1700s

Delft blue tiles – not always blue, not always from Delft

Delft tiles 1600s

The history of Delft tiles goes back to the early 1600s when blue and white porcelain from China first arrived in the Netherlands. It was much admired and Dutch potters wanted to imitate the look, even though they couldn’t recreate true Chinese porcelain. Potteries in Delft had some success with good quality blue and white […]

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Antique work tables for sewing and crafts

Victorian needlework table

Before the 18th century ladies used to keep their needlework projects in a work-basket or bag. Then furniture designers started to create elegant little tables for the drawing room with a silk work-bag or box-holder hanging beneath. You have only to look at one to understand why Sheraton, the famous cabinet-maker, called his designs pouch […]

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Caddy spoons

caddy spoon

If you have a nice tea caddy, you may also want a caddy spoon. In the early years of tea drinking in Europe and America, either the lid of the caddy was used for measuring out tea leaves, or a long-handled strainer spoon, but in the 1760s people started to use special silver spoons instead, […]

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History of wing chairs

wing chair queen anne

Wing chairs are sometimes called fireside chairs, and for good reason. Their design is perfect for enjoying the warmth of a fire while your back and sides are protected from chilly draughts. These chairs were not the earliest furniture to use this approach to keeping warm. Wings were also used on some of the high-backed […]

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Bidets past and present

antique bidet 1800

Do you have a bidet in your bathroom? It’s always been a difference between English-speaking countries and France. Bidets have never quite caught on in the USA or the UK, except for an occasional “trend” that never really went very far. Some upper class ladies in 19th century England had French-made bidets, and in the […]

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Toby jugs – comic or commonplace, English or not?

Toby jug

Toby jugs portray a character whose story is rather unclear. He reminds some people of Shakespeare’s jovial, disreputable Toby Belch, and he very likely has something to do with an old song about Toby Fillpot. Dear Tom, this brown jug that now foams with mild ale, (In which I will drink to sweet Nan of […]

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Historic kitchens – visiting with eyes wide open

kitchen 1500s England

Whenever I travel I look out for historic houses, especially if they have kitchens worth visiting, and enjoy picking out bits and pieces for a closer look. And yet the room often isn’t the way it would have looked at any time in its life. The picture above is of a 16th century English manor […]

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Muff warmers & other antique hand warmers

stoneware hand warmer for muff

A hundred years ago a woman going out in the cold of winter could tuck a miniature hot water bottle inside her fur muff to keep her hands warm: like Maw’s Dainty Muff Warmer in the photo. This kind of hand warmer was on sale in late Victorian and Edwardian England. The Thermos Hot-water Muff […]

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Wedgwood jasperware: solid jasper or jasper dip?

bas-relief on wedgwood jasper teapot

Jasper dip and solid jasper are two different kinds of Wedgwood jasperware. Both have white classical designs on a coloured background, and look similar to non-experts. If in doubt you are always safe calling this style of pottery jasperware. Solid jasper came first. After secret experiments in the early 1770s, blending clays with other ingredients, […]

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Boot scrapers

Thumbnail image for Boot scrapers

Who uses boot scrapers in the 21st century? Portable ones are on sale for gardeners, and for anyone else who wants to tackle muddy boots before approaching clean houses, cars, or paths. But the days of iron scrapers being placed at every door are over. The finest ornamental 19th century scrapers are still there beside […]

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