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A Leisurely Shopping Expedition in Marshall and Snelgrove’s Crockery Department

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 29th of November 2020 09:45:17 PM

Wickham Place is the London home of Lord and Lady Southgate, their children and staff. Located in fashionable Belgravia it is a fine Georgian terrace house. Today however, we are not in Wickham Place at all, but are out with Her Ladyship as she and her friend Mrs. Chisholm, another well-heeled resident of Belgravia, enjoy the pleasurable Edwardian pursuit of shopping for the afternoon. They are in the crockery department of Oxford Street’s Marshall and Snelgrove, a grand four-storey Second Empire Revival department store. “What about a nice tea service, Vera?” Mrs. Chisholm suggests as they look at the dizzying array of patterns on display. “That’s what I was thinking, Margaret,” Lady Southgate replies as she runs a gloved finger absentmindedly across the lid of a teapot. “It might also imply that the bride reciprocates by inviting you to afternoon tea.” Mrs. Chisholm added with a firm, knowing nod. “I would expect Kitty to invite me to tea, regardless of whether I give her a tea set or not, Margaret.” Lady Southgate gives her friend a thoughtful look. “I might only be a ‘dollar princess’, and not have the door opened to me by all the great and good of the land, but the future Lady Bethune is my friend.” “Oh of course she is, Vera,” Mrs. Chisholm stuttered. “I didn’t mean… I… I didn’t intend…” “I know you didn’t, dear Margaret. You are my friend too, and I know you wouldn’t want to upset me.” “Oh, I wouldn’t, Vera!” “It’s just not easy, even after seven years, to fit into society here. It never ceases to smart when doors are closed in your face, just because you have the wrong accent, you don’t have the right pedigree courtesy of a four hundred year family lineage and you aren’t afraid to talk about or spend money because you have it.” She suddenly looks wistful as she stares across the china department but sees none of it as her mind drifts. Then she suddenly returns to the present. “And actresses entering society like Kitty, will be grateful for friends like me, who won’t close their doors or turn their backs on her.” “Of course she will, Vera.” Mrs. Chisholm assures her friend with a friendly squeeze to her upper arm. She feels guilty for upsetting her friend and goes on to say. “You are a wonderful friend to Kitty, to me and to ever so many others. You are kind and generous, and if other people can’t see that, well that’s their loss.” “Thank you, Margaret.” “Oh look!” Mrs. Chisholm quickly changes the subject. “What about a lovely Limoges tea set?” Lady Southgate looks at the beautiful set sitting on the Queen Anne style table before them. “Oh no, Margaret! I won’t give her something that I also have. No. That suggests I have no imagination. No.” She looks about and spies a beautiful white tea set and drinks set decorated fashionably with gold Art Nouveau leaves. She wanders over and picks up a goblet. “Ahh, now this might be just the thing!” she sighs. “Shall I have this set boxed and wrapped for you, madam?” an obsequious shop assistant in a frock coat asks as he silently appears at Lady Southgate’s elbow. “See Margaret, not everyone turns their back on me, or my money.” she laughs. “Yes, please have this purchase added to my account, boxed, gift wrapped with the biggest bow you can muster and sent to Wickham Place.” “Your next pleasure, madam?” the shop assistant asks. “Hhhmmm… my next pleasure? Margaret,” a cheeky glint brightens her blue eyes. “Shall we shock the society matrons who patronise this store and take tea in the luncheon rooms?” “Oh, you are wicked Vera!” Mrs. Chisholm chuckles. “I do adore the way you think sometimes.” The pair of well dressed ladies move away with their arms linked in friendship and their heads as close together as their picture hats will allow in conspiratorial conversation, leaving the grey uniformed shop assistant to write up Lady Southgate’s account. This year the FFF+ Group have decided to have a weekly challenge called “Snap Happy”. A different theme chosen by a member of the group each week, and the image is to be posted on the Monday of the week. This week the theme, which incidentally will be the final weekly “Snap Happy” theme before reverting to monthly on the 5th of December, is “anything at all… as long as it is small” which was chosen by me. For anyone who follows my photostream, you will know that I collect and photograph 1:12 size miniatures, so I thought that this slightly different scene, taking us away from domestic interiors to a commercial one was suitable for the challenge when you look at how many tiny objects there are in this tableaux, which took over an hour to construct. The space used is only thirty centimetres in length, twenty centimetres in height and fifteen centimetres in depth, and there are two hundred and forty-two individual items of china in the tableaux. You might think that it looks overly cluttered with objects, but if you look at photographs from the Edwardian period, after the turn of the Twentieth Century, yet before the Great War, which is when the Wickham Place stories are set, you will find an abundance of clutter in Edwardian shops. It was a conscious decision by shopkeepers and owners to market as much and as many goods as they could to the wealthy upper and the middle-classes. As a result, every conceivable space was filled with merchandise, which might have made those more clumsy shoppers feel like the proverbial bull in a china shop! Aristocrats, like Lord Southgate and his American wife continued to live alongside the clutter of accumulated antiques from centuries of family wealth. However the ‘nouveau riche’ and the up-and-coming middle classes who wished to acquire their gentility found department stores like Swan and Edgar, Selfridges, Pontings, Harrods, Peter Robinson, Gamages and Marshall and Snelgrove only too happy to oblige, with floors crammed as full as possible with millions of manufactured items to select from. Why choose between two patterns when you can pick between twenty? Fun things to look for in this tableaux include: There are two hundred and forty-two individual pieces of china in this tableaux from some twenty different dinner sets that I own, all from different sources all around the world, some vintage and antique and others new. Sitting atop the Queen Anne table, which is one of the first pieces of miniature furniture I was ever given at age seven, stands a 1950s Limoges tea set. The tea set consists of teapot, sucrier (lidded sugar bowl), milk jug, hot water jug and six cups and saucers. Each piece is stamped with a small green Limoges mark to the bottom. It is one of three sets I own. The blue and white tea set sitting on the bottom right corner of the top of the glass display cabinet is the smallest tea set I own. Not strictly a 1:12 size miniature, it is Victorian and was made as a doll’s tea service in the 1830s. The blue vase featuring Grecian or Roman characters standing on a pedestal in the foreground is also an antique. Imitating Wedgwood, I bought it and the green jardinière standing to the right of the glass cabinet from an antique auction. Although neither is dated or has makers marks on them, they are Victorian children’s toys and are made of beautiful porcelain. The jardinière’s porcelain is so fine that you can see through it when held to the light. The shelves and cabinets are filled with every kind of porcelain dinnerware an Edwardian lady would need for her finest dinner parties. There are plates, teapots, cups, saucers, sucriers (sugar bowls), gravy boats, soup tureens, coffee pots, jugs, bowls, bakers, demitasse cups, platters, salt and pepper shakers and even vases for her table and sideboard. Sets include imitations of Royal Douton, Chelsea, Royal Albert and Deftware patterns. The apricot jug with red flowers on the bottom shelf of the far left hand cabinet is from a Japanese set made around 1880, whilst the green gilt lidded two handled dish in front of it on the low table is made around 1900 and is in imitation Sèvres style. The miniature Persian rug and runner, also commonplace in Edwardian department stores and up-market shops, are made by hand by Mackay and Gerrish in Sydney.



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  • Published 12.05.21
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