. OLD POWDER FLASKS 343
THE LOVE OF THE ANTIQUE
THE LOVE OF THE ANTIQUE
No place like home—Curios in the making—The influence of prevailing styles—A cultivated taste.
There is an inborn love of the antique in most men, although some are fond of asserting that their interests are bound up in the modern, and that they have no time to devote to the study of the antiquities of past ages or the things that were fashionable in times long past. Yet most people, when their secret longings are analysed, are found to have an admiration for the old; if not a superstitious veneration, at any rate a desire to perpetuate the memory of their ancestors and to keep in mind the things with which they were familiar. The wealthy man of to-day, who may have sprung from the people, secretly, if not openly, endeavours to surround himself with household gods which tell of a longer past and a closer relationship with the well-to-do than he can legitimately claim. In the pursuit of such things many a man has found his hobby; and there are few men who do not find recreation and delight in a hobby of some kind. Such interests outside their regular occupations broaden their outlook and widen their knowledge. Some hobbies tend to lead to specialization, and the specialist is apt to become warped and narrowed; not so, however, the collector of household curios.
No Place Like Home.
It would be difficult to find greater delight than that which centres in those things that concern the home and home life. The love of the old homestead and the goods and chattels it contains is ingrained in the breast of every Britisher; and although families become scattered and some of their members find homes of their own beyond the seas, they find the greatest delight in the objects with which they were familiar in years gone by, and venerate the relics of former generations—the household gods which have been handed on from father to son.
It is not the intrinsic value of the household curio that is its chief charm; it is rather the knowledge that its long association with those who have claimed its ownership from the time when it was "new" has made it truly a family relic. These thoughts, being so deeply rooted in the minds of most men and women, foster the love of household curios and intensify the interest shown in their possession.
To all it is not given to own family relics; neither would they serve to satiate the ambition of the true collector, although they might form the nucleus of his collection. He seeks other treasures in the town and in the country and wherever such things are offered for sale.
Curios in the Making.
The domestic habits of the people of this and other civilized countries have been the outcome of a slow process of upbuilding. There has been no sudden change; in all grades and under every different social condition, at every period, the improvement of the furnishings of the home has been one of gradual and, for the most part, steady progress.
There was a time when, beyond the bare furniture, tapestry hangings, tools of the craftsmen, and weapons of the warrior, there were few household goods of a portable nature. In mediaeval England the oak chest was sufficient to contain the valuables of a large household; and very often beyond a cabinet or sideboard or corner cupboard there were few receptacles where anything of value could be safeguarded. The dower chest, in which the bride brought to her husband household linen and her stock of clothing, and in the wooden compartment in one corner of the chest her jewels and coin of the realm—if she possessed any—was then a prominent piece of furniture. The oak chest, rendered formidable with its massive lock and bolts, opened with a ponderous key, was the chosen receptacle in after-years as a treasure chest, and regarded as the safest place in which to keep valuable documents and other property. In the Public Record Office may be seen the old iron box in which the Domesday Book was kept for many centuries. The old City Companies have their treasure chests still; and boxes studded over with iron nails and fitted with large hasps and locks are pointed out in many old houses as passports to family standing.
The household curios which a collector seeks include objects of utility and ornament. Many of them are associated with household work, and quite a number of one-time kitchen and culinary utensils, as well as those which were once cherished in the best parlour or withdrawing-room, are found places among such curios. During the last few years domestic architecture has passed through several stages of advancement. The stiff and formal Georgian houses, the painful Victorian villas, and some of the earlier attempts at architectural improvement have been swept away to make room for modern replicas of still older styles which have been revived or incorporated in the nouvre art, which touches the home in its architecture and internal decoration, as well as in its furnishings. In modern dwellings the Elizabethan style has often been followed, although modern conveniences have been incorporated. When furnishing such houses with suitable replicas of the antique the householders of the last quarter of a century have been unconsciously, perhaps, fostering the love of household antiques and providing fitting homes for their family curios.
The Day of the Curio Hunter.
This is admittedly the day of curio hunting, and those who specialize on household curios have exceptional opportunities of displaying them to better advantage than those who cared for such things in the past. Perhaps it is because there were so few opportunities of arranging and displaying household antiques during the last three-quarters of the nineteenth century that many objects now treasured have been preserved so fresh and kept in such excellent condition. The housewives of the past generation were undoubtedly conservative in their retention of old household goods, and it is to their careful preservation that so many objects of interest, although perhaps fully a century old, come to the collector in such perfect condition.
The patient labour expended by the amateur artist, the needleworker, and the connoisseur of home art a generation or two ago has provided the collector to-day with an exceptionally interesting class of curio, for there is much to admire in amateur craftsmanship, and especially in the handiwork of the needlewoman and the weaver and decorator of so many beautiful textiles which have been preserved to us. Sentiment was strong in the early nineteenth century, and among the love tokens of that day, chiefly the work of amateurs, some very beautiful and unique curios were produced. These, too, have come down to the collector of the twentieth century, and help him to secure specimens representing every decade, so that in a large collection, carefully selected, the slow and yet sure progress made in the fine arts, and the improvement in the ornamental surroundings in the home, is made clear. In each one of the different groups into which household curios may be divided there are many distinctive objects, all of which are in themselves interesting, but when viewed in association with other things which have been used at contemporary periods, or associated with the home life of persons similarly situated, but dwelling in different localities, are doubly interesting.
The Influence of Prevailing Styles.
In determining the origin of curios, and defining the periods during which they have been made, it is useful to have at least a little knowledge of the influence or character of the prevailing styles in the countries of origin. French art has exercised a great influence upon the productions of other nations; it has also been moulded by the curios and other articles of foreign origin then being sold in France. Regal and political influence have left their mark upon almost every period of French art, and have had much to do with the contemporary art of other nations, for France was for centuries a guide in most of the fine arts, and especially in those things which tended towards decorative effect. The furniture of France may be said to be an exponent of the country's history, so great has been the connection between French art, controlled by passing events, and its commercial products. It is said that the State pageants of the Louis XIV period tended to raise the tone of the work of French artisans and to encourage artists. That was a period of great development, for in the year 1670 the famous tapestry factories sprang into existence; and it must be admitted that the designing of those wonderful textiles influenced the manufacturers of furniture and smaller objects both in France and in other countries.
Sir Christopher Wren is reputed to have been carried away by the influence of the Louis XIV art. It was in that King's reign, too, that Charles Boule perfected his veneers of tortoiseshell and fine brass work. Buhl cabinets, fancy boxes, and many smaller objects found their way into this country, and are now household curios. When Philip of Orleans was Regent of France Boule introduced vermilion and gold-leaf as the groundwork upon which to throw up the beauty of tortoiseshell, and his designs became lavishly extravagant. Of these there are some beautiful examples extant; one, a facsimile of a bureau made in Paris in 1769, so elaborate that its cost was reputed to have been about L20,000, is to be seen in the Wallace Collection at Hertford House. In the reign of Louis XV great encouragement was given to the importation of lacquer work from China, influencing the creation of similar works in France; and it was owing to his support that the Vernis Martin enamels or varnishes were produced. Then came those beautiful paintings of landscapes with which so many of the rarer household curios dating from that period were ornamented.
The French style came over the Channel. Thus it was that French influence, as shown in its art in which its political history was reflected, permeated into the workshops of England. Then came the popularity of the designs of the Adam Brothers and Sheraton. During the Revolution in France art was at a standstill, but as soon as Napoleon had established his Empire artistic France began again, and we see its influence in the Empire ornament of furniture and curios. Perhaps one of the most striking instances of change in style was that in our own country when the Prince of Orange came over and William and Mary were crowned King and Queen. Dutch influence on the art of Great Britain was immediately seen, and in the curios of that period there is a remarkable difference between those produced at that time, when Englishmen were content to allow the art of another nation to dominate their work, and those of an earlier date. Dutch marquetry is seen in cabinets and smaller household antiques in the manufacture of which panels were applicable. There was a change in design about the year 1695, just after Mary died, the characteristic seaweed following the floral, as if the very flowers had been banished after the Queen's death. The influence of the King and of his successors was very noticeable in the style and decoration of household goods; the history of this country at that time, just as the history of France had been, was reflected in the art of its craftsmen.
A Cultivated Taste.
The love of the antique is regarded by some as a cultivated taste. The specialization upon any one branch of household curios may justly be regarded as such, but surely not the regard, almost reverence, for family relics, although they are but the common things of everyday life! Their collection stimulates the connoisseur, and encourages him to fresh exertions, and in that sense the habit of keeping a keen look out for anything that may illumine previous researches or add greater lustre to those things already secured, is gradually cultivated.
Household curios are not unassociated with the folklore of the district where such objects have been made, or were commonly in use; and the very names of many things, the uses of which are almost forgotten, are suggestive of former occupations and older methods of practising household economy and the preparation of food. It is common knowledge that the purest old English is met with in the dialects of the countryside, and oftentimes once household words, now lost in modern speech, are found again when the old names or original purposes of the curios remaining to us are discovered. The cultivation of a taste for gathering together household antiques is much to be desired, and in the pursuit of such knowledge there is great pleasure—and as the value of genuine antiques is ever rising, some profit, too.
THE INGLE SIDE
THE INGLE SIDE
Fire-making appliances—Tinder boxes—The fireplace—Andirons and fire-dogs—Sussex backs—Fireirons and fenders—Trivets and stools—Bellows.
In winter the ingle side, or its equivalent in a modern house, appears to be the chief centre of attraction. It was ever so; and to-day the lessened necessity for crowding round the fire and sitting in the ingle nook, owing to modern methods of distributing the heat, in no way lessens the attraction which draws an Englishman to the fire. In the United States of America stoves of various kinds are deemed good substitutes, but in this country the open fire is preferred, and modern scientific research aims at perfecting and improving existing accepted methods of heating and warming rooms rather than of displacing them.
In the days when the earliest collectable curios of the ingle side were being made by the village smith, and the local sculptor and mason were preparing the chimney corner and the mantelpiece to surround the fireplace, it was in front of the great open fire in the kitchen, before which the large joints were roasted, that the retainers of the baron and the landowner or lord of the manor assembled on winter nights. It was around the fire which crackled on the hearth in the great hall that the more favoured ones forgathered, and in the lesser homestead the family drew up their chairs and found seats in the ingle nook, near the fire, when snow was upon the ground, and frost and cold draughts made them shiver in the houseplace.
The fireplace has its attractions still, and builders and architects have designed many cosy corners within reach of the fire. The furnishings of the hearth have become more decorative as times have become more luxurious and art has gained the ascendant; and sometimes their greater ornament has been at the sacrifice of utility, but the root principles of construction as seen in the older grates and fire appointments remain.
It seems natural to inquire into the origin of the need of a fireplace, and to do so we must go back to prehistoric times and trace the discovery of fire-making apparatus, for without the means of lighting a fire it is obvious that the grate would be useless. With the fire came artificial light, the two great discoveries being perfected side by side, sometimes the one gaining ground, at others the one that had fallen behind shooting ahead as the result of some great discovery, or the application of scientific principles not deemed of utility to the one or the other as the case might be. The fire-making appliances which were in use for the purpose of lighting fires were of course used long before any scheme of artificial lighting—apart from the flames and radiance from the fire. Professor Flinders Petrie, that great investigator into the antiquities of the Ancients, tells us that fire-making by friction has been found to exist in far-off times. It would appear that the discovery of how to produce fire has been accomplished independently by men living under very different conditions and at all ages. The fire-making of the Ancients has been rediscovered by primitive people in more recent days, although it is probable that native races who until recently have been living apart from the great world outside have moved slowly in their march of civilization, and have been using the same methods as those first tried by their ancestors ages ago. In the unrivalled collection of appliances got together by Professor Petrie, there are fire drills from the Transvaal, bow drills used by the Esquimaux, and fire ploughs from North Queensland. Lighting fires must have been a slow and difficult task in the days when tinder boxes were in request, for when Curfew rang and the couvre de feu had done its work there was no fire in which to thrust the torch, and the entire process had to be gone over again when the fire had once more to be kindled.
The tinder box, formerly a real necessary, was to be found in every house, and in many instances, in the days before lucifer matches, it was a desirable pocket companion. Tinder boxes were made of different materials; some were of wood, others of iron or brass. They lent themselves to ornamentation: thus some were engraved and quite artistic; many of the more recent ones were made of tin, and on the covers were decorative little scenes. The contents of the tinder boxes were of course flint and steel and tinder (something very inflammable, such as scorched linen), with a damper for extinguishing the smouldering fire after a light had been obtained, or in later days by the sulphur-tipped match applied to it. Among the varieties are what are termed pistol tinder boxes, instruments which contained a small charge of gunpowder, which, when fired, lighted the tinder. Tinder pouches or purses containing flint and tinder having a piece of steel riveted on to the edge of the purse or pouch were a common form. Those brought over from Central Asia were frequently decorated with dragons and the swastika symbol, in damascened work.
Many inventions were put forward by chemists before the perfecting of the common match, the wax vesta, and the fusee. One of these was Berry's apparatus, which he devised in the beginning of the nineteenth century, calling it a "contrivance for lighting lamps in the dark." It consisted of an acid bottle with a string by which a conical stopper could be raised, and a chlorate match held against the stopper became ignited.
Match boxes are collectable, and collectors of fire-making and lighting contrivances often include a few old matches. The lucifer match consisted of sticks tipped with potassium chlorate and sugar, held together with gum, igniting when touched with concentrated sulphuric acid. They were invented in 1805, and by the year 1820 had quite taken the place of tinder boxes. Various lighting pastes were used, until the improvements which resulted in the "safety" matches. The dangerous sulphur and white phosphorus have given place in modern match-making to sesqui-sulphate mixtures; and wax vestas and other "strikers" have superseded the curious objects the collector meets with.
In studying the curios of the fireplace, it is scarcely necessary to go back beyond the grates and fire appointments which may be seen in the old houses standing to-day. Even during the last generation or two there have been many changes, and in rebuilding and refurnishing the antiquities of the fireplace have in many instances been swept away. During more recent days, however, there has been a greater appreciation of the curio value of mantelpieces and old grates, and it is no uncommon thing for hundreds and even thousands of pounds to be paid for rare specimens.
In some instances the fireplace may truly be said to have been the central attraction, for the old grates and mantelpieces have often realized as much as the whole of the remainder of the materials secured when an old house has been pulled down. Some of these mantelpieces of olden time were magnificent memorials of the sculptor's and the carver's art. They included overmantels, the entire breastwork of the chimney often being covered with stone or marble or black oak, right up to the ceiling or the cornice.
The open hearth was the earlier form of fireplace, and long before chimneys were built logs of wood burned on it, and in still earlier times in a basket or brazier, the smoke finding its way to the roof, the rafters of which soon became blackened. Chimneys, however, are of early date, and the household curios of the fireplace have almost entirely been used under such conditions of fuel consumption, the up-draught of the chimney carrying away the smoke and harmful gases. The firebacks and the andirons, and later the fire-dogs, of the open fireplaces are collectable curios of considerable interest, and the hobby may be indulged in at a moderate cost. The collection of mantelpieces may be left to the wealthy and to those who have baronial halls in which to refix them. Fig. 1 represents an old fireplace in a panelled oak room with a Tudor ceiling. There is a Sussex back of rather small size, and a pair of andirons, on which a log of wood is shown reposing. An old saucepan has been reared up in the corner, and there is a trivet on the hearth. There is a very remarkable group of cresset dogs shown in Fig. 2. One pair of dogs or andirons has ratchets on which supplementary bars were placed. These show an early advance from the simple andiron, and point to the later developments of the fire-grate with the fast bars which were to come. In the same group two rush-holders or candlesticks are shown, one with a ratchet, the other adjusted on a simple rod, the socket being held in place by a spring (see Figs. 4 and 5).
As time went on and change of fuel came about, the forests of England being gradually consumed on the domestic hearth, coal was substituted for the fast-vanishing wood. Then it was that a change was needed, and instead of the open fireplace and the andirons on which the logs of wood had formerly been laid, iron baskets or grates in which coal could be placed were made, so that the scattering of fuel and cinders on the open hearth could be prevented. Sussex backs gave place in time to the grate in which a metal back was frequently incorporated, flanked by the dogs in front. Then came the closed-in grates and the hob-registers of the eighteenth century, many being designed after the beautiful ornamentation produced by the Adam Brothers; also the decorative metal work enriched with ormolu and brass, which in due course again gave way to the plain and oftentimes ugly register grates of the Victorian Age, which in more modern times have been displaced by the reproductions of the antique, and by well-grates and scientifically constructed stoves and heating radiators by which heat can be conserved, the draught of the fire and the chimney regulated, and the coal burned more economically on slow-combustion and semi-slow-combustion principles. Science has taught builders and others how to radiate the heat, and prevent that waste which formerly went up the chimney, so that the necessity to sit round the fire is not as great as it once was, and rooms large and small are more evenly heated. The fireplace has once more become a thing of beauty, and all its appointments are rendered harmonious with the furnishings of the home, whether they are modern replicas of the homesteads of earlier periods or constructed according to the newer art of the present day.
Andirons and Fire-dogs.
The brazier on a piece of stone in the centre of the room served well when charcoal was plentiful, and although the smoke ascended amidst the rafters the heat spread and there was plenty of room for many persons to assemble "around" the fire. With chimneys built at the side of the house for convenience, the timber was laid upon the hearth flag. Under the conditions that appertained when great open chimneys allowed the rain and snow to fall upon the fire or on the logs laid ready for the burning, the difficulties of lighting a fire were experienced. Then the local smith came to the aid of the "domestic" or serf, and hammered into shape what were termed andirons, their use making it easier to light the logs, giving a current of air under them, causing them to burn brighter. The andirons were afterwards called fire-dogs, and in course of time bars rested on hooks or ratchets, or were laid across the dogs.
There are no records of the earliest inventors of andirons or dogs. It is quite clear that small fire-dogs were in use in Rome at an early period; the one illustrated in Fig. 6, measuring 6 3/4 in. in height, of artistic form, two draped figures being the supports of the arch, is in the National Museum in Naples, where there are many other beautiful examples of early Roman metal work. In the seventeenth century some of the more elaborate ornamental cast brass fire-dogs were enriched with black and white or blue and white enamel, several varieties of fireside ornaments being decorated in the same way.
Enamel thus applied to metal is exceptionally valuable, as much as two hundred guineas being paid for an enamelled pair of fire-dogs. It is the ordinary forms of cast or wrought dogs with which collectors are mostly familiar, especially those made in the famous Sussex ironfields, such as those shown in Figs. 8, 9, and 10, which are of early date, the pair illustrated in Fig. 9 being dated 1625, the others probably contemporary. Single examples of similar designs are shown in Fig. 8. The need of the metal furnishings of the hearth—as the chimney places of the smaller manor houses and the dwellings of the traders were being erected—caused an impetus to the trade of the ironfounder and smith, and the founders and smiths of the Sussex villages came to the aid of the builder. There are dated examples from the sixteenth century onwards, recording the periods when these interesting souvenirs of domestic building and the great Sussex ironfields—now deserted—were in operation.
There is a peculiar attraction about the castings made in Sussex in the days when the foundries of that county were in full work, and many villages were filled with busy pattern-makers, moulders, and founders carrying on a thriving industry in districts which have now been given up to the plough; for the Sussex ironfields have been abandoned, as when the timber of the district was consumed it was impossible to work the forges economically, for coal was far distant and transport costs prohibitive. The old grate backs for which the Sussex foundries were famous in the seventeenth century were often modelled on Dutch designs, and some showed German characteristics. There are many noted English designs, too, mostly taking the forms of coats of arms and the shields and crests of the landlords for whom the stove-plates were made, some becoming "stock" patterns and often duplicated. There is quite a fine collection of these grate backs in several museums, and some good examples can still be bought from dealers whose agents secure them from time to time when property is being rebuilt. In the Victoria and Albert Museum there is a long oblong plate on which is cast the arms of Browne of Brenchley, in Kent, probably made in the second half of the seventeenth century. There are others with cherubs and curious supporters of shields of arms. A still earlier piece, probably cast about the year 1600, is an oblong Sussex back deeply recessed, on which is the arms of John Blount, Earl of Devonshire, another bearing the Royal arms of the Tudor period. In Hampton Court Palace there are some especially fine grate backs, mostly bearing the Royal arms. At a little earlier period the cast grate backs were chiefly plain with isolated crests or designs scattered over the surface, often quite irregularly.
The three fine examples of Sussex backs illustrated are typical of popular styles. Fig. 11 shows the Royal lion of England, accompanied by the emblems appearing on the Royal arms in the seventeenth century; the Tudor rose crowned, the Scottish thistle, and the French fleur-de-lis indicative of the throne of France to which English sovereigns then laid some claim. The date of this fine back is 1649. Fig. 7 is of an earlier period, being dated 1588, beneath which are the initials "I.F.C." There are also roses and fleurs-de-lis, as well as anchors and other emblems. The back shown in Fig. 12 has for its design the Royal arms surrounded by the Garter, and the initials "C.R.," a design which was duplicated very extensively soon after the Restoration. It will be noticed that the Royal arms formed the design of the Sussex back shown in position in Fig. 1. Some of the German and Dutch designs are very curious, many of them representing scriptural subjects, like Moses and the brazen serpent; the death of Absalom; the temptation of Joseph; and the often-repeated story of the Garden of Eden.
In the American museums there are some very interesting examples of foundry work; some of the cast backs, evidently modelled on German or Dutch designs, take the form of stove-plates, including both front and side plates, mostly bearing dates in the middle of the eighteenth century. Pennsylvania was the chief district in which these plates were made, some being cast by William Siegel, who went to America from Germany in 1758, and erected what was known as the Berkshire furnace. A curious early stove-plate in an American collection, dated 1736, has upon it a scene known as "the dance after the wedding." It is said to have been used in the front of what was known as the German wall-warming stove.
In form the Sussex shape is usually rectangular—that is, wider than its height. It would appear as if the back was at first moulded from a wooden plate, the crest, initials, or design being then impressed by movable moulds or stamps, generally of wood. These were irregularly placed, consequently crowns, roses, crosses, family badges, and all kinds of emblems were dotted promiscuously over the plate. Some of the plain plates with cable-twist borders were probably used as hearthstones and not as backs. The styles which were gradually developed were chiefly on the same lines as those which became popular in France. Their use lingered long in that country for until recently in many an old family mansion might have been seen a plaque de cheminee, on which was the coat of arms and supporters of the original owner of the chateau, and sometimes of the kings of France. The Sussex ironfounders worked chiefly at Cowden, Hawkhurst, and Lamberhurst, and there were forges at Cranbrook, Coudhurst, Tonbridge, and Biddenden. The principal ironmasters of Kent were the Knights and the Tichbornes, whose descendants became baronets.
"Life is not as idle ore, But iron dug from central gloom, And heated hot with burning fears, And dipped in baths of hissing tears, And battered with the shocks of doom To shape and use."
TENNYSON, In Memoriam.
Fireirons and Fenders.
Fire brasses or fireirons came into vogue with grates, although the sets now regarded as old fire brasses, some of which are very elaborate and massive, made at the beginning of the nineteenth century, were first used when fenders came into vogue; instead of being reared up alongside the fire-dogs in the chimney corner they rested on the fenders. There is not much to distinguish the variations in fireirons except the obvious indications of older workmanship and design, when contrasted with modern "irons." The shovel pans gave the artist in metal some opportunity for showing his skill in design and perforated work. It is probable that the earliest form of shovel was that known as the "slide," its use being to shovel up the ashes of a wood fire, an operation necessary more frequently then than in modern days when coal has been the principal fuel consumed. Some of the older specimens are dated, and bear the owner's initials; thus one authentic specimen from Shopnoller, in the Quantock Hills, is engraved, "I T. 1784." Many of the Dutch metal workers produced very beautiful and decorative stands on which miniature sets of rich brasses were hung; some of the old English fireside stands were arranged as receptacles for tongs, shovel, and brush, and now and then the baluster stem supported by a tripod base had a central attachment from which a toddy kettle could be slung. The brass toddy kettle formerly stood upon the hob of the grate, singing merrily, always ready for the cup of tea which "cheers but not inebriates," or, as was frequently the case, for the preparation of hot toddy or spirit.
The evolution of the fender forms a pleasing story in connection with the ingle side. Perhaps the earlier form likely to interest collectors of household curios is that made of perforated brass, often some 8 in. or 10 in. in depth. These fenders standing on claw feet were afterwards fitted with bottom plates of iron, on which was a ridge or rest against which the fire brasses were prevented from slipping. Then came iron or steel scroll-shaped fenders, tapering down from a few inches in height at the ends to centres almost level with the ground. To obviate the inconvenience of there being no resting-place for the fireirons loose supports were fitted into sockets at the ends, and these afterwards were cast as part of the scroll. Then came the stiff and formal early Victorian metal work—iron fenders with steel tops relieved occasionally by ormolu ornament. These in their turn gave way to fender kerbs of metal, stone, marble, or tiles, and loose ornamented fire-dogs which have in more recent times served as rests for the fire brasses.
Trivets and Stools.
Combination appliances were early adopted, although we are apt at times to associate combined utensils with modern innovations. The old English trivet of wrought iron made in the eighteenth century was frequently "improved" by the addition of a toasting fork, which could be adjusted and set at certain angles so that the toast could be left in front of the fire for a few moments until it was quite ready to be taken off and put on a plate standing conveniently on the trivet until the dish or rack of toast was complete. (Some scarce trivets are illustrated in "Chats on Old Copper and Brass.")
The Germans were noted for the manufacture of decorative bellows cut and carved in quaint designs, some of the finest examples being made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Others were made in Holland, some of the Dutch bellows being inlaid with mother-o'-pearl. There are also examples of old English carving, the style of the ornament taking the form of the designs on contemporary oak furniture. Some of the largest and handsomest bellows of English make are of late seventeenth-century workmanship. The example illustrated in Fig. 13 is a magnificent specimen, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington.
THE LIGHTS OF FORMER DAYS
THE LIGHTS OF FORMER DAYS
Rushlights and holders—Candles, moulds, and boxes—Snuffers, trays, and extinguishers—Oil lamps—Lanterns.
Household lighting has been one continuous effort to render the hours of darkness bright, and to provide by artificial means a luminosity which would, if not actually rivalling the sun, enable men to carry on their usual avocations with the same ease, convenience, and comfort after daylight had disappeared as during the earlier portion of the day. Every stage which has been advanced in artificial lighting has been welcomed in the home just as much as in the factory and in the workshop, for there are many daily duties as well as pleasures and amusements which are carried out much more satisfactorily when a good light is available than when there are shadows and dark corners only dimly lighted.
To realize what artificial lighting was in the days now happily long past, it would be necessary to visit some old-world village, if one could be found, where there had been no attempt at street lighting, and in which not even oil had penetrated. The candles of very early times did not give more than a dim glimmer, and the darkness of mediaeval England can be imagined from the primitive lighting appliances which are preserved. Fortunately the entire story of lighting as science came to the aid of trader and householder is revealed in the lights of former days, which as time went on became more varied and numerous, found in collections of well-authenticated specimens. The suggested caution implied is not unnecessary, for the periods overlap, and there is but little to show when such things as lamps and lanterns were actually made.
Rushlights and Holders.
In tracing the development of lighting from quite homely beginnings, rushlights, prepared by the cottager and the farm hand for the winter supply, seem to come first on the list. Rushlights, however, were used in this country by many until comparatively recent times side by side with lights much more advanced. But centuries earlier than we have any record of artificial lighting in this country, and equally as long before any of the earliest British curios of lighting were used, lighting engineers, if we may so call them, in Greece, Rome, Egypt, and still earlier in other Eastern countries, were far advanced. None of the lighting schemes of the Ancients, however, produced much more than the dim light of the swinging lamp in which oil was consumed.
To range side by side a number of rushlight holders taken from districts widely apart, it becomes evident that there was a striking similarity between the earlier types. The smiths everywhere seem to have fashioned a simple contrivance by which the rushlight or early candle could be held upright, and then, to give the "stick" solidity, the iron shaft was fastened securely into a wooden block, which was very often quite out of proportion to the size and weight of the stand, and apparently unnecessarily large and heavy. In the larger examples the holder is often made to slide upon an upright rod so as to be useful at different heights. The sliding rod was needed, for the light so dim could only be of real service when quite close to the person using it, or to the work it was intended to illumine (see Figs. 4 and 5).
Although some of the more elaborate and advanced holders were of copper or brass, most of them were of iron, the work of local smiths, few of whom made any attempt to decorate what they evidently regarded as strictly utilitarian articles (see Fig. 14). Although rushlights antedated candles, some of the holders were made to answer a dual purpose, and on the same stem or slide as the rushlight holder there was a candle socket, an important feature fully exemplified in Figs. 4 and 5.
Candles, Moulds, and Boxes.
The collector of household curios does not trouble about the candles; his object is to secure a few candle moulds, candle boxes, and, of course, candlesticks. It may, however, be convenient here to refer to the moulding of candles which was at one time a domestic duty just as it had been to collect rushes and after they were dried dip them in fat, and to make lights which would burn with more or less steadiness.
The candles were made from various fats, much of which was accumulated in the kitchen during the processes of cooking, supplemented by other ingredients deemed best for the purpose. The candle moulds or tubes in which wicks were inserted were of varying capacities and ranged from two to a dozen or more. The moulds were dipped in troughs of fat, having been heated sufficiently to melt the fat. The process was by no means new, in that it was used in this country by the Saxons; and at a still earlier period candles were made by the Romans, for among the sundry objects picked up among the uncovered ruins of Herculaneum have been small pieces of candle ends.
There was but little advance in the art of candle-making, for the candle, briefly described as a rod of solidified tallow or wax surrounding a wick, remained almost unimproved until the eighteenth century, when spermaceti was introduced, and in more recent years paraffin has been substituted.
Candles were hung up by their wicks in bunches until required for use, but those needed for immediate supply were always kept in candle boxes. It is these boxes of copper, brass, and tin which are sought after. The decorated japanned tin boxes are very pleasing, and some of the best, ornamented after the "Chinese style" or painted with little scenes, and rich in gold ornament, especially those made with other japanned wares at Pontypool in South Wales, are desirable acquisitions.
Of the varieties of candlesticks there is no end. The two great divisions are the pillar or table candlesticks, and the chamber candlesticks. The first named are chiefly seen with a small socket and flange to catch the running tallow, the last mentioned have larger dishes which catch the drips from candles which are being carried about. Among the varieties are the earliest form of pricket candlestick on which the candle was "stuck," the bell candlesticks, and the candlesticks which were fixed on brackets against the wall. As time went on varied materials were introduced, and ornament was chiefly in accord with prevailing styles, which influenced the maker of candlesticks as all other metal work. Iron, copper, brass, pewter, silver, and Britannia metal and wood have been used, and many of the handsomest chandeliers and brackets are those made of lustres and cut glass. The large chandeliers hung a century or two ago at great expense in the centre of large rooms have frequently been retained, and gas and electric light have been introduced instead of candles. In Fig. 16 we illustrate two exceedingly well-preserved old walnut floor-candlesticks, with brass sconces. They come from the Sister Isle, where there are still curios to be met with.
Snuffers, Trays, and Extinguishers.
There were difficulties to contend with in the use of candles, chiefly on account of the irregular burning of candles when exposed to the slightest draught, and to the imperfect combustion, which left a charred piece of wick which it was necessary to remove to make the candle burn once more. Then, again, the extinction of a burning candle involved some skill, and instruments were devised to effect this without causing unpleasant odours or smoke to arise. Previous to the use of lanterns out of doors, and oftentimes when halls and corridors were imperfectly lighted, torches thrust into the open fire and thus lighted were used. Extinguishers of iron were frequently erected near an outside door, or added to the iron railings outside the house. These were for the purpose of extinguishing links—many such are to be seen still outside old London houses. They were the prototypes from which originated the ordinary form of chamber candle extinguisher, frequently fastened to the "stick" by a chain.
The extinguishers used in the early days of candles are known now as snuffer-extinguishers, to distinguish them from snuffers (the old name was doubters). In form they were not unlike scissors; the two circular metal plates of which they were formed closed in and compressed the wick, thereby extinguishing the light. The earlier snuffers had very large boxes, and some were remarkably handsome, an exceptionally fine example being shown in Fig. 17. They were discovered in an old house at Corton, in Dorset, in 1768, and were described by a writer towards the close of the eighteenth century thus: "They are of brass and weigh about 6 ounces. Their construction consists of two equilateral cavities, by the edges of which the snuff is cut off and received into the cavity from which it is not got out without much trouble." Snuffers of iron, and later of steel, are the commoner forms, but they are frequently of brass and of silver and Sheffield plate.
The need of some convenient tray or receptacle for the snuffers, not always over-clean when they had been used a few times, was met at first by what are known as snuffer stands made of wrought metal, and often very ornamental. Then came the oblong tray of convenient shape, following in its decoration and ornament prevailing styles in other domestic tin or metal work. In this connection it should be pointed out that there are many varieties of taper holders and stands used for the small wax tapers, then common on the writing table.
Although oil had long been a recognized illuminant from which a good artificial light could be obtained, it was not until the eighteenth century that any marked attempt was made to substitute oil for candles in this country. For really beautiful lamps we have to go back to the bronze lamps of ancient Greece and Rome, and the terra-cotta lamps of the early Christians, many of which were exceedingly interesting. Householders in England, and in America, too, preferred the beautiful silver candlesticks and those charming and artistic scrolls which once decorated the walls of the houses of the well-to-do. There came a time, however, when oil lamps were reinstated, and although candles still held sway and were difficult to displace, inventors and makers of oil lamps began to compete for the lighting industry. The three old lamps now in the Cardiff Museum, shown in Fig. 15, must be classed among the commoner types of early lamps, once plentiful in farmhouses and cottages.
The lamp used on the table in Victorian days was the moderator lamp, the principle of which was a spring forcing the oil up through the burner—but such lamps have no claim upon the curio hunter either for beauty of form or rarity of material. These lamps, which burned colza or seed oil, were superseded in time by paraffin and petroleum lamps. Now and then some wonderful invention flashed across the scene, but although various modern improved burners have come and gone, the lamp, excepting for purposes of ornament and decorative effect, has given way to coal gas and, in more modern times, to electric lighting. There are few household curios of any value associated with oil lighting, and as yet gas is too new!
The portable lantern made of iron and tin and glazed with horn was long an indispensable feature in every household. Horn lanterns were carried about everywhere in the days before street lighting was general, and to some extent they are needed in country districts to-day. There is a remarkable similarity between the modern glass lanterns of circular type and the old watchman's lanterns of a couple of centuries ago. The same design seems to have served the purpose through many generations, and to have been duplicated again and again. Among the ancient lanterns are some in which candles have been burned, and others where the candle socket has been utilized for the insertion of a socket oil lamp. In more modern times the horn has given place to glass. The carriage lamps of former days served their purposes well, and although some are certainly antique, they are by no means desirable curios. The light they gave when driving through a country lane was indeed a dim flicker compared with the powerful arcs of the modern motor-car.
The beacon fire is no longer seen on housetops, neither is the lantern in the yard and the vestibule furnished with a candle; but curiously enough, even in the most modern appointed houses, so great is the love for the antique in the furnishings of to-day, that beautifully modelled little replicas of the old horn lanterns are hung in entrance halls and passages—but instead of the candle there is the electric bulb!
Cutlery: Knives, forks, and spoons—Salt cellars—Cruet stands—Punch and toddy—Porringers and cups—Trays and waiters—The tea table—Cream jugs—Sugar tongs and nippers—Caddies—Cupids—Nutcrackers—Turned woodware.
It is very difficult to realize in these days of refinement and of comparative luxury, even in the homes of the working classes, what the table appointments must have been in early English homes. Sometimes glowing accounts are given of the feasting of olden time; but no doubt many of the great occasions contrasted in their luxurious magnificence with the usual mode of living. They were, however, the days of feeding rather than of refinement in partaking of the sumptuous feast. The table appointments on such occasions were crude and simple, and they were altogether absent from the tables of the lower classes. It is difficult, indeed, to realize that the conditions under which people lived in mediaeval England, in the days when the baron and his followers assembled in the great hall, and with his chosen companions sat above the salt, satisfied men of wealth; it was, however, in accord with the spirit of the age.
The primitive methods of serving up food and eating it observed by the majority of people then would be looked upon with disgust nowadays by every one. The table appointments were not only very few, but those which were used, like the knife and spoon, were often brought into the feasting hall by those who were to use them. The polished oaken board was often laden with rough and readily prepared dishes, the result of some fortunate expedition or of a prosperous hunt. The knife was the chief implement used until comparatively recent days, for forks are quite a modern innovation. The spoon, it is true, goes back to hoary antiquity, but in England, even in the Middle Ages, spoons were used chiefly for ecclesiastical purposes. In Harrison's Elizabethan England we read that the times had changed, for instead of "treen platters" there were pewter plates, and tin or silver spoons instead of wood.
Cutlery: Knives, Forks, and Spoons.
The term "cutlery," derived from coutellerie, the French for cutlery, had been evolved from culter, the Latin for knife. Primarily it referred to cutting instruments, and especially to knives, but in a general way, when speaking of table cutlery, spoons and forks may appropriately be included. Early records referring to cutlery indiscriminately use the terms knives and swords; indeed, the arms granted to the London Cutlers' Company in the sixteenth year of the reign of Edward IV are two swords, crossed; later a crest, consisting of an elephant bearing a castle, was added. Homer tells us of knives carried at the girdle in his day, and describes them as of triangular form. The Anglo-Saxons and the Normans carried about with them met-soex or eating knives, but it was not until the end of the fifteenth century that knives were used at table, other than those which were carried at the girdle, every man using his own cutlery. In England, Sheffield was early noted for the manufacture of knives, for Chaucer tells us, "A Scheffeld thwitel bare he in his hose." Another form of spelling the word which denoted knife was troytel, and from these terms is derived "whittle." The jack knife came in in the days of James I, after whom it was named, the original term being Jacques-te-leg, these knives shutting into a groove or handle without spring or lock.
The making of a table knife even in early times necessitated the work of many hands, for taking part in its production were the smiths who forged it, the bladers who made the blade out of the metal already hammered, and the haft-makers. When the knife was complete it was handed to the sheath-makers, who fashioned the sheath of leather, and sometimes encased it in metal. The host did not provide table cutlery for his guests until the reign of Elizabeth. In earlier times it was left to the traveller to provide himself with whatever he deemed necessary; thus it is recorded that when Henry VI made a tour in the north he carried with him knife, fork, and spoon, as it was stated "he scarcely expected to find any at the houses of the nobility." From that custom, no doubt, arose the common practice of fitting separate sets, and afterwards sets for more than one person, in cases, the materials used being for many years the beautifully embossed cuir boulli leather work. Queen Elizabeth carried her knife and other appointments at her girdle, a custom followed by her ladies; although it is said that at the Court of the virgin queen it was customary for the gentlemen courtiers to cut up the meat on the platters of the fair ones with whom they were dining; the ladies at that time being content to prove the truth of the adage, "Fingers were made before forks."
Collectors soon realize that there were many forms of knives even amongst those specially reserved for table use. Both blades and handles have passed through many stages in the gradual evolution from the hunting knife to the cutlery on the modern dinner table. The blades have been narrow and pointed like daggers, and they have been scimitar-shaped, and rounded off at the point. The qualities of the material have changed, too, Sheffield cutlers and those of other places vying with one another. The cutlery trade has long drifted north, although at one time the members of the London Cutlers' Company were proud of the quality of their goods, and boasted of their knives being "London made, haft and blade." This ancient Guild tried hard to maintain their pre-eminence, and in the days of Elizabeth obtained a Charter prohibiting all strangers from bringing any knives into England from beyond the seas.
The carving knife seems to have had a separate descent from the large hunting knives used to cut up barons of beef, roasted oxen, and portions which were cut off the joint for each individual or for several persons.
Forks for table use were a much later invention, although there were larger meat forks, flesh forks, and heavier iron kitchen appliances (see Chapter V).
In very early times small forks, of which there are some in the Guildhall Museum dating from Roman and Saxon times, were chiefly used for fruit. The use of forks at table, for meat, is attributed to the invention of an Italian, and the custom thus started rapidly spread "in good society" on the Continent of Europe. Thomas Coryate, a noted traveller, is said to have introduced them into Germany, and afterwards into England, where their use was at first much ridiculed as effeminate, the "fork-carving" traveller being spoken of in contempt.
Forks were in regular use in England early in the sixteenth century. Dean Stanley, in his Memorials of Westminster Abbey, quotes from the Chapter Book of 1554, in which it is stated by Dean Weston (1553-6) that the College dinners "became somewhat disorderly, forks and knives were tossed freely to and fro." The old table forks were two-pronged, the prongs being long and set near together; the steel forks of the early nineteenth century were three-pronged, and another prong was added later, the latter form being adapted by the makers of silver forks in more recent years.
In Fig. 18 is shown a very handsome knife case and its contents, which are to be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In Fig. 19 another example of a set of knife, fork, and spoon in the same collection is illustrated.
The spoon is, like the knife, of great antiquity. It is said to have been suggested by shells on the shore, and by the hollow of the hand which in the most primitive days was used to drink with. The most beautiful old spoons are those made of silver, a magnificent pair being shown in Fig. 20. Many such spoons are now almost priceless, especially the much-valued Apostle spoons, often given in olden time as christening gifts. Silver spoons more correctly belong to antique silver, which forms another branch of curio-collecting.
Of spoons there are many made of other materials than silver, some being carved in wood (see Chapter XIII), others of ivory, and some of bone. Many of the older spoons were made of brass or latten; but when silver became popular table spoons of silver were procured whenever it was possible to afford them, and a collection including in the varieties the Apostle and the seal top, and its various developments from the rat-tail to the fiddle, is obtainable. As regarding spoons Westman has written: "The spoon is one of the first things wanted when we come into the world, and it is one of the last things we part with before we go out."
The collector revels in the beautifully engraved blades of the rarer curios; in the handles so varied in their materials and ornament; and in the cases in which knives, forks, and spoons have in many instances been preserved. From the curios in museums and from family treasures it is evident that much of the cutlery has been presented as donations to the housekeeping outfit of a newly-married couple, or given as presentation sets or pieces on some special occasion; just as cutlery is often chosen for presentation purposes to-day.
From the sixteenth century onwards such sets have been made and presented. The recently arranged cutlery room in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, that great art treasure-house of the nation, contains an exceptionally representative collection. In some instances the examples are only single specimens which may have been presented separately, or they may have formed part of a more complete set. There are sets of carving knives with long blades, forks with double prongs, and broad-pointed flat-bladed servers, many of them etched and engraved all over. Even after carvers were regular features on the table the small knives and forks were brought by the guests who were bidden to the feast, for it must be remembered that it was not until 1670 that Prince Rupert brought the first complete set of forks to this country.
In the Victoria and Albert Museum there is a very beautiful little knife, the handle of which is delicately carved, the group which constitutes the design representing our first parents standing beneath the Tree of Knowledge, in the midst of which the wily serpent is cunningly concealed.
Another pair consisting of a very handsome knife and fork have handles representing animals and grotesque figures. These were the work of Dutch artists in the seventeenth century; but curiously enough the quaint leather case in which this knife and fork are enclosed was evidently of earlier date, for it has upon it "1598." Some of the cases of leather made by the cuir boulli process are circular, there being separate holes for each of the knives they were intended to contain. Some of the knives are very curious, especially those with wooden or horn handles of sixteenth and early seventeenth-century make, which have been found in considerable numbers in Moorfields and Finsbury, along with sharpening steels. The ordinary table knives of a little later date, when they were sold in half-dozens and dozens along with two-pronged forks, were decorative, their handles being made of materials varying in quality and in the excellence of their manufacture. One of the most beautiful sets of rare historic value now on view in the Victoria and Albert Museum is part of a set of fourteen, the ivory handles being carved to represent the kings and queens of England. These rare examples of the English cutler's and ivory carver's art, dated 1607, have blades damascened with gold. There are knives also with handles of amber, one very remarkable set in amber over foil being decorated with the figure of Christ and His Apostles on one side of the handles, and on the other side there is the Apostles' Creed.
Among other materials used in the manufacture of handles for knives and forks, some of the latter having two prongs and others three, chiefly made in the eighteenth century, are: Battersea enamel on copper, Staffordshire agate ware, Meissen porcelain, Venetian millefiore glass, Bow porcelain, jasper, Venetian aventurine glass, enamelled earthenware, and Chantilly porcelain. In many instances these handles made of such beautiful materials are further decorated by miniature painted scenes and floral ornaments. Another favourite material is bone, some of the older handles being stained, mostly green, afterwards decorated with applied silver in floral and geometrical designs. There are a few maple-wood handles of the eighteenth century, and others of stag's horn and of shagreen.
The knife box with its divisions, referred to elsewhere, is exemplified in many remarkably fine cases to be seen in our museums and in isolated specimens in private collections.
The interest in a collection of household utensils is greatly enhanced by the halo of romance which surrounds the uses of some of them. This is seen and understood by the collector of cutlery perhaps more than of anything else, for many old customs have been associated with the giving of cutlery, and superstitious beliefs have crept in.
The gift of cutlery at weddings was not always the prosaic thing it is nowadays, for the cases and even the knives were often accompanied by some sentimental rhyme or poetic inscription. Two knives, apparently the gift of bride and bridegroom to one another, now in the British Museum, are engraved with separate inscriptions. One reads:—
"My love is fixt I will not range, I like my choice I will not change";
while on the other is engraved:—
"Witt, wealth, and beauty all doe well But constant love doth fair excell. 1676."
The early uses of knives in association with religious rites are interesting, as, for instance, the golden knife with which the old Druids cut the mistletoe with pomp and much mystic ceremony. The early Christians made use of the knife and symbolized the cross when feasting; indeed, the old country habit—which is now deemed a sign of vulgarity—of crossing the knife and fork after dining, took its origin in that act of devotion, for together they form the Greek cross. Browning refers to the custom when he says:—
"Knife and fork he never lays Crosswise, to my recollection, As I do in Jesu's praise."
In Russia this custom of the peasantry was deep-rooted; and there they were careful to take up the knife and fork and lay them down on the plate crossed before commencing their often meagre meal.
Strange to say that although knives and forks have been crossed in reverence, to cross knives has been deemed unlucky, and to present a maiden with a pair of scissors—two crossed blades—has long been held by those who believe in such signs as unlucky. To give a knife is to "cut luck"—so the legend runs; hence so many when presenting a pocket knife will demand a penny (as the smallest coin when silver pennies were in circulation) in return. The Rev. Samuel Bishop, M.A., Master of the Merchant Taylors' School in 1795, wrote the following lines on the subject of presenting a knife to his wife:—
"A knife, dear girl, cuts love, they say— Mere modish love perhaps it may: For any tool of any kind Can separate what was never join'd."
The condiments of the table were usually supplied in separate vessels. The use of salt with meat goes back to primitive times, although we have few records of the vessels in which it was served. The Arab chief offers his guest salt as an act of friendship, and as such it is partaken of. The classic Ancients consecrated salt before using it, and the salt cellar was placed upon the table together with the first fruits "for the gods," those to whom they were offered being generally Hercules or Mercury. The Greek salt cellars were shaped like bowls, and as the salt became an important feature as a dividing line between rich and poor, the size of the cellar grew. To realize the importance of the salt cellar in mediaeval England, we have only to visit the Tower of London, where the great salt cellars of State are kept. The large standing salt was the dividing line upon the table. Salt cellars dating from the fourteenth century are in existence, and many curiously shaped designs intervened before the bell-shaped salts which were fashionable in the days of Elizabeth and the trencher salts of Queen Anne and the early Georges. Salt cellars with feet came into fashion in the reign of George II; then followed many minor changes until the beautifully perforated salt cellars with blue liners bearing hall-marks dating from the close of the eighteenth century came into vogue. It is from among the Georgian table appointments that collectors gather most of their specimens. The materials of which these salt cellars were made vary; there are sterling silver, antique pewter, and Sheffield plate; and there are salt cellars of china and porcelain which may well be included in a collection of table curios.
The separate bottles or cruets, casters, mustard pots, and very rarely salts, were gradually gathered together and placed in a frame which grew big in late Georgian and early Victorian days. For convenience the stand was placed in the centre of the table, and often made to revolve. Such cruets are met with in silver and other metals, also in papier-mache, often ornamented with mother-o'-pearl and painted flowers. The greatest interest, however, is found in collecting separate bottles, such as those charming Bristol glass cruets, ornamented with flowers and lettered with the names of their contents, such as "VINEGAR," "SALAD OIL," "MUSTARD," "PEPPER."
There is a greater variety of form in the metal cruets and casters, which followed the prevailing styles silversmiths were then employing. Especially graceful are the old pepperettes and vase-shaped casters. The woodturner, too, contributed to the table appointments of the eighteenth century, and the carver made some curious and even grotesque figures, the heads of which took off, and thus formed pepper casters. One of the most noted grotesque sets reminds us of the Toby fill-pot jugs in form, a complete set consisting of two salts, two mustards, and two pepper pots. Genuine specimens are very difficult to meet with now, although those Staffordshire cruets have been reproduced, and are offered either singly or in sets; but the difference between the genuine antique and the modern replica ought not to deceive even an amateur.
There are varieties of mustard pots, which were in turn round, oval, square, hexagonal, and cylindrical, some being like miniature well buckets with perforated sides and blue metal liners.
Punch and Toddy.
A hundred years ago the punch bowl was inseparable from the convivial feast. It was a favourite sideboard ornament, and found in frequent use on the dining table, round which smokers and card players drew up and filled their glasses with punch and toddy. Ladles were indispensable, and were varied in form and in the materials of which they were composed. Punch ladles were in earlier days made of cherry-wood, mounted with a silver rim and fitted with a long handle, often made of twisted horn. The horn, which was somewhat pliable, was secured to the bowl by a silver socket. Other ladles were made entirely of silver, some having a current coin of the realm, a guinea preferably, fixed in the bottom of the bowl—for luck. Some of the ladles were beautifully decorated in repousse, others were shaped like sauce boats; there were ladles without lips, others deep like the porringers, and yet others were quite round like a drinking bowl. Some are family heirlooms, others have been purchased in curio shops, and unfortunately during the last few years so great has been the demand for them that many modern copies have been palmed off as genuine antiques. The hall-mark on the rim is in many instances a guarantee of age, although some of the genuine specimens do not appear to have been hall-marked at all. The fact that an old coin is found fixed within the bowl is no criterion of antiquity, and does not always indicate that the punch ladle itself is contemporary with the coin, for old coins are common enough and readily fixed in new ladles.
Collectors of old china simply revel in punch bowls. Punch was at the height of its popularity when most of the domestic porcelain and decorative china, now rare and valuable, was being made. The best known potters in Worcester, Derby, Bristol, Liverpool, and the Potteries made punch bowls, some ornamented with their characteristic decorations; others were specially emblematical, such, for instance, as the bowls covered with masonic signs; some were nautical in design, and many were enriched with coats of arms and crests. Several of the punch bowls belonging to the old City Companies are on view in the Guildhall Museum, and isolated specimens are seen to be in other places.
Oriental china was at that time being imported into this country very extensively, and some remarkably delicate bowls, contrasting with Mason's strong ironstone, are obtainable. These bowls, ladles, and the charming little egg-shaped boxes which formerly contained a nutmeg and a tiny grater are household table furnishings of exceptional interest. It may interest some to learn that punch, which came into vogue in the seventeenth century, derived its name from a Hindustani word signifying five, indicative of the five ingredients of which it was composed—spirit, water, sugar, lemon, and spice.
Porringers and Cups.
Although sterling silver and other materials from which drinking vessels are usually made have been exhaustively dealt with in other volumes of the "Chats" series, as table appointments drinking cups must be referred to here. Caudle cups were in use in the sixteenth century, and throughout the century that followed they were used along with porringers, which differed from them only in that the mouths of the porringers were wider and the sides straight. The caudle cup, sometimes called a posset cup, is met with both without and with cover, and in some instances it is accompanied by a stand or tray. Caudle or posset was a drink consisting of milk curdled with wine, and in the days when it was drunk few went to bed without a cup of smoking hot posset. Many of the early cups were beautifully embossed and florally ornamented, although others were quite plain, with the exception of an engraved shield, on which was a coat of arms, crest, or monogram. Many of the porringers which followed the earlier type were octagonal, and in some instances twelve-sided. In the reign of William and Mary the rage for Chinese figures and ornaments caused English silversmiths to decorate porringers with similar designs. The style which prevailed the longest was that known as "Queen Anne," much copied in modern replicas. Very pleasing, too, are eighteenth-century miniature porringers.
There is much to please in the work of the silversmith and potter, as well as the glass blower, in the cups they fashioned; and the artist admires the chased engraving or the rich colouring, and perchance the etching and cutting of the cup. Some, however, show preference for the earlier cups and drinking vessels of commoner materials, and for those eccentricities of the table found in curious hunting cups, vessels which had to be emptied at a draught, or to be drunk under the most difficult conditions like the puzzle cups of Staffordshire make. The peg tankards of ancient date, a very fine example originally belonging to the Abbey of Glastonbury, afterwards in the possession of Lord Arundel of Wardour, held two quarts, the pegs dividing its contents into half-pints according to the Winchester standard. On that remarkable cup the twelve Apostles were carved round the sides, and on the lid was the scene at the Crucifixion.
It is said that the pegs were first ordered by Edgar, the Saxon king, to prevent excessive drinking, the tankard being passed round, every man being expected to drink down to the next peg. Heywood, in his Philocathonista, says: "Of drinking cups, divers and sundry sorts we have, some of elm, some of box, and some of maple and holly." According to the quaint spelling of those days there were then in use in Merrie England: "Mazers, noqqins, whiskins, piggins, cringes, ale-bowls, wassel bowls, tankard and kames from a pottle to a pint and from a pint to a gill." The leather cups and tankards or black jacks (see Chapter VIII) were mostly used in country places by "shepheards and harvesters." A writer in a work published in the early years of the nineteenth century says: "Besides metal and wood and pottery we have cups of hornes of beasts, of cocker nuts, of goords, of eggs of ostriches, and of the shells of divers fishes."
A simple cocoanut, mounted in silver and made into a cup, perhaps a century or more ago, is by no means to be despised. Some are beautifully polished and ornamented with incised work. Contemporary with the earlier specimens are pots made of ostrich eggs, mounted in silver, regarded of great value in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some of the university colleges possess fine examples, and there are many in the hands of London silversmiths. Figs. 23 and 24 represent two cocoanut cups with feet of silver, one engraved with the owner's initials, the foot being decorated with bead ornament. Fig. 25 is a cocoanut mounted as a flagon with handle of whalebone and rim and foot of silver. The use of such cups seems to have been very generally distributed all over the world, for there are many South American examples, as well as the English varieties. The gourd, too, was used for similar purposes; the Mexicans made such bowls and cups, finishing them off with silver mounts and sometimes adding silver feet. There are French flasks made of small gourds, sometimes scent flasks being made in the same way, not infrequently decorated with incised inlays of coloured composition on a black ground. Some of the English silversmiths engraved hunting scenes on small flasks made of the rind of a gourd, choosing hunting scenes and birds and familiar outdoor objects.