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Edition Five

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Featured Antique

My Featured Antique is a very stylish and decorative teaset dating from 1833-47, the same period as the teaset featured in this newsletter at the Geffrye Museum London. It has a rococo shaped body with rococo gilt decoration including shell feet, very typical of the taste of the William IV / early Victorian period.

The teaset is beautifully marked with the manufacturer's mark of 'Copeland and Garrett'

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Geffrye Museum, London

This month our travels take us to the Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA, a 15 minute walk from Liverpool Street railway terminus. This fantastic museum is situated in a row of former eighteenth century almshouses of the Ironmongers' Company, now converted to room settings that take the visitor through domestic interiors from the 17th century, right the way through to the 20th Century. An added bonus is that it is free admission!

The almshouses were erected in 1715 under the bequest of Sir Robert Geffrye, who was the Lord Mayor of London in 1686. A statue of Sir Robert Geffrye stands proudly in the centre of the building in a niche below the pediment.

As a museum, it has been extended by the addition of a stylish modern construction housing a series of work / lecture rooms, exhibition room, 20th Century room settings, as well as a shop and restaurant. (The restaurant is worth a visit and is the feature of my tea shop of the month).

Within the almshouses, you walk through a very well presented series of rooms, each set out to show the typical furnishing relating to that period. There are information boards, with lots of details informing the visitor of what life was like then, the current styles in architecture, furnishings, materials, decorations, etc.

In this newsletter I am concentrating on the Victorian period, but in some future newsletters, I will look at the Late Georgian and the Regency periods as depicted in this museum.

The Victorian period saw immense changes in society with the fast growth of the middle classes and the wide availability of new and affordable materials, brought about by the industrial revolution.

The museum shows a room setting of what might have been a typical morning room of a Victorian middle class villa, of the 1850's. Such rooms were called morning rooms, as they were used by the lady of the house to receive her guests during the morning. Here she would also interview servants and attend to the accounts of running her household.

As can be seen, it was a light and delicately furnished room. It was the  later Victorian fashion, from the 1870's  that brought about the heavy and dark interiors, with dark tone wallpapers and fabrics, heavy looking ornate furniture and the wealth of clutter and ornaments which to many of us typifies the Victorian era.

The use of bright and bold colours had become possible following the development of chemical rather than natural dyes. Many of the the objects in the room show the influence of the 'French' taste in English furniture such as the bright and exuberant curtains and some of the carvings on the furniture.

In the window stands a circular Mahogany table on a central pillar, with a tripod base, c1850. It is covered with a typical ornate Victorian table cloth and set with a wonderful William IV China teaset.

This porcelain teaset is 'dragon' shaped, (so called, as the teapot spout is shaped like a dragon!) and is attributed to Hilditch & Son. It was manufactured in Staffordshire c1830-35. The set includes a teapot, sugar basin with cover, milk jug and a slops bowl. Note how elaborate the decoration of tea china had become and how flamboyant in shape. (My featured Featured Antique is such a teaset, from this same period.)

On the sideboard in this room, can be seen a wooden tea caddy, birds-eye maple and rosewood veneer c1860. Again, the use of exuberant decoration can be seen here using the rosewood to create a light floral decorative effect.

I strongly recommend a visit to this museum, it provides an excellent and informative view into the development in fashion and styles through many periods in our history. For the tea enthusiast, there is no shortage in tea related equipage. Future newsletters will reveal more from this museum's treasures. 

Admission to the museum is free and it is open on most days of the year, except Mondays (unless a Bank Holiday), Good Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. For full details you can contact the museum on 020 7739 9893, or visit their Web address : www.geffrye-museum.org.uk

Tea shop of the Month

My tea shop of the month is in fact located within the Geffrye Museum. This is somewhere that can act as a pleasant place to take refreshment during a visit to the museum, or as the museum is free, just as a tea shop if you happen to be in the area!

During my resent visit to the museum, where I spent several enjoyable hours I indeed took afternoon tea here. I opted for what they called full afternoon tea. For this you are served a round of sandwiches, for which you can choose the filling from a short list of options, as well as white or brown bread. Also included, is a slice of their cake, the choice offered was Carrot or Chocolate cake. I chose Tuna Sandwiches and Carrot cake, with a pot of Earl Grey Tea. I was pleased with the result, the sandwiches were very fresh and had dill mixed with the Tuna, which lightened the taste very nicely. The carrot cake was moist, spicy and topped with a frosted icing and coconut.

The restaurant is situated in part of the modern extension and overlooks the gardens at the back of the museum. Like the museum, the gardens are set out in 'rooms' showing typical gardens related to different periods, so there is even something here for the garden lover!

The restaurant also offers a selection of lunches. I would also recommend the Neal's Yard Cheese Platter, for those with a love of traditional English cheeses.

Factual 'Tea Clipping'

The Victorian teas included items such as delicately cut sandwiches, cakes and of course the 'Victoria Sandwich' (a sponge cake in two layers, sandwiched together with jam and the top lightly dusted with sugar).

Also a favourite of the fashionable were 'Muffins'. These were collected in the mornings from the bakers' shops, they were wrapped in cloths to keep them warm, placed in large wicker trays that were carried on the heads of 'Muffin men'. Muffin men would hawk their wares in the mainly fashionable and affluent areas of London where people would be woken to the sound of the Muffins man's bell. What luxury, if only they still existed!

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