Saturday, 14 February 2009

Your Oldest Thing (Besides Him)

Have I mentioned that I have a cousin in Perth, Australia? We're related through my mother's paternal great-grandparents, I think it is. She could tell you better than I could, probably. Anyhow, ever since we found each other about 18 months ago we've had a great going correspondence.

She asked me a brilliant question in one of her last emails. After expressing interest in the pictures of my Grandmother's furniture, she asked, "What is the oldest thing you have?" I had to work to come up with some guesses:

My Grandfather's s pocket watch ?1914-1924?
Grandma's engagement ring ?1913?
My 1st wedding ring, his grandmother's - ?1905?
Cosmopolitan magazine and her cookbooks - ?1899?
Bill's family's furniture, I've no idea about their ages, older than mine
Sampler by one of his ancestors - definitely 1879

I mentioned this to him at dinner the other night and he fetched this handwritten cookbook. I'd seen it before, it lives in the kitchen next to my Grandma's turn-of-the century cookbooks, but I'd not realised the date, though it appears on the first page. I'm scanning a little to show it to you, but can't really do it justice without risking the binding and there is no way I'm going to do that. I'm sure you'll understand.

There is a page that is loose, however (and one that is missing, apparently):

There are 205 recipes written in this lovely handwriting, from How to Make a Lemon Puding to Wine of Elder Berry. Following the recipes is an alphabetic index, from An Angelic Pudding to To Pickle Walernutts (?); in the recipe she writes walnutts.

At the end of the index is written

Elisabeth Smith her book 1732

The person who next used this book of pages has different writing altogther and apparently far less patience. She only wrote this one recipe in full, having started on the previous page to write about The Gilly of Calvesfeet, but giving up after only two lines. She liked doing swirls, though. (Elisabeth preferred a neat centred column of graduated lines, making an upside down pyramid).

Sadly, the swirlly girl didn't oblige us with any dates.

In the back cover, which I dare not try to scan, yet another handwriting lists dates in 1757 - 1760 on which 3 members of the Baker family went to either Lady att Mr. Finnicks or a Mr S... a name I cannot make out.

I had it in my head that this was visiting tailors, but only because there is a posh department store in Newcastle called Fenwicks (pronounced Fennicks) and this names the part of the store where they sell the designer frocks. It doesn't work, though, as that store wasn't opened until 1882. More prosaically, Bill thinks that, as they all March or April dates, they are hiring fairs for servants. Also, he's made out that "Lady" is actually Lodg, so Eliz. Baker went to Lodg at Mr Finnicks, as servants did at one time. Still, quite interesting.

Bill was disappointed to read the name Baker; he'd earlier thought this was a different name, a family name. Fortunately, one of the Baker's has a slightly unusual given name that a quick check on indicates might be local. I think he's got a bit of interesting genealogical detective work in front of him, but it won't be simple as the English census starts in 1841.

Research issues aside, the date 1732 still takes my breath away. George Washington was born in 1732. You can bet I wipe my hands and touch with gentle reverence. I wonder if we should be wearing gloves?

I just had a look at the schedule for the Antiques Roadshow. I see that on 27 August they will be filming at The Bowes Museum, one of our very favourite places to visit any old time. Here I sit fizzing with excitement but old Wet Blanket William comes home from work and says he thinks this book, even being 277 years old, is probably not that unusual, something I find incredible. Never mind, it would fun to go to the Bowes in August even had we nothing to ask the experts about.

Watch this space...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is hard to think of things that old, living in a "young" country. The oldest things we have around is a rounded front china hutch that mother's mother got when she got married. Then there was grandmother's steamer trunk that mother painted lavender (I don't think that helped the value. Duh!) Counting back, it seems like the china cabinet should be about 1915.