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.