Friday, 11 June 2010

Nearing the end...

The end of the project is edging ever closer. Goodbyes are always hard for me but the finishing line still seems so far away as there is lots more to do. I have five weeks left to try and finish the section of the catalogue I am working on and tie up any loose ends. A couple of weeks ago we had a visit from Sir Jeremy Chance, his son Sebastian and Sebastian's wife Vicky. They kindly treated Sarah (the Borough Archivist), David Encill (a Chance historian) and I to lunch to celebrate the end of the project. We were then joined by Alan Taylor and his wife Joyce back at the archive to take a look at my work and some of the interesting items amongst the collection. I was then presented with some beautiful fiestaware plates from the Chance family. The plates are a bright royal blue with a gold gilt spirograph design. David Encill, an expert on Chance's domestic glassware later informed me that the pattern, which looks very similar to a popular pattern called Greco, is in fact a far more rare pattern known as Roset that seems to have been a prototype produced for publicity shots and may never have been released commercially. I was surprised and extremely touched to be given these plates and they will always remind me of the great time I've had on this project.

Me, Alan Taylor and all those boxes!

Sir Jeremy's presentation of Roset plates

From left: Joyce and Alan Taylor, David Encill, Sarah Chubb and me

And now it's back to work. I have moved on to cataloguing the sales and marketing records of the company, which are always very exciting. They include the order books, catalogues, price lists, illustrations, photographs and records regarding visits, exhibitions and centenary celebrations. I think I have saved the best for last.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Weddings and weapons

Following my last post, I am pleased to announce that Sylvia Brookes kindly forwarded copies of her wedding photos to me. If you remember, Sylvia and her friend Margaret worked for Chances and Margaret made Sylvia's wedding dress. As you can see, Sylvia looked beautiful on her special day and her dress is a symbol of the close bonds and friendships that were often forged at the works. During the course of this project I have enjoyed nothing more than meeting Chances' ex-employees. Their stories are so real and vivid and they have given me a much more rounded view of the company than just the records could ever provide on their own.

Having said that, I did have quite an exciting surprise looking through the records last week. Hidden amongst piles of papers and wrapped in a crinkled old paper bag was nothing more than a...knuckleduster! Tied to the knuckleduster with a piece of pink string was a very small note dated June 27 1867, which reads, 'This was found among Mr Henderson's papers - it was made for him at the works'. Not only was the knuckleduster itself a strange and unusual find, it was was made even more exciting by the confirmation that it belonged to the lighthouse draughtsmen who had been sacked by Chances for posting an unflattering notice about another colleague through the gatehouse door following a heated argument. I described this incident in more detail in an earlier post called 'Hell hath no fury like an employee scorned'. I hope that the pair never came to blows!