Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #20 - March 2013
Well - what did they do when it got dark in the 'old' days? The simple answer is that they went to bed early and tried to increase the population that had died from malnutrition, disease and warfare. Electric light was a luxury still to come and at the start of the Victorian period most houses were lit by candles and oil lamps. Interior fittings included chandeliers (suspended from the ceiling) and sconces (fixed to the wall). However these were mainly used on special occasions, and most ordinary events after sunset took place using portable light sources such as candlesticks, candelabra (bracketed candlesticks) and oil lamps, and by the light of the fire. By the end of the period gas lighting was common in urban homes and electricity was being introduced in many, but it is Victorian Lamps and Lanterns used on the streets by the Protective Forces that I want to discuss in this month's Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter.

(Click on the image above to zoom)

The Three Victorian Novelty Silver Items Illustrated above include:-

1. A Victorian Novelty silver Vinaigrette in the form of a Watchman's Lantern

2. A Victorian Novelty Silver Vinaigrette / Sewing Etui in the form of a Policeman's Bullseye Lantern

3. A Victorian Novelty Silver Telescopic Propelling Pencil in the form of a Policeman's Bullseye Lantern

The Victorians were great ones for celebrating and preserving (by Patenting the designs) their ingenious and wonderful inventions. The firm of Sampson Mordan & Co in particular faithfully reproduced these products of the age as silver and gold novelty items.

The iconic Policeman's Bullseye Lantern is a perfect example:-

When people think of the British Bobby what does their mind's eye envisage? They probably think of a police helmet, perhaps the famous cylindrical whistle and maybe even a truncheon, or night stick. I doubt police lantern comes to mind, yet during my research into the historical background for this Newsletter the opposite seems to be the case, at least in the past. Comical post cards, advertisements for all kinds of products and honour roll documents abound with depictions of the police officer holding his trusty lantern.

We are often reminded of its significance and indeed necessity by modern day productions of the infamous "Jack The Ripper" saga of 1888-91 in the East End of London.

These iconic tools of the trade were originally developed by the Dietz Company in New York, USA in the 1850's. The most distinguishing feature being the large convex lens, thereby coining the term "Bulls Eye Lamp". In addition to this they have a double handle on the back along with a wide hook to fasten it onto the officer's belt. Some lamps have a second hook-like feature to keep the lamp from working its way up and off the belt. Another feature is the cone shaped chimney which can be either single or stacked one on top of the other up to three high.

The book - "The Policeman's Lot" tells of policemen holding the lit lantern under their cloaks, or capes, in order to stay warm on cold damp winter nights. The officer would return to the station at the end of his shift with his face blackened by soot produced by the burning fuel in the lamp.

The Watchman's Lamp, as depicted at No 1 above was a slightly different design and used a simple candle rather than an oil burning wick.

The Watchman or "Charlies" as they were known did not always have a happy existence. The watchmen's duties included crime and fire prevention, waking people who needed to rise early, calling out the time and weather, and helping drunks home. Watchmen tended to be elderly, often drunk, usually incompetent and highly ridiculed by the public.

The men gathered nightly at the watch house at nine o'clock in winter and ten o'clock in summer where the ward beadle called the roll and wrote their names in a book. Armed with a staff , a lantern, and a clapper to signal another watchman for help, they then took their positions at watch-boxes or where they had a good view of a street. Their locations were printed and posted in public areas to notify citizens. Watchmen worked in pairs, patrolling their beat twice, once calling the time, the other silently. They came off duty in the morning at seven o'clock in winter and five o'clock the rest of the year. Anyone nabbed by a watchman would spend the night in the watch-house. In the morning, the constable would take the offender to a magistrate.

The Watchmen's Box was made of timber or stone, the wooden ones provided targets for bored young "Gentlemen" who tipped them over (and the snoozing watchman within) for sport.

(Click on the image above to zoom)

"Charley the Night Watchman"

So these intriguing and highly collected novelty silver items were really just celebrations of fairly mundane practical tools used to assist our law enforcers on the streets at night.

It is interesting to note that before researching this Newsletter I, along with other dealers and auction houses, had always described these Lanterns as "Railway Lamps", which clearly they are not

Steppes Hill Farm Antiques is very pleased to announce that it is spreading its wings and this month we have "Gone Global" and signed up to exhibit on the prestigious American web site that is We hope this will bring our eclectic mix of English Collectables to an even wider audience.

A Rare Early Bow Famille Rose Vase First Period Worcester Jabberwocky Pattern Teacup & Saucer First Period Worcester 'Mission Church' Pattern Sauceboat First Period Worcester 'Two Quail' pattern Balluster Mug
Bernard Instone Arts & Crafts Silver Caddy Spoons Omar Ramsden Silver Galleon Menu Holders Vesta Cases Wine Labels

I am very pleased to be able inform clients that I have just taken delivery of two English Private Collections of silver Wine Labels to dispose of. One collection is large and diverse and the other is small and select. I will be trickling these out over the coming months and have uploaded a smattering from each today (please see: - Wine Labels).

Other recent finds include: -
A Rare Early Bow Famille Rose Vase, two early 20th century Bernard Instone Arts & Crafts Silver Caddy Spoons, a mint First Period Worcester Jabberwocky Pattern Teacup & Saucer, a fine pair of Omar Ramsden Silver Galleon Menu Holders, a First Period Worcester 'Mission Church' Pattern Sauceboat, some nice new additions to the Vesta Case Category and a First Period Worcester 'Two Quail' pattern Balluster Mug.

With over 60 new items of stock uploaded this month, hopefully there will be something for everyone.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter.

I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques