We begin, this January, at the beginning as we discover that A is for…. Alphabet Plate. This enchanting object is listed in our collection as the “ABC plate – The Sower”. This ceramic plate is decorated on the edge with the alphabet and dates to the nineteenth century. It’s actually new to the collection here at Kiplin, arriving in Autumn 2020 as part of a large bequest of Victorian kitchen and dairy objects. The collection originally belonged to a woman, Annie Marchant, who was a well-known antiques dealer. Sadly, she died in 2020 at just 68 years old. In her will she asked for her collection to be donated to a museum, and after a careful selection process, Kiplin Hall and Gardens was successful in gaining the Annie Marchant Collection.
I’m thrilled to be able to start this blog series with this object. It’s such a fun tea time piece for children, and one that has modern parallels today, although probably made in plastics for durability. This style of plate would often feature the alphabet around the edge with another design in the middle, maybe a nursery rhyme or something educational.
Our plate has a picture of a ‘sower’ in the middle with the verse:
‘With steady hand the Sower throws
That seed on which so much depends
Following the plough’s deep track he goes
And plenty every step attends’
The picture and verse come from a children’s book written by Mary Elliott called ‘The Progress of the Quartern Loaf’ which she published in around 1820. The poems describe the different people and their roles in producing a loaf of bread: the ploughman, the sower, the reaper, the thrasher, the miller and the baker.
The plate was made in Staffordshire using the transfer process. This method allowed designs to be quickly and accurately put onto pottery (before this pottery was hand painted, which took a long time and made it expensive to buy). This meant designs could be made in large quantities more cheaply, so everyone could enjoy learning their ABCs and farming methods at tea time (other topics were available!).
This object and others from the Annie Marchant Collection will be on show when Kiplin Hall reopens for 2021 on Friday 5th March (if lockdown restrictions allow). A temporary exhibition will run in the Hall throughout 2021 while the whole collection is documented, conserved, and stored on site. Long term plans for the collections permanent display are also being undertaken. So, watch this space for more news on the Annie Marchant Project and developments at Kiplin Hall and Gardens. But for 2021 you’ll be able to visit the temporary exhibition from March to October. Objects in the exhibition will change as the project develops, highlighting the different objects the team are working on. From jarring preserves and jams, to intricate butter moulds, and cutlery for every occasion, the collection is vast. As Victorian industry allowed for mass production and a rising middle class, we see an explosion in equipment linked to food production, eating and indulgence.
If you wish to indulge in traditional, handmade and home-grown fayre yourself, you are sure to enjoy a visit to the Tea Room at Kiplin (once lockdown restrictions allow). The menu features seasonal soups, sandwiches, scones and cakes made using produce grown in the walled garden. In the summer we even make our own ice cream – another something to look forward to! The delicious food is served on floral patterned mismatched fine china, as enjoyed by the last owner of Kiplin Hall, Bridget Talbot, who is credited with saving the Hall for the nation. Afternoon Tea taken in the atmospheric Jacobean style wooden paneled tea room is the ultimate treat!
If lockdown restrictions allow The Tea Room and Gardens will reopen for 2021 on Friday 5th February as the snowdrops emerge, signaling the start of spring and the end to a long dark winter. (This date may be subject to change during the pandemic, always check online for the most up to date information before a visit.
If you would like to get involved in the Annie Marchant Project there are volunteering opportunities related specifically to the care and research of this collection. Kiplin also has a large team of volunteers (described as our 5th Family following the four families who once owned Kiplin before it became a charity) who help to run the house and gardens. If you’d like to find out more please register your interest by emailing email@example.com or fill in the inquiry form online HERE.
Join us in a fortnight as we explore what important things beginning with ‘B’ are waiting to be discovered at Kiplin Hall and Gardens, North Yorkshire.