Month: April 2014

More Vintage Jewels!

`Precious' pink jewels

I popped into Antiques on High in Oxford today to get my Grandma’s necklace re-strung as it had very sadly collapsed on the bedroom floor. Caroline Henney from Bag the Jewels Vintage Jewellery and Accessories was very helpful and told me to pop them in to Antiques on High and she would get them re-strung for me.  I was so pleased they could be re-strung as I wear them a lot and even wear them to work! I love them as they really do sparkle and lift an otherwise drab work outfit.

Vintage Crystal

Gran’s beads are facet cut Austrian crystals and sparkle with a whole rainbow of colours. Caroline told me that `these beads were so popular in the 1950s and 1960s and it is easy to see why! You come across them in single rows or doubles and triples, but I have sold a five row necklace before. Clip on earrings with a cluster of beads and matching brooches were often worn with them.’  I have the matching clip on earrings. However I think these are slightly over the top for work wear! 

Austrian CrystalOf course whilst I was pottering around in Antiques on High I couldn’t resist a few new vintage jewels to add to my collection!

I’ve never really done vintage brooches and have stuck to my trusty trade-mark necklace with every outfit. However inspired by Caroline’s comment that Austrian Crystal necklaces were often worn with a matching brooch I decided to branch out into brooches. Oh dear please keep quiet – Mr Smiles doesn’t need to know my vintage jewellery tastes are expanding! Firstly I fell in love with this beautiful crystal number from the 1960s. I think this sparkly beauty will look fab on my navy jacket! It will also co-ordinate a treat with Gran’s necklace when she is re-strung.

Austrian Crystal Bead Brooch - 1960s


Having considered brooches to be my latest accessory I found this lovely early 19th century Gilt pink jewel set brooch.

Gilt Pink Jewel Set Brooch - Early 19th Century

Of course I needed a matching pink pendant! This Edwardian pink crystal necklace fitted the bill nicely with her dainty gold chain and beautiful detail…..

Edwardian Pink Crystal Necklace`Precious' pink jewels

In my opinion a girl can never have too many necklaces and I do seem to be in love with Austrian crystal. May be we should take a trip to Austria?! Gran loved Austria and went there on several occasions. So here we have it another 1950s crystal and mother-of-pearl necklace in a rather striking petrol blue colour.

Austrian Crystal & Mother-of-Pearl Necklace - 1950sI wear a lot of turquoise and this will look lovely with a simple turquoise cardy! In fact I have just the cardy in mind. I really love clothes by the company White Stuff. A lot of their clothes are colourful with a real attention to detail. In the Summer my trademark style has become a pretty White Stuff Skirt with lots of detail together with a simple white top and a pretty cardy. There is always a necklace to go with it in my collection! White Stuff’s latest Flowerpress collection suits my style beautifully. `Texture is key and luxurious lace, delicate broderie and embroidery make ‘Flower Press’ feel soft, light and romantic. Strong geometric floral designs keep it feeling fresh and modern.’  Everything I want – colour, floral and prettiness! 

My petrol blue crystal necklace will look fabulous with my White Stuff skirt and blue cardy.

Summer Specs Skirt White Stuff

Sweet Heart Cardi - Whitestuff









As a Dispensing Optician I just have to wear this Summer Specs skirt this year! Although I am keeping it for outside of work.

On my way to get the cash for my selections at Antiques on High I fell in love with another skirt in the window of White Stuff.  I wear a lot of chartreuse green and yellow and whenever I do people always say what a fabulous colour it is on me. Chartreuse doesn’t suit everyone. Chartreuse is a color halfway between yellow and green that was named because of its resemblance to the green color of one of the French liqueurs called green Chartreuse, introduced in 1764. Similarly, chartreuse yellow is a yellow color mixed with a small amount of green that was named because of its resemblance to the color of one of the French liqueurs called yellow Chartreuse, introduced in 1838.

Green Chartreuse


Yellow ChartreuseYellow can be a hard colour to wear as it can make many people look slightly green. However with my warm complexion and blonde hair chartreuse seems to bring out the golden highlights in my hair and makes me feel full of cheerful optimism. Chartreuse is a true Spring colour and Spring colours suit me.  I found when I picked out the colours from my Spring primroses and daffodils there was a lot of Spring yellows and greens to be seen. 

Primrose HuesThe skirt I fell in love with was the Multi-Madness skirt with it’s bold geometric print including chartreuse, pink, red and turquoise. It was a bit of a multi-madness buying afternoon after all! I teamed the skirt with a co-ordinating zesty cardigan and another impulse vintage necklace from Antiques on High! My last acquisition was a delightful 1930s Art Deco silver Marcasite necklace with chartreuse yellow jewels. 

Hearty Cardy - White StuffMulti-Madness Skirt - White Stuff


Art Deco Silver & Marcasite Necklace - 1930sArt Deco Silver & Marcasite Necklace - 1930sUnfortunately when I got home it was a bit chilly to wear my lovely new Summer skirts. When the weather brightens up I will get Mr Smiles to photograph me modelling my new outfits and new vintage jewels! I can’t wait for Summer sunshine!



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April Posy

April Posy

April’s Posy is full of vibrant tulips picked straight from my garden. I love the flower beds in April as they are crammed full of cheerful colour. One particular border I have nick-named my tutti-frutti border, as it is jammed pack full of vibrant colours. It is very much an ecclectic mix of pinks, oranges, reds and lilacs. However a few areas have given me lovely colour combinations. March’s colour palette was much softer with it’s primrose yellow. April’s colour palette is far from soft and muted! The above posy was taken outside with a simple glass posy vase placed on a mirror to create a lovely light image. I have then added a soft textured layer to create a dreamy effect.

April Tulips

My second image was placed with my Posy Vase placed in the garden amongst the vibrant flowers. I like the border as a backdrop.

Kaleidescope Colours

Apart from tulips we have had some delightful creamy yellow and white narcissi in the April garden. I felt that these blooms were better displayed in a different posy. Tulips have such a definite bold colour and shape that the more delicate narcissi seemed to get lost amongst them in a posy.

April PosyApril PosyI created two narcissi posies  – one in a beautiful hand thrown aqua porcelain jug by Rebecca Callis. The other in an antique glass ink bottle. I have a little collection of old ink bottles and they are great on their own or arranged as a group to show off just a few select flowers from the garden. I used them recently on my stand at the Eynsham Hall Bridal Fair.

Bridal Fair PosiesEynsham Hall Bridal FairCreamy NarsissiRosemary and CreamSpring GreenPlum PerfectionDicentraPink HeartsClematis montana Fragrant SpringSimply PinkAngelic PinkLilac FrillsSimply PinkPinky LilacLilac LovelinessLilac TulipsApricot BeautyOrange on BlueOrange FlameArtist TulipArtist TulipOrange and YellowCuddled up!Tangerine DreamOrange against BlueRed and Gold TulipReds and PinksKaleidescope ColoursDSC_9756Red and Yellow and Pink and Blue!anemone de caen


So there we have it – April’s Tutti-Frutti Border! April is turning out to be a month with a true kaleidescope of colour. And now for April’s mosaic showing my favourite blooms of the month. I hope you enjoyed this months blooms as much as I have!

April's Mosaic

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Vintage Weddings – Edwardian Era (1901-1914)

Edwardian Wedding IllustrationMr Smiles and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this month. We have a tradition of staying the night back at the Baytree Hotel where we got married. We take our wedding photo album with us and fondly look back on a wonderful day. I am a sentimental soul and love social history so I have been researching the wedding days of my direct ancestors. I am starting with my great Grandparents’ wedding in the late Edwardian Period. Watch out for other Blog posts from other Eras!

Ethel Spice and Henry Berry – 7 June 1913  

Henry Berry

Ethel Berry 1914Ethel and Henry were my Great Grandparents. Ethel Spice was born in the rural village of Bapchild, Kent in 1884.  Her father George Spice was a gardener at Hempstead House and together with her mother Maria they lived in one of the cottages near Hempstead House.  The family moved to Lower Clapton, Hackney in the 1890s. I presume they moved to Hackney as George found new work with the florist and garden contractor Owen C. Greenwood of 27 Upper Clapton Road, Hackney, London. It is likely that George started work at the Pond Lane nursery on Millfields Road.

Hempstead Cottages 2
Hempstead Cottages
Hempstead House
Hempstead House

Henry Berry was born in the Lea Bridge area of Hackney in 1884. His father Walter Harris Berry had been a ropemaker in Brixham, Devon. Walter had married Henry’s mother Louisa Rundle in Devonport, Devon.  In the late 1860’s Walter and Louisa moved to Hackney. Again it is likely that Walter came to London to take up a job as an engine driver for the East London Water Board. Henry was brought up by his father and older sisters as his mother died of breast cancer when he was 12 years old.

Ethel and Henry were married on the 7 June 1913 at St James the Great Church, Lower Clapton. The church is still there in the heart of Clapton today, although now surrounded by tower blocks. Henry BERRY and Ethel SPICE Marriage Certificate 1913

I don’t have photos of their wedding so I have had to do a bit of detective work about their wedding day.  St James the Great, Lower Clapton

Both Ethel and Henry were living in Lower Clapton at the time of their marriage. Henry was living in Millfields Road and Ethel had been living in Rushmore Road and then High Road. Clapton has been completely transformed over the last century. The 1913 Ordnance Survey Map shows that Millfields Road had been built on the extensive open fields of the Millfields Recreation Ground. The last vestiges of the area’s agricultural past were vanishing and making way for Edwardian suburbs. However Booth’s Poverty map of 1898 shows that the areas that Henry and Ethel were living in had a comfortable standard of living and some were classed as middle class and well to do.

Lower Clapton 2000Charles Booth Poverty Map 1898 Colour CodeCharles Booth Poverty Map 1898









Edwardian Wedding Transport

What I do know is Ethel arrived for her wedding ceremony in a hired `Brougham and Pair‘ as I have the original receipt. In today’s terms the transport cost would have been about £135. This was actually similar to my Wedding Car cost! Brougham & Pair Receipt 1913A brougham is a closed four-wheeled carriage with an open driver’s seat in front. Ethel’s carriage was pulled by a pair of horses. This is an example of the kind of wedding transport Ethel’s father George paid for.  

Brougham & PairBrougham CarriageLower Clapton Road 1910This old postcard shows the Lower Clapton Road in 1910. It’s interesting that there are quite a few horse-drawn carriages on the road. The view includes St James the Great Church on the left and Clapton Pond is on the right.

Lower Clapton Pond
Lower Clapton Pond

I don’t have details of the guests at the wedding, but I imagine it was a fairly large family affair as Henry had 9 siblings and Ethel had a brother and 3 sisters. In later years they were known for large family outings to the coast and pic-nics in Epping Forest. Ethel’s friend Beatrice Hungate was bridesmaid and a witness at the wedding. Beatrice lived fairly close by in Stoke Newington and in the 1911 cenus is listed as working in shirt manufacturing. Ethel is listed as a shirt finisher in 1901 and a shirt examiner in 1911. I am surmising that Ethel met Beatrice at work in the shirt manufacturing business and became close friends. Christopher Howland is listed as a Shirt Manufacturer in 1913 on the Lower Clapton Road next to the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.

Edwardian Engagement Ring

I am the proud owner of my Great Grandma Ethel Spice’s engagement ring which I cherish and wear regularly. My grandma gave me her ring for my 18th birthday. Here is a portion of a photo taken with Ethel wearing her ring in 1915.

Ethel Spice Engagement Ring

Ethel Spice Engagement Ring 1911-1912Ethel Spice Engagement Ring 1911-1912Henry Williamson Ltd - Gold HallmarkThe Chester hallmarks show the 18 carat gold engagement ring was manufactured by Henry Williamson Ltd between 1911-1912.

Ethel’s beautiful ring is a 5 stone diamond claw set half hoop ring. I am not an expert on antique jewellery. However from what I have read the half hoop ring in which half the circumference of the piece is set with stone is typical of the Victorian period. Running from 1901 to about 1920, the Edwardian era is perhaps best known for extensive use of filigree techniques.  Scrollwork in the mountings became popular. Ethel’s engagement ring seems therefore to be a typical design of the Early Edwardian period. Victorian in style with fancy Edwardian scrollwork. I do enjoy wearing Ethel’s ring as it connects me with my family history! 

Chester Date Letters
Chester Date Letters

 Wedding Fashion 

I have no photographs of Ethel’s wedding dress. In the 19th century not all wedding gowns were white. Because many brides could not afford to invest in an impractical dress that could only be worn once, a dress in a pleasing colour was chosen which would then become a new `best dress’. Brides adapted their bridal wear by adding floral springs to their hair, especially orange blossoms. The White wedding dress and orange blossoms were popularized when Queen Victoria  married Prince Albert in 1840.  Wedding gowns reflected the latest fashions of the era. Wedding Photos give a clue to the date by the silhouette, sleeve style, neck line etc. However many brides of the 19th and 20th centuries chose to wear their mother’s wedding gown so this can get confusing when dating old photographs! Vintage Wedding gowns tend to be four or five years behind the latest fashion.

Queen Victoria's White Wedding Dress
Queen Victoria’s White Wedding Dress

Throughout the Edwardian Period there were a lot of changes in women’s wear. Early 1900s styles were dramatically different from their 1919 counterparts.  A Bride of the 1900s era may have been a vision in lace in an Edwardian style. She would have a corseted bodice and romantic ruffles, a tiny waist encircled with a satin ribbon above a lavish skirt, perhaps carrying a parasol as an accent. This era also offers brides a Gibson Girl look for hairstyles, soft and upswept. 

Gibson Girl
Gibson Girl Hairstyle




Ethel 1902

The Gibson Girl began appearing in the 1890s and was the feminine ideal of beauty portrayed by the satirical pen-and-ink illustrations of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson during a 20-year period that spanned the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States. The artist saw his creation as representing the composite of “thousands of American girls.” 

A mid-decade bride would wear “cutting edge” fashions of the day from Paris, a neo-Empire style. Late decade styles simplified dresses and brought about a slimmer silhouette, with less fabric in the skirts, foreshadowing the changes yet to be seen in the 1920s. Do check out my board on Pinterest `The History of Wedding Fashion’ where I have gathered lots of images from different decades including the Edwardian Era.  

Wedding Dress 1900

Edwardian Wedding

Wedding Flowers

Flowers and wreaths were worn at weddings as far back as the ancient Greeks. They believed that the floral scents would ward off evil spirits. The practice of wearing flowers continued throughout history with the belief of safety from spirits as well as repelling infectious diseases. Usually these bouquets were made from very pungent herbs, spices and even garlic!  Another reason that brides carried bouquets was born out of the ‘necessity’ of covering odor, trying to smell pretty on their special day. In the 1600′s and for a very long time afterwards, people bathed extremely infrequently. According to the Huffington Post, during the 15th century, people took their yearly baths in May and would generally get married in June. Just to be safe, brides carried bouquets to mask the smell of body odor.  In ancient times, a bride was considered especially lucky on her wedding day.  So guests tore off parts of her dress to obtain a good luck talisman for themselves!  Not all brides cared for this activity, as it wasn’t very pleasant to have your clothing ripped bit by bit, compliments of the guests.  So it evolved, that the bride outsmarted her guests by giving an offering of herself; enabling a guest to obtain a lucky talisman and allowing herself to keep her clothing intact: she starting throwing her garter and bouquet in lieu of pieces of her dress.

I am sure that Ethel would have carried a Bridal Bouquet. Bouquets of the Edwardian Era were large and trailing. They often had yard long trailing greenery of maidenhair fernMaidenhair FernEdwardian bouquets were traditionally wired posies with a small collection of flowers. The maidenhair fern usually acted as the filler foliage. To echo this in your bouquet use traditional English Garden favourites, Roses, Spray Roses, Sweet Williams, Carnations and Gypsophila… Ethel’s dad George Spice was a gardener and worked in the market gardening and floristry trade. My Grandma remembered the Greenwood’s florist shop in Upper Clapton Road where she used to visit her Grandad George at work. It was a large shop with an enormous fountain in the middle which she thought was amazing.

Owen C. Greenwood


I can imagine that Greenwoods did Ethel proud supplying the flowers for her wedding in 1913. This picture from Lovedaylemon on Flickr gives an idea as to what the flowers would have looked like in Edwardian England. Apart from the bride’s bouquet Edwardian ladies often wore elaborate corsages. A corsage originally referred to the bodice of a woman’s dress. Since a bouquet of flowers was often worn in the center of the bodice, the flowers took on the name “corsage.” Our modern sense of the corsage comes from the French “bouquet de corsage,” meaning “a bouquet of the bodice.” Corsages are made from a small bunch of flowers or a single bloom. The corsage was originally worn at the waist or the bodice of a dress. Later, it became common to pin flowers to the shoulder or on a handbag. Although the placement of the flowers might have changed, the name stuck and is still used to refer to any small bouquet of flowers worn on the body. In weddings a corsage identifies members of the wedding party. The mothers’ and grandmothers’ corsages are usually different and more elaborate amongst the guests at the wedding party. 

In this Edwardian image the ladies have elaborate corsages pinned to the front of their dresses.

Edwardian Wedding Group

George Spice always took pride in his appearance and even when retired wore a flower in his buttonhole. I am sure he looked very dapper at his daughter’s wedding. 












Wedding Gifts 

Edwardian Society expected all guests to provide a wedding present. If the engagement was not going to be long, guests sent presents as soon as the engagement was announced. The bride’s family then exhibited the gifts the day before the wedding at an afternoon tea. They displayed the gifts on linen or velvet-covered tables, choosing dark cloth for silver plate. People of “aristocratic tastes” surrounded the presents with flowers, especially roses. Every present bore the giver’s card and name so present giving could become quite competitive. These days wrapped presents tend to be displayed on a table at the wedding.

I love the conversation between Violet, The Dowager Countess and Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey where Lady Edith is arranging the Wedding Presents for her elder sister Mary:-

The Dowager Countess : ` Your turn will come.’

Lady Edith:  `Am I to be the maiden aunt? Isn’t this what they do? Arrange presents for their prettier relations?’

The Dowager Countess: `Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s terribly middle class.’

I have to make a guess at the presents Ethel and Henry would have received. Not as grand and expensive as Lady Mary! However Ethel’s brother-in- law George Read worked for a towel manufacturer in 1911. It is highly likely therefore that they received towels from Ethel’s sister Kate and her husband George. My grandma received towels from George as a wedding gift in 1936. At this time George was working for Christy, the towel manufacturing business. Christy Ltd is a long-established manufacturer of household linens and is known as the inventor of the first industrially produced looped cotton towel. 

Christie's Towels 1920s

 What I do know is that Ethel had a very lovely tea set which was still in use when I was growing up. All that remains now is a beautiful jug which I treasure.

Radfordian Jug

Ethel’s tea-set was made by Samuel Radford Ltd.The jug can be dated to around 1913 from the Maker’s Mark printed on the bottom.  Samuel Radford China Makers Mark 1913I therefore presume the tea-set was a wedding gift. The jug is made of a beautiful white porcelain with pretty pink roses and pale sage green swag decoration. The handle was edged in gold but has been care worn over the last 100 years. I’m sure if Ethel’s jug could tell her history it would be a fascinating story. What I find interesting is that the design is called `Milton’. Bapchild, where Ethel grew up, was in the district of Milton, Kent. I am guessing that a family member such as her Aunt Eliza, gave this gift to Ethel with fond memories of Ethel’s childhood in Bapchild.

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on Weddings from the Edwardian Era based round my Great Grandparents Wedding. Look out for my Grandparents 1930s wedding next!


Flower Shows and Village Fetes

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Vase of TulipsI spent a wonderful afternoon this weekend at the Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show. The Abingdon Horticultural Society is a friendly club for gardeners, cooking enthusiasts and handicraft lovers. It holds two shows a year where flowers, fruit and vegetables, preserves, baking and handicrafts are all exhibited and judged.  It brought back so many memories. In the 1980’s Mum and I used to enter the Harnham Flower Show in Wiltshire. I even won the Children’s Cup twice!Harnham Flower Show 1980 - Children's Cup  I didn’t know these kind of clubs still existed and am so excited to have become a new member. I was too late to enter today, however  I will try to plan ahead for the next big show in September. It sounds just my cup of tea – baking, jam making and growing flowers, fruit and vegetables! I’m quite confident in my cookery skills and will happily enter the art and photography classes. I am very excited about the flowers I could show. I am hoping there will be classes for dahlias as I have now planted 12 different varieties and I have even more roses. I will definately want to enter the floral arrangement class as I was a proven winner even in the 1980s! Harnham Flower Show 1982

However vegetables still fill me with a slight apprehension. My aim this year was to get to grips with veg. Well I have made a start. Manure was dug into the raised vegetable beds. I have broad beans and peas in flower and the rhubarb is doing magnificently. The swiss chard and spinach are doing well. I particularly like the Bright Lights chard with their colourful stems. Main Crop potatoes are chitting and the 1st and 2nd Earlies have been planted. I also have garlic with green leaves.PeasBroadbean Aquadulce Claudia

However my green savoy cabbages have been nibbled by pigeons and the red cabbages are going to seed before they have reached eating proportions. I really am unsure whether just to eat the tiny leaves like purple sprouting broccoli or to let the cabbages set seed so I can collect the seed and try again next year. The cauliflower just went mouldy when we had all the floods.

Swiss Chard - Bright LightsSwiss Chard - White SilverSwiss Chard - Bright LightsRed Cabbage - Gone to Seed

Bolted Red Cabbage I do have squash seedlings growing from a squash I bought in the supermarket. I have also sown tomato, aubergine and cucumber seed in the greenhouse. However how on earth do you make sure you have something decent to exhibit at exactly the right time? I am presuming as I have grown 12 dahlia tubers a few will be in bloom in September. I really am not sure about veg though. It always seems a bit pot luck to me depending on the weather. I often find my vegetables go to seed, are eaten by caterpillars or pigeons or fail to germinate. So watch this space….!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli


Purple Sprouting

Rhubarb Harvest

I’ve also discovered I’m scared of slugs! It’s ok if I encounter them in the garden as I’m well protected with gardening gloves. However I’ve just harvested purple sprouting broccoli and chard for dinner and the two slugs I found made me squeal as I prepared them. Oh well next time Mr Smiles can be my Knight in Shining Armour and prepare the veg or I resort to wearing gardening gloves in the kitchen!

Green Savoy Cabbages

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 

The Spring Show celebrates the arrival of Spring with flowers and Easter Cakes in abundance. In Section A  – Flowers and Plants there are 25 classes to enter and 10 of them are Narcissus including trumpet daffodils, miniature narcissi and double narcissi. You might like to check out my previous Blog Post `Heralding Spring!‘ where I talked about varieties of narcissi.  There is a strict clause that for the trumpet daffodils the trumpet must be longer than the outer petals. I haven’t got a clue as to whether my daffs have big trumpets I just think they look pretty! I can see that this is serious stuff. How do you get your trumpet to grow bigger I ask myself?! I’m sure Monty Don from Gardeners World would say mulch and manure, but that might just give me big leaves!

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - narcissiAbingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - narcissiAbingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - narcissiThere were only 2 classes for tulips. One being a single tulip and the other being a vase of 3 tulips of one or more varieties. This surprised me at first. However thinking about it my tulips are only just starting to bloom this week.

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Vase of tulips (3 stems)Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - inspecting the competition!Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - 1 tulipAbingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - 1 tulip

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Vase of tulips 1st prize

My favourite was the deep pinky purple tulip in a matching stone grey pink vase. However the judges favoured the yellow and red tulips giving the first prize to them. I guess it all comes down to personal taste if the blooms are perfect. The striking yellow and red tulips are very reminiscent of a Dutch Masterpiece. You may like to check out my Tulip Mania Blog Post which includes the History of the Tulip Flower.

Ambrosio Bosschaert - Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619Other exhibits were wallflowers, auriculas and primulas. I was rather fond of this chartreuse coloured auricula which was very striking in colour.Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Auricula, Primula or Primrose

There were also categories for various pottted flowering plants and vases of Spring flowers not included elsewhere in the Schedule.

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - vase of Spring Flowers Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Bowl of planted flowers  The bowl of planted flowers with primula vulgaris, violets and cowslips looked very Spring like. I think I could give this Category a good go next year with my primroses and violets in the garden.

Section B was the Cooking Section with a wonderful display of preserves, decorated Easter Cakes, Hot Cross Buns and Marmalade Cakes made to a given recipe.

I was interested in this lovely Easter Cake decorated with sugar frosted primroses. I’ve discovered that both primrose flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. I’m not sure I fancy primrose wine if it tastes like bitter salad greens! However I have very fond memories of being read the story by Alison Uttley where Little Grey Rabbit makes primrose wine to cure Hare’s cold.

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Decorated Easter CakeAbingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Easter Cake

The Easter Cakes were judged purely for creative decoration and not on the taste of the cake. The Marmalade Cake was made to a specific given recipe. I don’t have photographs to show you as the cakes were covered in cling-film and the photos don’t do them justice. I had a lovely conversation with a lady who had won 2nd prize for her cake. She was absolutely chuffed to bits. We had quite a chat about cake baking and our chat really did bring back fond memories of baking cakes with my mum and entering competitions like this as a child.

There was a fine display of marmalades, lemon curd and chutney.

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Preserves

In the schedule there was a useful instruction for exhibiting preserves.  `Use either wax disks and cellophane tops, or new screw lids without wax disks. Labels on preservatives must include the day, month and year they were made.’ I entered The World’s Original Marmalade Awards this year and was marked down for using wax discs with a screw top lid. Now I know the official rules! Also I have re-used jam jar lids, but have sterilised them. I must remember to buy new lids for competitions in future!

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2014 - Seville Orange Marmalade

The World’s Original Marmalade Festival 2014

Marmalade Awards Pic

In the true spirit of aspiring to be a Domestic Goddess I entered my home-made marmalade in `The World’s Original Marmalade Competition’  this year. Marmalade Competition 2014

The Amateur Category for home-made marmalades has grown from 50 jars to over 2,000 jars posted from all over the World. There are 13 categories to choose from. I entered the `Merry Marmalade Class’ and the `Citrus Marmalade, with interesting ingredients.’ Each jar is tasted and marked by the Cumbrian W.I. together with a team of Artisan judges and where it attains sufficient marks is then awarded a Dalemain Gold, Silver or Bronze. Each entrant receives a mark card with the judges feedback, a certificate designed by the artist Mungo McCosh and a thank you letter.

Seville OrangesSeville OrangesIf you need a Marmalade Recipe do check out my previous Blog Post. This year I tried two different methods. For my Merry Marmalade I softened the whole fruit in a lidded pan of simmering water first, before cutting up the peel. For the other variety I cut the peel up first and then softened the peel in water. My conclusion was softening the fruit first made much more of a sticky mess, but enabled the pith to come away much more easily. Pot of Gold

It was so exciting when I received my certificates in the post. I won Bronze for my Merry Marmalade made with Drambuie. So chuffed! My Seville Orange Ginger Marmalade received a Certificate of Merit. Merry MarmaladeMerry Marmalade MarksCitrus Marmalade AwardCitrus MarksI think I played a bit too safe with my interesting ingredient of Ginger. Beer, honey, chocolate, yellow mustard seed and even seaweed all featured in the jars of marmalade entered from across the globe. The Top Award for best homemade marmalade was awarded to Sarah Byrne from Chiddingstone, Kent who used beer from her small family brewery in her ‘Seville Orange Marmalade with Beer’ concoction. Sarah added two pints of Larkins Half & Half (half porter, half traditional ale) to her grandmother’s traditional marmalade recipe. Her marmalade will now be stocked on the shelves of Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly.  Marmalade Awards

Harnham Flower Show 1980


Harnham Flower ShowHarnham Flower Show 1980

I regularly exhibited at the Harnham Flower Show Spring and Summer Shows during the 1980s, together with my mum. The Summer Show was a grand affair held on the fields near The Old Mill with big marquees to show the exhibits. The event was officially opened by the Mayor and the Wilton British Legion Band was there to entertain everyone. I remember these Shows as real community events with tombolas and games in addition to the actual judged exhibits. Home-Made Teas were organised by the Women’s Institute.

1980 was a good year for me as I won the Children’s Silver Cup and even got my picture in the paper! I won 1st Prize for my `Animal Made out of Vegetables’ which was the Loch Ness Monster with a cucumber body and a jaunty tartan hat. Harnham Flower Show 1980 - An animal made out of vegetables

I chose to use a crab shell for the Flower Arrangement in a Shell.  Some of the flowers I had grown myself in my little patch in the garden.

We always had a photo of our Prize Winning Entries when we got home.

 Harnham Flower Show 1980

Harnham Flower Show 1981

Harnham Flower Show 1981

I failed to keep the Children’s Cup in 1981, hence the frown on my face! However it looks like a good effort was made. Mum made a quiche, red wine, biscuits, cakes and marmalade. I remember cycling off to Britford Lock for the afternoon and her painting the picture of the Lock in watercolour.

I got 3rd Prize for my rock cakes, 2nd Prize for my Minature Garden, a 1st for 6 Fancy Cakes and a 1st for Mr Rubbish which I am holding up for the camera.

Harnham Summer Fete and Flower Show 1982 

Harnham Flower Show 1982

Ah back on form and won the Children’s Cup again! I got my picture in the paper with my Flower Arrangement in a Basket. The judge commented that I should have made the handle visible so the basket could be picked up. I remembered this when I constructed my Posy of the Month recently!         Harnham Flower Show 1982 - Basket of flowers

 Harnham Flower Show 1982

Easter TreatsThe judge noted that my four Rock Cakes were just the right size and shape and awarded me a 1st Prize. An improvement on the year before when I only got a 3rd Prize! Mum had a very good year winning 1st Prize for both her sweet white wine and her dry red wine. She also won 1st for a Machine-Made garment, which was a pair of green knickerbockers made for me. I HATED them! I really had my eye on a new pair of pedal pushers in Dorothy Perkins and these were not the same. I had to wear them to a birthday party and felt very self-conscious.  In the picture I am modelling a new Rah-rah skirt which I loved!

Harnham Flower Show 1982

Harnham Flower Show 1982 - Rock Cakes

The Dorset County Show 

The Dorset County Show is run on similar lines to the  Harnham and Abingdon Shows, but on a much grander scale with animals. I regularly enjoy a day out at the Dorset Show with my Uncle as a birthday treat. As this is a large County Show farmers also exhibit their Prize animals and there are sheep shearing competitions and rural crafts. Dorset County Show 2012 - cattleDorset County Show 2012

Dorset County Show 2012 - Cattle judging

As usual I enjoy looking at the wonderful flower blooms, particularly the big, blowsy dahlias. Dorset County Show 2012 - dahliaDorset County Show 2012 - 6 dahliaDorset County Show 2012 - dahliaDorset County Show 2012 - dahliaDorset County Show 2012 - dahliaDorset County Show 2012 - flowersDorset County Show Veg

What wonderful vegetables. Hope mine grow like that!

I love Flower Shows and Village Fetes. They have been going on for generations and connect us to our heritage. I found some interesting articles showing my ancestors competed in very similar events. William Jackson, my 3rd Great Grandfather, farmed 31 acres in Throrpe Salvin, Yorkshire. Farming was a way of life for him as he came from a long line of farmers. In 1881 William entered the Kiveton Park Flower Show Agricultural Produce Section. He won 1st prize for his potatoes, red wheat and barley.  I’ve got a lot to live up to with my potatoes then!Kiveton Park Flower Show 1881Kiveton Park Flower Show 1881William Jackson Kiveton Park Flower Show 1881I also found another interesting article. My 5th Great Grandfather Robert Hills was awarded a prize at the Northallerton Cattle Show in 1844  for `the Labourer in Husbandry who brought up the greatest number of children without seeking parochial relief.’ Well done Robert!

Robert Hills Northallerton Cattle Show 1844

I hope you have enjoyed my jottings about Flower Shows and Village Fetes. I loved the moment in Downton Abbey where Mr Molesley’s roses finally were awarded Best in Show on merit rather than the Dowager Countess’s blooms.

Downton Abbey Flower ShowDownton Abbey Flower Show

`The Village Flower Show’ and  `A Country Fete’ make fabulous wedding themes, especially if you are getting married in the country or using a Village Hall for a Reception. If you want some more inspiration do check out my Village Show Board on Pinterest. There is also a fantastic Blog Post by the talented Squib Photography entitled `A Vintage Wedding in Bampton’ which is set in the fictitious village near Downton Abbey.  What a great theme for a wedding with bunting, informal flower arrangements and afternoon tea with vintage china Lovely!

Squib Photography - a Vintage WeddingVintage Style Country Garden Bunting

BuntingPeaches and Cream