Capture the Footprint of Local History

Sometimes an old calendar, ball-point pen, business card or booklet can be the only remaining evidence of a local business.

Local business are often the hub of a community, employers, where people work and shop. Help to capture the footprint of the history for your local area by saving, or sharing with local historical institutions, items that might be significant.

Victory Brushes, John Palmers Ltd., Portsmouth, Hampshire, England.

This 14-page booklet was collected and saved with papers by a lady who worked as Personnel Officer at John Palmers, Victory Brushes during the mid to late 1960s. This leaflet was produced for their employees…. the back page states “The quality of Victory Brand Brushes is your responsibility.”

The booklet tells a general through-the-years story about how brushes were made and the materials used, but it also gives a history of the company since its beginnings in 1869 to 1947. It is a treasure for the local business history and area archives.

John Palmers flooring and carpets firms are still in business today, albeit not in Portsmouth. Over the years they occupied various buildings in the Fratton area of Portsmouth City. They also owned a small row of flat-fronted terraced houses in Nancy Road for their workers.

It seems the original premises were a 3-storey plus basement house.
This is a business that grew and became a significant employer in the Portsmouth area.

“Around 1975, I worked as a temporary secretary to one of John Palmer’s sons for a while, Raymond or Stanley!”

The history 1869-1947, as told by Mr John Palmer Junior, son of the John Palmer who started the business.

 

 

 

 

 

The Trade Mark logo for Victory Brushes Brand is of course a line drawing of the Portsmouth-based H.M.S. Victory.

A memory story found online…. Portsmouth tales

Do you have any artefacts or stories to tell about working at John Palmers?

Challenge….. What is it?

When you discover something interesting in a box of unrelated items… this can be a challenge.

What is it?

Measuring 10 1/2″ long (27 cms), it is made of an early celluloid plastic.  A tubular shape with no seams, at the wider end it measures 1/2″, with a wide hole, tapering to a narrow end which is flattened to an oval, with a very small hole.

This item is not an opaque material like Bakelite, but slightly translucent with a red/brown colour hue. There is no maker’s mark. Some slight scratches from use.

It turns out that this item is a cigarette holder that belonged to my paternal grandmother, Irene (Symes) George (1903-1996).

Before cigarette tips were introduced in the 1960s, using a holder, was thought to have filtered the smoke. Wikipedia suggests… “A holder kept tobacco flakes out of the smoker’s mouth, kept the thin cigarette paper from sticking and tearing on the smoker’s lips, prevented nicotine stains on fingers, cooled and mellowed the smoke and kept side-stream smoke from stinging the smoker’s eyes.

As with evening gloves, ladies’ cigarette holders are measured by four traditional formal standard lengths:

  • opera length, usually 16 to 20 inches/40 to 50 cm
  • theatre length, 10 to 14 inches/25 to 35 cm
  • dinner length, 4 to 6 inches/10 to 15 cm
  • cocktail length, which includes shorter holders

Traditionally, men’s cigarette holders were no more than 4 inches long.”

Used from 1910s through until late 1970s, cigarette holders were particularly popular fashion accessories during the 1920s – the days of the flapper dress, bobbed hair cuts and elegant styles.

Defining Just What Is A Family “Treasure”

As I attend various community groups, organizations and libraries…. I often hear a similar message, “…. but I don’t have any family treasures!”

I thought it was time to help everyone define what might be a family “treasure” or heirloom.

Most people immediately think we are talking about precious jewellery, expensive rare art and ceramic items… Royal Doulton, Lladro, Wedgewood and more…. high priced antiques.

WWII Woman’s Land Army Arm Band

This is not necessarily what we mean by family heirlooms…. treasured passed down through the family.  Here we are talking about an object/artifact that has been passed to you from a previous family member.

Yes, it might be a special item, as often special items are more likely to survive, but it can also be a simple item with no monetary value, even something home-made, which by itself may have no real meaning. It might be quite insignificant unless we stop and tell it’s story.

We can look at it another way too, this small object is an excuse to write down a little bit of history (a short biography) about the person who had owned it! Your grandfather, an uncle who was a war hero. It might be an item from your grandmother’s sewing box. This can bring forward not only her story, but also capture some moments in time, when everything was made quite differently, and often made at home.

It could be:

A Royal Navy military button ~ a mother-of-pearl boot hook ~ a gentleman’s collar stud, shirt armbands, a child’s christening serviette ring ~ a lace handkerchief ~ a school boy’s harmonica ~ a Women’s Land Army arm band ~ a sewing sampler ~ a lady’s cellulose cigarette holder ~ a royal commemorative mug!

If you stop to write down the story of the item, and then expand it with details of who had owned it, when, where and why…. you have a more complete story and a mini biography.

Maybe it is the only thing that survived after a move, or from a war, from a tragedy or a happy vacation!  By adding it’s story you can give it an extended life and share knowledge of its owner to pass on to future generations….

A family treasure, is just that, an item that may be treasured by your family members now and in the future!

Crested China – What’s this all about?

Crested China , what is it?

As an avid collector of crested china miniatures, this is one of my most favourite subjects!  In essence, these items are holiday souvenirs from British seaside towns, many of which are now antique.

Taking a vacation in Britain in the late 1800s, one wouldn’t travel very far. Mostly families would take by bus or train to the nearest popular seaside town, such as Blackpool, Brighton, Southsea etc. The china artifacts were created as a souvenir to take home from  to remind you of your vacation.

W M Goss (William Henry Goss, 1833-1906) was the owner of Falcon Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, he along with his sons Adolphus and Victor were credited to making “Crested China” popular.

The items take all forms, from ashtrays, bowls, teapots, cups, butter dishes, animals, trains, cars, musical instruments, shoes, monuments, cottages, military items and more. What they all have in common however, is the official crest (or heraldic badge) and name of the town, village or county.

Goss took the ‘historic’ theme a little further, by creating replica artifacts that were featured in various museums around Britain. Each is described on the base.

Their maker’s mark is very specific – a black stamp with Falcon bird logo with text of W M Goss.

This ewer has the crest for  Southsea, the seaside resort at the south of the island of Portsmouth. The model is from an early English ewer dredged up in River Yare, now in Yarmouth Museum No  495671.

In 1995, I was seeking gifts to bring to my Canadian cousins for a visit. I hit a gold-mine when I discovered a worldwide centre for crested china right in my tiny village of Horndean.  Known as Goss & Crested China Ltd., Specialists in Heraldic Porcelain. Their website description reads….

“Established in 1970 the Goss China Club have been the leading dealers in Heraldic Porcelain and we are the leading authority on the subject, having published the definitive encyclopaedias for both Crested and Goss China and numerous other books.

It is said that by late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Goss china souvenirs were immensely popular. An estimate of at least 95% of homes had a piece of Goss Crested China on their mantelpiece, tallboy or whatnot. WWI caused a decline, in 1929 the Goss family sold their factory which continued to produce souvenir-ware until the end of the 1930s…..  More information.

Other popular makers were: Arcadian China, Willow Art, Grafton China, Charlton China, Swan China etc.

My personal collection was very specific – small vases, no larger than 2″ from my favourite villages and towns. Special places where I went on holiday as a youngster, where my parents were born, or lived, and small country villages in Hampshire near where I lived.  My collection is not ‘pure’, I prefer Goss items when available, but will take a good ‘other-brand’ if it is a village name on my wish list.

Visiting the village store regularly between 1995 and 1997, when I moved to Canada, I had collected most of the village names I needed. I even have one marked Dominion of Canada…. unfortunately one item on my wish-list, which I am still seeking….  is the village of Portchester, where I was raised.

Portchester village, in Hampshire, is one of the oldest in our area, with a fort that was constructed 3rd century AD by the Romans, 700 years later the Normans build a castle within it. 7000 people were held prisoner in the keep during the Napoleonic war. The church (St. Mary’s) was built in 1120.

In a map from around 1600, the village beside the castle was far more populated with homes, than most of the City (island) of Portsmouth at that time.

Lots of these souvenir items have traveled here to Canada over the years.  As our population ages, they are now finding their way into second-hand stores and antique sales. Check it out – you will nearly always spot one piece in every thrift store, or flee market.

 

 

Digital Scrapbooking – with a Purpose!

Miniature vase (circa 1885), crested china, souvenir of Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Made by W.H. Goss, Stoke-on-Trent, England. The item is a replica model of Romano-Salopian Ewer which was found at Uriconium, and held in Shewsbury Museum.

If you look at a family heirloom, and feel there is ‘nothing to write’ about it, no story to collect!  You might be wrong, let me explain!

You may feel that you know nothing about an item, why Grandma, had it, who it belonged to before her, but regardless of how little you know, there is always a story to be told.

Start with Grandma herself.  When was she born, where was she raised, who were her parents… include any dates you know with full names…..   ie Janet (Jones) Smith, (1902-1978). Include maiden and married names.

Bring the story forward, add that Grandma was married to….. the son of….. and they had ? children.  Link yourself to the child that is your direct relative.

Now we can look at the item.  Many artefacts have a maker’s mark, or stamp. There is usually a clue to who made it, where and when.  An Internet search can bring forth items similar to yours. Unfortunately, many items are part of “for sale” listings, but if you carefully cross-check the information. You may discover the date of the artifact, and where it originated.

All in all, there is plenty of information to gather into a story.

Be warned, however, if you do not start creating the story soon, and jot down what you know….. the information may well be lost over time.

Exciting New Find: New Local Howard Artifact Discovered!

I met with a colleague, who kindly showed me this wonderful artifact.  Having read the story in the Winter issue of In the Hills Magazine – Illuminating the Past: Personal History he was interested to share it with the Howard family.  He kindly gave Treasured Collections his blessing to share it forward.

The item is a framed “illuminated” artwork created in April 1889 by Alfred Harold “A H” Howard (1854–1916 ). Presented by the townsmen of St. Mary’s, it celebrates the retirement Mr Robert Hillyard as Manager of St. Mary’s Branch of the Bank of Montreal. Measuring 15″ x 21″, it is set in an ornate gilded frame with acid free backing and archival-glass. The signature states, “A H Howard & Wilson Designers, Toronto.”

Among the artifacts by “A H” held in local museums, archives and by family members, there are several artworks of this nature, created for specific events, such as retirements etc., many of which were for banks.

How did he come by this commission? St. Mary’s is some distance from Toronto, but “A H” did have family connections to the Mitchell and Stratford area.  He was a founding member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, or maybe “A H” was so well known for his creative illustrations, that he had became the “go-to” person for the whole area.

Photograph by Frank Cooper, London, Ontario, circa 1880

After his retirement from the bank in St. Mary’s, we understand that Robert Hillyard (1822-1893), moved his family to Toronto.

The artwork was discovered during research into one of Mr Hillyard’s daughters – Caroline “Carrie” Learoyd Hillyard, (born 1866) who became an established artist, known for her portraits and landscape paintings.

Evidently, “Carrie” died with no decedents, and her many paintings were left to the housekeeper to disperse. It is believed that after Robert died, Mrs Hillyard moved to Montreal and lived beyond 100 years. There was information about a niece among the research, and connections to Oakville. The Oakville Museum held an exhibit in 2002 – Returning Home: A Carrie Hillyard Retrospective.

In time, it is hoped the artifact will join the collection of St. Mary’s area museum. For now, we are grateful to my colleague to be able to share another wonderful piece of art created by “A H” Howard.

 

 

Christmas Tree Decorations & Seasonal Family Traditions

How old is your earliest Christmas tree decoration? What can you share about it? How many of your decorations are home-made, and by who?

It is an annual event that many of us enjoy – hauling out the Christmas decorations, lights and more.  Do you rediscover a treasure trove of cute memories in your boxes?  I know that I do!

Christmas Tree Ornaments

This glass and wire hanging fir comb (pine cone) is a sole-survivor from our family home at 54 Portobello Grove, in Portchester, Hampshire, England. It dates to around the 1950s. I was particularly fond of it, because it was blue (an unusual colour for Christmas at the time), and it is also snow-covered, hence it landed in my personal collection. We saw some snow when in my younger years in Southern England, but not nearly as much as we enjoy here in Ontario, Canada.  This item, was the only early glass ornament to survive when in 1997, our tree fell onto our ceramic floor.

How many decorations on your tree have been made by your children/grandchildren?  Isn’t it lovely to revisit the memories – helping children create them, assisting with school class projects and more?

The Pickle

Does your Christmas tree have a pickle ornament? Over the last few years, I have seen several versions for sale in the stores. It has become a new tradition for some of our family households. The story goes….. the pickle is hidden among the tree decorations late on Christmas eve…. when the children visit the tree on Christmas morning, their first task is to find the pickle. This aim is to encourage them to really look at the various tree ornaments…. appreciate their origins, the history and traditions, before diving into gifts and presents.  A lovely sentiment, the Internet tells me the tradition originated in Germany, and the glass ornaments were originally imported from Germany by F W Woolworth in the 1880s.

Glitter on Christmas Cards

Many cards sparkle with glitter –  but I didn’t understand the true significance of this until moving to Canada, when, on a crisp cold winter’s day, I saw the snow outside glistening  in the sunlight.  New to me too were sun-dogs (or sun halos), and the hoar frost – who knew?

Cake Decorations

Christmas cake, with snow-effect royal icing and a layer of marzipan beneath – is a strong tradition in my family. Maybe it’s a British thing?  As I grew up, it was a ‘whole family affair’ to prepare, bake and decorate the cake. Just a handful of my family’s original decorations have survived from various eras….. they are easily broken and damaged when stuck in the ‘snow’ or washed clean! The wood and wire fir tree has seen better days, and no longer healthy to use!

Others which didn’t survive, were the red and gold paper frills, to go around the cake, wooden Santa, a swinging public house sign staying “Brickwoods”, an earlier set of reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

The newest addition to this group is the skier, which came from a birthday cake brought from England, by friends, on a 1985 ski trip to Yugoslavia.

What traditions and items in your home that prompt fond memories at this time of year?

 

 

Ordinary People – Leading the Way!

First Class Shipwright B H Symes, Diver, Seated on Left.

Among some recent military projects, I have seen three examples outstanding bravery and pioneering spirit…. ordinary people – leading the way!

Bertram Henry Symes (1876-1914) joined the British Royal Navy in January 1899. He trained as a shipwright, eventually becoming Chief Shipwright in 1918. What is most remarkable about his career, however, is the fact that he became a Ships Artificer Diver in March 1906. He continued to dive until May 1915, when he was noted as medically unfit to dive, after he got the bends.  Shipwright First Class Symes, was adventurous, although he was not the first to become a ship’s diver, this was certainly early days of deep sea diving, with many unknown factors, and basic equipment.

H.M.S. Ocean leaving Glasgow, 1948.

H.M.S. Ocean was built at the Alexander Stephen and Sons yard on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was launched in 1944 and commissioned 8 August 1945. Classed as a light fleet carrier was 630 feet long and had a crew of 1,050 sailors and could carry 52 aircraft.

We normally associate naval seamen as ship’s personnel. Peter Colin George (1926-2008) however, joined the British Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm Division around 1945.  He trained as an aircraft engineer, eventually becoming Chief Petty Officer overseeing engine and aircraft repairs. His training took place at H.M.S. St. James, Douglas, Isle of Man, then at the air craft handling unit R.N.A.S. Worthy Down, also known as H.M.S. Kestrel.

Landing jet planes on a moving ship (later known as an aircraft carrier) was a fairly new concept. He was at the forefront of industry as an aircraft engineer in the Royal Navy.

https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/hms-ocean-r68/ describes the first test flight, take off and landing of a jet-powered aircraft from a ship which carrier took place 3rd December 1945, from HMS Ocean (R68). The aircraft was a de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk 10 LZ551/G. An example of this aircraft was held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.

Towards the end of his days in the Navy, he worked at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Source: Ipswich Star – Button Boy

Finally, not quite so pioneering, but just as brave. One recent project described how a young boy-sailor took up the role of ‘Button Boy’ in the Royal Navy. He was noted as the ‘second’ a stand-in for the lead boy, but he still had to become accomplished and demonstrate his skill for this activity.

Each R.N. training facility sports, a land-based mast, and H.M.S. Ganges is no different. There is a long-standing tradition of young trainees ascending the 143 ft mast, a performance that takes place to music. The ‘button boy’ is the man at the top.  He has to shimmy up the last stretch of the pole, climb over the lightening rod, and sit or stand-to-attention on the round platform at the top.  Ipswich newspaper shares a descriptive story, Height of Dread for Ganges Boys. The trip down from the top is pleasing, tells our client, “you slide the rope from half way, where the others have to step to the beat of the music, all the way to the ground. It’s harder coming down.”

View a Button Boy video one of many to be found on the Internet.

So, all in all, ordinary young men, training for their jobs…. yet leading the way!

I love that my job allows me to delve into different subjects and discover new things. It is heart-warming too, that future generations, friends and family will be able to enjoy a small insight into earlier times!

 

 

It’s All About The Artifacts!

We are thrilled to see that the winter issue of our wonderful local In the Hills Magazine sports an article about a project recently completed by Treasured Collections!

Treasured Collections is all about the artifacts, learning their story, noting the provenance (who had owned them, where were they from), and supplementing their story with supportive documents and photographs.

As with all our projects, it was hard to know where to start and stop. In this instance our client Robin had such a broad array of wonderful artifacts from many different members of her family.

There are artwork examples, miniature sketch books, original letters, poems, published plays, paintings and more. The earliest item dates back to 1843 and each item has its own history.

A ‘honeymoon’ booklet made in 1906, a lace christening bonnet, plus many paintings, designs and illumination examples by AH Howard, similar to those held in local and national archives and museums.

When we met with In The  Hills Magazine writer Kira, none of us knew where the article would lead! How best to narrow down this meandering story that has filled more than 100 pages of photographs and artifacts, covering so many talented family members. It was a challenge.  Kira listened, and jotted notes, next we met with photographer Pete Paterson and editor Tralee with the artifacts laid out before us. The result is truly amazing, the story weaves together a handful of artifacts, producing a heart-warming feeling for all to read about this well-known Toronto gentleman, his family roots, and a Caledon stone house (or two).

“Read about The Howard Collection”

Thank you to client Robin for the opportunity to ‘meet’ her family and thank you to In The Hills Magazine team for sharing a small part of it with the community!

From time to time, I give talks at clubs and groups. Let me know if this is a subject your organization would like to hear about.

Similarly, if you have some special family objects, that you wish to catalogue…. and don’t know where to start, drop me an email or give me a call 519-940-4877.

Identifying Military Buttons… Fun Research!

British Royal Navy jacket button, rating, circa 1945.

With recent commemoration of WWI – 100 years on!  Remembering family members who were lost and served, for me November 2018 has had a strong military focus!

Working on a few more family artifacts, I dived into the subject of Military Buttons – fascinating!

As always, Google searches can help find lots of useful information. I relied too on help from ex-military colleagues on FaceBook Groups I belong to.

One very useful website for button research was melitomnes.org  A website based in Malta…. but Malta had strong ties with the British Navy.  Over the years my grandfather, uncles and then my father were stationed in Malta. Many of our family members lived in Malta during their assignment, including my grandparents, and one cousin was born there. In 1958 I recall a trip to visit… flying for the first time my mum bundled my brother and I onto a military plane, unfortunately shortly after our arrival, our dad’s ship was called away to some trouble in Aden.

My father held a Malta driving licence. Folded linen card, 2″, 1958.

Back to the buttons…. a wooden trinket/cigarette box holds a number of buttons, among other bits and bobs.

Identifying the backing, the maker, the crowns and other images, allowed me to identify one of my mother’s WAAF button, and my father’s early (pre-officer/rating) button.

Photographed at the top, we can see the edge is plain, without a rope design around the boarder.  This means the button dates before my father (Peter Colin George, Chief Petty Officer, Fleet Air Arm, 1926-2008) took his Petty Officer course in 1950. The crown is the Tudor Crown used from 1902-1953.  The button therefore dates somewhere between his joining date of 1942 and the date he became an officer in 1950.

Identifying the shape of the crown…. helps date RN buttons.

The back of the button has a fixed loop. Again there are various styles of fixing over the years.  The maker’s mark identifies the button was made by Buttons Ltd., Birmingham.

RN Button made by Buttons Ltd, Birmingham, circa 1945.

Our family comes from the naval port of Portsmouth, Hampshire. I was thrilled to discover at sometime earlier there were two button makers in our city.  Gieves also was a company that started in Portsmouth.

To finish up…. I mentioned a trinket box.  That too has a history of its own. I had always thought it was my father’s box, but discover it was more likely it belonged to my mother! The box was made as a fundraiser in aid of Red Cross in 1943.  Made from the mooring mast from the makers of Airships and Blimps at Cardington. My mother was in the Woman’s Air force and Cardington became an Air Force base.  Likely she purchased the box.