Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #6 - November 2011
I have had a very busy month procuring new stock in time for the festive season and this month's Newsletter coincides with significant new updates to the web site. I have added 80 plus new items overall, and most categories, particularly in the silver section, see new additions. I am really pleased to be able to offer some quite intriguing and rare pieces for the collector of antique silver novelties, some of which I hope might just make the perfect Christmas present.

Rare Nantgarw Twelve Lobed Plate Chelsea Derby Sevres Style Cup & Saucer Dr Wall Worcester Dry Blue Teabowl & Saucer Pair Royal Crown Derby Vases
Victorian Enamelled Silver 'One Penny Lilac' Stamp Case A rare Geoge IV / William IV Scottish Provincial Gold Vinaigrette Rare 18th Century Irish Provincial Goblet & Festoon Wine Label Large Pair Modern Millennium Hallmarked Silver Pheasants

Recent finds include a rare Chelsea Derby Teacup & Saucer painted in Sevres style, a fabulous Victorian Enamelled Silver 'One Penny Lilac' Stamp Case, a rare Nantgarw lobed Plate, a very unusual Geoge IV / William IV Scottish Provincial Gold Vinaigrette, a fine Dr Wall Worcester 'Dry Blue' Teabowl & Saucer, and a rare 18th Century Irish Provincial Goblet and Festoon Cork Wine Label along with some other nice additions to the Wine Labels category. A fine pair of Royal Crown Derby Vases painted with sprays of English flowers, and straying slightly from our usual remit, a nice quality pair of modern Millennium Hallmarked Silver Pheasants.

Dealing in antiques is by definition something of a speculative occupation, every purchase, apart from those made on commission or under instruction, is basically a 'wager' based on either, knowledge, experience, or sometimes just pure guesswork. One is taking a position with the hope that someone else values the item perhaps even more than you do.

I have always been fond of a 'wager' and recent acquisitions have prompted me to add a new category to the silver section on the web site. I have called the category 'Games & Gaming' and it is going to be populated with artefacts mainly associated with card games of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but will include other items linked to games and pastimes with a gambling theme.

In England during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods, gambling was endemic among the upper classes. One writer I came across said that "just as gin was the ruination of the lower classes, gambling was the ruination of the upper classes". Readers of Regency novels sometimes come across plots where a man loses his entire estate while gambling. Sir Rodney Hampton in Carla Kelly's The Lady's Companion gambles until he finally loses his home. That is not artistic license, it really did happen. Beau Brummel had to flee to France when his gambling debts got too high. Even the Royal family were no strangers to gambling. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, got caught in a gambling scandal that is known as "The Tranby Croft Affair".

High stakes, really high stakes gambling had its own culture. Men who were devoted to gambling had special coats that they would wear to gamble in. They would also wear eyeshades and special hats, and tie leather guards around their wrists in order to keep their lace cuffs clean. The politician Charles James Fox was a man who was noted for his heavy gambling, and stood out as extreme even in a society where gambling was accepted. Fox would stay up for days gambling, drinking coffee to stay awake. One time, he played hazard for two days straight, then he went to Parliament - still wearing his gambling clothes - transacted some business, then took off for the horse races. Fox won and lost huge amounts of money. At one point Fox's father, Lord Holland, paid off almost £140,000 in gambling debts which freed Fox to go off and make new ones. Women gambled too. Lord Byron's daughter, Ada, Countess of Lovelace was a talented mathematician who tried to use her mathematical ability to devise a system that would allow her to beat the odds at horseracing. As good a mathematician as she was, she never did beat the odds and piled up large debts.

Men and women went to extraordinary lengths with their gambling. A popular food item came about because a man didn't want to stop gambling to eat. John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich is said to have asked a servant to bring him sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could continue gambling and not have to get up and eat.

At a time when there was no such thing as television, card games were diversions to pass the time. There were games for children like Pope Joan or Beggar My Neighbor, and many, many games for adults. Most of Jane Austen's books make mention of some of the popular games of the time like casino, whist, ombre and quadrille. In the Pride and Prejudice mini-series, Mrs. Phillips gives supper and card parties, where we see that Mr. Collins is no good at all as a whist player. Mr. Bingley, Miss Bingley and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst are also seen playing cards. When card games were played in a family setting, bets were confined to pennies a point and no one got hurt, but when the players went out into Society and hit the gaming tables, estates, reputations, and more were at stake.

There were ways to gamble without cards, the dice game hazard for instance, but most of the popular card games lent themselves to wagering and people took advantage of that. Assembly rooms had a card room for those who did not care to dance. A reader of Regency Romances might think that all one did at Almack's was flirt, dance and drink weak lemonade, but it had its card room. Two of the famous men's clubs in London; White's, and Brook's, were social and gambling establishments. White's was famous for its betting book where the members would place bets on literally anything. Two members once bet on the number of cats that would walk down opposite sides of a street, they bet on who would marry who, who would seduce who, and anything else they could think of.

It would take a book to list all the card games and games of chance. And it happens that there is one, According to Hoyle: Official Rules of More Than 200 Popular Games of Skill and Chance With Expert Advice on Winning Play. I will list only a few of the gambling games that the reader of historical romances may encounter:
  • Faro was a game where players bet on cards that were turned up from a spring-loaded device called a faro box. The players gathered around a table with a deck of cards printed on it. The players put their bets on the card they thought would pop up. The dealer (who was also the banker) popped a card from the faro box - for example, an eight. That was the losing card, and if you had bet on the eight, you lost your money. The dealer popped up another card - for example, a four. That was the winning card and if you bet on it, you won. Those two cards were known as a turn. After one turn, you could increase, decrease or change your bets. There were other rules too, such as coppering a bet where the player bet a card would not turn up. The opportunities for cheating were almost all on the dealer's side - it was easy to "fix" the faro box. Faro was once wildly popular but has pretty well died out.
  • Hazard was not a card game, it was played with dice and was the ancestor of the modern dice game, craps. The player (caster), calls a main (a number from 5 to 9) and then throws two dice. If he "nicks" (casts his main) he wins the stake. The caster throws out, and loses his wager, if he throws a 2 or a 3. This was known as crabs. Any other throw is his chance; he keeps throwing until the chance comes up, when he wins, or until the main comes up, when he loses.
  • Piquet is a game for two people who use a deck of 36 cards - the aces through sixes. Each hand of piquet is played in five parts; blanks and discards, ruffs, sequences, sets, and tricks. The players play until one scores 100 points. In Sheri Cobb South's The Weaver Takes A Wife, Ethan Brundy and Lord Waverly play piquet, with Mr. Brundy's textile mill as the wager.
  • Whist is a game for four people. It was very popular in Jane Austen's time and it eventually evolved into bridge.
  • Vingt et un was another popular card came, one that we now know as twenty one. Players play against the dealer, both trying to get a hand where the points are 21 or close to 21 without going over.
  • Baccarat is a game that is still played in casinos, and is considered a rather "high class" game. The object is to assemble a hand of two or three cards where the point value is nine or as close to nine as the player can get. At one time, it was very popular among the Marlboro House Set - those members of Society who were good friends of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, known as Bertie. Bertie loved "baccy" and had his own set of baccarat counters engraved with the Prince of Wales feathers. Bertie never gambled as much as his great-uncle George IV, but he did and gambling was not in favor among middle-class Victorians. Bertie's gambling landed him in a scandal in 1891.

This months 'Featured Item' or Items, are all drawn from the 'Games / Gaming Category' and include and eclectic little group of gaming accoutrements which I think would make perfect gifts for the "Yuletide Flutterer".

The details are as follows:-

I would also like to take this opportunity, courtesy of my brother Christopher, to invite you all to come along to his shop in Sandgate on Saturday 10th December to have a Christmas Drink with us and view our latest acquisitions.

Christmas Drinks 2012
You are invited to join us for Champagne and Canapés and to view our latest collection on Saturday 10th December, 11.00am - 5.00pm at

56 - 60 Sandgate High Street
Kent CT20 3AP

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.

A very happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques