Squails game, circa 1862
Ewelme Cottage in Auckland is home to a fine collection of Victorian games. This set of squails was given to the children of Vicesimus and Blanche Lush in 1864 (at that stage Blanche, Anne, Charles, Martin, Edith and little William Edward) by their Aunt Anne, who sent it from England. On the back of the box she has written: “With Aunt Anne’s love to all her nephews & nieces, 1862. 24 Squails, 1 Swoggle, 1 Procese”.
The family maintained close ties with Vicesimus’ family back in England and a reference to this item can be found in an 1868 entry in his diary. This version is attributed to one of the stalwarts of Victorian games manufacturers, John Jaques & Son Ltd. It is a type of table bowls and bears some resemblance to tiddlywinks.
The squails are made from flat, turned wooden discs, decorated on top with ribbed paper in red, light brown, green, maroon or black. The swoggle is a flat piece of pine cut in a fishtail shape and printed with measurements from one to five. This was used to snap the discs towards the central lead procese. The numbers on the swoggle measured the distance of the closest disc to the procese.
Hand screens circa 1840s
The general opinion in Victorian times was that a ‘ruddy’ complexion could be a cause for embarrassment given that it may have been the result of some slight indiscretion or impure thought. Subsequently, Victorian women took great care to protect their complexions from the ravages of sunlight and the heat of the fireplace. Hand-held screens, also known as “ladies’ fire protectors” were used to prevent the face from getting too hot and perhaps also to prevent wax-based cosmetics from melting.
These two delicate Victorian hand screens held at Ewelme Cottage in Parnell are a particularly beautiful expression of this concern. The matching pair was hand-made by members of the Lush or Hawkins family, original occupants of the house, and may date to as early as the 1840s. The screens themselves are made of cardboard with a colourful painted design of flowers, bordered with red and gold painted acanthus leaves. A single wooden handle is attached to each screen by small dressmaker’s pins. The screens are so delicate in their construction that they cannot be waved without damage, only held to the face for protection.
This ornate silver holder would have held a small posy of flowers called a tussie-mussie". During the Victorian era tussie-mussies were made up of scented flowers and herbs. They were carried close to the nose to ward off the stench of the streets which could be full of horse manure and the results of inadequate sewage drainage.
This style could be fixed to a blouse or dress by the attached chain.
Photo: Stephen Langdon
Hat fitting circa 1850
This hatting fitting is known as an "ugly" and was used as an extension to the brim of a bonnet to provide extra protection against the sun. It is handsewn in blue silk taffeta and cut in a deep oval, wider at the centre and tapering to the sides.
Uglies were fashionable in Europe in the 1850s and were generally seen as fittings for elderly ladies (younger women wore smaller hats and carried parasols). How popular the ugly trend was in New Zealand is unclear.
Photo: Stephen Langdon
The egg cup has a long and distinguished history, first found in Minoan Crete and never waning in popularity.
The legendary egg-antics of Louis XV caused an egg cup craze in 18th century France – he ate a boiled egg every Sunday and was reputed to be able to lop the top off it in a single stroke.
Today the term for egg cup collectors is pocillovist – from the Latin ‘pocillum’ (a small cup) and ‘ovi’ (egg).
Many NZHPT properties contain a wide variety of egg paraphernalia: ornate china and silver egg cups, children’s egg cups, souvenir egg cups, egg spoons, egg cruet sets, egg stands, egg ‘Insurance Boxes’, and a pair of shrunken tuatara eggs, a Ewelme Cottage conversation piece!
Shake rattle and its role
Amusing babies and small children with a rattle is a very ancient practice, with examples found that date to at least the second century BC.
The design of a coral or bone teething stick with bells and a whistle was common throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and appears regularly in paintings and other European art works in this period.
In these more superstitious times, the various elements of the rattle were said to have a protective purpose. Coral was believed to shield the child from evil spirits. The noise-making components of the whistle and bells had a similar function.
From a more practical perspective, the hard, cool qualities of coral were perfect for babies whose teeth were cutting through. Many examples still bear the teeth marks of their juvenile owners. The whistle and bells were perfect for amusing the child.
This example, from Ewelme Cottage in Auckland, has been compared to a similar example dated to circa 1650, though this design of rattle lasted through to Victorian times. It is original to the Lush family, and like many of these rattles was handed down through the generations as an heirloom piece. It is a high status item which would have been very expensive to buy in its day. Unlike many more pedestrian examples, this one is covered in gold.
The pictured item is a sermon wallet which was used by the Reverend Vicesimus Lush (1817-1882) who built Ewelme Cottage for his family in 1865. Vicesimus was born in London in 1817, graduated with a B.A. from Corpus Christi College in 1842, married Blanche Hawkins in the same year and was ordained a priest in 1843. He began his clerical career with the position of curate in Over Darwen, Lancashire. Following this, Vicesimus was curate at Faringdon and Little Coxwell, Oxfordshire for five years and when he left the parish, a memorial stone tablet and painted glass window were installed in Little Coxwell’s ancient church. In 1850, Vicesimus, Blanche and their four children left England on board the “Barbara Gordon” and arrived in New Zealand five months later.
Once in New Zealand, Vicesimus was appointed the first resident vicar of Howick and remained there until 1865. Between 1865 and 1868 Vicesimus acted as visiting clergyman to the Inner Waikato and was then appointed by Bishop Selwyn as the first resident vicar of Thames and held the position until 1881 when he was transferred to Hamilton. There he was made Archdeacon of the Waikato but died only a few months later in July of 1882, survived by Blanche and five of his nine children.
Zam-Buk: The Great Herbal Balm
It has been said that in the 19th century, people lost their fear of God and acquired a fear of microbes. In response to this new threat came a diversity of ointments, antidotes, pills and potions. One which has stood the test of time is “Zam-Buk: The Great Herbal Balm”. Appearing on pharmacy shelves in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 1903, it proved to be immensely popular and is still available today.
Promoted by its manufacturers with such dramatic slogans as: “Do you realize the danger of a poisoned finger? Death often lurks in a cut!” Zam-Buk was hailed as a cure for everything from cuts and bruises, to piles, pimples and “bad legs”. The name even came to be used colloquially in sports for the medics who carried pots of Zam-Buk in their kits.
Despite Zam-Buk’s international and ongoing popularity, its origins remain obscure. The ointment shares the name of a town in Nigeria and it has been suggested that British soldiers were introduced to its mysterious healing powers during the Boer War, took Zam-Buk home with them, subsequently introducing it to the British Empire.