Sunday, 25 October 2015

Onion Johnnies

If you think of a Frenchman what image immediately comes to mind? Could it be something like this? 

Brittany onion johnny
via pinterest

This was a familiar site in Britain prior to the 1970's and for many, the only time they came across a Frenchman. These French onion sellers were known as "Onion Johnnies" and would sell their famous pink onions from door to door. Does anyone remember seeing this? I remember my mother in law telling me about them. There is a wonderful 4 minute video told in English and French here

This week a boat sailed into West Bay from Roscoff in France, it was full of Frenchmen and onions!

They were taking part in a 4 day festival to remember this old tradition.The Frenchmen would arrive in this country in July or August and return to France around Christmas. The peak of the trade was in the 1920's when 1,400 Johnnies managed to sell 9,000 tons of onions.

It was lovely to see and also to buy a string of onions, unfortunately we didn't have enough time to see them cycling away together from the harbour - hopefully they will return again next year.

We forgot that the clocks were turning back one hour this weekend, so with the sun shining it was good to get out early for a walk down by the sea. Even the sheep looked at bit startled to see us up so early!

It was beautiful on the beach and a moment to treasure, as the nights start drawing in. I'm not looking forward to driving home from work in the dark tomorrow and for the next few months.

Wishing you a good week, until next time.
Sarah x

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The golden and ruby colours of Autumn

The leaves are beginning to slowly turn.....

and we have had some spectacular sunrises this week.

I had to wear sun glasses on the way to work, it was so bright!

Coming home I stopped again this time to capture the sun rays over the sea......... 

The colours in the Dorset countryside are starting to take on tinges of gold and ruby.......

We have passed this wonderful bus stop many times and admired it. This time as we were on foot, and could look at in more detail. Inside was the story of its creation.

West Milton no longer has a church, shop, pub or school and the bus stop was the only place the villagers met up. The villagers decided to improve the bus stop by building around the existing structure. They used the local yellow Ham Stone and then added this wonderful roof and entrance.

They even persuaded the local electric board to sponsor a weather vane, sadly this is no longer there. Don't you think it is magnificient?

Another community project is the wonderful Bridport Community Orchard. It was Apple Day on Saturday a chance to celebrate the orchard with songs, dancing, games, story telling, apple tasting and apple pressing and cider,

There was such a range of apples, my favourite one was called Rosemary Russet.

Under some of the trees, was a popular area with children - a chance to use their imagination and play amongst the cardboard boxes, so good to see in these days of computers.

The human fruit machine where I was helping out was also popular. Just like a fruit slot machine the aim was to match three apples. It was worth paying 20p just to laugh at us as we attempted to sound and look like the machine!

In the garden this week the marigolds and blueberry bush is my favourite combination.

Although these Michaelmas daisies are also beautiful!

Our grape harvest, despite lots of pruning this year, was still large and took some time to pick.We have made it into grape juice again, cheers!

Have you had a colourful week.too? Thank you for all the comments in my last post, it was fun reading all your family history stories too. Thank you for sharing them.
Sarah x

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Antique dealer

It's a long time ago since I last took the blog to Bristol and told you the tale of my great great grandfather who sailed the high seas. This time we return to Bristol to tell the tales of his son and grandson who were antique dealers from the 1890's through to 1950's.

We move away from the harbour and walk a short distance to Park Street. This street was built from 1761 and was Bristol's earliest example of uniformly stepped hillside Georgian terracing. At the top of the hill is the magnificent Wills memorial building (part of Bristol university) that was completed in 1925.

Their antique business operated from half way up the hill the first few years was before the motor cars had appeared. The rich business men of Bristol, who lived in Clifton would ride their carriages to work, and in the evening walk up the hill to meet their waiting carriages. A few arm chairs near the entrance to the shop would entice them in to rest and browse! Initially buyers were interested in furnishing their homes with antiques, but many then started to build up collections of either china,glass,or furniture.

The terraces of Clifton
The initial stock for the shop included silver items most were of Dutch origin and included fancy spoons,embossed bowls, silver models of windmills, ships in full sail and animals. Each Saturday afternoon the family would gather around the dining room and in my great uncle's words "clean the wretched stuff". He tells the story how his sisters (one of whom was my grandmother) hated these afternoons, even when after the work was done they were paid a penny for their work and given a special tea!

 Many, many years later I remember during school holidays helping my mother cleaning the silver and getting very dirty in the process! At a street market last weekend the decoration on this EPS bowl caught my eye and at the price of £1 I couldn't resist! As I clean it I will think of the previous family silver cleaners!

Georgian House museum Bristol

After the 1st World war there was a boom in the antique business. People had more money to spend and owners of large houses were finding it increasing difficult to employ staff and started to sell off items and down size. This quickly attracted some rogues to the trade and to counter this the "British Antiques Dealers Association (BADA) "was set up  to safeguard the interests of both buyers and sellers. My great grandfather was one of the original members. The Association will be celebrating their hundred year anniversary in 2018.

Georgian House museum Bristol

Many of the antiques were bought at local country auctions in the West Country and Wales. This involved travelling by train,cabs,traps and wagons.  They couldn't help feeling sorry for some of the private sellers who had fallen on hard times and had to resort to selling their possessions.

It wasn't until the 1920's that American dealers and private buyers started to appear. One of these early American customers was Mr Charles Hellen who was one of the top managers of Heinz who was sent to England to develop the English side of the business. He became a regular customer and bought at least one item which Mr Heinz was looking for. He sent them some samples that arrived in a huge wooden box containing over 24 products!

The life of a dealer could be very exciting - they often met famous people, discovered many valuable and interesting pieces and they never knew what delights tomorrow would bring. My great uncle was even visited by Queen Mary and the Duke of Kent (they both purchased some items) and one of their regular visitors in  the 1930's was Rudyard Kipling and his wife.

I wonder what my ancestors would think of Park Street and Bristol today. Our family have on many occasions sub-consciously been attracted to where our ancestors have lived. Have you ever discovered this in your family too?

 I have always felt at home when I have visited Bristol and last year my son and his girlfriend made it their home when they got jobs in the city. They looked at a number of flats and the best one they saw and took on was around the corner from Park Street. My cousin told me that her son had lived in Park Street for a few years too! My son's journey to work takes him down the hill every day to his office overlooking the harbour.

Our son and daughter standing outside the premises of the antique shop - it is now selling futons!

In 1929 there was less passing trade and it was decided to move the business to Bath where it carried on being successful until the 1950's, when retirement and the smell of the sea beckoned....

Do you have any stories like this to tell? I always find it fascinating to discover more details about the life of our ancestors.
Sarah x

Monday, 5 October 2015

One year later

This week marks the first anniversary of moving into our new home, it does seem so long ago now since we moved! We had lived in our previous home for 22 years and I thought that it would be such an ordeal to leave there, especially as it was where the children had grown up. However, we have loved being here so much and wish we had moved a long time ago! So if you are at a similar crossroads I would recommend a change!

This month Coast magazine have an article about moving to Bridport and West Bay. They highlight so clearly why this area is so special with it's stunning coast, countryside, rolling hills and sleepy villages and vibrant art and music events.We were told when we moved here that there was so much going on that you could go to something different every day.That does seem to be the case and consequently the time I have for blogging has reduced!

We have enjoyed seeing so much more wildlife. The garden has been full all summer with visiting bees, butterflies, moths and crickets and it has been a pleasure to garden without so many snails and slugs. The days of collecting over one hundred slugs off the lawn before breakfast are now a distant memory!

The highlights, however, have been listening to the skylarks from just outside the back door and while washing up one evening, witnessing a barn owl hunting. Currently we have seen house martins and other emigrating birds stopping off before their long journey south.

The market town of Bridport has many independent shops selling local food and drink and it has allowed us to reduce our spend in the supermarket and have local tastier food.

Luckily the house was in good order so we have been able to spend plenty of time out in the garden.

It has been fantastic to have the greenhouse, it has made such a difference getting seeds to germinate and we have been eating our own tomatoes for a few months now.

We are always discovering new walks some with spectacular views like these.

And this view makes me smile and brightens my day whatever the weather,when we take the car out.

I would like to thank you all for your wonderful comments and friendship and visits over the last year too, and sharing some of my high lights.

Sarah x


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