M. FORD CREECH ANTIQUES & FINE ARTS

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"TALES OF CHRISTMAS PAST"

"THE 19TH CENTURY"

1847 "Illustrated London News" holiday depiction of

"FATHER CHRISTMAS"

and the accompanying verse :

"Father Christmas", 1847, "Illustrated London News", 1847

"'Old Christmas' is come for to keep open house

And scorns to be guilty of starving a mouse.

Then come, boys, and welcome, for diet the chief,

There's plum-pudding, roast goose, minced pies, and roast beef,

Then let us be merry, and taste the good cheer,

And remember 'Old Christmas' but comes once a year".

Since Medieval times, mischievous and raucous "Father Christmas" had overseen

Christmas merriment, specializing in "revelry", "trickery" and "wild excesses"!

In this 1847 illustration, he appears even a bit Bacchus-like.

And, during the first half of the 19th century these earlier customs continued with gusto.

 


In the year 1800 Queen Charlotte (consort of George III),

decided to hold a large Christmas party for the children

of the principal families in Windsor, as well as many of the poor.

As has often been the custom in her native Germany,

the Queen potted up an entire yew tree,

covered it with lighted candles, baubles and fruit,

 loaded it with presents,

and placed it in the middle of the drawing-room floor at Queen’s Lodge.

"Joyful Christmas" , Viggo Johansen, 1891, Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

“It glittered with glass and crystal and the scent of fruit and spice filled the drawing room,

capturing the heart and imagination of all who saw it”.

This was Great Britain’s first "British"; full "Christmas tree".

Prior to that time, only candlelit evergreen branches had been used.*

 


Just as the flame from candles lit the early tree,

so the flames in the fireplace warmed winter rooms ... in addition to food.

And whilst some cooking tools were reserved for the kitchen, others, as

Silver Toasting Forks

were for the drawing and dining room fireplaces.

“Fireplace cooks” ranged from “amateur epicureans”,

to hungry university students, each trying their hand

at toasting cheese sandwiches, crumpets, roasting apples - even puddings

Below are two toasting forks, one from 1800, and a traveling "telescopic" fork from 1808.

Two George III Silver Toasting Forks

George III Silver Toasting Fork, JR (presumably Josephus Read), London 1800, 30.75" Long

in a later leather and velvet-lined fitted case, retailed by Asprey, London

George III Telescopic Silver & Shagreen Traveling Toasting Fork, H.M, London

expanding from 5” in its shagreen case, to 21.5” when fully opened

Incidentally, the electric toaster was a 19th century Scottish invention - Alan MacMasters in 1893.

And perhaps, about 1810, whilst roasting an apple over the Yule fire,

maybe somewhere along the Firth of Tay -

a wee dram of brandy or Scotch Whisky might be sipped from an exotic

Silver-Mounted Coconut Cup

George III Scottish Provincial Silver-Mounted Coconut Cup, Dundee, c1810

George III Scottish Provincial Silver-Mounted Coconut Cup,

William Young, Dundee, Scotland, c1810, the nut in exceptional condition

Also in that room - before the fire - might be four or five carolers,

singing from the just-published "Carols Ancient and Modern" (1823),

the carols perhaps including :

the old Welsh carol, "The First Noel", published with the old wording;

"Angels from the Realms of Glory", written in 1816; or maybe

"Silent Night", first sung on Christmas Eve to a soft strumming of a guitar, in 1818.

Firelight would greatly assist in reading new lyrics... but moreso the light of nearby candles.

(There were no light switches until 1884)!

Good Set of Four George IV Neoclassical Silver Candlesticks, Creswick & Co. Sheffield, 1820

Good Set of Four George IV Neoclassical Silver Candlesticks, Creswick & Co. Sheffield, 1820

And perhaps after the crumpets and the caroling, some fine champagne,

chilled in also ice-filled wine coolers :

 

Good Pair of Matthew Boulton Old Sheffield Plate Wine Coolers, England, c1815

Good Pair of Matthew Boulton Old Sheffield Plate Wine Coolers, England, c1815

Crested to each side with marital arms of Halliday and Harvie

And furtherenhancing the Christmas merrymaking were all manner of small finery :

Georgian Wine Funnels & Stand, Silver Bottle Tickets, and Punch Strainersw

such as Georgian wine funnels & stands, bottle tickets and punch strainers (recently"published"!) -

 to both the ritual of wine...and the winter room.

 


In 1820 George IV assumed the throne of England.

Grandeur and opulence thrived during his 10 year reign

moreso than any reign since Charles II.

In 1822, shortly after his lavish coronation, George IV visited Scotland,

where in Edinburgh, only a few days before Christmas!

at Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House,

George IV gave a banquet having 100 courses!

"Father Christmas" must have been overjoyed!

"George IV at the Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House, Edinburgh",JMW Turner, Tate, London

Above, the banquet is immortalized by JMW Turner, now housed in the Tate, London.

In 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125", was first performed in

Vienna. It ended with the powerful chorale "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee".**

George IV was quite taken by silver. Throughout his life, he added to the already large “Grand Service”,

the service numbering over 4000 pieces at his death. Among the major contributors to that service was

master silversmith Paul Storr, including candelabra and large service pieces,

as well as flatware, and the extremely popular "King's Pattern".

The “Grand Service” ( Royal Collection) is still in use today for state banquets and ceremonial affairs.

William IV Silver "Military Thread" Basting Spoon, Paul Storr, London, 1835

William IV Silver "Military Thread" Basting Spoon

Paul Storr, London, 1835, the terminal engraved with a crest for the family of Astley :

William IV Silver "Military Thread" Basting Spoon, Paul Storr, London, 1835

"Out of a ducal coronet or five ostrich feathers argent"

Below the crest is engraved 'an annulet' which is the mark of cadency for a fifth son

And below in the "King's Pattern", heavy, ornately cast with shells and honeysuckle,

 is a very fine mid-19th century silver salad service set.

Fine & Heavy Pair of Victorian Silver Salad Servers, Kings Pattern

Fine & Heavy Pair of Victorian Silver Salad Servers, Kings Pattern

John Lias & Henry John Lias, London 1850 & 5

 


Also during the early 19th century, THE TURKEY (to the boar’s long-lasting pleasure)

finally became the Christmas superstar.

During the 18th century, the birds had been rather expensive, that cost moderating in the 19th.

Matthew Boulton Old Sheffield Plate Meat Tray, Two George III Silver Meat Skewere

George III Matthew Boulton Old Sheffield Plate Meat Platter, c1810-15 (for the bird)

and Two George III Silver Meat Skewers

(these hold the bird together when the bindings are removed, then being used to carve against)

 


HOWEVER, IN THE MID-19TH CENTURY,

A CHANGE BEGAN TO OCCUR IN "CHRISTMAS".

 

"Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle", from the Christmas Supplement to the "Illustrated London News ", 1848, British Library, London

Concurrent with the early 19th century opulence,

 

a new "sense of Christmas" was arising.

 

Only few years before

 

the 1847 'London Illustrated News"

 

depiction of "Father Christmas",

 

the engraving to the left appeared,

 

also in the "Illustrated London News"(1842),

 

depicting Queen Victoria,

 

Prince Albert and their children, gathered

 

around a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle.***

 

This image was widely seen, quite popular,

 

and brought about the concept of Christmas

 

as an intimate "family celebration".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
"The Ghost of Christmas Present", "A Christmas Carol", 1843, illustration, John Leech

Also in 1843, Charles Dickens published his

 

Christmas classic. "A Christmas Carol".

 

Dickens recalled the poverty of his youth

 

and brought forth those trials,

 

making more poignant the Christmas season,

 

as the four ghosts of Christmas

 

visited Ebenezer Scrooge,

 

including "The Ghost of Christmas Present".

 

 

 

Dickens spoke his thoughts on Christmas

 

 

through this ghost :

 

those glorifying the Victorian family,

 

and embracing closeness of family, humility,

 

generosity and goodwill to all men,

 

and acts of charity to the poor.

 

 

 

 

 

1843, the first "Christmas Card” was sent by John Cole, first director of the V&A, London.

 


About That Time Also Came

"A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS"

"St. Nicholas" had been a very popular 4th century saint, whose legendary habit of secret

"gift-giving" made him revered throughout Europe, particularly in the Low Countries.

The Dutch name for St. Nicholas was "Sinterklaas",

the name coming to the Americas with the early Dutch settlers.

On December 23, 1823, in America, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" had been published.

It was immediately popular in both America and Great Britain.

We also know this poem as

"The Night Before Christmas".

Instead of "Father Christmas", with his uproarious feasting, drinking and regaling,

here was a jolly large bearded fellow in a red suit in a sleigh with 8 reindeer,

coming down the sooty chimney, on a cold snowy night - fire burning

and bearing gifts for children!

"Merry Old Santa Claus", from the January 1, 1881 edition of “Harper’s Weekly”, Thomas Nast

"Merry Old Santa", an 1863 illustration by Thomas Nast

By about 1850, the long-reigning mischievous "Father Christmas",

(whose purpose had naught to do with charity, gift-giving or children)

began to merge with the jolly gift-giving "Sinterklaas" and voila!

"Santa Claus" - and his bundle of toys...

...for whom to this day, we still leave a Cookie (or two) & Milk.

 

A George IV Silver Waiter, William Bateman, London 1825, Arms of Goodwyn

A Large & Fine Victorian Silver Tankard, in the "Charles II Manner", Gibson & Langman, London 1898

A Large & Fine Victorian Silver Tankard, in the "Charles II Manner", Gibson & Langman, London 1898

and A George IV Silver Waiter, William Bateman, London 1825, Arms of Goodwyn

About 1850, "Jingle Bells" was written,

followed by "Up on the Housetop" in 1860.

And perhaps a few NUTS ...

Good Pair of George V Silver Nutcrackers, George Howson, London, 1926

Good Pair of George V Silver Nutcrackers, George Howson, London, 1926

Good silver nutcrackers from the 19th century are very difficult to find.

So we have added this fine pair from 1926, by George Howson (Harrsion Bros.& Howson,

the company achieving a Royal Warrant from both Queen Victoria and Edward VIII).

In 1892, the Christmas favorite, "The Nutcracker",

a two-act ballet, was first performed to a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

In 1885, another Christmas favorite was written : "Away in a Manger".

And, of course, the '20th century' continued to bring us more 'traditions', as 

the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades (from 1924),

Bing Crosby and "White Christmas" (1941),

and ...

"All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth", in 1944 for Spike Jones,

and 1962, immortalized by Alvin & The Chipmunks!!

 


One night remained much the same :

THE TWELFTH NIGHT, and THE CAKE!

We opened this Christmas series with a 17th century painting depicting

"King of the Bean" regaling at a 12th Night celebration in 1626.

Glasses were raised, feasting to excess, all merrily around the table, where

a "King" had been chosen to be the "Lord of Misrule" –

by means of a bean baked in a cake.

This had been tradition (save a few years) from Medieval times through the 19th century. ,

By the early 19th century, the cake itself had become very elaborate, with sugar frosting and gilded paper

trimmings, often decorated with delicate figures made of plaster of Paris or sugar paste.

Many cakes were so large that they were very difficult to carry!

"A Christmas Cake and Boar’s Head, Twelfth Night", Engraving

Primarily due to the cake – plus the games and wassailing -

"Twelfth Night" is reported to have been the most popular day of the Christmas season

This cake is also known as the "Christmas Cake",

Also in "King of the Bean", merrymakers are shown toasting, with their jugs and glasses in the air,

most of these glasses known as "roemers".

There are a few – but not many – glass roemers from 1626 that still exist.

"Feast of the Bean King", Jacob Jordaens, c1640, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

However we happen to have a set of Nine 19th Century Green Glass Roemers,

with a most interesting provenance :

Rare Set of Nine Continental Glass Roemers, Dutch or German, c1880

By repute, a gift to the British Royal Household by Tsar Nicholas II,

 in 1909 to King Edward VII,

and gifted to the great uncle of the previous owner

 upon his retirement from service to the British Royal Household.

Waes Hael!!

And May MERRIMENT Follow You EVERYWHERE

This Christmas Season!

 


Footnotes :

* Legend related that the lighted tree was popularized by Martin Luther in 1536, whom when strolling

one night in a pine forest in Wittenberg, glanced up through the canopy at the stars twinkling above him.

 Inspired, he brought a fir red into his house and lit it with candles.

Luther hoped that this would remind his children of the heavens.

Throughout the 17th century, trees of various types that were illuminated by candlelight became popular across Southern Germany.

However meanwhile, in Great Britain, an evergreen branch was illuminated with candles and baubles.

Under this bough, the children laid the presents they mean for their parents.

** Beethoven was completely deaf by the time that this symphony was performed,

and could not hear the applause.

*** It is generally stated Prince Albert brought the custom of the Christmas tree to Great Britain.

However, it was indeed the first "fir" tree.

Queen Charlotte’s tree had previously become very popular among the British aristocrats.

Paintings & Illustrations in Order of Appearance :

"Father Christmas", 1847, "Illustrated London News", 1847

"Joyful Christmas" , Viggo Johansen, 1891, Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

"George IV at the Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House, Edinburgh",

JMW Turner, The Tate, London

"Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle",  from the Christmas Supplement to the "Illustrated London News",

1848, British Library, London, England

"The Ghost of Christmas Present", (with his foot on one of the "immense twelfth cakes"),

"A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas", Charles Dickens,

with 1843, illustration, John Leech

"Merry Old Santa Claus", from the January 1, 1881 edition of “Harper’s Weekly”, Thomas Nast,

reprinted from 1863

"A Christmas Cake and Boar’s Head, Twelfth Night", Engraving; npr brightspot

Also known as "Feast of the Bean King", Jacob Jordaens, c1640, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 (The above courtesy of Creative Commons)

Inventory Photography : Millicent F. Creech

 


 

For "Tales of the 17th Century The British Christmas", Please Click Here :

For "Tales of the 18th Century The British Christmas", Please Click Here :

 


 

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M. FORD CREECH ANTIQUES & FINE ART

581 S. PERKINS ROAD

POPLAR CENTER COLLECTION / MEMPHIS TN 38117

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Tales of Christmas Past, The 19th Century in England; M. Ford Creech Antiques

 

 

 
George III Telescopic Silver & Shagreen Toasting Fork, H.M. London George III Silver Toasting Fork, JR (presumably Josephus Read), London 1800