Posts Tagged ‘Victorian’

The Easterton Fire Engine

September 26, 2014

This wonderful old fire pump has featured before on this blog, but it seemed like time to give it another airing – using a photo previously unused – and here it is.

Easterton's Victorian fire pump - last seen in the village in 1975

Easterton’s Victorian fire pump – last seen in the village in 1975

This device was, at first, the Market Lavington and Easterton fire fighting machine, but it became the property of Easterton and found a home in a cave dug out near the village pump and actually under the grounds of the former jam factory. It was a simple enough device, and would have been effective provided it was near enough to a source of water.

Getting the pump to where it was needed required man power. The pulling handle, attached to the small front wheel, can be seen on the right of the picture. Once in place and with hoses connected, men – perhaps up to three on each handle, could operate the pump so that the fire could be doused with water.

At the end of each stroke of the pump handles, the pump action inevitably had to stop and this might have led to a jerky flow of water. However, the pump is equipped with a pressure smoother. It’s that bubble thing on top. When a handle was pushed down, some of the water went into the bubble and compressed the air in it. That compressed air kept the water flowing whilst the handles were temporarily still.

This fire engine was preserved by the Wiltshire Fire Service. We do not have it at Market Lavington Museum. It had been brought to Easterton as part of the church centenary celebrations in the 1970s.

It had been kept at the fire service museum in Potterne, but that has closed and we do not know where our old engine is now. Neither are we certain of the age of the old engine but maybe somebody out there can help us.

Letter Scales

February 20, 2014

At Market Lavington Museum we have a set of scales for weighing letters that date back to the 1880s. They were given to the museum, many years ago, by Rose Crouch who had been a Hiscock before she married.

Victorian letter scales at Market Lavington Museum

Victorian letter scales at Market Lavington Museum

The scales are beautifully made in brass on a wood base and with a velvet lining. We think the weights, wrapped up in this photo, come from different scales.

The purpose is obvious. You could weigh a letter and then look up what value stamp was needed to post it. When made, you wouldn’t have needed a separate table of weights and prices for they are embossed on the scale pan.

Postal charges (for 1880) are embossed on the scale pan

Postal charges (for 1880) are embossed on the scale pan

Three rates were given. For letters weighing less than an ounce it was a penny. That’s an old penny of course with 240 of them to the pound. Between one and two ounces upped the cost to a penny halfpenny (1½d) and then up to four ounces cost tuppence (2d).

Using the retail price index as a measure of inflation, that old penny in 1880 is much the same as 35p today which makes stamps much more expensive now. But if you consider incomes, the equivalent of earning a penny in 1880 is £1.82 today, so in terms of income it is much cheaper to send letters now.

We think these scales are lovely items – a real treasure of Market Lavington.

A table for everything

November 11, 2013

Back in 1908 a little girl called Flo Burbidge was born in our museum building. Flo lived in the village all her life, marrying Bert Shore who came, originally, from West Lavington. The Shores were not blessed with a family and perhaps that is why we have quite a lot of items which came from their house. It is, of course, appropriate that Flo’s items are back in her childhood home. Amongst the items is a little book of tables.

Wightman's Arithmetical Tables can be found at Market Lavington Museum

Wightman’s Arithmetical Tables can be found at Market Lavington Museum

The back cover has adverts for other Wightman products.


Adverts for other Wightman products

The little book has many ordinary tables – like multiplication, number bonds and tables of British money and weights and measures. There is also a table of the Kings and Queens of England which gives us a publication era. The little book is Victorian in origin.


The Kings and Queens of England give this book a Victorian date

We must confess to having picked out some of the more bizarre tables for display here and some of the tables suggest that although Queen Victoria was on the throne when the book was published, the contents had not been updated for some time.

Foreign coinage values in British money

Foreign coinage values in British money

We believe the French coin, the Ecu, went out of use in the 1790s although the name was in common usage for a 5 Franc coin. It is delightful to know that the Spanish Quartil was worth precisely forty three one hundred and thirty sixths of a British penny.


Table of hay and straw measures. This might well have been useful knowledge in Market Lavington and Easterton

Hay and straw measures would have been important in Victorian rural Wiltshire.

But Jewish weights and measures may not have been so vital.


Jewish weights measures and money

Interesting that ‘A Sabbath-day’s journey was just two miles. That would have denied the right for some of our parish’s outlying residents to go to church.

Finally, the length of a mile. Did you think this was always the same? It seems not. A Hungarian mile is 8 times as far as a Russian mile. It would also appear that Scotland had a different length mile. Now how confusing could that be?

The different lengths of a mile in different countries

The different lengths of a mile in different countries

What a wonderful little book which was issued, revised and reissued for many, many years

A Victorian Evening

October 21, 2013

Back in 1993 the organisers of the village festival in Market Lavington decided to hold a Victorian Evening./ The event was a miscellany of items, a bit like a ‘Music Hall’ evening.

The audience were invited, if possible, to turn up appropriately dressed. Some could whilst others had nothing to hand and so came in normal clothes. Our photo shows some of the audience.

Audience at the Market Lavington Victorian Evening - 1st September 1993

Audience at the Market Lavington Victorian Evening – 1st September 1993

Clearly the photographer has picked out some of the audience in Victorian costume and they are none other than Peggy and Tom Gye. Peggy appears to be sporting an apple on her hat whilst Tom looks very dapper in his waistcoat and neckerchief.

As we can see, most of the audience for this event in the old Parish Room wore mufti – normal clothes.

Next to Tom is Ron Francis who had farmed at Grove Farm but we do not have names for other members of the audience.

Here’s hoping that next year, we can hold similar events in the villages, dated at around 1914 and suited to the start of World War One.

A Victorian Eye Bath

June 1, 2013

Eyes are obviously important to those of us who are lucky and not blind. It is no surprise that cures and devices for keeping eyes healthy have been around for centuries. This one, which we have in market Lavington Museum, is 19th century, but looks little different to eye baths of today. It is like a small oval shaped egg cup. Water can be put in the cup which is pressed around the eye and then when the head is tipped back the water irrigates the eye and, we hope, washes out any source of irritation.

A Victorian eye bath at Market Lavington Museum

A Victorian eye bath at Market Lavington Museum

As we can see, it is made of green glass and it was given to the museum by a White Street lady. But curing eyes also moves into the realms of ‘magic’. A Market Lavington spring was once known as ‘The Eye Well’ because it was believed that the water cured eye diseases.

Katy Jordan took an interest in holy and other wells and talked to Peggy Gye about this one. She recorded that ‘This tiny drinking-fountain is badly encroached upon by the road, but can still be seen at the foot of Clyffe Hall hill between Market Lavington and West Lavington. Peggy Gye’s aunt, as a child, often fetched water for an old woman suffering from cataract. The water was used in West Lavington for treating eyes as recently as the 1940s.’

This was the well as photographed by Katy in 1995

Market Lavington eye well as photographed in 1995

Market Lavington eye well as photographed in 1995

It is just outside Clyffe Hall and has a long history of useful service. By 2008 it had all but vanished.

The eye well had all but vanished in 2008

The eye well had all but vanished in 2008

It has now been renovated, but of course, people no longer stop for a drink and nobody would dream of using it for eye healing.

A very pretty hairbrush

May 28, 2013

Actually, this item was originally a combined brush and comb, but the comb is broken. Even so, we have a very pretty child’s hairbrush.

It probably wouldn’t be deemed correct these days for it is made, partly, of tortoiseshell.

A 19th century child's hairbrush at Market Lavington Museum

A 19th century child’s hairbrush at Market Lavington Museum

The decoration, though, is mother of pearl, sometimes known as nacre and this is believed to have originated in New Zealand. Mother of pearl is known for its iridescence and we can see many colours reflecting from this material.

This brush dates from the end of the nineteenth century. We’d like to think it made a well-to-do girl happy.

The brush is on display in the entrance room at Market Lavington Museum.

A Spoke Shave

February 20, 2013

Some of the tools used in times past strike us, these days, as just a tad dangerous for the user. Such a tool was the spoke shave. These were sometimes known as a draw knife. We have such a tool at Market Lavington Museum.

This spokeshave, dating from about 1850, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

This spokeshave, dating from about 1850, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

This one dates from about 1850 but still feels to have a sharp cutting edge. It was given to the museum by Bert Shore. He and his wife spent much of their married life living in The Market Place in Market Lavington. His wife was Flo Burbidge, born and raised in our museum building.

But back to that spoke shave.

The user sat astride a small clamp device and pulled the knife towards him. It seems to us that a small slip with such a sharp device could prove very awkward. We have used a picture from to show how the device can be used.


This chap was actually making props for a play. The spoke shave or draw knife was used to shape all sorts of smooth, rounded items.

Of course, spoke shaves are still in use today, but they tend to have blades which are protected and could only cause shallow cuts if things go wrong.