Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

A Victorian Christmas greeting, the Victorian Farm, gardens, female stamp collectors and a happy stampy crafty new year!

December 28, 2009

One of the best preserved working Victorian post boxes I have ever seen or used (despite being near the sea and many repaints) on St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, 2006. Look for these in your area on your own Victorian stamp time safari! Imagine how many Victorian letters and postcards to Cousin Jacks overseas must have passed through this post box. How many bright holiday greetings, christmas cards, Valentine's and sad black bordered letters. Reading WH Auden's poem Night Mail gives a flavour of what life in letters must have passed through this and continues today (mostly happy holiday postcards like this Gibsons Of Scilly archive image postcard now!)

Charles Darwin as a well off Victorian family men would have made much of Christmas, which it is often and popularly said, was  invented by Charles Dickens and the Victorians. For those of you who saw the evocative Christmas specials of BBC’s Victorian Farm set in the 1880s, the decade of Darwin’s death, there are 25 fabulous free craft resources for celebrating or preparing for next Christmas on the bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas  website.  

From handmade crackers to parlour games, toy theatres to paper marbling, decorations to recipes, there are some fabulous decorative ideas for use in the classroom or stamp room. The first Victorian Christmas card by Horsley and Cole is shown (only ten survive, so they are worth tens of thousands!). The halfpenny post rate for Christmas cards meant that they were originally written only the front decorated picture side, like many Victorian zoo postcards in the Newquay Zoo Victorian life collection, as nothing but the address was at first allowed on the address side. There are some lovely template Victorian cards on the website for use in school, great for handwriting practice and creative writing tasks. However real Victorian Christmas cards (and the scraps they resemble) for showing in the classroom can easily and fairly cheaply be found in junk / antique shops and sites like Ebay.    

 The bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas site is organised as  an ‘advent’ calender of  25 downloadable windows of Christmas activities featuring  instruction templates and short video clips to watch at home or school with the three fabulously enthusiastic presenters Alex, Ruth and Peter. Think of it as a Victorian farmhouse Blue Peter ‘make’ .  

More ideas for your Victorian stamp and time safaris out   

Hopefully you had a relaxing christmas with its Victorian traditions (or tack), watched Victorian Farm, Cranford and Doctor Who, so are  now looking forward to fresh sir, a few walks to get rid of Christmas pudding pounds and some inspiring visits (through time) out in 2010. We hope you liked the teaching suggestions in the last blog about going out and around your neighbourhood as  Victorian time detective. The BBC Victorian Farm original series is out on DVD (Acorn Media), set at Acton Scott Historic working farm in Darwin’s birth and childhood county of Shropshire. Shopping in Blists Hill Victorian village is shown on the series , whilst similar Victorian villages exist at Beamish, Black Country Living Museum, York Castle Museum, Flambards and Morwhelham Quay in Cornwall. Newquay Zoo is signed up to the Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto and quality badge scheme, so hope you will go out of the classroom or house on your Victorian time and stamp safari.  

Darwin was also an accomplished  botanist and interested in the work of many plant hunters sent out by his friend Hooker at Kew Gardens (sharing with Darwin an anniversary year and commemorative Royal Mint coin this year). We have in the office the superb Great Plant Hunt resource box sent out to all UK primary schools in 2009 – resources are downloadable at www.greatplanthunt.org).   

Tracking down rarer stamps can be as hazardous, murderous or dangerous  as the quest for rare orchids. We’ll be featuring some of the Darwin stamp book stamps of plants, dinosaurs and different countries  in our activity trails at Newquay Zoo in 2009 and 2010, showing how flexible and useful they can be as inspiration and illustration. Plant hunters of the Victorian era will be celebrated through the characters of  ‘Edwardiana Jones’ and his sister ‘Victoraina’ in our Plant Hunter trail events schedule at Newquay Zoo in May 2010 onwards.  Acorn Media also publish the DVD of the Victorian Kitchen / Garden series from the 1990s, worth tracking down especially once you’ve seen the Victorian estate, garden  and railway restorations such as  at Trevarno in Cornwall with its toy museum and National Gardening Museum. Heligan and the great heritage gardens of Cornwall including the one that Fitzroy, Darwin’s Captain of the Beagle visited when the Beagle docked in Falmouth such as Penjerrick gardens (near Trebah Gardens) are restored to their Victorian glory and open. Some of these such as Glendurgan are  run by the National Trust across the UK and your local regional versions of English Heritage should have many more inspiring Victorian sites (such as Lanhydrock in Cornwall) for you or your school to visit. Quuen Victoria’s Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Down House, Darwin’s home in Kent  are both English Heritage properties. The Victorian Society also do adult study tours, talks and Victorian pub crawls! 

More ideas   for your Victorian stamp and time safaris inside  

Like The 1900s House and Adam Hart Davis’ What the Victorians Did For Us before it, the BBC Victorian Farm  is an excellent programme and website for ideas. Lots of the craft activities could be adapted using stamps as decorative items, something the Victorians did themselves with countless early and now precious stamps! It took a few years after Rowland Hill’s Penny Post (the Penny Black issued on 6th May 1840)  for the collecting or classifying brain of a ‘stamp world Darwin’ and the entrepreneurial luck of men like Stanley Gibbons (1840 -Penny Post year -to 1913) to establish stamp collecting as  the worldwide hobby and trade it is today, rather than a craft pastime.  

It was however not just a boy’s pastime, something Beryl Rennie the Scottish stamp collector ,whose legacy bequest made the Darwin stamp book possible,  would be pleased to have known. I have met many female stamp collectors but not  sadly one of the first recorded ones, a young Victorian girl who wrote to the Times newspaper in 1841, asking readers to send her postage stamps for her collection. She was quick  off the mark , but limited in choice as only three stamps existed then to collect , the Penny Black,  Twopenny Blue and Penny Red.   

Maybe she was doing creative and imaginative craft work with them, as Sandie Robb the Darwin200stampzoo blog co-author continues to do at her fabulous wildlife stamp weekends at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.  Victorians such as Albert Schafer plastered the walls with them, covered tables, chairs, fire screens, wreaths, maps, tea services in willow pattern, guitars, pianos, mantlepieces, model ships, made self-portraits, even covering whole rooms with stamps!  This craft tradition using stamps in a decorative way is still continued  in Cornwall where Newquay Zoo is based, with many fine stamp craft objects by local artists and crafts people in galleries such as in St. Just.  

Stamp collectors like our Victorian girl seem to be  faster to react than organised business. The first stamp album was not produced until 1862 and guide to stamp prices until  1863.  

Stamps (especially Christmas ones) are great I found this year for Christmas decorations and keepsakes, bringing us back to the 25 brilliant craft ideas on the BBC Victorian Farm website bbc.co.uk/victorian christmas.  There are some great craft and decorative articles in the free online Victoriana webzine / magazine http://www.victoriana.com/ a US based Victorian website worth signing up to!  

We’ll feature more about stamps for decorative craft as well as stamp collecting for  teaching resources in future blogs, including your portrait in stamps inspired by Victorian examples made of stamps. There are many fine portrait stamps of Darwin to feature in our book and blog, portraits of many kinds being good materials for an interesting classroom activity. Newquay Zoo – and myself in tiny form- had our ‘portrait’ painted many times in 2009 (the zoo’s 40th birthday year) as part of the Darwin 200 celebrations by our resident Cornish artist John Dyer working with Falmouth Art Gallery (see the weblinks). If you look carefully on his online gallery in his Zooing Around print of the zoo at dawn, you’ll spot a tiny me leading a tour by torchlight! More next time.  

Happy New Year! or as our Edinburgh Zoo colleagues say, Happy Hogmanay!  

Some more Victorian schools resource links  

More Darwin and Victorian links 

The BBC’s Victorian Farm series is based at Acton Scott’s  historic working farm in Shropshire, Darwin’s birth and childhood county 

http://www.actonscott.com/ 

http://www.actonscott.com/shropshire.php  based in Darwin’s birth county 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/darwin/ 

http://www.darwinshrewsbury.org/  with its 2010 Shrewsbury Darwin Festival 2010 12th – 14th February 

http://www.shift-time.org.uk/blog/ 

Step back in time: Victorian towns and villages 

Lots of downloadable activities, visit details and links at each of these sites 

http://www.beamish.org.uk/ 

http://www.kirkgatevictorianstreet.org.uk/   York castle Museum’s virtual Victorian street tour 

http://www.bclm.co.uk/ Black Country Living Museum, Dudley http://www.bclm.co.uk/witeachersresources.htm 

http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/learning/resources/  Blists Hill Victorian Town 

http://www.flambards.co.uk/exhibitions/the-victorian-village-experience.html  Flambards 

Learning outside the classroom manifesto website including advice on taking school trips out and about guidance and link to list of quality badge holders. 

http://www.lotc.org.uk/ 

Victorian Gardens and properties to visit  

Heligan – atmospheric photographs

http://www.heligan.com/ or http://www.heligan.com/non_flash/ 

Penjerrick

http://www.penjerrickgarden.co.uk/history.html 

Trebah

http://www.trebahgarden.co.uk/history_of_trebah.htm 

Glendurgan and Lanhydrock

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ 

Osborne House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19473 

Down House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19529 

http://www.charlesdarwintrust.org/education 

Stanley Gibbons

http://www.gibbonsstampmonthly.com/Journals/GSM/Gibbons_Stamp_Monthly/July_2006/attachments/sgstory.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/ 

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/victorianbritain/  

http://www.victoriana.com/

http://www.victorianweb.org/index.html

http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Victorians/  

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/earlyphotos/index.html

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Christmas post and gingerbread postmen from the Darwin 200 Stamp Zoo team

December 21, 2009

Sweet talk, toy soldiers and postage stamps  

Happy Christmas and holidays from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team.   

Victorian Christmas toys (for boys?) Kipling's red coated Soldiers of The Queen and Empire, zoo keepers (original lead W. Britains and modern versions) and Victorian Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (volunteer) badges. Look carefully for khaki suited soldiers, camouflage adapted from animals. Newquay Zoo's Victorian Life collection, displayed on Darwin's Big Beard Birthday Bash weekend, February 2009Homecast 54mm traditional toy soldier 'modern' versions of these toys can be made using Prince August moulds.

Seasonal tips 

Much of our Modern Christmas dates back to Victorian times and Mr Dickens. Darwin is known to have read early Dickens books with his young wife Emma. Darwin was very much a family man, and loved playing with his children. (Read Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes and weep!) He was far from the stern, strict, distant , dictatorial Victorian dad we typecast Victorian men as being.

As well as collecting Christmas stamps and Christmas cards (invented by Henry Cole in the 1840s) you could spend your Christmas telling  or reading ghost stories, watch a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the cinema (invented by Victorians) or  look out for Oliver! on television. There are  Cranford Christmas specials (Victorian 1840s Northern life by Mrs. Gaskell) or the wonderful BBC Victorian Farm series of Christmas specials.

As with Darwin, there are lots of stamp issues of Dickens and a bicentenary coming up in 2012. Another chance to use the Darwin stamp book resource and teaching tips – Dickens and Darwin  make a fascinating comparison timeline of rich and poor. 

To keep busy at Christmas, three ideas from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team  

adapted from the DFEE / DCSF parents as partners leaflets  

Recipe and ideas adapted  by the Darwin 200 stamp zoo team from http:// www.parents.dfee.gov.uk/discover (original weblink sadly no longer available) 

That’s entertainment 

Victorian children didn’t have radios, TVs, videos or computers – they had to make their own entertainment. Your child might be surprised how many familiar toys and games date back to Victorian times. 

Street games were popular with poorer Victorian children, including hopscotch, football and clapping and skipping games. Middle-class children played with hobby-horses, dolls, toy soldiers, and paints and wax crayons. Board games like ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’ were also well-liked.

 

Why don’t you and your child have a Victorian games day? Try managing without any modern forms of entertainment and play with more traditional toys and games.  

  • What did you both enjoy most about the day?
  • What did you find difficult?

 Victorian homes 

Many people in Victorian times lived in homes without any of the modern comforts we take for granted today. People had to manage without central heating or hot water from the tap – instead they had open fires and heated water on a big cooker called a range. Without vacuum cleaners or washing machines, looking after the home was very hard work. 

Help your child to imagine what it would have been like to live in Victorian times. 

How would they like to have a bath in a metal tub in front of the kitchen fire? 

What would it be like to have to go to the toilet outside after dark? 

How would they like playing with toy soldiers instead of computer games? Would they enjoy having to do some sewing instead of watching T V ? 

 Go around the house with your child and make a list of all the things that Victorian families wouldn’t have had. Then talk with them about what people in Victorian times might have used to do the same job.

 

Sweet Talk 

Richer Victorian housewives had plenty of different types of food to choose from and some famous recipe books to help them – one of the best known was by Mrs Beeton. 

Here is a Victorian recipe for Gingerbread Men – a treat still enjoyed by children today. Why don’t you try making this? 

Darwin Stamp Zoo’s Recipe for GINGERBREAD POST MEN or GINGERBREAD DARWINS 

You need: 

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • raisins/candied peel
  • icing (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). 

2. Mix everything except the raisins/peel in a bowl. 

3. When the ingredients have come together into a solid mixture, roll it out onto a floured surface. 

4. Cut into shapes using a gingerbread cutter. How about postmen, square postage stamps, pillar boxes, letters and other Victorian shapes or images? 

5. Use the raisins and peel to make eyes and noses. 

6. Bake the biscuits on a greased tray for 10 to 15 minutes. 

7. When cool,  eat or decorate with icing (optional). A nice white beard for Mr Darwin perhaps. 

 To avoid suitably Victorian hygiene and health and safety issues and avoid  a trip to your local hospital (probably established in Victorian times), be careful when working with hot ovens and baking trays. 

Clean your hands before cooking and eating. You’re not a Victorian street urchin! 

Happy Christmas!