WDYTYA? Live 2014:
Photos, Artworks & Costume
Every year I date photographs and, unofficially, various other family heirlooms, at the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history show at Kensington Olympia. This year I worked for Genes Reunited and for Family Tree magazine, who kindly gave permission for me to feature this photograph and the photo below.
One of the first items brought to the FT stand on Saturday was a beautiful 19th-century bonnet belonging to Jean Follett from the West Surrey Family History Society. Mainly hand-sewn, this delicate item from her family collection had been expertly fashioned from fine white cotton material, shaped with cording and ornamented with broderie anglaise. Perhaps a baby’s cap or a sun bonnet for a child or small woman, I thought a date in the 1830s possible from the tall shape of the crown, but there also appeared to be traces of some machine-stitching, suggesting possibly a later date or subsequent alterations. I suggested that Jean contact her nearby Chertsey Museum, who have a dedicated costume curator. Hopefully they will be able to take an expert look and narrow down the identification for her.
Another highlight of Saturday was a visit from FT reader Heather Redman from Hampshire, who brought along a wonderful early 20th century snapshot album containing many photos taken by – and of – her paternal grandfather, John Neale. Heather has sent me scans of some of the pages and kindly gave permission to share these on my blog.
Many families did not acquire their first household camera until the inter-war era, but there were significant numbers of keen ‘snap shooters’ around the turn of the century and by 1900 it seems that John – still a young man – was using a personal camera to record his life, for example, his local surroundings, his work as a smart shop assistant at Guards outfitters in Romsey, group outings such as cycle trips and boat rides with friends/work colleagues and hockey matches.
These candid views not only show vividly how Heather’s grandfather and other young people living near the south coast enjoyed spending their free time, but also offer superb glimpses of everyday warm weather dress at the very end of the Victorian era. Ladies wearing cool cotton blouses and carrying parasols arrange their cumbersome skirts, gents have donned comfortable knee breeches for cycling and straw boaters are popular hats for summer..