Wednesday, 29 May 2013


We've seen rather a lot of flags and banners around over the past few years,  perhaps in the build up to the 2012 Jubilee. But since hearing the latest flag-related news I'm wondering, just when does a flag become a banner? Apparently Romania has made the world's biggest flag, weighing in at 5 tons and being about three times the size of a football pitch.

I can just about imagine this fluttering from a pole the height of the Empire State Building, but realistically I would call this a banner.
We have an interesting antique banner with a political message. In the 1880s it belonged to Scottish steelworkers, impatient for the right to vote, waiting for the House of Lords to pass the 1884 Reform Act.

We love this but don't have enough room to hang it on a wall - so here it is on the washing line. Flags and banners look good framed...

...and no antiques centre is without a few. Here is a view of the Harrogate Antiques Centre's latest selection.

This new centre is worth a visit - their blog keeps you up to date with the latest stock at
(We bought some new ancestors at the centre recently...

...still languishing in the attic, they don't realise that they have come home at last. Oh, what stories we will tell about their lives!) 

Meanwhile, these teddies took a jaunty Blue Peter flag along to our stand at Bowman's Harrogate Antiques Fair at the weekend. As usual a fantastic time was had by all at this friendly event, but sadly Little Ted came home alone.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013


It has to be acknowledged that fairs like the Arthur Swallow Salvage Show at Ripley near Harrogate last weekend do not cater for the average collector - they are all about design, inspiration and restoration. I was excited to see that the marquees included one full of antique and vintage Indian textiles - I  just happened to be looking for a kantha quilt to cover a sofa.

These can be found in some shops, on some high streets, at a price - Toast and Oka are two stockists in Harrogate. They're also on ebay at bargain prices - but online it's difficult to judge quality and condition. At Ripley this lovely seller , who visits India four times a year, had just what I wanted...

... a hand-stitched quilt in pretty vintage fabrics, at a price only slightly higher than the ebay offerings.
Moving on, I was pleased to bump into Shelley who used to live on our row of cottages, a few doors away from us. I'd heard that she'd started a new business called PASH selling salvage and stylish curiosities.

I decided that a visit to her shop was long overdue.


                          A red brick mill. Outside - simple, serious, a bit mysterious.

Inside? Move over Cath Kidston, this new look is cutting edge...

My favourite things in Shelley's stock - beautiful Victorian floor tiles at £8 each. The utility room floor is definitely due for a makeover...

To see more about PASH, click on this link.


Saturday, 18 May 2013


"Here's something you'll love." said Mr N last weekend and he was right - a trio of tiny Victorian samplers, each commemorating the birth of a child. "Keepers!", was my first thought, quickly followed by, "I wonder if I can find out who they were?" I really hoped these weren't poignant little mementoes made by a grieving mother after her babies died. 
Buying an antique can be a simple business deal - "There's a profit in that, I'll have it." It is also usually a choice based on personal taste, or perhaps the piece is interesting and unusual, like these samplers. There's a new antiques programme on TV - Antiques Hero. The Hero told us about his start in the trade and the secret of his success. He described the slog of buying and selling - buy a pine box for £50, sell it for £70 - again and again and again. Who cares whether you like what you're selling or not? He calls this way of doing business "grocery". We call it a bit boring...

...but we understand what he means and have ourselves been known to say, "It could be a tin of baked beans he's selling for all the interest he has in it."

Buzzing with curiosity, I got on with some detective work later that day - with an unusual surname, initials, exact dates and a pair of twins it was not too difficult to find this family. The babies were Robert, Elizabeth and Harriett (this is the spelling used throughout her life), children of William, a carpenter, born in Wisbech. They did not die in infancy and at some time in the 1850s the family moved to Leicester. On the 1861 census, at the age of 15, Robert was already a manufacturer of hosiery, working at home, almost certainly on his own knitting frame.

By the time he was 21 he had found premises and set up his own factory, expanding to become one of the largest hosiery manufacturers in the country.

When he died, aged 90, in 1936 he left £853102. 2s in his will, which earned him a place in W R Rubinstein's book: 
Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain Since the Industrial Revolution. 
Robert Rowley's hosiery business was large, supplying socks for soldiers in WW1, but it was not a fashion leader. It finally closed down in the 1960s after failing to make the move from "fully fashioned" to seamless stockings. I can remember Rowley's "Peter Pan" brand name on children's socks in the 1950s - they sometimes turn up on Ebay.                                                   

Photo from chrisdpyrah's flickr page

In Leicester there still remain 5 stylish Art Deco tram shelters, presented to the city by Robert in 1934 - an unusual monument to his success.

Elizabeth and Harriett proved more difficult to track down. Victorian girls had to keep a lower profile.

Harriett married a successful boot and shoe manufacturer Joseph Frisby. Her eldest child was a daughter, Elizabeth Rowley Frisby, who was determined to be a modern woman. She became a militant suffragette, a member of the Women's Social and Political Union, the WSPU, founded by the Pankhursts. In 1911 she served 5 days in prison for assaulting a police officer. The WSPU slogan was: 

With several other women she burned down a local railway station in 1914 and was probably also involved in an attack on a Leicester golf course where the message "No Votes, No Golf" was cut into the turf! During WW1 she turned this zeal towards voluntary work and local politics, becoming Leicester's first Lady Mayoress in 1941.

Elizabeth is proving to be more elusive. I think I have found her with a widowed aunt on a blurry 1871 census page, assisting in the aunt's London shop. Then, she vanishes...

...except for this.


Thursday, 9 May 2013



On Bank Holiday Monday we started our day very early at an antiques fair as usual, but decided not to go straight home afterwards for an afternoon snooze. I'd found out about a new exhibition at the Bowes Museum, not far down the road from Durham, past Raby Castle which looks very important indeed (I feel it is my duty to start bigging-up the North of England). The castle is situated on the outskirts of Staindrop where Jeremiah Dixon is buried - more of Jeremiah anon.

Staindrop's medieval church of St Mary's is large in scale and is sometimes referred to as "The Cathedral of the Dales". It is crammed full of effigies of  eminent local noblemen and women.

A very rare 16th century carved oak tomb.

If these knees could speak...

This 15th century alabaster tomb has some skillfully carved 17th century graffiti. It appears that the disrespectful engraver knocked the head off a tomb figure to form a convenient stool.



Rising out of a gently sloping hillside, a few miles down the road, the Bowes Museum is majestic and resembles a grand French chateau. It was built by John Bowes and his wife Josephine, to house their fabulous collection of European decorative arts. Now their treasures are available for everyone to study and are sympathetically curated. See how the beautiful blinds in this gallery echo the fine porcelain figures in their glass cases.

"All the young dudes."

This is an imaginative display of fine cutlery, not a photo recording a fit of pique on the part of Mr N. 
The Bowes Museum has regular exhibitions on varied topics and I was intrigued by the latest - this man was unknown to me.

Jeremiah Dixon was a local lad and a very clever chap: an astronomer, surveyor and skilled map maker...

...he is best known, along with Charles Mason, for determining the boundary line between two warring American states: Philadelphia and Maryland. This became known as the Mason-Dixon Line.

There is no surviving likeness of Jeremiah so we must be content with this jolly impersonation.

A little known fact - Mark Knopfler wrote a song about Jeremiah Dixon, here...


I have to thank fellow blogger Jean for Monday's treat because she gave out a link to a free Art Pass from the Art Fund on her excellent blog Shrimpton and Perfect, which I applied for and used on this museum visit. On her blog she tells us about exciting craft and vintage projects, passes on thrifty tips and much more. To find Jean please click on the link above. 


Thursday, 2 May 2013



There has been a lot of cat v. dog talk lately on the blogs I follow. Personally, I prefer people to both, despite their foibles and, sometimes, very nasty habits. This doesn't mean I haven't had several very close pet relationships. The longest was with Daisy, a tortoiseshell moggie who shared my life for 18 years. We could read each other's minds.

Here is her photo - see how she appears to be cleverly camouflaged against the blackened stone terrace houses of what Mr N and I now call Lessimportantshire (since Lady Thatcher's official biographer recently referred to her only being reviled in the "less important" parts of the country. The North, we presume.)

Daisy was a darling, but I've always fancied a Calico Cat. (I know it's shallow of me but the name is so folk arty. It goes with my style.) Two new cats have arrived in my neighbourhood and they both have the Calico look with patchwork blobs of different colours. My good friend J was sure that it was the long-haired puss who met the requirements...

...I thought this short-haired miss fitted the bill.

It turns out they both qualify - and I do know how easy it is to "adopt" a cat. You just feed her and she's yours for life - she knows only cupboard love. But I will resist, not just because I don't want to fall out with my neighbours, but also because I'm sure Mr N is more of a dog man. Some chaps find cats quite off-putting.

I will be content for now with this one, who sits by the landing window...

...and is actually made of calico.