1970s inspired Wedding Flowers

1970s Wired Posy Small-8

Wired Posy Bouquet 

Inspired by researching the floral designs used for my mum’s early 70s wedding I decided to create my own versions. The original flowers were orange in colour.  I wanted to create my designs in a different colour scheme, but with authentic techniques.

1970s Wedding Group

Christine, the adult bridesmaid is carrying a Wired Posy Bouquet. This is a design which, although wired, was meant to look like a loose, mixed posy. The design was also known as an Edwardian or Colonial Posy and was a development from the tightly packed Victorian Posy to a more natural, informal style. Having said that the style is not quite the country garden just gathered look of the current trend.

Choice of flowers and foliage

A mixture of flowers and foliage is usually used for a Posy Bouquet. There were no rules as to the mix of materials. However exotic flowers such as orchids were not used and large flowers were avoided.



Spray roses

Spray carnations


Small narcissi



Hyacinth pips

Lily of the valley



Sweet peas


Ivy leaves, trails and berries


Pittosporum tenuifolium


Ferns such as asparagus and nephrolepis


Small Eucalyptus gunnii sprays

I selected lilac Ocean Mikado and white Snowflake spray roses, purple, lilac and white freesias and white carnations as these seemed to me to be typical 70s flowers. Rather than going all out bright and bold like my mum’ s orange flowers I wanted to use a softer analogous colour scheme. For my foliage I used ivy and asparagus setaceus fern.


The Loose Posy is constructed using floristry wire. I must admit before I had embarked on learning about the techniques used to make Vintage bouquets I was sceptical about `mucking about with flowers’ with wire. I believe flowers are beautiful enough without having to manipulate or change them. However the process of learning about and making vintage styles has won me over to the appropriate use of floristry wire!  Wires are used in floral design for control, support, anchorage, to lengthen stems and to bind materials together,

All the flowers and foliage were mount wired using suitable wire gauge. The aim was to use a wire which would support the material, but still allow for a certain amount of natural movement. In Mount Wiring the natural stem of the flower or foliage is replaced and the flower is  mounted with a wire `stem’ to manipulate the material in a design and to create light, delicate work. There is no single correct way of wiring.The lightest gauge or thickness of wire for the purpose should always be used and wired material should not make the finished design stiff and heavy. I am by no means an expert. However I am amazed at how many techniques I have learnt over the last few months and how many different ways of mount and support wiring I employed in my 1970’s posy.


1970s Wired Posy Small-13


If I had been using larger roses for a buttonhole I would have pinned the sepals using small wire hairpins. However I felt it wasn’t necessary with small spray roses for a posy. The rose stem was cut at a steep angle to give a smooth finish. I pushed a 0.91 mm wire up through the base of the stem. (Internal Support Mount). The mount wire needs to be strong enough to support, but not overly heavy. The gauge of the wire will vary depending on how thick the stem is. The wire is pushed up about half way through the head of the rose.   I then cross wired the rose. A thin rose-wire is used to pierce the side of the calyx. Traditionally rose cross wire is 0.46 mm, however this is very fine and can bend easily. I found that it helped if I kept my fingers close to the stem to push the wire through.  It is best to use the thinnest wire you can manage without bending excessively. I also find it makes life easier if you cut the wire to a nice sharp angle before inserting. Once the wire is through pull the wire from the other side, don’t push. You then repeat with another rose-wire to form a cross through the calyx. Rose cross-wire Each side of the rose-wire is then bent through 90 degrees so the four lengths are parallel to the stem. One of the wires is then twisted round the rose stem, the support wire and the remaining length of rose-wire in a double leg mount. 


rose double leg mount

1970s Wired Posy Small-12The rose was then taped with gutta tape making sure the holes where the rose-wire was inserted were covered. Stem tape is used to seal in moisture and cover any rough ends. I found that my wires were too short for the posy So I just lengthened them by adding in another wire with more gutta tape.


I got my trusty Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry out and lost the will to live with the instructions to wire freesia flowers! `Freesia flowers need to be supported as well as the stems. This is done by taking a piece of 0.20 mm silver reel wire and attaching it by twisting with the main stem at the base of the bottom flower, twisting the wire up the flower to where it begins to bulge and then taking it down to the main stem. Twist the wire up the stem to the next flower and wire as for the first flower. Do this to all the open flowers.Twist the wire up the main stem at the base of the buds until the top bud, then twist the wire around the base of it and cut the wire away. Take 0.32 mm silver wire and push it into the stem where the binding wire began and twist down the base of the stem’.  Trussed up like a turkey comes to mind! Support wiring freesiaThe purpose of wiring in this posy was to support the flowers and to be able to manipulate the stems into the desired shape in the finished bouquet. I have wired lily of the valley according to this method and didn’t like the result as I could see the wire and the flowers easily snapped off in the process anyway.  I decided that as long as the freesia stems were mounted on suitable wire the flowers could be supported by the other flowers and foliage in my bouquet. I opted for a Branch Hook with a Double Leg Mount which seemed to do the job and no flowers fell off or got damaged in the process.

Double leg mount -1


Hooking can be used to support and mount any flower where you can hide the hook amongst the petals. I pushed a 0.71 mm support wire up through the calyx and out the top of the flower. I then made a hook at the top and pulled the wire down until the hook reached the base of the calyx, The stem and wire were then taped.

Hooking Carnation

For the  Asparagus foliage I used a  Single Leg Mount.

Single Leg Mount-1

Ivy Leaves

The ivy leaves were individually wired and then taped together to form a wired unit. The size should be graded from small at the top to larger at the bottom to give the impression that the unit is natural and is growing.

Individual ivy leaves were support wired by a method called stitching. A length of fine wire is stitched through the front of the leaf about two thirds of the way up then brought down to form a loop. The ends are then twisted together around the stem of the leaf to create a false stem. The process of stitching ivy leaves showed me how useful and versatile wiring techniques are. This method of support wiring really does what it says. The wire support allows you to manipulate the leaf aesthetically.

1970s Wired Posy Small-15

Once stitched and mounted the leaves were brought together to form a natural looking Branching Unit.

Branching Unit

As soon as I had experienced using a wired unit made in this manner and compared with using unwired natural foliage I was hooked on the technique. Wiring individual flowers and foliage involves skill, time and patience. However the usefulness becomes apparent when you put the design together. It is so easy with a completely natural design to try to manipulate a flower or leaf into a more aesthetically pleasing position and snap it off. This can leave a gap in a finished design and look worse than if you’d left alone. Branching units are great as you can move the stem, leaves and flowers exactly where you want them.

Finally the preparation was done and I could construct the posy!

I laid out all my wired flowers and foliage in groups – 5 white freesia, 5 lilac freesia, 3 purple freesia, 13 lilac Ocean Mikado Spray Blooms, 7 white Snowflake spray roses, 7 white carnations, 8 branched units of ivy (about 24 leaves) and 8 asparagus fern.

The posy is put together with silver binding wire.Silver Rose Wire Reel I attached the binding wire to one of the Ocean Mikado spray roses. This flower was chosen to form the centre of the design. For an average size posy this is attached approximately 6-8 cm below the flower head. I then added five pieces of ivy leaf units and bound tightly into the same length as the first flower.

Ocean Mikado Spray Roses

Wiring Techniques-6

The ivy was bent down so the false stems formed a rough circle round the central lilac rose. This had established the overall dimensions of the posy. If you want a larger posy then the binding point can be a bit lower. You would then use more stems to start the posy.

1970s Wired Posy

I  added a further five pieces of asparagus fern and bound in slightly shorter than the ivy. I wanted the ivy to trail a bit to create the impression of a loose posy. The fern was also bent down to strengthen the circular outline.

1970s Wired Posy Small-4

Then came the fun bit of adding the flowers. I used a wonderfully useful book `Professional Floristry techniques‘ by Malcolm Ashwell & Sally Pearson for my method. I also referred to   the Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry by Harold Piercy. Both were useful resource material and achieve the same result. However Constance’s method is much more prescriptive and also over-complicated. I did learn the importance of the centre flower. `It should be fairly small, but an `important ‘ flower such as a small spray rose. It is placed in the centre and leans towards the top flower. It is the longest flower to build upto; nothing must be higher than the centre and nothing must be longer than the outline of flowers. It is easier to work  with the outline shape first. The heaviest flowers should be near the centre. The leaves are placed attractively through the bouquet with larger leaves near the middle.’

The wire false legs form the handle of the bouquet. It is important not to cross the false legs and you always bind neatly in the same place. The wires are cut to the length of a clenched fist allowing an extra 2.5 cm. It looks neater to cut at an angle to form a tapered handle. The wire stems are then covered with white stem tape. The handle is finished with ivory ribbon with two bows tied neatly at the top.

Malcolm Ashwell says  that `the finished posy should be circular in outline and slightly domed in profile. It should also be light and feel secure to handle.’

I enjoyed making my 70s inspired Loose Posy. It did feel very light to hold and I think the finished result is both pretty and dainty. I found all the wiring very time consuming, but rewarding. After it was made I was able to tweak the angle of the flowers and foliage for best effect.

1970s Wired Posy Small-3

Traditional 70’s Ladies Corsage 

1970s Wired Posy Small-18

The mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wore a ladies corsage spray and my grandparents both wore corsages with a selection of different flowers. My Gran wore a vibrant corsage including orange spray roses, yellow freesia and asparagus fern which stood out against her navy suit. Nana’s corsage was daintier incorporating hyacinth pips.

1970s Corsage

1970s Corsage

As I had made a 70s inspired bridal posy I felt it only right to make a corsage too. These days it is popular for ladies to wear a loose natural tied posy button-hole. These look very pretty and are not as bulky as a traditional corsage. However they don’t always have the longevity of the traditional.

I wired all the materials in the same manner as I did for the bouquet.  I made a few branching units of ivy leaves and asparagus fern. This reduces the number of individual stems to be bound into the binding point and also gives the corsage strength.

1970s Wired Posy Small-13

I first formed the outline of the top 2/3 of the corsage by taping foliage to form an outline as far as the binding point would be.

1970s Wired Posy Small-16

I then attached silver binding wire to the stem of the corsage.This determines the binding area and centre of the design.

1970s Wired Posy Small-17

It is from this point that all materials appear to radiate and is the point where the central focal flower sits. I chose the same Ocean Mikado spray rose as my focal flower to match the bouquet.  Materials placed behind the focal flower are bent backwards to cover the stem of the corsage. This is known as the return end. The focal rose was bound in at a 90 degree angle low down directly over the return end. The finished corsage should be a kite shape. The flower material should be graduated in size towards the focal flower and then receding down in size into the return end.

The stem wires are trimmed just shorter than the return end flowers.  I thinned the stem by cutting off some of the wires and cut at an angle to achieve a tapered end. The stem and binding point was then taped.

1970s Wired Posy Small-9

Making a formal 70s style corsage was an interesting exercise. I can see the benefits. With a bit of thought and imagination they are a beautiful accessory and are quite versatile as they can be attached to hats or handbags, coat lapels, wrists or shoulders.  As all the elements are wired  and taped to seal in moisture a corsage will be longer lasting than a natural unwired Boutonniere. However mine took ages to make. It was also heavy in comparison and quite bulky. I can’t imagine pinning it to a flimsy wedding frock as I think it might ruin the dress. Looking back over the 70s photos the corsages are worn on jackets which would accomodate the weight. I also think that my corsage would have benefited from a few small hyacinth pips or berries to balance the proportions. My flowers are all very similar in size.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how much skill went into making 70s wired wedding designs. I definately now appreciate the amount of time and skill that went into creating them.

1970s Wired Posy Small-8

0 comment

Vintage Weddings -1970s

1970 Bible Posy Watercolour - Patsy Smiles

Dilys Katherine Hills and David Millard Jennings – 30 March 1970

I’m fascinated by my mum’s choice of wedding flowers and wedding dress in the 1970s. The Era brings to mind barefooted bohemian brides wearing floaty maxi dresses with loose long hair decorated with a floral crown or daisy chain. The Hippy Culture that began in the previous decade continued to be popular at the beginning of the 70s, but began to wane as rock `n’ roll and disco became influential. My mum was a rebel. She had left home at a young age and had lived an `alternative lifestyle’ which wasn’t approved of by her mother. The years before the wedding mum had been sleeping rough, mixing with drug addicts and alcoholics whilst having a lot of fun. (I was born the year before the wedding!). Why then did mum choose a very traditional white church wedding and opt for a bible corsage as a wedding bouquet?!

1970s Wedding

The Marriage Act of 1836 allowed for non-religious civil marriages to be held in register offices. It puzzles me that mum chose a church wedding instead of a registry office or even eloping to Gretna Green. I will never know for sure. There may have been pressure from parents to `conform’, but I don’t think that was the reason. My adoption records show that mum was working hard at maintaining a job to look after me and turning her life around. I think the church wedding was symbolic. Mum needed to prove to the authorities that she was fit and able to look after me and a proper church wedding was a good start. My foster father was best man at the wedding. They were married in St George’s Church, West Harnham which was the local church to where mum grew up.

St George's Church, West Harnham

1970s Wedding Flowers 

My mum chose pretty traditional flowers for her bridesmaids.  Christine, the elder bridesmaid, had a neat round Spring Posy Bouquet including peach coloured hyacinth pips and coral spray roses with a small amount of asparagus fern. The individual flowers were wired and mounted. The finished handle would have been ribboned and completed with a small bow.

1970s Wedding

The children are carrying Bridesmaid’s Baskets of flowers typical of the 1970s. The flowers in the baskets are quite minimal – a sprig of freesia, two carnations and a piece of asparagus fern,. The flowers were pushed into floral foam as in some pictures I can see the oasis. In the Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry the advice is that `the flowers should be placed in very firmly so that there is no likelihood of their falling out, even with rough handling by the bridesmaid!’ I can’t decide if flowers have fallen out with rough treatment or mum made the baskets herself with just a few token flowers. Constance Spry advised that the basket should be filled with flowers to about 1/2 inch from the top in a pleasing shape. There is a dainty bow placed on the handle.

Bible or Prayerbook Spray

Mum opted for an unusual Bible Spray instead of a bouquet or posy. This consisted of a small spray of flowers and leaves stitched onto a ribbon, which in turn acted as a bookmark in the Bible or prayerbook for either the marriage ceremony or the Lord’s Prayer. Mum chose to use flowers in a an orange, coral and yellow colour palette. She included coral spray roses, hyacinth pips and yellow freesia. Foliage was made up of asparagus fern and ivy leaves. The ribbon was a bright turquoise blue and co-ordinated with the bridesmaids dresses. I had fun making my own interpretation of the Bible Spray and then painting my version in watercolour. It was out of season for hyacinth pips so I went for the overall look rather than an exact replica.


Buttonholes and Corsages

Carnation Buttonhole

The men in the bridal party are all wearing traditional wired white carnation button-holes. Carnations were chosen because they were widely available and had good lasting qualities. In this case there was no foliage. Whenever possible a buttonhole flower was worn through the buttonhole and not pinned onto the front of the lapel. For this reason the flower stem needed to be very fine so the flower heads were mounted on taped wire to provide a thinner stem.  Sometimes Asparagus plumosus fern was used or three leaves made into a spray. Nowadays the groom’s button-hole often includes a flower from the bride’s bouquet to distinguish the groom from the rest of the bridal party. In the 1970s there was less individuality – all the men had the same white carnation buttonholes including the groom.

1970s Wedding Group

1970s Carnation Button Hole


1970s Carnation Button-hole

The mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wore a ladies corsage spray and my grandparents are both wearing corsages with a selection of different flowers. The bride’s mother’s vibrant corsage includes orange spray roses, yellow freesia and asparagus fern and stood out against her navy suit. The mother of the groom’s corsage is daintier incorporating hyacinth pips. Both ladies are wearing flowers on their left shoulder, although traditionally Ladies were always right!

1970s Corsage
1970s Corsage

1970s Wedding Fashion

The 70s was a time when no particular bridal fashion dominated the era. You can see an eclectic mix of bridal fashion in 70s photos. Mum made her own full length wedding dress and Christine’s bridesmaids dress. Although a traditional white wedding dress it does have billowed `leg o’ mutton’ sleeves which were a key bridal look of the period. The look is actually quite demure and covered up, particularly as mum had been fond of the 60s mini skirt. So different to fashion today where it is hard to find a wedding dress with sleeves.

1970s Wedding

Mum chose to wear an elbow length veil with artificial white flowers in her hair. The veil length is shorter than my Gran’s 1930s veil which was full length. Some brides preferred to wear floppy hats or bohemian style floral crowns or circlets.

The overall colour scheme was quite a bold 70s colour scheme using the complementary colours of coral orange and turquoise blue. Mum wore quite bright blue eyeshadow.

1970s Colour Scheme

1970 Wedding

1970 Bible Posy

I find it fascinating that I also chose peach and aqua as my wedding colour scheme. Mum’s half sister who never met mum also chose to wear turquoise on her wedding day! Kathryn’s turquoise 70s wedding dress is much more prairie style with ruffles and she’s opted for a hat instead of a veil.

1970S WeddingPrairie Style gowns were popular as evidenced by sewing patterns of the 70s.

1970s Wedding Styles

Vogue Bridal Design Pattern 1970s

Bohemian styles with longer cascading sleeves were in vogue. Necklines tended to be square in shape or higher as worn by my mum and Princess Anne during her wedding to Captain Mark Phillips in 1972. Princess Anne’s gown was based on a medieval design with trumpet sleeves edged in pearls and a train.

Princess Anne 1972

The 70s bride was not afraid of colour or pattern. I’ve found many an example where bridesmaids seem to be decked out in bold, highly patterned material reminiscent of vintage curtains!

1970s Wedding Hats

1970s Bold Colour Scheme

Big floppy hats were all the range. I really can’t image why mum chose to put her bridesmaids in those bright turquoise bonnets covered in artificial flowers! However bonnets in the style of Little Bo-Peep and Holly Hobbie were in vogue. I guess they completed the milkmaid/peasant look nicely!

1970s Colour Scheme

1970s Bonnet

1970s bonnet pattern

Not everybody opted for a long flowing wedding dress in the 70s. When Bianca married Mick Jagger in 1971 she opted for  an Yves Saint Laurent tailored blazer, midi skirt and floppy hat.  Nothing was worn underneath the jacket!

Bianca Jagger 1971

The 60s had inspired the mini-skirt so some brides chose to stick with the mini and a simpler more tailored look as worn to this registry office wedding.

1970s Registry Wedding

Wedding Transport

The bride travelled to the church in her brother’s dark green Mark II Jaguar. My Uncle remembered touching up the paintwork the day before and his housemates said he was `guilding the lily’. It felt quite symbolic when my Uncle gave me away as he had my mum and we also travelled to the ceremony in a Mark II Jaguar.

Jaguar Mark II

Jaguar Mark II

1970 Wedding

Patsy Smiles

Wedding Breakfast

From the wedding group photograph it looks like mum had a similar number of guests as both myself and my Gran which was about forty.

1970 Wedding Group Shot

The reception was held in the church hall which looks like a rather ugly prefabricated building. It was a simple affair. There were no formal laid out tables with a seating plan. It was a case of standing around and circling, helping yourself to the `cold buffet’. The buffet consisted largely of sandwiches, sausage rolls and the 70s favourite of cheese and pineapple on sticks. There was a traditional two tier iced fruit wedding cake which was topped with a small spray of freesias in a pretty silver bud vase. I remember the bud vase.

1970s Wedding Cake

Wedding Present List 1970

I still have mum’s wedding present list tucked amongst the photos. I love this kind of social history. There are quite a few similarities with my Gran’s 1930s wedding presents and the ones we had in 2011. We all were given casseroles, bath towels and cutlery.

1970 Wedding Presents

1970s Wedding List

They were eight casseroles! We were given a wonderful cast iron Le Creuset casserole by Margaret and David which has proved invaluable. Margaret went to school with mum and had given one of those eight casseroles in 1970 so I wonder if it was used as much with so many to chose from! It’s quite interesting that the pyrosil casseroles are listed separately. The Pyrosil Corning Ware Blue Cornflower oven to table dish with it’s detachable handle was used for over twenty years! It was used both on the top of the stove and in the oven. My guess is that was the only casserole that was used out of the eight!

Pyrosil Corningware Cornflower

These days I don’t think you’d give an ash tray as a wedding gift. However my Gran was given a Turkish cigarette holder.

The wedding breakfast finished mid afternoon when the Happy Couple drove away on honeymoon to the West Country. Although mum wore traditional white for the ceremony she was quite happy to wear a fashionable mini skirt and boots as her Going Away Outfit. The honeymoon was a weekend in the West Country where it was perishing cold with March winds and snow.

1970 Going Away Outfit

0 comment

January Posy

January's Posy

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring! 

Back In February last year I set myself the challenge of photographing a `Posy of the Month’ with flowers picked from our garden. I have now finally completed my challenge and this month’s Posy is a celebration of the dainty Snowdrop.

`LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years! ‘

William Wordsworth 1819

The humble dainty white snowdrop is a very different flower to the brash, bold dahlias I  photographed last year. I haven’t got many snowdrops in the garden as the squirrels seem to think the bulbs are nuts and dig them up! However the few I have mark the beginning of a new gardening year. I love the phrase in Wordsworth’s poem `Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, and pensive monitor of fleeting years.’ The dainty white snowdrop foreshadows Spring and the heralding daffodils and marks the end of one gardening year and the start of another.

For my Posy I wanted to capture the purity of the white snowdrop. I bought a vintage perfume bottle, a trinket box together with a few glass bottles. My aim was to capture an image that looked like a vintage dressing table with the perfume bottle and vintage jewellery.  I decided that silver and clear glass would work well with the white of the snowdrops. I chose a Wintery blue background to create an image reminiscent of a cold January day.

January's PosyJanuary's PosyJanuary's Posy

The `Flower Book for the Pocket’ belonged to my Gran. It seemed to belong in my image. I hope it conveys the atmosphere of a 1930s ladies dressing table.


Snowdrop TwinsSnowdropDouble SnowdropSnowdropSnowdrop


Apart from the snowdrops my Hellebores are coming into their own and I have added to my collection in the last month.

Helleborus × ericsmithii Ice Breaker Max

Large outfacing single creamy-white flowers, with a slight greenish tinge, appear in early spring.

Ice Breaker Max

Ice Breaker Max

Helleborus  x  hybridus ‘Molly’s White’

Attractive marbled foliage all year round and in Late Winter and Spring stems hold the pure white flowers above the foliage.

Molly's White


Helleborus niger Mini Blanc

This one is an early bloomer and can often be seen in flower at Christmas time.

Mini Blanc

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow

Pink buds open to creamy white flowers suffused with warm rose and cinnamon. Dark cinnamon rose petal  on the reverse side. The large blooms face outward.

Cinnamon SnowCinnamon Snow

There is an unknown variety in bloom in our front garden.


We also have a few pink cyclamen  flowers in bloom and a white primula called Spring Charm.  CyclamenCyclamenCyclamenHedera White VariegatedSpring Charm White

The colours of January seem to have been muted whites, blues, pinks and greys. The snowdrop being the harbinger of Spring rather than the bold, brash daffodils which herald the arrival of Spring shortly.

January HuesJanuary Mosaic

0 comment

Vintage Weddings – 1930s


Marriage of George Mason Hills and Betty Berry 1937

George Mason Hills and Betty Edna Berry – 26 June 1937

My Grandma, Betty Edna Berry, was born in Clapton in 1914 and lived with her parents Henry and Ethel Berry at 28 Elmcroft Street, Clapton, London.

Elmcroft Street

My Grandfather George Mason Hills was born in Sheffield, son of George and Mary and brother to William and Ina.  The Hills family were adventurous hill walkers and loved mountaineering.

Derbyshire - 1930s

So how did a London lass meet a lad from `up North’ in the 1930s? At that time Betty’s Aunt Kate was seriously ill, suffering from renal tuberculosis. At the beginning of the 20th century, tuberculosis was one of the UK’s most urgent health problems.  Betty’s mother Ethel was looking after her sister in 1934 and Betty was shipped off out of the way. Kate died of `consumption’ in June 1936.

Kate Spice


As it was Christmas Betty went to stay with her Aunt Nell, Uncle Stuart and cousin Tom Turner in Sheffield. The Turners were friends of the Hills family and so they came to visit a lot that Christmas. Betty was introduced to George when Tom invited some of his former school friends to meet his cousin from London. George Hills was working for the Medical Research Council in London, but was visiting his parents in Sheffield for Christmas.

As George was also living in London, Betty and George travelled back together on the train from Sheffield. George lived in digs fairly nearby in Lordship Road, Stoke Newington, lodging with Miss Prickett. He made it clear he would like to see Betty again and the rest is history…

Engagement – Summer 1935 

1930s -4

George asked Betty if she would consider marriage in the coastal village of Beer in Devon as the Berry family were on holiday there. This was a favourite family holiday destination where they stayed in a Boarding house in the village. On a previous occasion Ralph, a local fisherman, had asked my Gran to go for a moonlight fishing trip after the village dance. The family felt he had other things on his mind other than fishing and the outing was declined!

Beer Beach, Devon with Betty wearing a very fashionable swimming costume

George come down on the train from London to see Betty for the day. I have the love letter George wrote to my Gran the morning he got back:-

`49 Lordship Road, London, N16. 15:vii:35

Most darling Precious, I want to tell you all about the most marvellous journey back which I had; I never felt as happy in my life before. I not only felt as happy, as when on a country bicycle ride on a frosty, but bright sunny morning or as when seeing the sunrise during an Alpine climb, but I also felt as if I should like every-one else to feel equally happy. I felt genuinely sorry for every-one less well of than myself, who can’t even afford a cheap excursion to Beer.

Very early in the journey I got the idea that there would only have to be a suspicion of an answer `Yes’ from you and I would come over to Beer and marry you by special licence to-morrow if it could be done that quick. When I got back, after first kissing your photo-graph and then lighting the gas, I found my diary and looked up the cost of the licence and was gratified to find it was only £5.  Through out the journey I continued to develop the idea. As there would be no engagement, there would be no engagement ring. Perhaps you wouldn’t like that, but with the money saved you could have a radio-gramophone. An engagement ring may make you want to dance, but you can’t get any dance-music out of it. We should have to give up the idea of a honeymoon in the Italian Alps and perhaps `our bungalow’. We shouldn’t be able to live on a fabulously lavish scale on my £250 a year. After deciding all this I suddenly realised that as you are not yet a lady your dad should have to say `Yes’ too, do you think he would? One thing is certain that if you really do want a bungalow, I don’t think I will have saved enough pennies for us to get engaged in September; because Toots, once I am engaged to you, I shall feel it impossible for us to remain unmarried for more than six months. After so much good-will I am sure it goes without saying that I hope your party at Beer have a marvellous time with marvellous weather. How can you be so good to me, Tootsy?

Yours, darling, for ever and ever, Georgie’  


1930s -6

In the 1930s the Legal Age of Consent was 21 and 16 with parental permission. Betty was still 20 in June 1935 so they either needed to gain parental consent or wait till Betty’s birthday in the September. They were officially engaged on 1st August so permission must have been given! I am unaware as to whether my Gran did have an official engagement ring in the end. I did find these opal rings among her possessions and she was always fond of opals.

18 ct Opal ringOpal Ring


Shared Interests

George was a country boy who loved the outdoors, hiking and alpine mountaineering. Betty was a London lass who enjoyed parties and dancing. They took up each others hobbies! As George got to know Betty he shared his love of walking with her and they even went to the Lake District for a holiday before they got married. My Gran assured me that it was all above board and they shared hostel accomodation with another couple in single sex dorms!

1930s -51930's Hiking Outfits

1930s -7

Soon after they married they got a dog called Chum. George and Betty did a lot of walking from their home in Chelsfield, Kent. They also bought a tandem and travelled all over the place including an adventure to the Italian Lakes by train as a belated honeymoon.

1938 Walking with Chum


When George met Betty he hadn’t been into ballroom dancing. However, as Betty loved dancing so much, George took up dancing lessons near his digs in Lordship Road so they could go dancing together. They obviously got quite good as they won the Slow Foxtrot at a competition when they were living in Chelsfield, Kent after they were married.

I can see I have inherited a love of the outdoors and a love of dancing!


Marriage of George Mason Hills and Betty Edna Berry – 26 June 1937

1930's Wedding

1930s Wedding-7George and Betty married at Clapton Park Congregational Chapel on Lower Clapton Road. The Round Chapel was built in 1869-71 as a non-conformist, congregational church. It is now an arts centre and is considered to be one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.

1930s Wedding-34img180

After the ceremony catering was provided for 33 guests at a local Hired Hall.

1930s Wedding-2

Catering Bill 1937


We invited 38 guests for our Wedding breakfast so the numbers were similar with close friends and family invited.

Wedding of George Mason Hills and Betty Berry 26 June 1937


My Gran chose George’s sister Ina and her best friend Christine Hyde as bridesmaids. The Hydes were friends of the Berry family. The best man was George’s brother William.

1930s  Fashion 

History of Fashion

The 1920s had seen shorter dresses with brides showing an ankle. The wedding dress became increasingly shorter as the decade went on. In the 1930s the wedding dress became more slender and elegant. The fabric was cut on the cross so that the material fell into graceful folds and could be rather figure hugging. Silk elbow-length evening gloves were worn with a bracelet or watch on top of the gloves.  Betty was a bridesmaid for her cousin Kath Spice in 1933 where the outfits were typical of the early 1930s. Kath opted to wear a hat rather than a veil. Cloche hats were typical of the late twenties/early thirties. The Cloche was a fitted, bell-shaped hat for women that was invented in 1908 by milliner Caroline Reboux and was especially popular from about 1922 to 1933. Its name is derived from cloche, the French word for “bell”. My Gran is wearing gauntlet style gloves with decorative flowing cuffs and seems to be holding a clutch bag rather than a bouquet.

Kath Spice's Wedding 1933

1930's FashionSpringtime Brides 1933 - Weldon's Ladies JournalWedding fabrics were chiffon, silk, crepe-de-chine and satin cut on the bias. The formal 1930s bridal gown was floor length, and had an elaborate, long train. Chantilly lace trimmed the edges of the floor length veils that were anchored to the head with a juliet cap. Long opera length gloves completed the look of a sleeveless or butterfly sleeved bodice.

1930s Holleywood Glamour

Marriage of George Mason Hills and Betty Berry 1937

Betty chose a white wedding dress which which was more classic than the contemporary style she wore as a bridesmaid.  Wedding gowns often reflect the latest fashions of an era and can be time-dated by their silhouettes, sleeve styles etc. However some brides of the 19th and 20th centuries chose to wear their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress or veil. This can be misleading when dating photographs. Maybe my Gran decided the figure-hugging styles of the 1930s were a bit tarty for a bride! I can’t decide if my Gran is wearing a new dress and veil or decided to wear her mum’s. I do know my mum’s wedding dress, which she made herself, was saved for my wedding day. However I couldn’t get into it as the dress was 2 sizes too small for me!  The bridesmaids have fuller skirts than the latest fashion, but they are sporting cap sleeves. Betty is wearing a fashionable short finger waved hairstyle.

Early 30's Hair StylesHelen D'Algy

1930s Wedding

In my Grandparents wedding photos the guests are wearing typical 1930s Day Dresses.The most dramatic difference between the fashion of the thirties and the previous decade was the emphasis on a slim waist. The 1920s had seen a flat `boyish’ loose shape with a dropped waist. 1930s fashion saw a slender fitted style with a high natural waist accented with a belt. The belt often matched the dress using the same floral or patterned fabric. Fashion was to create interest at the top of the garment and accentuate the waist. This included caplet sleeves, puffed sleeves, and angular shoulders which, in turn, would give the illusion of a smaller waist. Femininity and pretty details were a key feature of 1930s fashion. I think I was born in the wrong era! Necklines and collars were always high with no cleavage on show. Hemlines went back down after the almost knee baring 1920s to mid calf for Day Dresses.

1937 Day Dresses1937 Fashion


1930s Wedding Flowers

Money was scarce during the Great depression of the 1930s. Unless a bride came from wealth, flowers tended to be locally grown and readily available. Several styles of bouquet were popular in the 1930s and were designed to complement the dress.

Arm Bouquet This style was designed to be held in the bride’s arms and looked sleek and elegant against the slim line dress styles of the 1930s. Long stemmed flowers were used which included calla lilies, gladiolus, delphiniums and long stemmed roses. Ribbons were sometimes woven into the design.

Vintage Sewing Pattern - 1934 Vobach 71306


The Nosegay or Tussie-Mussie. This style of bouquet has been around since Elizabethan times and was still popular in the 1930s. The nosegay was a small round shaped bouquet of closely filled flowers. Generally two or three flowers were the central feature surrounded by fragrant herbs and greenery. The flowers were usually roses, tulips or carnations. The Nosegay was originally intended to be put to the nose to mask unpleasant odours when bathing was not so frequent. Sage, mint, thyme and rosemary were often included as fragrant herbs.The posy was styled within a cone-shaped vessel of metal or glass known as a tussie-mussie. Ribbons were used to accent the flowers and the bouquet was often wrapped in a lace doiley. The Victorians turned the tussie-mussie into an art form giving each flower and herb a symbolic meaning.

1930s Nosegay Bouquet


The Cascade or Shower Bouquet. This was the style Betty chose for her wedding flowers. The bouquet is round at the top near the bride’s hands and spills over in a cascade of foliage ribbons and flowers. Choice of flowers was limited in the 1930s – carnations, roses, lilies and plenty of Maiden-hair and Asparagus fern. I am fascinated by the bouquets in my Gran’s wedding photos. The two bridesmaids have huge bouquets packed full of garden roses and trailing fern. They are also carrying Dorothy bags which are likely to contain confetti. My Gran on the other hand has a smaller, more sparse bouquet of carnations. I really can’t understand why! I prefer the abundant rose bouquets. Perhaps carnations were more highly prized and my Gran was fond of the fragrance?! There were also carnation button holes for the men in the bridal party.

1930's Wedding


Wedding Present List 1937  

1930s Wedding Present List (1)1930s Wedding Present List (2)

I was delighted to find my Gran’s Wedding Present List tucked amongst her wedding photos. What a wonderful piece of social history! There are so many similarities between my Gran’s Wedding Gifts, my mum’s and mine. We all had a dinner service, casseroles, flower vases and bath towels.   I either still have many of the items on the list or remember them. The list shows that amongst the wedding party guests were family, work colleagues and friends. Uncle George gave his niece towels as he worked as a Sales Rep for Christie’s towels. There are many more ornate items of cutlery and serving dishes than we received or would dream of using.

Aunt Nell and Uncle Stew gave giant fish servers made in Sheffield, which was appropriate as they lived in Sheffield. Uncle Stew had been an assistant steel overseer for the admirality.

1930s Walker & Hall Fish Servers1930s Fish Knives and Forks

Other cutlery items included egg spoons and pastry knives and forks. Apparently an egg spoon is a specialised spoon for use in eating boiled eggs. In comparison to a teaspoon it typically has a shorter handle and bowl, a more pointed tip and often a more rounded bowl. The pastry knives and forks given by Horace Laithwaite, a colleague of George, came in wonderful crocodile or snake skin presentation cases.

1930s Pastry knives and forks1930s Reliance Plate Pastry Knives

There was a lot of cut glass amongst the wedding presents. I remember having biscuits out of the Cut Glass Biscuit Barrel when I came home from school. The Cut Glass Cruet, a gift from Aunt Blanche and Uncle Arthur Mason, was always brought out for Christmas and Birthdays. Unfortunately the vinegar bottle was broken so I decided not to keep it. However it looked very like this set:-

Cut glass cruet

Glassware also included grapefruit dishes, vases and a cake stand.  Christmas cakes, Easter cakes and birthday cakes were always presented on the Cut Glass Cake Stand.

Cut Glass Cake Stand


Betty’s Grafton China tea-set was a present from her bridesmaid Christine and her mother.  All we have left now is a bread and butter plate and this bowl. The Grafton China marking is from the period 1935-1949.

1930s Grafton China Tea-setGrafton China

Whilst I was clearing my Uncle’s house I found this lovely Amber Cloud Glass Flower Bowl Set which was given by Ethel Marsh. Unfortunately I threw the plinth out as I didn’t realise it belonged to the flower bowl! Cloud glass is a form of pressed art glass, created by applying streaks of dark coloured glass to paler glass, which creates a random swirled, “clouded” pattern. The cloud glass technique was invented by George Davidson & Co in 1923.  The Pattern number is 1910SD, 6.75 inches diameter.

George Davidson Amber Cloud Glass (1910SD)George Davidson Amber Cloud GlassGeorge Davidson CatalogueGeorge Davidson Glass Catalogue1931

Ethel Marsh was a colleague of Betty at the Liverpool Victoria Insurance offices. The stories my Gran recounted about the Liverpool Vic are more to do with the social side than actual work! Betty made many good friends whilst working there, many of whom came to her wedding. In the 1930s a married woman was not expected to work. When Betty got married she was expected to give up her job. During the Second World War women were needed to work whilst the men were away at war. After the war it was more socially acceptable for married women to go out to work. My Gran recounted going on trips away with the Liverpool Vic to Brighton. The offices would be closed and they would all go off to the seaside in a charrabanc. I have pictures of the girls on the beach. Winnie Holland seemed to be a bit of a goer and is showing her knickers whilst paddling!

Liverpool Victoria Office Outing1930s -3Liverpool Victoria Office Outing

Winnie came to the wedding along with Mary Gallimore, Ethel Marsh and Gladys Kingdon.  The Womens Record Department gave a dinner service, electric clock and meat carvers.

Meat Carver


Other intriguing gifts were a Turkish Cigarette Box and Ashtray from Fred Dainton.  I couldn’t think of anything I’d want less for a wedding present. However my Gran was partial to smoking a Turkish cigarette! Although not on the list my Gran was very fond of her Honeybee which seems to date from a similar period.

1930s Wedding-20Betty’s Aunt Jennie and Lou gave her a LLoyd Loom Linen Basket, which was passed on to my mum in later years.  LLoyd Loom is the name given to a woven fabric and furniture that was invented by Marshall Burns Lloyd nearly 100 years ago. Lloyd Loom weave is made from twisted paper and wire and the frames are traditionally made from steam-bent beech wood. The furniture is renowned for its longevity and durability.  It inspired a generation of furniture designers in the 1920’s and 30’s, associated with the art-deco period and the classic ocean-going liners of the time. It became immensely popular in the UK before the London factory was destroyed in the war, spelling an end to large scale production.

LLoyd Loom 1930's Furniture

LLoyd Loom Quadrant Linen Basket

Aunt Lou and Jennie were unable to come up from Brixham in Devon for the wedding, but were very fond of their youngest niece.

Aunt Jennie and Lou Berry

The two maiden Aunts sent a Wedding  Congratulation Postcard.  


Wedding Postcard - Aunt JennieWedding Postcard - Aunt Jennie


Wedding Cards, Telegrams and Postcards 

1930s Wedding Telegram

1930s Wedding Telegram1930s Wedding Postcard1930s Wedding Card


After the wedding celebrations Betty and George spent a wet, rainy week in the Lake District on Honeymoon. A year later they finally made it to the Italian Lakes on their tandem for a belated honeymoon. Another Epic Blog Post in the making…!

1930s Honeymoon
1930s Honeymoon

1930s HoneymoonLake District Honeymoon1930s Honeymoon



I hope you have enjoyed my Grandparents’ 1930s wedding. I certainly cherish these wonderful photos and keepsakes!


Wedding of George Mason Hills and Betty Berry 26 June 1937


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!



0 comment

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


Rich Colours of Autumn

Autumnal Harvest


Autumn is in the words of John Keats truly `the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ I love the rich colours of Autumn –  deep red rosy apples and berries, vibrant orange pumpkins and squashes and not forgetting sunny yellow sunflowers. I had fun making this Autumnal still-life. The Daisy Chain Purse Vase is an Anita Harris design and was a wonderful wedding gift. I love it’s rich deep red lustre with the gold embellished daisies. The vibrant flowers include dahlias and sunflowers freshly picked from our garden.  The cup and saucer were a wonderful find. They are Early Derby London shaped with gold rims and handle dating from the 1800s. The pattern is the much loved Derby Traditional Imari Pattern 2451. This pattern was made over many years and is still in production today. It uses the traditional Imari colours of deep red, cobalt and gold and includes diamond lozenges and stylised floral motifs. The tea plate also has an Imari pattern. However the plate is later dating from the 1880s with a makers mark of Taylor & Kent (Ltd).

When I think of Autumn, pumpkins and squash immediately come to mind.  I am fascinated by the patterns on squash and painted this Autumnal still-life this week. I wanted to convey the structure and patterning of the fruit, whilst enjoying mixing the beautiful vibrant yellows and oranges.The striped fruit are Harlequin Squash and the deep orange one is a Kabocha Squash. Harlequin Squash are recommended by the RHS to be an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. I haven’t grown any pumpkins or squash this year but will definately grow some next year to brighten up my vegetable beds. I included an old English Egremont Russet Apple with distinctive russet bronze fruits and some Autumnal leaves in my still life.

Autumn Fruits


October is a lovely month for celebrating the humble apple. Apples have been harvested in temperate Europe since prehistory. Downing’s Fruits, printed in 1866, has 643 varieties listed. Now we have over 5000 named apples. The oldest known variety of apple  is `Court Pendu Plat‘  which may go back to Roman times and is recorded from the sixteenth century. Raised in 1850 Cox’s Orange Pippin is one of the best dessert apples. However it is difficult to grow as it is disease prone and hates wet clay. It does best on a warm wall. `Beauty of Bath‘ was introduced in 1864 and fruits in late Summer with small sweet juicy yellow fruits stained scarlet and orange. Egremont Russet was bred in 1872 and has roughened greeny bronze skin with a crisp and firm flesh.

Autumnal Apples

I wanted to paint something Autumnal so chose a selection of apples from my local supermarket to paint in watercolour. I managed to find 5 different varieties all with different hues of red and green. I placed the green Granny Smith in the middle to give the painting some balance. I would have liked a Russet,  but there weren’t any available in the shops. Russets have quite a rough, unshiny texture which may have made more of a contrast in my painting. All my apples had quite a shine on them so I aimed to create shine as well as celebrate the different red hues. I really enjoyed painting my apples. I think I managed to use nearly all the reds in my paintbox! I used Scarlet Lake, Winsor Red, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Brown Madder and Quinacridone Red. I included a useful guide to red pigments in my previous Ruby Red Bouquet Blog Post.

Quinacridone Red was great for the Pink Lady apple as it is a good vibrant pinkish red. The small Estivale apple needed a bright red so I used Scarlet Lake. Royal Gala is stripey and a deep almost maroon colour in places and more orangey in the highlights. I used Permanent Alizarin Crimson with a tough of Paynes Gray to darken it. On first glance the Cox and Royal Gala are both dark red apples. However they aren’t the same hue on closer observation. Royal Gala is more maroon or burgundy and the Cox is more orangey rusty red. I chose to use Brown Madder to create the main colour of the Cox with touches of Permanent Alizarin Crimson in the shadow.

Having made a close observational painting of my apples I was in the mood for cooking with apples. Mr Smiles had a birthday so I made some Apple and Oat Muffins in addition to a Birthday Cake.

Apple and Oat Muffins

My recipe for Apple and Oat Muffins was taken from `The Great British Bake Off Everyday Cookbook’. I have never made muffins before and I would highly recommend having a go, as this recipe is quick and easy.

 For the topping

50g porridge oats

50g demerara sugar

50g plain flour

50g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the base

250g plain flour

25g porridge oats

175g caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

finely grated zest of 1 medium unwaxed lemon

150g unsalted butter, diced

2 medium eggs, at room temperature

100ml milk, at room temperature

1 large eating apple, cored and cut into small pieces

Heat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Make the crumble topping first. Put the oats, sugar and flour into a mixing bowl and combine with your hand.

Oat Mixture Cut the butter into pieces,Unsalted Butter add to the bowl and rub into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.Then gently squeeze the mixture together until it forms pea-like clumps. Set aside until needed. Oat Crumble Topping( I must admit I found it hard to make small pea size clumps. Mine were more  like broad bean clumps).

Crumble Topping

Now make the base. Put the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest  into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Gently melt the butter in a small pan. Leave to cool. Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl with a fork until just combined. Add the melted butter and milk mixture to the flour mix in the bowl and stir gently until just combined. There’s no need to beat the mixture.

Muffin Mix

Spoon the mixture into 12 paper cases in the muffin tray so they are evenly filled. Top each with an equal amount of chopped apple and gently press the pieces into the muffin mixture. (they should remain visible). Cover with the crumble topping, dividing it equally among the muffins, and gently press down on the base.

Chopped Apple

Muffin Mixture

Place in the heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and just firm when gently pressed in the centre. Set the tray on a wire rack and cool for 3-4 minutes. Carefully lift the muffins out of the tray onto the rack. They are best served warm the same or next day.

Apple and Oat Muffins

The apple and oat muffins went down well. I think they would be great served with lashings of cream or custard!


0 comment

Vintage Jewels

DSC_4175I was, and still am, very much a girly-girl. As a child I loved frilly skirts, pretty necklaces, lace and sparkly, silver party sandals. Silver Sparkle and LaceThe girly-girl is still very much in evidence as I still love pretty things from vintage jewellery to antique china.  Personality has a big influence on the choices we make when buying and wearing clothes. Clothing can be an extension of our individual personalities and a means of expressing ourselves.

There are 5 wardrobe personalities: Classic, Dramatic, Natural, Gamine and Romantic. You can be more than one of these personalities, but the majority of people fall into one category more than others. I find this knowledge extremely useful when dispensing spectacles at work. A lot of my customers dress very classically. They are the sort of people who like to be smart, neat and tidy, but aren’t overly fashion conscious. If I show them a frame with any visible colour such as pink or purple or anything with any remote sparkle they are not impresssed! The Classic Lady likes a sensible plain gold, bronze or silver frame with no visible logo. How boring!

I have never officially had my clothing style analysed. However it is easy for me to see that I am clearly a natural, romantic. The `Natural’ part of me is very outdoorsy and likes to throw on a casual fleece and jeans. I am not one for spending hours doing my hair and am confident enough to be seen without make-up. I would rather be off and out enjoying life. However my main style is definately romantic.

Romantic Clothing Style 

Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johanson and Taylor Swift all have romantic clothing styles.


MarilynMonroe2Nicole Kidman      Scarlett JohanssonYou like clothing which has details like bows and ruffles and lace.

You enjoy styles which highlight your feminiinty


You favour fabrics which are soft such as angora wool, TaylorSwift2chiffon and silk.

You enjoy dressing up for evenings out

You like decorative finishes such as beading, embroidery and lace

You feel undressed without make-up. ( that’s not me, as I would rather be outdoors enjoying myself than worrying about whether I have flawless make-up!) TaylorSwift

The lines of your clothes are rounded, often with a lot of draping.

You will usually have softly curving features which are flattered and framed with tousled curls and waves or at least a style with movement. Interestingly when I tried to be `Classically Chic and Sophisticated’ with a sharper cut bob this style didn’t really work for me. My hair has too much curl to be smooth and my face just looked rounder than usual!

Someone with a Romantic fashion persona often has an interest in lady-like 20s-50s vintage fashion.You love accessories and use them whenever you can. You’re into delicate pretty jewellery. You appreciate vintage jewellery that has a story behind it.

P&D (116)

I now know why when I went shopping for work suits I also came back with two vintage necklaces from  Antiques on High in Oxford! As a natural romantic I find work clothes boring. They are often drab, dull colours and very structured in style. I like to jazz up my work clothes with a bright cheerful top and a pretty necklace. In fact my trade mark style is a pretty, frilly cardigan with a vintage necklace.

Vintage Jewellery


I am no expert on antiques. However I do have a rapidly expanding collection of necklaces from the Art Deco Period. I love pottering in antiques shops. I only buy what I like and what I will enjoy wearing. The age of the piece is therefore less important to me than it would be to a serious collector. There are a number of synonyms for old jewellery – antique, vintage, estate, period and retro. The terms do overlap but they do mean specific things to collectors and dealers.

The time frames in jewellery history are the Late Georgian (1760-1837), Victorian (1837-1901), Art Nouveau (1890-1915), Edwardian (1901-1915), Art Deco (1920-1935), and Retro (1935-1950). Jewelry before the Late Georgian era is very hard to find.

Antique – by legal definition, means a piece that’s at least 100 years old. It includes the periods Georgian, Victorian, Arts & Crafts and just about Art Nouveau. Nowadays, many jewelers stretch the word to include the 1920s and 1930s, too.

Period –  the official name for jewelry made within the last 100 years.

Vintage – has come to mean something from a bygone era (the same way people say vintage clothing or cars). However, some professionals use it exclusively to refer to older costume jewellery such as bakelite bangles. This term applies to jewellery that was manufactured between antique and second hand. So that’s over 25 years old and up to about 100 years old.

Vintage Inspired Jewellery (Vintage Style Jewellery) – The jewellery is brand new but looks as though it was designed many years ago.

Second Hand, Pre Owned, Contemporary jewellery  used for any piece of jewellery that is up to 25 years old.

Estate – essentially an elegant word for “used.”

Retro  means “old fashioned” or associated with the past/revived from the past. Used mostly for jewellery from the 1940s and 1950s that has a distinct old fashion – quaint look.

Kitsch Jewellery –  jewellery that was once popular and has a sentimental appeal. Jewellery with mass appeal that has become highly collectible. It includes pop it bead necklaces, love beads, macrame jewellery and dried flowers in resin brooches.

Costume Jewellery  came into being as cheap disposable jewellery meant to be worn with a specific outfit or costume, but not meant to be handed down through the generations. It was intended to be fashionable for a short period of time and then disposed of.  It was during the Art Deco period that Coco Chanel introduced costume jewellery to complete her costumes or outfits. A lot of vintage jewellery was designed to be costume jewellery but some how has survived and is now very collectable.

My Jewellery Box


This beautiful 1930s Austrian crystal necklace was a recent purchase from Caroline Henney of Bag the Jewels. I found this gem in `The Antiques on High’ antique shop in Oxford. The stones are known as cut rainbow or iris glass crystals. Each stone is prong set and has flecks of pink, green and blue running through them. This was one of my recent purchases when I was looking for work suits and wanted something glam and pretty to go with them.



Beautiful Blue Art Deco Necklace  

My other recent purchase was this beautiful blue and white crystal necklace, strung with rolled gold. It dates from the Art Deco period spanning the years from approximately 1920-1935.


Common Characteristics of Art Deco Jewellery 

Sleek streamline strong angular lines

Strong use of symmetrical design

Geometric shapes

Filigree was popular

Pink Crystal Art Deco Necklace                             



My pink Art Deco necklace is very finely made. It has square cut cranberry pink crystal stones which are set in open mounts with adjoining delicate filigree spacers with a pink crystal pendant drop and a fine chain. This is one of my favourite pieces and I wear her a lot! The colour of the crystal is just gorgeous and it really does catch the light.

Vintage-Style Angel Bridal Necklace and Bracelet 


When I was choosing my wedding dress I wanted a dress which was pretty, feminine and romantic, preferably made of lace. My dress was described  as an elegant slim-line tulle and crushed taffeta gown. The Empire Line was highlighted with a band of taffeta and the tulle was appliqued with lace and beaded with Swarovski crystals.  I accesorised my dress with cream shoes by Rainbow Club with little diamante detail, a delicate gold and crystal bracelet and a fabulous golden sparkly handbag. The best bit was my golden diamante tiara. I loved it and paraded around the house when I came back from the shop!

Essense of Australia D586 Front

Having bought the beautiful Vintage-Style Angel Bridal Necklace from Yarwood-White and a matching bracelet I decided the necklace was a bit over the top with all the beautiful detail on my dress. I still wore the bracelet on my wedding day and whenever I wear the necklace now I still think of it as my wedding necklace and keep it for special occasions!


   P&D (005)

Wedding Dress DetailHoneymoon Gems 

For our honeymoon we went to Sri-Lanka. As I hadn’t worn my wedding necklace on my wedding day I decided I must have a honeymoon necklace! The blue sapphires from Sri Lanka are known as Ceylon Sapphire and are reportedly unique in colour, clarity and lustre compared to the blue sapphires from other countries. I wasn’t keen on the designs of the sapphire pendants I saw so settled on this pretty gem-stone necklace which incorporated 6 stones in the shape of a flower. Much more me and very wearable!  The stones are tanzanite, citrine, blue topaz, pink tormaline, amethyst and aquamarine. There also tiny diamonds in the white gold setting. Although this is a modern piece of jewellery I hope that 1 day it will become an heirloom.


Suffragette Vintage Style Pendant


Edwardian Suffragette jewellery was believed to have been created for the women’s movement first in England and later in the United States. Suffragette jewellery was characterized by the use of green, white, and violet gems to stand for a secretive feminist message. The first letter of each of these colors forms the acronym, “GWV”, which purportedly stood for “Give Women the Vote” .

The Edwardian Period (1901-1910) coincided with the birth of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England. This organization was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 and it became the most prominent spearhead of the women’s movement in England.

The Edwardian period celebrated the reign of King Edward VII and his Danish born Queen, Alexandra. Her favorite color was mauve, his “leek-green” . Therefore, Edwardian jewellery incorporated peridots, emeralds, demantoid garnets (green), amethysts (purple), and diamonds (white). These gems complimented the use of platinum open work, “lacey” settings that defined the jewelry of the period.

The original colors of the WSPU movement in England were thought up by Mrs. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, a prominent and devout leader of the feminist movement. She must have taken inspiration from King Edward and Queen Alexandra’s favorite colors .Her goal was to make a public declaration of colors for the women’s movement, by which all members could proudly and publicly be identified with, not to create a clandestine code for her sisters in suffrage.

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband published the suffragist newspaper, Votes For Women. In the May 1908 issue of Votes For Women, she reportedly explained the symbolism behind the purple, white, and green colors of the (WSPU) movement. Purple stood for royal dignity. White stood for purity. Green stood for Hope.

These colors were not originally intended to form a secret acronym to unite the sisterhood of suffragettes, rather they were intended to be used in a public declaration behind the women’s movement. It is quite possible that as the movement progressed, suffragettes embraced the popular Edwardian jewelry being made at the time and developed the secondary and quite catchy “Give Women the Vote” acronym for it to fit their cause.

Suffragettes could have simply adopted many Edwardian jewellery pieces for their cause, by cleverly calling the color purple “violet” and coming up with the “Give Women the Vote” (Green, White, Violet) slogan.

My pendant is a modern copy of an Edwardian design from Brooks and Daughters in Oxford .


Edwardian 1920’s Bohemian Necklace  


My Edwardian necklace is a dark purple crystal with amazing detail on the chain. It’s a bit chunkier than the other delicate pendants but equally wearable.

Corpus Christi College Brooch 

DSC_4055This distinctive brooch was given to my Grandma when she visited Corpus Christi College in Oxford with her husband, George Mason Hills (1912-1950).   George  studied bio-chemistry and is photographed with his tutor F.B. Pidduck. I find it fascinating that my Grandma was given a brooch by her husband’s tutor. The photo is interesting as it shows my grandparents’ trusty tandem which they even cycled in Italy and Switzerland on  a belated honeymoon.  I found the brooch after my Gran had died. The pin had broken so I had it professionally repaired. I would love to know if anyone else has one of these distinctive brooches. I am also interested to know if the photo was taken in the grounds of Corpus Christi College as I know the grounds have been re-modelled in the intervening years. Imgp0129img250

 Gran’s Beads and Earrings 

I’m not sure of the date of this jewellery, but I presume they are Austrian jewels. They were definately worn by my Gran as here she is at an Office Party in the 1970s. It may have been that she bought them on honeymoon. I haven’t worn the earrings, but I wear the necklace when I need a bit of sparkle in my life.  They really do capture the light and reflect different colours.




Office Party 1974I have inherited my love of the colour turquoise from my Gran. Doesn’t she look glam in her turquoise dress and vintage jewellery?

Christie Brooch

The last 2 items in my jewellery box are a mystery. They were given to me by my adopted father and are presumably some sort of heirloom from his family. However I was young when they were given to me so didn’t take any notice of their history at the time.

Christie Brooch FrontThe brooch is fascinating as it has an inscription on the back. The inscription reads:-

Presented to F.I.P.


Peter Christie

Born Sep 14th 1791

Died March 1st 1865

I have no idea who the brooch was presented to. The Christie family owned Hoddesdon Brewery from 1804 to 1929, and Peter was apprenticed and then made the managing director until his death in 1865. As it was a family run business the managers and employees were quite close. A contact of mine via ancestry has seen other heirlooms held by Christie descendents that were presented from brewery employees. It may be that Peter Christie’s sons who inherited the brewery gave keepsakes to the employees at the time of their father’s death so they could fondly remember their manager by! Perhaps a female worker since it was a brooch? If anyone can shed any more light on the history behind my brooch please do let me know. My adopted father’s mothers maiden name was Pightling. Maybe the brooch was presented to a lady with the surname Pightling?

Christie & Co Brewers

Gorgeous Green Gemstones 

I also inherited this gorgeous green crystal necklace. I believe the stones are imitation paste. It has the style of a necklace from the Early Art Deco Period. It would be great to know more about it! I love vintage jewellery. I love the fact that each piece has been worn by someone else and has a history and story to tell.  I wonder what stories my gorgeous green gems could tell?!



1 Comment

Citrus Celebration!

Citrus CelebrationMr Smiles made a slight mis-judgement with our supermarket delivery this week. Instead of ordering 4 individual lemons he ordered 4 bags of lemons and instead of 2 limes we have 2 bags of limes. My challenge therefore was to use 20 lemons and 10 limes and I rose to the Citrus Challenge!

My first recipe of the weekend was Lemon Curd,  closely followed by Lime Curd. Curds aren’t really preserves as they only keep for a few weeks. However they are used like preserves – spread on toast and as fillings for cakes and other desserts. I’ve never made any kind of curd before and I am converted! They are so easy to make. Even Mr Smiles enjoyed having a stir and helping pour into jars. Any fruit with a slight sharpness makes a good curd.

Lemon Curd

  • 4 x 225ml (8 fl oz) jars
  • 325g (11.5 oz) golden caster sugar
  • 4 lemons
  • 125g (4oz) unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs

Place the sugar in a large heatproof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water.

Golden Caster Sugar

Finely zest the 4 lemons and then extract the juice. I bought an amazingly efficient lemon squeezer at the weekend. Cut a lemon in half, place in the cup and squeeze the handles to make juice. Compared to my traditional lemon squeezer this is effortless juice extraction. The skin, flesh and pips can be removed in one piece for discarding and there is less mess.  No mopping up of fleshy bits and seeds, and much easier to clean afterwards. (My zested lemon is posing on top of the squeezer, which is artistic licence!) Add the juice and zest to the bowl with the sugar.

Easy Squeezer

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the mix.

Unsalted Butter

Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the other ingredients.

Lightly Beaten

The heatproof bowl rests on a saucepan on top of the simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Simmering CurdSwirls of Curd

Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Coats the back of the Spoon

Pour the curd into hot sterilised jars, cover and seal. The curd will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

I made Lime Curd in exactly the same way although the quantities were slightly different and made 3 jars instead of 4.

Lime Curd Ingredients

  • 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • juice and finely grated zest of 5 limes
  • 150g (5 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs and 2 egg yolks

Lemon & Lime

I had successfully managed to use 4 lemons and 5 limes. Only 16 lemons and 7 limes to go! I realised that Lemon and Lime Curd wouldn’ t keep like my jams for Christmas presents. I therefore decided to get creative using the Lemon Curd in another recipe.

Mary Berry’s Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

This is a fantastic recipe, very easy to make and tastes delicious!

  • 300ml/½ pint double cream
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 jar good quality lemon curd
  • 4 meringues broken into chunky pieces
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm
  • 3 passionfruit, halved, pulp and seeds scooped out
  • sprigs of lemon balm, to garnish


Line a 450g/1lb loaf tin with clingfilm, overlapping the sides.

Whisk the cream lightly until the whisk leaves a trail. Double Cream


Add the lemon zest and juice Easy Squeezerand half the jar of lemon curd then fold in the meringue and chopped lemon balm.

Lemon Meringue Dream

At this point I discovered I had no lemon balm and neither did 3 supermarkets or a garden centre! Lemon balm is a perennial herb in the mint family. It is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas. Having asked around, a friend came to the rescue and gave me an off shoot of her plant. Beware it can spread and be invasive like mint. As I had no lemon balm I improvised and used a small piece of finely chopped lemon grass which I hoped would give a nice fresh citrus taste to the ice-cream.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Cover with the clingfilm and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer 10- 15 minutes before turning onto a plate. Lift the ice cream from the loaf tin, invert it onto a board and remove the clingfilm.Dip a sharp knife in boiling water and cut the ice cream into thick slices.

Mix the other half of the lemon curd with the pulp and seeds from the passion fruit to make a refreshing sauce. I’ve never used passion fruit before in a recipe. On the outside they are pretty boring, dark, ugly fruits. However I thought they were quite pretty when I cut them in half. The pink flesh matched the pretty pink saucer and the white pith looked lacy like the tablecloth.

Passionfruit Place a slice of ice cream on a plate and top with a spoonful of the passion fruit sauce. Decorate with sprigs of lemon balm if you have it.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream



I still needed to find more delicious citrus recipes to use all the lemons and limes we’d bought. I found another Mary Berry recipe was quite easy to make and also delicious.

Mary Berry’s Lemon & Lime Cheesecake

  • 10 digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 50g (1¾ oz) butter, melted
  • 25g (scant 1oz) demerara sugar
  • 150ml (5fl oz) double cream
  • 397g can full-fat condensed milk
  • 175g (6oz) full-fat cream cheese (room temperature)
  • grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
  • grated zest and juice of 1½ limes
  • 150ml (5fl oz) double or whipping cream, to decorate
  • ½ lime, thinly sliced, to decorate

This is a really, easy recipe which looks lovely and tastes delicious.

To make the biscuit base place the biscuits in a clear plastic bag. Lay the bag on a flat surface and run a rolling pin back and forth over the biscuits until they form crumbs. I actually used a mixture of digestive biscuits and ginger biscuits. I find digestive biscuits give a more crumbly texture and I like the taste of the ginger in the base.  Biscuits
Crushed Biscuit Base





Place the crushed biscuits and the sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter and pour over the biscuits, stirring until thouroughly mixed.


Turn the biscuit mixture out into a 20 cm (8in) loose- bottomed tin and press firmly and evenly over the bottom and up the sides using the back of a metal spoon. Chill for at least 30 minutes until set.  Demerara Sugar




Double Cream


To make the filling place the double cream, condensed milk and cream cheese in a bowl with the lemon and lime zests. Mix thoroughly. Using a balloon whisk gradually whisk in the lemon and lime juices and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. You must use full-fat condensed milk and cream cheese for the recipe to work, as the filling won’t set if you use low-fat substitutes.

Citrus Fiesta

Pour the lemon and lime filling into the crumb crust and spread it evenly. Cover and chill overnight.

Up to 6 hours before serving , whip the cream and decorate the cheesecake with swirls of whipped cream and slices of lime. I must admit my swirls were more like thick blobs as I overwhipped the cream, but I was still pleased with the result! 

Lemon & Lime Cheesecake


The last recipe I followed to use up the lemons was Lemon Drizzle Cake. We were still left with 11 lemons and 3 limes, but I think I made a jolly good effort at using them!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 250g self raising flour, sifted
  • zest and juice 2 lemons
  • 75g (3 oz) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to Gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Grease a (20cm) round, deep loose-based tin and base line with baking parchment.


Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. DSC_3887

Use an electric whisk to beat the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy.



Gradually add the eggs, whisking well between additions and adding 2 tbsp of the flour with the last egg – this will prevent curdling.   DSC_3890









Sift over the remaining flour, then gently fold in with a metal spoon along with 1 tbsp hot water.   DSC_3892

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.



Bake for 50-60 minutes until it is shrinking away from the sides of the tin. A fine skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 mins.


Squeeze the lemon juice, then sieve to remove the bits. Stir the granulated sugar into the lemon juice. Use the fine skewer to prick the cake all over, pour over the syrup – it should sink in but leave a crunchy crust. Leave to cool completely.


So here we have it – Mrs Smiles’ Finest Lemon Drizzle Cake.



The Lemon Drizzle Cake went down very well at work. I still have 10 lemons and 3 limes left, but have run out of steam. I am leaving them for Mr Smiles to be inventive with…Do let me know if you have any favourite lemon or lime recipes.

0 comment

1 2 3