Friday, 6 February 2015

Toys, Fairyland and the Peasant Imagination, Part 2 - The Light Princess

After having written part 1 of this almost 4 years ago, I think it is time I revisited fairyland.  

To understand the fairy tale connection with the Haslemere Peasant Arts movement, it is important to start with George MacDonald.  He was the father of Greville MacDonald and in the words of Wikipedia: "a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer C.S. Lewis.  His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle."  I will focus on the subject of fairy tales alone.  George MacDonald lived in Haslemere in the last years of his life, between 1900-1905, in St George's Wood on the Grayswood Road.  This house was built for MacDonald by his son, the architect Robert Falconer MacDonald.

MacDonald, George, The Light Princess and other Fairy Tales,
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1893
Having recently read MacDonald's The Complete Fairy Tales I think it is worth looking at some of the story lines in these short fairytales.  Some of the tales in this book are from MacDonald's books: Adela Cathcart, Dealings with the Fairies and At the Back of the North Wind.  The Light Princess is from Adela Cathcart (1864).

The Light Princess
This is one of MacDonald's most famous fairy tales.  In 2013 a new musical, The Light Princess by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson debuted at the National Theatre.  The official trailer for the musical is on YouTube here.

from The Light Princess, and Other fairy tales

The story begins mirroring the tale of Sleeping Beauty: a longed for baby princess is cursed at her christening by her forgotten aunt, Princess Makemnoit ("make 'em know it"), who is also a witch.  She  "deprives the child of all her gravity.  If you ask me how this was effected, I answer, "In the easiest way in the world.  She had only to destroy gravitation."  For the princess was a philosopher, and knew all the ins and outs of the laws of gravitation as well as the ins and outs of her boot-lace.  And being a witch as well, she could abrogate those laws in a moment; or at least so clog their wheels and rust their bearings, that they would not work at all."

The Light Princess,
illustration by Dorothy P. Lathrop
The Light Princess,
illustrated by William Pene du Bois, 1962

The baby Princess floats up to the ceiling and thus begins her life of weightlessness.  Below stairs, she plays ball with the servants by being the ball herself.  As she grows up she is so light-hearted that she can take nothing seriously.  "Perhaps the best thing for the princess would have been to fall in love.  But how a princess who had no gravity could fall into anything is a difficulty".  The palace is on the shore of the "loveliest lake in the world" and she discovers that when in the lake she can escape her gravitational curse.  She increasingly spends all of her time in the lake "in it alone she enjoyed her freedom.  For she could not walk out without a cortege, consisting in part of a troop of light-horse, for fear of the liberties which the wind might take with her.  And the king grew more apprehensive with increasing years, till at last he would not allow her to walk abroad at all without some twenty silken cords fastened to as many parts of her dress, and held by twenty noblemen.  Of course horseback was out of the question.  But she bade good-by to all this ceremony when she got into the water."

promotional photograph from The Light Princess,
the musical by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson,
National Theatre 2013

Hearing of the pleasure the lake gave the Light Princess, Princess Makemnoit unleases a White Snake of Darkness to drain the lake dry.  The only way to staunch the flow of the water is the body of a living man.  A passing prince who has fallen in love with the Princess, and has swum with her at night in the lake,  gallantly offers himself up to do so.  As he plugs the hole and slowly sinks under the water he is subject to the relative indifference of the Light Princess, until it appears that he has breathed his last breath at which point the Princess frantically pulls him out: "By this time her people were on the shore, for they had heard her shriek.  She made them carry the prince to her own room, and lay him in her bed, and light a fire, and send for the doctors.  "But the lake, your highness!" said the chamberlain, who, roused by the noise, came in, in his nightcap.  "Go and drown yourself in it!" she said."

from The Light Princess, and Other fairy tales

When the prince finally opens his eyes "the princess burst into a passion of tears, and fell on the floor.  There she lay for an hour, and her tears never ceased.  All the pent-up crying of her life was spent now.  And a rain came on, such as had never been seen in that country.  The sun shone all the time, and great, which fell straight to the earth, shone likewise.  The palace was in the heart of a rainbow.  It was a rain of rubies, and sapphires, and emeralds, and topazes. The torrents poured from the mountains like molten gold; and if it had not been for its subterraneous outlet, the lake would have overflowed and inundated the country.  It was full from shore to shore."  Her gravity restored, the Princess and Prince marry and live happily ever after.

The Light Princess
illustration by William Collins

Peasant Shops - sentimental memories

There seems to be little reference to Peasant Shops in the media.  A review of newspaper archives identified a few references which highlight the perception of the Peasant Shop in the 1920s and then 1940s.

In the Aberdeen Journal (27 October 1923) a review of The House of Hope by M. W, Cannan describes the impression of her work by referencing a peasant shop: “Her work rarely falls to an uncomfortable depth, but, on the other hand, it never astonishes by its beauty…This is uncomfortably sentimental, and as pretentious in its pseudo-simplicity as a rich woman’s “restored” country cottage.  Here the atmosphere of the lyrics is lost, and one that reminds us of women’s movements, “peasant” shops, and garden cities discovered instead.”

During the war in 1943, Sylvan Flakes were advertising their products using a nostalgic reference to the 'Peasant Shop' as seen in the Nottingham Evening Post (21 August 1943).

"Organdie Luncheon Set

No coupons could buy it, so wash it with gentle Sylvan Flakes

Remember the ‘Peasant Shop?’  Through its bow window that fine Edelweiss embroidery completely captivated you.  What a good thing you bought those lovely luncheon mats when you did!

Today you should wash them, along with other special treasures, in the gentle lather of Sylvan Flakes.  These rich, pure soap flakes are ideally suited for washing the most delicate fabrics, whether they are made of fine cotton, silk, wool, or linen.

In fact, it is now a popular war-time economy to save Sylvan Flakes for just your most valued possessions, the ‘extra specials’ which cannot be replaced.  You still get three ounces of Sylvan Flakes for one coupon. "

from Nottingham Evening Post
21 August 1943

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Peasant Shops elsewhere

There was a Peasant Shop in Gomshall, although I am not clear how and whether this was related in any way to the Haslemere Peasants.  I have come across a postcard of the shop.  The shop appears to be of a wooden temporary type structure reminiscent of some of the Haslemere Peasant Arts buildings at the time, which appear to have been Canadian hutment buildings repurposed from the camp at Bramshott in the First World War.

The Peasant Shop, Gomshall

It would appear that the shop closed in 1923 due to bankruptcy.

The London Gazette
22 June 1923
Elsewhere in the country, I have found references to a Peasant Shop in London.   This was not part of the Peasant Arts Guild.

The Times 8 May 1926 advertised a Peasant Shop in Theobald's Road, London:

"Smocks and smocked frocks, pottery, painted and carved woodwork.  Pleasing wedding presents at the Peasant Shop, 41-42 Devonshire-street, Theobald's road, W.C, Museum 7602."

Peasant Shop advert from
The Times (8 May 1926)
I found this intriguing, and searching a little further I have seen a reference to this shop back in 2002 with someone saying "I have a great aunt (also a Carrie) who was on the fringes of the Bloomsbury movement and opened The Peasant Shop in 1919 or perhaps earlier at 41 Devonshire Street. She sold decorated painted furniture, pictures, textiles, ceramics, etc.  Apparently her shop was frequented by some well known names.  I would love to find out more about her. She overlapped with the famous Omega Studio opened in 1912 by Roger Fry,Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, etc".  

I do not understand where the Peasant Shop was located, as it seems to give two different roads as the  address.  Given that the phone number is given as "museum", I would place it on the present day Theobald's Road, but I do not understand the Devonshire Street reference, which in the present day is located further towards Regents Park, and a few streets away from 83 New Cavendish Street where the Peasant Society was based at least as late as 1910.  

The shop advertised a room to let in 1916 and 1917 in the The Herald.

from The Herald, 24 February 1917 

I have found a better formatted advert in The London Mercury (February 1925, Volume XI, No.64) 

The London Mercury
February 1925, Volume XI, No. 64
I have found the reference to the shop in something online which is referred to as The Letters of Katherine Mansfield Volume 1(here), I do not understand it!
"... I do hope they give you a bed among the pottery. They did. It was the Peasant Shop in Devonshire St., and my landlady was kindness itself.  Can you choose your jug and basin from the stock? I saw that shop the day Munro flouted me and nearly entered in (Forgive me; I am all sticky with eating so much and such continuous Shakespeare)."

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Peasant Shopping - Part 8 - High Street & Weydown Road

The timeline of the Haslemere Peasant Shop is a bit confusing.

The newspaper article describing the opening of the Peasant Shop was I believe dated 1907, as in my previous post here.  I believe that the 1907 shop opening was on the High Street.  The postcard below shown in Winter & Collyer's Around Haslemere and Hindhead (Allan Sutton Publishing Group, 1991) was dated 1913, and yet the building on the right, identified in later photographs as the Peasant Arts Shop, does not appear to have any signage outside.  It looks to have the curtains drawn.  Winter (ibid.) explains that "the first pair of tile-hung cottages on the right were once known as Goodwyns and it was here that Will Morley, surveyor responsible for two eighteenth-century borough maps, lived."  Perhaps the postcard photograph originated from earlier than 1913, and was actually earlier than 1907.

In The Vineyard (Issue 3, 1910) the The Peasant Arts Society depot was advertised as "High Street, Haslemere", as seen here.  The E. Hosslin notice of opening a "small Show Room in the High Street" does not refer to the property previously being used by the Haslemere Peasant Arts Society, which if it was taking over the old premises seems to be a puzzling omission.   The two old photographs of the shop with the Three Shuttles sign hanging outside clearly show tape over the window panes.   This places the photographs in the World War 2 period I believe, so during the period when the shop was being operated by Ms E. Hosslin, and after the Peasant Arts Shop time.

Haslemere Weaving and Handicrafts Shop
Haslemere High Street
from Around Haslemere, Winter, T.,
Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

Peasant Arts Society shop,
No. 1 The Pavement, High Street
The Haslemere Educational Museum holds photographs of Peasant Arts goods being sold in another building.  After some snooping, I have been able to located this building in the grounds of what was once the garden of Wildwood on Weydown Road.  Wildwood was the home of Greville MacDonald, who retired there in 1919.  This would seem to suggest that the Peasant Shop/ Peasant Arts Society depot on Haslemere High Street was moved to Weydown Road sometime after 1919.  As Wildwood is next to St Cross where Godfrey Blount was living, it might be possible that the building was in place and in use prior to that.  However, due to some very useful hints that local residents have shared with me, it seems certain that this building was one of the Canadian Hutments from the Bramshott camp.  More of this in a future post.  These hutments were auctioned in 1920, which would suggest that the building, and at least one other erected in the grounds of St Cross were established in 1920, with the Peasant Shop whose interior is photographed below being open from perhaps as early as 1921.

Perhaps then the shop on the High Street remained owned by the Peasant Arts Society, maybe it was rented out to a third party, and hence E. Hosslin was able to use it as part of her take over of the weaving industry when she took over the Weaving House at 113 Kings Road in 1933.

Peasant Shop, Weydown Road, c.1919
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Peasant Shop, Weydown Road, c.1919
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Peasant Shopping - Part 7 - the 1930s

Winter (Around Haslemere, Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002) describes the old photograph of the Peasant Arts shop in Haslemere High Street:

Haslemere Weaving and Handicrafts Shop
Haslemere High Street
from Around Haslemere, Winter, T.,
Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

"This little shop was at the north end of the lovely old house hung with fish-scale tiles next to Well Lane,  During the early part of the twentieth century it had been a favourite place for children when it was a sweet shop.  By the time this postcard was published in the late 1930s (note the air-raid precaution tape across the windows to stop the glass shattering) it was the showroom of Haslemere Weaving and Handicrafts.  The proprietor was E. Hosslin and the workrooms where cotton and linen goods were made, known as the Weaving House, were at Tythe Patch behind the post office.  More recent;y this building was used by both the Haslemere Players and the Thespians for rehearsals and scenery work, but was partially destroyed by fire in August 1997."

Haslemere Weaving Notice, 1933
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

The Three Limes was a popular tea room and is now a number of different properties including the Haslemere Sweet Shop.  It's interesting to note the incidence of the number three side by side: the Three Limes and then the Three Shuttles.  It would appear from literature produced by E. Hosslin in 1933 that weaving continued at 113 Kings Road, and then at some later date it must have moved to the Weaving House just off the High Street in Haslemere, by the Waitrose car park, that is referred to by Winter (ibid.) above.  I have not been able to find out anything about the history of that Weaving House.  The building remains, although it has been rebuilt to some degree following the fire.

The Three Limes, Haslemere, 1937
old postcard from eBay
A partial glimpse of The Three Shuttles building on the far right
The Three Limes, Haslemere
from Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old
, Winter, T & Collyer, G.,
Allan Sutton Publishing Group,
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