One of the ways you can indicate that something is old and quaint is to misspell all the words, adding e’s indiscriminately and throwing in the word Ye as often as possible. You can see it in old films and TV programmes, not to mention in the names of shops in seaside resorts and other places of interest: Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe, Mistress Miggins’s Pye Shoppe, Ye Olde Internette Café etc. The other day I came across a fascinating little book which seemed to be a souvenir or programme for an event called the Old English Fayre.
I should add that this was not some obscure little venture. Although it sounded a little like a sale of work in a church hall it was held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1881 and the stalls were staffed by some of the great and the good of late 19th century London. It was all to raise funds for the Chelsea Hospital for Women. The Hospital was started in 1871 in a house in the King’s Road with just eight beds but by the early 1880s a new building was being built for it on the Fulham Road, where the Institute of Cancer Research is now. The Fayre must have been part of the fund raising for this building. (The building most people will remember is the one on Dovehouse Street, opened in 1916, closed in 1988 and now incorporated into The Royal Brompton Hospital.)
There was a full programme of musical and dramatic performances over three days, (June 8-10 1881) plus a fete in the arena of the hall.
A lot of trouble was taken over the souvenir which contains some stories in medieval settings and some amusing pseudo medieval illustrations, like this one:
But the main interest for us now is the back half of the book. Before it was possible to easily print photographs in a book or magazine, actual photographic prints were bound in, and the copy of the Old English Fayre programme we have contains about 25 photographs of some of the ladies who participated in the event.
“Ye centre of ye halle is used by ye flower stalle, from ye centre of whyche a large and eke gaye Maiepole hath been builded, Ye appropriyate olde English costumes of ye ladies who preseiden ate ye stalls doth gyve great effect tp ye whole scene and doth perfect ye style and character of ye tout ensemble.”
And a part of a summary of what was for sale
Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy seeing pictures of Victorian and Edwardian ladies in fancy dress, which they seemed to engage in whenever possible. (Pageant, Costume Ball, School Play , not to mention another blog regular). So, no more playing arounde (those e’s are catching), here are a few of the ladies in the hall that day.
The Countess Cadogan, at “Ye olde Chelsea Bun House”
The Countess Kintore, at “Ye Sherwoode Oak”
Mrs Arthur Sassoon, Mrs Leopold de Rothschild and the Lady Forbes of Newe at “Ye Goulden Fleece”
Mrs Lambert Rees at “Ye Olde Crowne”.
The Lady Garvach at “Ye Wheel of Fortune”
An ensemble picture,
Mrs Craigie, assisted by Youth and Beauty at “Ye Robyn Hode”. Do I detect a slight reluctance on the faces of some of the younger ladies? I recently saw a photograph of a mother and daughter in full steampunk costume for an event at Whitby, home of many goth and steampunk related events, which gave me the impression that it was the mother’s obsession which had brought the two there, which her daughter was indulging with increasing reluctance. I wish I could insert it here, but I could be completely wrong, and if I’m not it would still seem unfair. The Old English Fayre looks like an event driven by mothers, not daughters
Miss Venetia Cavendish Bentinck:
And, I’m guessing her mum, Mrs Cavendish Bentinck.
Both at the sign of “Ye Maltese Crosse”
Mrs Alexander Ross:
and Mrs Aveling.
Both at “Ye lion and Unicorne”.
Finally, another group:
Mrs Thompson, Mr Claremont (a rare appearance from a gentleman), Mrs Mackenzie, Miss Buckton, Mrs Rally and Miss Walker who were “aiding at ye theatre revels”. Miss Walker is the one sitting on the floor. (Not a relative of mine as far as I know). The young girl’s name is unrecorded, although I’m guessing she’s a Mackenzie because of the lady, her mother perhaps, holding her in position.
I’m saving the other pictures for Christmas. There are a few good ones left.
This week’s post shows that it’s still possible to find surprises lurking on the shelves in basement stores. You should always open any book, no matter how dull it looks from the outside.