Antiques

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

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

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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Asbestos Sad Irons – cool ironing days

The Asbestos Sad Iron design really did use asbestos. It was under the handle, inside a “hood” or cover that fitted over a heated “core”. It “bottled up” the heat, said an ad, so it was all channeled through the hot solid steel surface that pressed the clothes smooth. No heat rose upward to bother […]

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Caddy spoons

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 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

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 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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Fluting machines, ruffles, and the Dudley fluter

Once in a while a reader sends me a splendid picture of a charming object. This fluting machine photograph came from George Short, and it made me curious about who, why, what, and where.  George told me it was patented in 1876, a time when fluted ruffles were a fashionable trimming for ladies’ clothing. He […]

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Historic kitchens – visiting with eyes wide open

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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Cornishware: what did people like about it?

Why did Cornishware appeal to people in its early days? Now we think of it as a British “design classic”, collected above all for its distinctive broad blue and white stripes, the core pattern of the original TG Green Cornish Kitchen Ware range. Some collectors also like less common variations: black stripes, or a storage […]

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