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Tudor House and Garden is home to a range of interesting artefacts which give us a fascinating insight into life through the ages. These include a number of objects which will be familiar to visitors from previous visits to the House, as well as others which are newly conserved, and have either not been displayed for many years, or never previously shown. These include objects as varied as a case of Victorian stuffed birds, a pair of 1920s shoes, and a medieval jewel casket.
A number of glass panes decorated with birds were discovered recently in one of the collection stores. They are most likely to originate from the large window in the Banqueting Hall. This window was restored by William Spranger at the beginning of the 20th Century. The discovery of these panes suggests that the intriguing images of birds included in his new window were based on these original pieces of glass, removed during the restoration. Weight is added to this theory from a description of the building by local 19th Century antiquarian Henry Englefield, in his book ‘A walk through Southampton in 1841:
“….there remains in one of the great windows some curious and very old painted glass. Many of the panes have each a bird performing different offices and functions of human life, as soldiers, handicrafts, musicians, etc.”
The Southampton Book of Hours
One of the treasures of Southampton’s collection, this tiny 13cm by 9cm book is too fragile to be displayed permanently. However, the technology in Tudor House’s new displays allows us to show visitors some pages from this beautiful book, as part of the programme on the Guida Rotate (a 360º, projected interactive video display) in the Rich Room.
The Book of Hours is a personal prayer book, dating to the late 15th century. It was consulted during the day to help the owner carry out her daily devotions. It is written in Flemish, with some Latin, and was probably made in the Netherlands around 1480.
These books tended to contain the same core elements, although no two are exactly the same. Our book contains a descriptive and illustrated calendar of the fixed festivals of the Christian church with descriptions and illustrations of medieval people carrying out their occupations and leisure pursuits of particular months. It also contains the Hours of the Virgin – rules for the recital of certain prayers at specific times of the day – and the Office of the Dead, a collection of psalms and readings intended to be said around the coffin of a deceased person.
This penny farthing, dating from the late 19th Century, has been a popular exhibit at Tudor House for many years.
Penny farthing bicycles were invented in 1871 by British engineer James Starley and enjoyed brief popularity in both the UK and US for around 20 years. They were also known as ‘high’ or ‘ordinary’ bicycles. They had a small rear wheel and large front wheel pivoting on a simple tubular frame, with solid rubber tyres. They were named after the two British coins, the penny and farthing.
They were soon overtaken in popularity by ‘road safety bicycles’, launched in 1885. Their small-scale chain drives meant that the same speed could be achieved without the need for the large wheel, and the rider could sit more safely, much lower down, which also made dismounting much easier.
One of our principal exhibits is a sedan chair, which has been painstakingly restored at the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton. During the work, conservators discovered a number painted on the back of the chair, showing that it was a public sedan chair for hire, rather than belonging to a private household.
This chair was made in England and dates to c1747–80. The side windows and door at the front were originally glazed. The roof was hinged to allow easier access.
Sedan chairs were used to transport wealthy people around the town. They were carried by two men called “chairmen” who inserted poles into the brackets on each side of the chair. The poles were long and springy and provided a slightly bouncy ride.
The chairs were could be carried indoors and up stairs so people could travel without getting rained on or splattered with mud, or having elaborate hairstyles ruined. Invalids could travel to take the waters without setting foot outside. Curtains at the windows provided privacy. At night, “links boys” accompanied the chair with lit torches, to light the way.
Wealthy families owned their own chairs, elaborately painted and lined with silk upholstery. This one, covered with plain black leather, was available for public hire. Sedan chairmen were licensed to carry passengers and had to display a number,like today’s taxi drivers. During recent conservation, the number 18 was discovered on this chair.
A trip within the town would have cost about 6d. After midnight, the fare would double.
This interesting exhibit is a leather wine flagon in the shape of an Elizabethan lady, and made principally from vegetable tanned leather. The underskirt features an embossed pattern of interlaced foliage and mythical beasts. The lace collar, sleeve-ends and the lower edge of the skirt were probably made from light-coloured, possibly oil-tanned leather. The bodice and overskirt were also possibly from different coloured leathers. The face and upper chest area have been painted.
The jug has been restored painstakingly and sensitively to retain its patina and original character and can be found in the Banqueting Hall. It is essential that we keep it in humidity-controlled conditions as leather – especially old leather – is very sensitive to changes in humidity, which could cause irreparable damage. We also have to protect it from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
Rita Morice Collection of Fairings
Rita Morice (1935 – 2006) was a Highfield resident, who taught at the Girls Grammar School and lectured at Southampton University. An amateur potter, she developed a love for Victorian fairings: brightly coloured, mass–produced ornaments which provided amusing and sometimes risqué comments on social behaviour. They were given out as prizes in Victorian fairgrounds, and became a cheap and popular holiday souvenir.
Her collection was donated to Southampton museums by her husband, Emeritus Professor Peter Morice, in 2007. He also provided funding for the purchase of a new case so that her collection could be displayed at Tudor House.
This fine etched steel casket has recently been identified by the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was probably made in Nuremberg, Germany, and dates from around 1580-1600. Etching was a good way of decorating metal objects that needed to be hard wearing, as it produced a low relief decoration that did not interfere with the structure of the item, but when filled with black lacquer, produced an attractive decorative effect. It was probably used for storing valuables such as jewellery.