Sunday 16 July 2023

The Dickens! Uncovering the true origins of the worlds longest running Dickensian Festival, The Broadstairs Dickens Festival, and the hidden story of the first festival organiser

Trigger warning : self harm, suicide and suicide detail.

Originally this blog post was going to look into the origins of the longest running Dickens Festival in the world* and its progenitor, a matriarch who ruled over the festival for over 30 years. A playwright and now forgotten author who lived in the house of the original Betsy Trotwood of David Copperfield fame. I felt it would be an interesting story even for those not interested in the Broadstairs Dickens Festival itself and also I was drawn to the story by a love for the festival which i have already chronicled on this blog, a passion for research and the fact that once upon a time I was asked by a former festival organiser and others to consider taking on the role. I refused mainly due to my caring duties but it left me intrigued as to the story of the festivals founding lady. However, what I discovered was a mystery started by a letter from someone else who claimed they came up with the original idea for the festival, questioned the very history of the festival itself, and a shocking tale which may well show why this person may have been erased from festival lore. 

Christine Cobbold, Miss Gladys Waterer and Edward Berry on the balcony of Dickens House, Broadstairs. Thanet Times - Tuesday 16 June 1964. British Newspaper Archive

First let's look at the "official" history of the Broadstairs Dickens festival.  Here is a quote from their official website:

"In 1937, to commemorate the centenary of the author's first visit, Gladys Waterer, the then resident of Dickens House, conceived the idea of putting on a production of David Copperfield and of having people about the town in Victorian dress to publicise it. Thus the festival was born and, with the exception of the years of World War 2, has been held annually ever since".   Broadstairs Dickens Festival Website 2023

Promenade & Bandstand, Broadstairs c.1930s  - Postcard by Wards, Broadstairs

This was to be the starting point of my research. The date of 1937 was indeed the first year of The Broadstairs Dickens Festival and Gladys Waterer did adapt the play, although it was not David Copperfield.  It was The Pickwick Papers and was jointly adapted with Nina Boreham and produced by Leonard Wall. However it soon became quite clear that the rest of this history was incorrect, and this is where Captain Miles Conway Robson steps into the picture.

My first introduction to Miles C. Robson was a rather angry letter written to The Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 18 April 1939 entitled The Dickens! Here is the transcript: 

THE DICKENS! Sir,—-I have to-day received from Portsmouth a copy of the programme of a "Dickens Festival Week" organised there this year. It has been sent to me, no doubt, as the secretary of the Broadstairs and District Branch of the Dickens Fellowship.
I write this letter, however, in a purely personal capacity as the originator of the Broadstairs Dickens Festival held in 1937. I stated then that my idea of a festival here was to attract visitors in the "off season,” to put up a really high-class entertainment; and so to attract a good class of visitor. At the same time the Festival was to be made merely self-supporting and not to be a direct money-making effort. This meant keeping admission charges etc., as low as possible and so affording opportunity to those of less ample means to attend. The Festival Committee last year did not see eye to eye with me and consequently I thought it better to leave them to run the 1939 Festival on their own lines. Now, what has Portsmouth done? Firstly, the Festival is being held during the first week in May; secondly, there are dramatic performances; thirdly, a coach drive organised by the London Dickens Fellowship. (Now that we have a local branch of the Fellowship would not they have similarly helped us had they been invited early enough ?) Fourthly, an absence of "popular" side-shows. In other words, just such a festival as I envisaged in 1937 as the object to aim at. Once again Broadstairs is too late and Portsmouth have got in before us. Rather pathetic, isn't it? MILES C. ROBSON.  

From the British Newspaper Archives

It's very clear that Miles C. Robson is saying that he is the originator of the Broadstairs Dickens Festival and that his idea was to have a festival to attract visitors in the "off season" (also a personal thumbs up from me for wanting to keep prices as low as possible to make it accessible to those with lower incomes). It's clear from this that in his mind the idea was always for a Dickens "Festival", different to the official history that the festival was born of Gladys Waterer's idea to have costumed Victorians in town to advertise her play. So let us go back to the origins of the festival two years earlier and see if evidence matches either of the two stories.

My first point of call was an article reporting the proposal for the first festival in the East Kent Times and Mail Wednesday 03 March 1937. It showed that the Broadstairs Literary and Debating Society proposed that a Dickens Festival should be organised for the centenary of the publication of the "Pickwick Papers" - this is shown as early as January 1937 when the idea of a festival was first proposed. The initial plan was to invite the main branch of the Dickens Fellowship to hold the festival - this was changed at a later date when the Fellowship declined due to prior commitments and a decision was made to form a council made up of members from the Broadstairs Literary and Debating Society and the Broadstairs Chamber of Commerce who would go ahead with running the festival 1. This council is named in a later article as Councillor E. K. Minter (Chairman Broadstairs Council), Councillor B. J. Pearson, Mr. M. C. Robson, Mr. J. B. Reed, Mr. H. Bing, Councillor Miss E. K. Braithwaite and Mr. Elwyn Fiske 2. I also found a list of the three people who proposed the festival to the council (Mr G. M. Willis, Captain M. C. Robson & Miss Wall) and "the Committee responsible for the organisation of the festival"20 at the time it was held in 1937 which consisted of "Mr G. M. Willis (Chairman), Miss E. K. Braithwaite, Mrs W. V. Holden, Mrs Wall, Councillors B. J. Pearson, J. P. and E. K. Minter, Messrs. H. Bing, W. Elwyn Fiske, G. E. Houghton, E. F. Owen, J. B. Reed, and M. C. Robson (secretary)20." Whilst Mr. Robson is named all three times one notable person is missing, Miss Gladys Waterer.

Another article from The Thanet Advertiser Tuesday 15 June 1937 gives more information about the forthcoming festival. The article talks on how Dickens is to be "elaborately honoured". It mentions having the play "The Pickwick Papers" at Pierremont Park, luncheon for various Dickens Fellowships, a talk on Dickens, floodlighting of Bleak House & Dickens House and a Grand Ball at the Grand Hotel where it is hoped "as many as possible will do Dickensian dress".  The Festival is clearly closer to Robson's idea of "a festival here was to attract visitors in the "off season” " than the official history of it being created around Waterer's play and the advertising of it. The article also reiterates that "the object of the festival is to celebrate the first publication the Pickwick Papers exactly a hundred years ago", which is again different to the official line that it was to celebrate the centenary of Dickens first visit to Broadstairs, although to be fair both occurred in 1837.  An additional reason is given for the date chosen to run the festival during its proposal stage "with a view to attracting large numbers of visitors to the town at time when the season has hardly commenced"4. again matching up with what Robson tells us.

Advert for the 1937 Dickens Festival -  Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 15 June 1937. British Newspaper Archives

Miles C. Robson is named as hon. secretary 4. and specifically as hon. secretary of the festival in later articles 3. 5. 7. and it was reported that the organising of the festival "reflected the greatest credit on the organising ability of the hon. secretary, Capt M C Robson"7. The East Kent Times article also mentions that any surplus money raised was to go to the Ramsgate & Margate Hospitals. This all shows that the information Robson gave in his letter was true; he was the first festival organiser, the play was not the catalyst that formed the festival,  the festival was to be self supporting but not money making and one of the reasons for running the festival was to bring in visitors to the town during the off season. As to being the originator of the festival, the Isle of Thanet Gazette reports from one of the events during the festival "Mr. G. M. Willis presided, and told how the first suggestion for the festival had come from Mr. Robson (secretary of the Literary and Debating Society)"20

Isle of Thanet Gazette July 3rd 1937


Captain Robson would certainly have been no stranger to the idea of Dickensian entertainment. In 1930 a Dickens Fete was held at Bleak House in Broadstairs where "many of the helpers wore dresses of the Dickens period"19 and various entertainments were held and proved to be very successful. The fair was run by the Womens Branch of the Broadstairs and St Peters Conservative association.  A keen member of the association until her death at the age of 100 and on the platform that day was Mrs E. H. Robson, Cpt. Robson's mother whom he lived with at the time. It's quite possible that this popular fete helped inspire his idea of running a similar festival. 

Advert for the Dickens Fete of 1930 -  Thanet Advertiser - Friday 13 June 1930. British Newspaper Archive

So lets have a look at the one last point Robson made in his letter where he mentions that the Portsmouth fair plans to have "an absence of "popular" side-shows. In other words, just such a festival as I envisaged in 1937". I searched to see what events were part of the 1938 festival that were different to the 1937 version and one stood out among the others, the "Bathing Belle" competition. At Victoria Gardens an exhibition was held consisting of bathing costume through the ages followed by a modern bathing belle costume competition which was "the first to be undertaken in Broadstairs" 6. A contemporary bathing beauty competition really does see incongruous with a Dickens Festival and I feel this is likely the popular side-show that irked Robson in his letter especially as a similar display at a fashion show happened during the 1939 festival.

The evidence I've uncovered proves that Cpt. Miles Robson was telling the truth. He was the organiser and originator of the first Dickens Festival and it was to encourage visitors during the off-season & celebrate the centenary of the publishing of the Pickwick papers.  Meanwhile most of the official history has been shown to be incorrect. The festival wasn't created to commemorate the centenary of the author's first visit, the play was not David Copperfield, the festival was not born from the play and from what I can find Gladys Waterer had very little involvement in the first festival other that co-adapting the play - she certainly wasn't on the organising committee.  Miss Waterer wasn't even the resident of Dickens House at the time claimed - she moved there from Cliftonville Margate in 1944. This is not to play down Miss. Waterer's contribution to the festival on the whole. She was the longest serving festival organiser at 20 years. She was a member of the festival committee and later festival organiser for decades, then being followed by her protégé Joyce Smith who reigned over the festival for 16 years. Her plays were also one of the highlights of the festival since its founding in 1937 until at least 1979 (eight years after her death).  Under her direction the festival flourished into an event that was in its heyday of international renown.  She just wasn't instrumental in starting it.  

BP sponsored advert by Gladys Waterer for the Broadstairs Dickens Festival. The Tatler - Wednesday 11 March 1964. British Newspaper Archive

So why is the modern day telling of the history of the Dickens Festival so wrong, and why have I never heard any mention of Cpt. Miles Conway Robson before.  At first I thought that Captain Robson's absence was likely due to the angry letter that introduced me to him. I later discovered that Robson's first letter was not his only one.  On Friday 21st April 1939 8. a reply to Robson's first letter was published from John Burman Reed, who was on the original committee and took over as hon. secretary of the festival in 1938. He misreads Robson's letter and gives answers that are unrelated to the points Robson makes. Notably though Reed does not argue with the fact that Robson is "the originator of the Broadstairs Dickens Festival" and mentions how Captain Robson resigned from the Festival Committee and the position of honorary secretary when the decision was made to hold the festival in 1938 8.. On the 28th April Robson replied to say that Reed had missed the point of his letter and spelled out the reasons for his resignation from the committee - that the change of date of the festival from May to July means that the festival is no longer a means to "extend" the season (July being a peak time for holiday makers) and the "popular" side shows which "do not appeal to the clientele we desire to attract to Broadstairs"9. At this point the editor shuts down the argument by saying "We think our readers are now sufficiently aware of the facts to form their own conclusions regarding the Dickens fete which is again being held at Broadstairs in July."9. 


Letters from John Reed and Captain Miles C. Robson. Thanet Advertiser. Friday 21 April and Friday 28 April 1939. British Newspaper Archive

So Captain Robson had not made himself popular with the next festival organiser. After this though I can find no mention of Robson again.  While I can imagine Reed is unlikely to mention Robson, I found it bizarre that in the 86 years of the festivals history nobody has mentioned him as the first festival organiser even as the festival reached anniversary after anniversary.  In this era of technology I couldn't even find one internet search result that mentioned his name in connection with the festival. Intrigued I wanted to find out more. Records gave me various personal information, including his death at the age of 60. Armed with his date of death I went to check his obituary and what I found shocked me. On the morning of July 6 1946 the body of Captain Robson was found by a schoolboy walking along the sands at North Foreland.  He had committed suicide.

Miles Conway Robson was born August 15 1885 to Edward Henriques Robson and Edith Miles (the youngest daughter of Major General Miles of North Villa, Regents Park) in Willesden, Middlesex. He had a younger brother Humphrey Maurice Robson who also rose to the rank of Captain and died suddenly in 1940 four days before being recalled to service for WWII. At the age of 15 Robson was in boarding school at School House, Malvern College, Malvern. After Malvern he attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, but was unable to enter the Army for medical reasons. At the age of 18 he joined the London and North Western Railway Co. working as a railway clerk. By 1911 at the age of 25 he had moved to Broadstairs with his parents where he remained employed in the railways. 2 September 1915 at the age of 32 he joined the First World War as part of the Railway Operating Division Royal Engineers where he was deployed to France and rose to the rank of temporary Captain. Seriously wounded at Longeau near Amiens during a bombing attack he spent over a year in various  hospitals. Whilst able to return to work for a short time afterwards ill health forced his early retirement. After the success of the 1937 Dickens Festival he went on to become one of the founding members of the second iteration of the Broadstairs Dickens Fellowship "whom the town are mainly indebted for the new venture" 14 - the first being established in 1907 but only surviving about 6 years 13. He was also keen on sport having been scorer for the Broadstairs & St Peters cricket club for many years and being a "keen follower"10 of the Ramsgate Schoolboys Football team. During 1939 when he was writing his letters to the Thanet Advertiser he is listed as living with his 87 year old mother while receiving a disability pension.  

Railway Operating Division loco 1881 at ROD depot Outreau (Boulogne) with Royal Engineers men & WAAC ladies of the depot c1918 #WW1  Credit : Sandra Gittins Twitter @ypreswoman

Three days before his death in July 1946 Cpt. Robson was visited at his home where he was interviewed by two police officers, D/C J. Thompson and D/C Hobby, who informed him of a complaint against him from a 16 year old boy, summed up by the coroner as an "unpleasant offence"10, said to have happened earlier that year. Robson admitted to knowing the boy and after being cautioned "made a statement in which he admitted the allegations"21. D/C Thompson then told him that the circumstances of the case would be reported. Robson was said to have appeared very composed but was worried the possibility of his elderly mother hearing about the incidents. Early that Saturday morning Robson woke up before the rest of the household.  He dressed, then walked to North Foreland where he sat on the edge of the cliff, legs and feet overhanging, and attempted to take his own life by slitting his throat with his own razor. When multiple attempts at this failed he put the razor back in his pocket and pushed himself 60ft over the edge. He died from a fractured skull and multiple other injuries. 

The coroner at the time ruled that "the balance of his mind was disturbed" 11 - the importance of this was twofold : 1. suicide was still illegal in the UK at this point in time 2. from 1882 suicides were allowed to be buried in church grounds during daylight but may not be buried with full rites unless "the coroner holds that the suicide's mind was unbalanced at the time of the act"12

The suicide of the festival & fellowships founder after unpleasant allegations from a 16 year old boy would be a sound reason for those involved in the festival at the time to wish to forget him. We know that Gladys Waterer decided to omit him from her version of the festivals history.  In an article from 1956 speaking about the 1937 festival she is quoted as saying "two friends, the late Miss Dora Tattam and Mr. J. B. Reed, and myself launched the Dickens' Festival"17.  This "revised" version of the festival history also appears in more depth in an article from the Thanet Times and East Kent Pictorial 11 Jun 1974 - three years after the death of Gladys Waterer.  It starts with the true account of Gladys Waterer and Nina Vinson (née Boreham) putting on a production of The Pickwick Papers in 1936.  It's from this point things get a bit more fictional. It goes on to claim that Mr J. B. Reed (the second Festival organiser and Robson's letter writing nemesis) was "much impressed" by the play "and the idea came to him to have a Dickens Festival to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Charles Dickens' first visit to Broadstairs and so use the play again". It continues "In 1937 the first Broadstairs Dickens Festival was held, organised by Mr Reed and Miss Dora Tattam, who lived at Dickens House". We now know this is false, Reed did not come up with the idea and Miss Dora Tattam was not on the organising committee for the 1937 festival.

At this point it has become very clear that Captain Robson has been erased from the festivals history. I have found nothing after Robson's letters in 1939 that mentions any connection between Captain Robson and the Broadstairs Dickens Festival. Broadstairs Library & the Local Studies district hub for the area Margate Library had nothing relating to Captain Robson in their collections other than what might be found on the local newspaper microfilm. The Dickens House museum which is the only other place I can find that holds ephemera connected to the festival have nothing before the 1950s. There's no mention of Captain Robson in any articles relating to the Festival or Festival history post 1937 that I can find. His role in festival history just vanishes.

We know that John Reed followed Cpt. Robson as Hon. secretary of the festival, as well as an entertainment officer Mr C. M. Wade who Reed credited at the time as being the organising force behind the 1938 festival18. Then there was also Dora Tattam who took the role of hon. secretary when the festival resumed after the second world war, the then owner of Dickens House who invited Gladys Waterer to live with her and who bequeathed Dickens House to the town on the proviso it was used as a museum. So how did Gladys Waterer come to be named as the sole founder of the festival and why is the rest of the festival history so wrong? I've trawled through over 100 historic articles and researched via the Internet Archive and have picked up some hints. The answer seems to be complicated with so many different versions of "facts" being reported. The first claim I found of Gladys Waterer being the sole founder of the festival was her obituary in 1971 15 (a claim I have found no evidence of her making during her lifetime) though I have also seen multiple newspaper reports as late as 1996 stating that she was merely one of the founder members 16. Joyce Smith's 1979 history of the Broadstairs Dickens Festival also states that Gladys Waterer was one of a group of founders. The idea of the play as the catalyst of the festival mentioned in an article from  East Kent Times and Mail - Friday 05 December 1958 which states "The first Dickens play had been presented in 1937 and from that modest beginning the annual festival had grown.". A few months before the same paper had credited a photo of Miss Waterer as "Miss Gladys Waterer, honorary secretary, the inspiration behind the festival", whether it meant the festival of 1958 or the festival as a whole is left ambiguous. Joyce Smith's history of the festival claimed the play was the "focus" of the 1937 festival but not the catalyst. Looking at what is the current official history, the first instance I could find of this was in 2004 when the official Festival history appears word for word on the first iteration of their current website and then spread like wildfire across various websites and the press. 


Visitors lining the street during the Broadstairs Dickens Festival parade of 1991 - the first year I visited the festival. Screenshot from Quod Video Productions VHS.


At first I wasn't sure whether to carry on writing this blog post. As my research progressed I discovered so much of what was to be the basis for my original post was wrong. There are also things here that some people may not want to know. It's also very much a deep dive into a very specific period of a local festivals history, so I'm not sure how many people will find it interesting. Then there is the story of Captain Robson. Without knowing what he was actually accused of it's difficult to know how to feel about him. We know that he admitted to the allegation and the effect the likelihood of those accusations becoming known had on him. I can't help but wonder if with it being 1940s Britain if the gender of the complainant is an important part of this story - though that's just conjecture.  I can also understand the reasons why those involved in the early festival such as J.B. Reed and Gladys Waterer would choose to forget about him, even if I don't agree with it.  However I think 76 years after Robson's death it's time for history to be rectified.

Thank you to everyone who helped me with the writing of this article. Firstly my long suffering husband Jason who had to listen to me excitedly info dumping on a subject he has little interest in for the last few weeks. Also thank you to Jason in his capacity of librarian at Margate Library for searching the indexes at Margate Library and found some important information on the libraries microfilm.  Also thanks to Tracey at Broadstairs Library for searching the local studies collection there. Thank you to Johnny Rae, Dickens House Museum Visitor Manager for taking the time to go through the Dickens House Museum Archives. Also credit to The British Newspaper Archives which were the source for most of the newspaper articles mentioned here.

Even as I was finishing up this post I kept finding new snippets of information to add so I decided to draw a line and finish on the 6th July - which also happened to be the anniversary of Cpt. Robson's death.  There are still some lines of enquiry that may bring new information on this story.  If so I will update this post and make notes of any changes underneath.



*The Broadstairs Dickens Festival may be the first Dickens Festival in the world, though it's arguable that that privilege may go to the two Dickens Fetes from 1897-1898 that were also held in Broadstairs and were festivals in all but name.

1.  Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 06 April 1937 Page 2 Dickens Fellowship to visit Broadstairs

2.  Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 13 April 1937 DICKENS TABLEAUX BROADSTAIRS FESTIVAL PLANS 

3. Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 25 May 1937 DICKENS FESTIVAL PROGRESS AT RROADSTAIRS

4.  Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 13 April 1937 DICKENS TABLEAUX BROADSTAIRS FESTIVAL PLANS

5. Thanet Advertiser - Friday 18 June 1937 TO HONOUR DICKENS BROADSTAIRS* FLOODLIT HOMES

6.  East Kent Times and Mail - Wednesday 27 July 1938 DICKENS FESTIVAL. Successful Celebrations at Broadstairs.


8.  Thanet Advertiser - Friday 21 April 1939 "THE DICKENS"

9.  Thanet Advertiser - Friday 28 April 1939 "THE DICKENS"

10.  East Kent Times and Mail - Saturday 13 July 1946 Capt. M. C. ROBSON FOUND DEAD AT NORTH FORELAND

11.   Kentish Express - Friday 12 July 1946 The Body

12. Life, death and the Law by Norman St.John-Stevas p.234

13.  East Kent Times and Mail - Wednesday 06 October 1937 Dickens Fellowship Formation of a Thanet Branch

14.  Thanet Advertiser - Friday 17 October 1947 BOND OF FRIENDSHIP FOR DICKENS LOVERS

15.  East Kent Times and Mail - Wednesday 20 January 1971 Town's leading Dicken's authority dies

16.    Isle of Thanet Gazette - Friday 13 December 1996  Meals on wheels lady dies

17.  Kentish Express - Friday 19 June 1959 Broadstairs looks back at Dickens

18.  East Kent Times and Mail - Wednesday 27 July 1938 DICKENS FESTIVAL

19.  Isle of Thanet Gazette - Saturday 21 June 1930 Dickens Fete

20. Isle of Thanet Gazette - 3 July 1937 Dickens Festival

21. Isle of Thanet Gazette - 12 July 1946 Broadstairs Man's Suicide

Saturday 9 July 2022

Original Pattern : Latest Style Basquine Peterson's Magazine 1856

Today's post is a beautiful Basquine pattern from Peterson's Magazine 1856.  Enjoy!

 To save a large version of the pattern left click on the image (this is important otherwise you will save the smaller version) and then right click and select save image.

We give, this month, as part of our series, " How To Make One's Dress," a pattern for a new and fashionable Basquine, with accompanying diagrams by which it may be cut. In a former number, we gave directions how the diagrams were to be enlarged, but may as well, probably, re-state them. Take a newspaper, to lay out the angles, and project the lines, making these last of the length stated in each diagram. For example, begin, with diagram No. I, at the extreme right hand lower corner, and make the the curved line upward, which is to be twenty inches long; then draw the bottom line, twenty-eight and three-quarter inches, and so around to the point of starting. In a similar manner, draw all the others. This Basquine is to be made of black moire cloth, or the same material of the dress. It is to be open in front. The following is a description of the diagrams.

DIAGRAM NO. I.-} No. 1. Front. No. 2. Side-piece of back. No. 3. Wristband

DIAGRAN NO. 2. -} No. 4. Back. No. 5. Sleeve.

The places for the medallions and the buttons are marked on each of the patterns. The Basquine must be lined with silk of a light contrasting color, and trimmed all round the body,skirt, and sleeves by a ruche of silk like the lining, which is sewed on the edge and reaches a little beyond; the sleeves very wide, begin at....

 top in hollow plaits, four of which are fastened down under a button tassel. The fronts are held together by cords forming loops; or frogs with tassels and buttons, then a waistband and bow closes the body at the waist. On the waist behind also are put two tassels with buttons, and, lastly, on the front of the body and round the skirt, an open-work trimming representing lozenge-shaped medallions, a beautiful ornamentation.


Monday 27 June 2022

Original Pattern : Chinese collar and Sleeved Talma for a little girl 1857

Two patterns today.  The sleeved Talma looks interesting so I might try making it up for my daughter.  If i do I'll update this page.  In the meantime enjoy these two patterns from Peterson's Magazine 1857.

We give, this month, a design for a novel style of collar, called "The Chinese Collar." The annexed engraving shows how it looks when made up. It is composed of two rows of application, and three tufts of very narrow ribbon are put on the front. The diagram, on the next page, No 8, shows how it is to be cut. We also give a diagram for cutting a Sleeved Talma for a little girl of nine or ten years old.

No 1 Front containing also the sleeve. No 2 Back. No 3 Collar. 

After joining the two parts by the shoulder seam from A to B you must fix the part from C to D of No 2 on the line of +++++++ from C to D marked on No 1, then the part bearing 000 on the neck also accompanied by 000.

Sunday 26 June 2022

Original Pattern : The Algerine Shawl Mantle Peterson's Magazine 1857

I'm planning on putting together a few resources to help make finding original patterns from the 1850s - 1860s a bit easier than having to scan through thousands of pages on online books and other sources. I'll be putting together a couple of pinterest boards on the subject and also sharing many patterns on this blog.  If I attempt to make any myself I'll also share the results :)

This pattern is for The Algerine Shawl Mantle from Peterson's Magazine 1857.


Our pattern this month for our department "How To Make One's Own Dresses" the is Shawl Mantle, the prettiest affair which been produced, this season, in Paris. It is extremely easy to be made; and comparatively economical also. It is made of black taffetas. The form is half square, hollowed to the form of the neck, with a small plait taken out at the neck on each side, to make it fit well on the shoulder. On the taffetas, at equal distances, are rows of guipure insertion with narrow waved stripes of velvet woven in it; it is called velvet guipure: the taffetas is cut from underneath, leaving the insertion transparent; at each side the insertions are finished with a narrow guipure edging, lightly ornamented with jet. The rows of insertion are so arranged as to give the appearance a square shawl; the edges are trimmed with fringe of silk and jet; a second row of fringe is on in the middle of mantle, where the insertions are reversed. On the next page we give a diagram by which mantle may be cut out. The three pieces of which the pattern consists is half the mantle; manner of joining them together is indicated by cuts in each piece, which are to be placed opposite each other; for instance, the two pieces which have one cut in them must be joined together; this part forms the front of the pattern; the bottom must have a corner joined on, of the same size and form as marked by the pricked line. The smaller piece, which forms the corner at the back of mantle is indicated by two cuts, which must be joined to the two cuts at the back of the mantle; this completes the pattern. This would be a very good pattern for a plain velvet shawl, or may be trimmed in various styles.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

CDV of an 1860s sheer dress

This CDV is of a young women in a sheer dress with some lovely details including her hair, bracelets and watch & chain. A handwritten note on the back reads "Mrs Ma... (Mackline?) was Miss Smith my god mother".  The photographer is Prestwich of Castle Street, Reading.  I haven't been able to find out much about the photographer other than he was in business in 1863 which ties in well with my dating of the CDV of around 1863-65.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Two named CDVs

Here are two CDVs from my collection where I am lucky enough to have the subjects names.  First is a photograph of Dora Jowitt with her mother with a date that I believe to be 1868.  The photographer is T . Coleman of Brunswick Place London which fits in with the dating of mid-late 1860s.

The second CDV is of Miss Diana Coke.  Normally I wouldn't buy a CDV in such poor and faded condition but she is such a cutie I couldn't resist her.  There is no photographer markings to help date her but judging from what we can see of her dress and hair I'd say mid 1860s. I love the large tasselled bows on her sleeves and her cute little basket :)

Sunday 20 August 2017

1860s CDV of family group

Today we have another CDV for your viewing delight from my personal collection. The photographer is Sam Glen Payne of New Road, Aylesbury which dates the image around 1864-1865. It's rare to have such a large family group photo on a CDV and what I particularly love about it is the little boy has a fringe (or bangs as my american friends would say).