The dolls houses and toys at Snowshill Manor are popular with young and old visitors alike. Here are some extracts from Charles Wade’s notebooks, compiled in the memoir ‘Days Far Away’ in which he tells us in his own words about one of his favourites.
How I loved my toys, they were such an inseparable part of my life…for with toys was always to be found comfort and friendship, however bleak the skies.
One of my favourite toys was the grocer’s shop, for here were countless things to be displayed. There was also the constant joy of making additions out of odds and ends one could find.
The shop was kept by Robert, a remarkable man, most efficient, for he had no assistant save a quite mythical errand boy.
His business flourished so I had to make him a long counter in place of his original short one, and at one end I made his ‘counting house’ with a little pay loophole.
Later on, Robert added a haberdashery department though he called it by the shorter name of ‘stuffs’. The stock was kept on his top shelf in a set of match boxes neatly pasted over with coloured paper. Each box bore a label ‘Osnabury’, ‘Shaloon’, ‘Kersey’, ‘Bombazine’,’ Wincey’, ’Tiffany’, though its contents might not be kept strictly to the label. I made a beautiful vermilion ladder so Robert could reach this lofty shelf. He was a dapper little man and had originally had a small pointed French beard. One day a fall from his ladder knocked it off and he remained clean shaven ever after.
His customers came from my sisters’ two dolls houses which supplied a constant stream of patrons. As they returned again and again for things forgotten,they evidently did not believe in shopping lists.
The shop had drawers and painted wooden canisters which opened, all filled with real tea, rice, coffee, cloves, lentils, sugar and spice, so there was the same fragrance as in Grannie’s store room.
There were various packets of tobaccos with labels showing coats of arms and old-fashioned sugar loafs painted to look like blue sugar paper, indeed a very varied stock of goods. There was also a shop cat, a shop mouse, besom broom and a large ledger in which sales were entered.
The grocer’s shop can be seen as a very significant item in the collection. It shows that at the earliest age Charles used his imagination to create an entire world for the shopkeeper and his little shop. He displayed an eye for detail, design and display which gave a future glimpse of the man who would create Snowshill Manor and fill its rooms with fascinating treasures.
In case anyone is wondering…
‘Osnabury’(sic): Osnaburg is a coarse type of plain textile fabric, named for the city of Osnabruck.
‘Shaloon’ is a thin, loosely woven twilled worsted stuff from Chalons, France where it was made.
‘Kersey’ is a kind of coarse narrow cloth woven from short-stapled wool, usually ribbed.
‘Bombazine’ is a twilled dress material of worsted with or without an admixture of silk and cotton especially when black, used for mourning.
‘Wincey’ is a strong lightweight fabric of wool and cotton or linen
‘Tiffany’ is a thin gauze muslin(originally a dress worn on Twelfth Night from the Old French tifinie via ecclesiastical Latin theophania(Epiphany)).
Extracts from ‘Days Far Away – memories of Charles Paget Wade’ compiled and edited for the National Trust by Michael Jessup copyright National Trust 1996.