Tag: heritage

Nation of Shopkeepers: Chester for the Daily Telegraph

I’m always on the look out for story ideas around Chester. My daughter spotted this antique doll shop and the interview with the owner was fascinating. This story first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Mo Harding, owner, Dollectable, says:

“I was born in Cheshire and, after running a hotel in Manchester for years, we were looking for a new business based around my love of antique dolls.

I had always loved dolls but my parents told me I was too old for them when I was 12.

We found this Tudor townhouse in Chester, dating from 1621, in the early Eighties. Originally we wanted to make a doll museum upstairs but the building is Grade II listed and needs a lot of work.

As far as we know, it’s the last remaining shop of its kind in the UK.

Early days

I started collecting pre-1930s dolls when my husband, Steve, was working the antique fairs. I still remember my first one. Polly was a German doll from around 1900. She had a lovely face.

Sometimes you look at a doll’s face and it’s just like a painting.

The heyday of doll making was from the 1870 to 1900 with best dolls made in France and Germany. Most of the dolls in the shop are Victorian.

Children played with dolls differently in those days. They brought the dolls out on Sundays and girls learnt to sew by making clothes for them.

Prized possessions

Every doll in the shop has a story. Henrietta is wax doll with beautiful boned underwear; she belonged to a suffragette. We also have some rare items.

The twin French dolls from the 1870s, both with glazed china heads, are worth upwards of £2500 each. A Shirley Temple doll of the American child star, dating from 1934, is one of our few American dolls.

We have travelled the world to international doll fairs and auctions. When you find a rare doll, it’s still an incredible buzz.

I’d sell the house and the car rather than loose my dolls, both the stock for the shop and my private collection at home.

I’m still always searching for the ultimate doll. I’ve wanted a Schmidt, a French doll from around 1870. They would sell at auction for around £18,000.

Future plans

We hope my daughter will take the business forward eventually, maybe creating a website and taking us onto social media.

My granddaughter loves my Victorian doll houses, too. But there are no plans for retirement yet.

I still love decorating the window every Christmas with a themed display and half the fun of running the business is the community of like-minded people at the auctions.

For me, you are either a doll person or not. It’s a way of life.

A doll person would never dream of collecting teddy bears.

 

Liked this? Try also Move into top gear at Cars and Coffee Chester.

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The golden age of cruise travel with P&O Heritage

A peek behind closed doors last week.

I was at the London Victoria  offices of DP World, the global logistics company that now owns the lion’s share of P&O (minus the cruises).

It’s also home to the P&O Heritage Division with its extensive collection of ephemera — paintings, model ships, silverware and more.

Some of the most colourful items were the printed menus and postcards from the 1930s [pictured above].

I was there to interview the Senior Curator, Susie Cox, as the company celebrates its 180th year in 2017.

It was amazing to see items rarely accessible to the public that take us back to another age. It’s like Susie told me:

“There’s a huge romance around ocean liners and the aesthetics, the posters, the fashion, the visuals, are all fantastic. That’s why it’s the golden age of cruise.”

Read the full feature in a forthcoming Telegraph Cruise.

Just back: In Flanders Fields for Telegraph Cruise

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The first assignment of autumn then.

It was a return journey to an old favourite destination — Flanders — but with a new perspective.

I’ve been before to Bruges, Ghent and several times to Antwerp.

But I had never visited the WWI heritage sites of Flanders Fields, nor previously witnessed the moving Last Post ceremony [pictured above] at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

It was also my first river cruise assignment after several previous ocean-cruising commissions.

The story is for Telegraph Cruise and will appear in the spring of 2017, timed with the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

But here’s a preview:

What struck me most about the surrounding countryside was the dramatic juxtaposition of historical sites and regular suburban houses, where people lived everyday lives untouched by war. Amongst the shrines, monuments and memorials, I sometimes spotted little commemorative crosses, marked with red poppies. One read simply: “Harry. In Loving memory.”

Check out a Flickr gallery of images from the trip.

Or watch a Vimeo of the Last Post:

More from: Flanders Fields.

River Pilots exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Pilots

They are the quiet men of shipping.

While the captain is struggling to navigate the treacherous tides of the River Mersey, one of the Liverpool River Pilots will shimmy up a rope ladder, come aboard and peel off their waterproofs to reveal a neatly pressed suit before extending a firm handshake and taking conduct of the ship.

It may sound like a scene from the new Bond film but for Chris Booker, Chairman of the Liverpool Pilots, it’s another day at the office.

Liverpool Pilotage Services was founded 1766 and this year celebrates its 250th anniversary.

The Merseyside Maritime Museum is now hosting the exhibition In Safe Hands: The story of the Liverpool Pilots [pictured above] to explore the vital role of the service in navigating ships in and out of the Port of Liverpool for more than two centuries.

Action man

I met Chris at their offices on the Birkenhead side of the river, historic paintings of pilot ships at sail alongside whiteboards of calculations and twin high-tech simulators.

It was at the controls of one of the latter that Chris planned the meticulous set of manoeuvres for Cunard’s Three Queens event last May to mark the 175th anniversary of the first transatlantic crossing.

“We gave our time for free, only being paid for the piloting on the day,” says softly spoken Chris.

“The event brought 1.5m people to Liverpool but we don’t get carried away. We’ve simply got a job to do.”

As we pour over a huge chart of the approach to Liverpool in the Chart Room, Chris points out the natural features that make the waters some of the toughest in the world to navigate.

“Liverpool has a lot of idiosyncrasies: strong tides, westerly weather and a series of locks,” he explains.

There are also some 5,000 wrecks beneath the surface — hence ships entering the Mersey rely on the skills and knowledge of pilots to ensure their safe passage.

Unusually, captains entering UK waters must hand over conduct of their vessel to the pilot coming aboard, integrating him into the team on the bridge. It’s an agreement only also observed in Panama.

“We are not advisors,” says Chris. “We take control.”

Life at sea

Later, over lunch at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, sunlight glinting off the Echo Arena across the Mersey, Chris tells me about his love affair with the sea, a romance that started aged 12 on a coaster with his father, sailing from Yorkshire to Holland.

“I remember it like yesterday,” he smiles. “It was a defining moment.”

Chris went onto study at the Hull Trinity House Academy in before serving an apprenticeship at sea. At 16 he was flying to New York to join a ship trading down the east coast to Central America.

After years as a captain and master with the Mobil oil company, he joined the Liverpool Pilots in 1995. The pilots, already captains, undergo a further seven-and-a-half years of training to gain their full qualifications.

“Having gone round the world as a captain, I wondered, at first, if I would get bored on the Mersey but, just last night, I was piloting gas tanker into the Mersey with one engine in bad weather,” he says.

“It was properly dry-mouth, hands-shaky scary.”

Now aged 52 and with three grown-up sons at sea, Chris has had more than his fair share of sea-faring adventures — from fending off pirates in Nigeria as a teenage cadet to charting an undiscovered sea mount off the coast of the Philippines.

“I remember sailing from Japan to Canada and we could smell the pines before they even appeared on the radar,” he smiles. “I loved the adventure and I’d do it all again.”

We finish our coffees and watch the unusually calm water of the Mersey ebb and flow outside.

It’s a big year for the Liverpool Pilots with more events to be announced (details from the website) to add to the latest chapter in Liverpool’s rich maritime heritage.

But Chris says the Liverpool Pilots will continue quietly with their valuable work. “All the other visitors to a ship want something but the pilot is different,” he says.

“The service we provide is a proper challenge but, ultimately, we’re just there to help.”

Read more: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/pilots

  • Published in the Daily Telegraph, February 2016.
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