Sunday, 27 October 2013


I must sincerely apologise to our wonderful author, Stuart Miller-Osborne.  I said that the article below,"Sounds From The Past" was written by his wife Caron.  In fact, it was written by the great man himself Stuart!  I only found out when Caron came into the Arcade and I told her that I had blogged her story when she told me that it was, in fact, Stuart's article.  The confusion arose when Caron sent it to me from her computer.  I am very sorry Stuart.

Sounds From The Past 

It was towards the end of the long hot summer of 1976, just  after I had returned from France that I found myself near Hanwell Cemetery. As the day showed no signs of cooling down I thought it would be agreeable to spend a few reflective minutes amongst the Victorian gravestones. I had not been there long before I was approached by an elderly gentleman who enquired whether I knew where the grave of Al Bowlly was located, ( I was aware that he was buried in Hanwell but not where). He explained that during the 1930s he had been with various bands and had met Al Bowlly on various occasions. He was visiting the UK having lived in South Africa for many years and had decided to pay his respects to the singer. Whether or not my acquaintance from South Africa found Al’s grave I did not stay to find out. 

Some thirty years passed before Al crossed my path again. It was at a crowded jumble sale in Bath. As normal I was hunting out rare first editions (with no luck) when I noted a box of old 78s under the white elephant stall. Out of curiosity and nothing else ( I do not collect records) I decided to take a look. To my surprise they consisted mostly of Al Bowlly recordings. Songs such as Melancholy Baby, Dark Eyes, Blue Moon were there and many others. I immediately thought of my South African visitor and our meeting on that late summers day thirty or so years before. Although tempted I decided against the purchase as I did not own a record player. The good natured stallholder who resembled Joyce Grenfell to a tee was very keen for me to have them. Although I resisted I did ease my conscience by noting that this appeared to be quite a serious collection and it would be wise to take them to an antiques dealer who would know more. On the train back to Hungerford I regretted not purchasing the collection, but I knew I had made the correct decision. 

But who was Al Bowlly ? I recently asked my children had they heard of Al, neither had. My parents had introduced me to his work but obviously I had failed. As we are all aware music is so diverse and easily available these days that the stars from the past can be forgotten or swept aside. 

Albert Allick Bowlly was born in Lourenco Marques in Mozambique on the 7th of January 1898 of mixed Greek and Lebanese blood. In his early years he had jobs as diverse as a jockey and a barber. Soon however he was with a dance band which toured various outposts of the empire. He actually worked at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore during this time. His recording debut came in 1927 when he recorded Blue Skies the Irving Berlin number. His big break came in 1930  when he signed a contract with Roy Fox to sing with his band at the Monseigneur Restaurant in London. The following year he signed another contract with Ray Noble’s orchestra. In the next few years Al’s career blossomed, he recorded hundreds of songs and was soon involved in a UK tour. In 1934 he went to the USA with more success where he worked with Glenn Miller. 

His success in the USA was startling (although short lived)  he had his own radio series with NBC and he starred in the movie The Big Broadcast with Bing Crosby in 1936. The problem was that Al was not really an actor and because of that the Hollywood opportunities waned as did other avenues subsequently. He was also having problems with his voice which affected the recording frequency (this was identified as being a throat wart which was later operated on) 

Unfortunately because of Al’s time in the USA his popularity in the UK had waned also. (the medical problems had not helped at all). As with a lot of entertainers who were once very big he was forced to play at regional locations (Strangely enough this happens in this day and age when big stars of a few years ago show up in a regional town sometimes to the surprise of the inhabitants). 

He got together with Jimmy Messene (whose star was also in decline) in 1940 and his career took an upturn for a while. However the partnership was uneasy to say the least with Messene having personal problems which of cause did not help. 

Al’s last performance with Messsene was at the very regional Rex Cinema in High Wycombe on the evening of the 17th of April 1941. After the performance both men were offered the opportunity to stay in the town. Al declined as High Wycombe was on a direct rail route to London and his flat in Jermyn Street was not over far from Marylebone Station. This was a decision that cost him his life as a Lutwaffe parachute mine exploded outside his flat later that evening and killed him. He was buried in a mass grave in the cemetery in Hanwell ,where many years later I briefly met my visitor from South Africa. 
As I have already noted people such as Al Bowlly are still pretty unknown to the younger generations. This is in part to their type of music going in and out of fashion and the rise of so called pop music since the 1950s. No longer do you go to the local record shop and stand in the soundproof booth and listen to the latest Billy Fury or Elvis single. Today the media used is various and one can listen to any type of recording in any location at any time. 

Unless in a retro aspect people no longer buy records unless they are deliberately produced. As with most things the media is smaller, more convenient and virtually indestructible. I have a small electronic device (given to me by my son) on which he has placed the works of Beethoven and Elgar as well as Al Bowlly. The item is the size of a plum and I believe is called a zen for short. If I had all those recordings on 78 rpm records then they would take a good deal of room. I can take my zen anywhere and apart from the occasional charging up required it needs no maintenance and the sound is first class. 

However not so long ago if you had recordings of your favourite artists on either 33,45 or 78 rpm records you felt privileged. I can remember as a child a friend’s father travelling all the way to the Isle of Wight as he had discovered a rare Caruso recording on a 78. We did not all own record players or gramophones so often it was a trip around a friends house to listen to the latest sounds. 

My mother has still has a large collection of 78s most still in their paper sleeves, a lot of these with the His Master’s Voice trademark record label with Nipper the dog listening to a wind up gramophone. I found out in later years that this was taken from a painting by Francis Barraud. The story is that Nipper was a fox terrier and had belonged to his brother Mark. When Mark died Nipper came to live with Francis who noted the dog took an interest in recordings of Mark’s voice coming from a phonograph. Francis painted the scene and although it was later modified to show a gramophone the image was born, although my main worry aged five I am told was that Nipper would get dizzy going around at such a pace. 

My parents and grandparents both seemed to have large collections of these records and I wondered how long they had been around. I knew that Thomas Edison had invented the phonograph amongst other things and that the record player in my bedroom was a distant grandchild of the original invention. What I did not discover until later was that a chap named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville had in 1857 invented a vibrating pen that represented graphically on discs of paper. No sound came from this as the intention was to display the visual characteristics of sound. The whole idea was for the scientific investigation of sound waves.
What is fascinating is that with modern technology the visual recording was made playable. On the internet can be found the earliest recognizable recording of a human voice recorded on the 9th April 1860. To listen to this very short piece is very haunting. Very much like looking at the Lacock Abbey photographs of a few years earlier. 

Over the years the media used for the production of records has changed considerably. I can remember breaking 78s by accident and being told to treat them like egg shells. Whilst researching this subject I have noted that the records I own or am familiar with were supposed to be made of a stronger material to combat damage. Taking this into account the earlier records must have been very fragile as it did not take a lot to damage a 78 in those days. 

 It appears that the early recordings had had a variety of speeds ranging from 60 to 130 rpm. Bt the mid 1920s it was standardised at 78rpm. Later the 33 and 45s made their debut. Happily one finds 78s very frequently with all manner of recordings. Whether you are perusing in an antiques shop or an arcade or just searching for bargains at a jumble sale or a church fete you come across all kinds of records. From the classical to the then modern they are all there. A lot of the time it is not the purchase of the recordings that is the problem it is the ownership of a gramophone or a record player. Everything has become so minimal with the onset of compact discs that to own a record player or a gramophone is not really the norm these days. 

We now have e books or Kindles where one had read books electronically. If one travels on a commuter train to London it is quite startling the numbers of people who are reading electronically. But to me this is to miss the point of reading a book. It is that feeling (especially if you are reading an early edition) of holding the book in your hands and feeling its age and eccentricities. The same applies to music, no matter how nice it is to listen to an improved recording of Al Bowlly on my zen nothing beats listening to an early recording of lets say ’ Dark Eyes’ on my mothers aged record player. His voice sounds somewhat muffled and far away a product of its time and this adds to the charm and the experience of the recording. And just like old books you have that feeling which you can touch but cannot really describe. This is all but lost when one listens to old recordings on modern media. 

Although the digital media gained the lager market share by the early 1990s there are still a large number of records being produced. According to the internet there were some 2.9 million shipped in 2008. So the old horse is by no means dead, just more selective. It is thanks to the internet that singers such as Al Bowlly can still be enjoyed. There are some fabulous recordings of some of his greatest hits on You Tube and other sites. My daughter recently gave me a copy of the charming French film Amelie which on its soundtrack features Al’s song Guilty. 

If you are ever in Hanwell in West London and have some time to spare, pop in and pay your respects to Al and thank him for his wonderful recordings as I should have done all those years ago.

Stuart Miller-Osborne

Al Bowlly

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Friday, 25 October 2013


As you can imagine, we get many weird and wonderful things coming into the Arcade all the time. One particular item was an unusual round, tin bath.  Stallholder Sue Hughes and I thought we might have some fun with it and seeing our target, Hungerford Arcade co-owner, Adrian Gilmour heading our way (we had already decided that he would be our perfect victim) and luckily, he happened to be there at the right time (for us, but unfortunately, not for him!).  Poor Adrian, we grabbed him and shoved him into the bath and Sue held him down while I fetched the camera from behind the counter. Sue found a brush and started to scrub Adrian's back before moving onto his ears as I photographed the scene.  We had a great laugh until I told Adrian that I was going to Blog it for all the world to see.  To say he was horrified would be an understatement.  I wonder what he will say when he reads this and sees the pictures.  I will make sure that I'm not around to find out and Sue will be keeping a somewhat low profile!  Sorry Adrian.  Please don't sack me!!! 
Lovely old tin bath

Lovely Sue giving Adrian a back scrub!
Sue says "Stop fussing Adrian, the 6" pipe cleaner has got lost in your ear,
but hold on, I'll put the tweezers in there and see if I can pull it out!" 
Just so that you can see.... We did release Adrian eventually and unharmed - except for his pride of course!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013



Many of you will know Stewart Hofgartner from the television programme, Dickinson's Real Deal and indeed, his shop Below Stairs of Hungerford Antiques.  Well, branch members of the charity, Save The Children, Julia Radbourne and Pat Furber, organised an auction that was held at the Herongate Leisure Centre in Charnham Park Hungerford. The manager of the leisure centre, Richard Curtis kindly provided the supper. The auctioneers were Stewart Hofgartner and Chris Boreham who gave their time and expertise free of charge.  The auction was a great success and raised a record amount of money for the Hungerford branch of Save the Children.  This was an auction of promises two of which were a ride to church for a bride and a week's worth of shopping for an elderly person. The atmosphere during the auction was fantastic!  The auction raised £3,000 for Save The Children. Brilliant!!!


Stewart Hofgartner of Below Stairs of  Hungerford Antiques
TV's Dickinson's Real Deal

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Sunday, 20 October 2013


Marc Allum with his book
The Antiques Magpie


We have many wonderful days at Hungerford Arcade and yesterday was no exception.  Although the weather was not great with very heavy showers and brief spells of sunshine, everyone was happy and the first time visitors from home and abroad thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of the Arcade and cannot wait to come back.  

Yesterday was a very special day because before the Arcade closed at 6.00 p.m. people started to arrive for a drinks reception with famous TV personality from BBC's Antiques Road Show, writer and broadcaster, Marc Allum.  This was part of the Hungerford Literary Festival organised by The Hungerford Bookshop.  Marc has published nine books with his latest being 'The Antiques Magpie'.  This is a - must read - brilliant book where Marc explores the wonderful world of antiques and collectables and much, much more.  He even tells of  ghostly spirits!  This is going to be the first of a series of books the publishers have asked Marc to write and the second in the series will be out late in 2014.

Before Marc gave his talk, there was a competition to guess what certain items were.  These were exceptionally good items brought in by Jess Elliman and her parents, Trevor and Jane who have a unit at the Arcade.  It was great fun.  Marc was very impressed by the items that Jess had brought in and also the great knowledge she had about them.  Marc said if she had brought these onto the BBC's Antiques Road Show, they would definitely have been filmed.  You will see Jess, her parents and some of the items below.  Marc then settled down to give his talk and book signing.

Marc and his family have moved to Chippenham, Wiltshire where he has just purchased a stunning medieval house.  He said the pathway leading up to the house is made up of ancient grave stones and when it is raining, the inscriptions really jump out at you!  As you can imagine, this house has a fantastic history which Marc is researching.  He knows that one of the owners was an Admiral in the Royal Navy and Marc is going to get a picture of him and other past owners and create a gallery.  
Marc started his career when he was very young.  First of all he played the guitar and wanted to be a musician but his heart told him to enter the world of antiques as he always had a good eye and was encouraged to go down that road.  When he was 17, Marc bought what he knew to be a very special item for £6. He took it to Sothebys in London who were very excited about it and put it into their next auction where it made a staggering £600!  Marc's 17 year career as a London based auctioneer and company director was built from a childhood passion for collecting.  Due to his many business commitments, Marc no longer participates in the auctions.  You can read lots more about Marc and his on his website at

Marc Allum with his book
The Antiques Magpie

Jess and Marc with Trevor and Jane

Marc waiting for an answer to
"What do you think this old tool is used for?"

Marc telling everyone how the
tool would have been used

Marc with lovely Tracy

Me grinning like a Cheshire cat with super cool Marc

Jess's parent, Hungerford Arcade Stallholders
Trevor & Jane Elliman

Jess describing her tools on the table

Some of the tools brought in by
Jess Elliman

More of Jess's vintage tools

Marc Allum with his book
The Antiques Magpie

Friday, 18 October 2013


We had a lovely young couple come into the Arcade, beautiful Cloe Stiven and her boyfriend of five years, handsome Danny Read. Danny wanted to buy Cloe a ring to celebrate her graduation from Reading University with a Mathematics Masters Degree. Brains as well as beauty Cloe! They chose Hungerford Arcade as the place where they wanted to purchase this very special present which you will see in the photograph below. 

All of us at Hungerford Arcade send our congratulations to Cloe on her graduation and wish her and Danny our very best wishes for the future which I am sure is going to be very bright!


Danny, Cloe and Adrian

The stunning sapphire and
diamond ring bought by Danny
as a Graduation present for Cloe

Thursday, 17 October 2013


I have been going through some of the wonderful stories that our great friend and author, Stuart Miller-Osborne has sent to us over a very long time.  I came across this fascinating article, "Charles Dickens (A Journey)" that Stuart wrote quite some time ago for one of our earlier Newsletters. I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You can read the current edition of our Newsletter by going to our website at  Just click on 'Articles' and you will see 'Newsletter'.

Charles Dickens
(A Journey)

On the 9th of June 1865 in Staplehurst in Kent an anonymous bridge over the River Beult was the scene of a horrific railway accident. This was caused when rails were removed whilst maintenance was taking place. Confusion as to when a train ‘The Folkestone Boat Express’ was due (it varied with the tides), the loss of a timetable, which had been destroyed by a previous train, and the incorrect use of detonators all contributed to the disaster. On this sunny afternoon the stage was set for an accident, which apart from killing ten unfortunates also in its way changed the course of English Literature.
For on that train was one of the greatest writers of the Victorian age, Charles Dickens. He was travelling with his “companion” Ellen Ternan and her mother. They were travelling in the front first class carriage, which miraculously did not fall from the bridge. After recovering his composure he (although he was in a slightly awkward position in travelling with Miss Ternan) rendered assistance to the dying and injured before being relieved of the task. Victorian Britain always on the look out for heroes soon latched onto what had happened and Dickens became a public hero. But the damage had been done psychologically and in its way helped to contribute to Dickens’s death exactly five years later to the day on the 9th of June 1870.
He wrote of his experiences in the postscript to Our Mutual Friend 
“On Friday the Ninth of June in the present year, Mr and Mrs Boffin (in their manuscript dress of receiving Mr and Mrs Lammle at breakfast) were on the South Eastern Railway with me, in a terribly destructive accident. When I had done what I could to help others, I climbed back into my carriage—turned over a viaduct, and caught aslant upon the turn—to extricate the worthy couple. They were much soiled, but otherwise unhurt. The same happy result attended Miss Bella Wilfer on her wedding day, and Mr Riderhood inspecting Bradley Headstone's red neckerchief as he lay asleep. I remember with devout thankfulness that I can never be much nearer parting company with my readers for ever, than I was then, until there shall be written against my life, the two words with which I have this day closed this book “ 
The event was also a catalyst for one of my favourite short stories "The Signal Man “ which is about a train crash in a tunnel (probably the Clayton Tunnel accident of 1861 but the Staplehurst experience would have sown the germ in his mind) and as a great number of people have noted deprived us all of the ending of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Ellen Ternan

     StaplehurstTrain       Crash
But what of Dickens two hundred years later? We are all in danger of Dickens overload with a number of television adaptations and a plethora of exhibitions and events.  Both Augustus Pugin and Robert Browning as well as Edward Lear were born in the same year but although these men’s anniversaries are being commemorated, there is nothing of the intensity of the Dickens anniversary. Why is it that the nation some one hundred and forty years after his death is still gripped by Dickens mania?
Recently for fun I visited as many charity shops, second hand booksellers and antique arcades in parts of Wiltshire, Berkshire and Somerset as I could to see if I so desired that I could purchase a book by Dickens. The results were (with a couple of exceptions) an overwhelming yes. I could have purchased a handsome set of his novels for the equivalent of the train fare between Hungerford and London and for the price of a newspaper I could have purchased an individual novel. This said finding books of poetry by Browning was not all that difficult although his poetry (by its very nature) does not transfer elsewhere. I found nothing on or by either Lear or Pugin at all. Whether we like it or not Charles Dickens is bedded in our consciousness.

      Charles Dickens

Pickwick Papers

 Dickens was born on the 7th of February 1812 just under a month before Pugin and some two months before Lear and Browning. He took his first breath of air at Landport, which is part of the city of Portsmouth. He was born into a poor family and his father was imprisoned for debt forcing Dickens to leave school and work in a factory. Unlike many of his contemporaries he had little education but in spite of this he wrote some fifteen novels and a large number of short stories and articles. It was the poverty and injustice of his early life that provided his fuel and to some extent helped to burn him out at an early age. Although radically different people the same happened to Augustus Pugin who was dead at forty. 
It was in 1836 that Dickens really became known with the publication of Pickwick Papers which was published in a serial format. As with the soaps that infest our televisions today Dickens was able to gauge his readers reactions so that he could pinpoint or modify the storyline as required. Unlike the soaps of today Dickens was a very astute observer of character and the social environment of the time. He was a humorist and a satirist also and this mixture proved very successful. Rather like the Harry Potter books of today the readership was from all social classes. Writers like George Orwell liked the Pickwick Papers and his other novels for their realism and social criticism. This said Virginia Woolf whilst appreciating the books does not like the sentimentalism that crept into his style. 
When I read Dickens novels (I have not read them all) the thing that strikes me are his journalistic roots. Three years prior to the Pickwick Papers he was a political journalist reporting on debates and travelling around the country covering elections and the like. His work was to be found in the Morning Chronicle. He collected his pieces in Sketches by Boz, which was published in 1836. This in turn led to The Pickwick Papers. Within five years Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop And Barnaby Rudge had seen the light of day. We must remember that Dickens was under thirty years of age at the time, which in my view is some achievement. Whilst some writers and poets have extraordinary bursts of creativity at a young age (one has only to think of Arthur Rimbaud) this was something very special.
Domestically all was not sweetness and light for Dickens. He married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and in time fathered ten children. One of Catherine’s sisters, Mary, came to live with them (which was not an unusual at the time). Dickens grew very close to Mary and was shattered when she died at a very young age in 1837. Mary is to be found in many of his books but most famously as Little Nell. In time another of Catherine’s sisters, Georgina, joined the household. This was to some extent a catalyst for the Dickens household. For some reason Dickens started to blame Catherine for the birth of his ten children and the increasing financial worries involved. (If you have time it would be interesting to compare Augustus Pugin’s relationship with his three wives to that of Dickens). He considered her an incompetent housekeeper  - this is strange as writing as Lady Maria Clutterbuck she wrote a cookery book in 1851 which ran into several editions. They finally separated in 1858 after she has received by accident a bracelet that should have been sent to Ellen Ternan. The break-up was not helped by Georgina siding with Dickens. Two articles at the time in my view help to give insight into Dickens state of mind at the time. 
Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children. It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it... By some means, arising out of wickedness, or out of folly, or 
out of inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has been the occasion of misrepresentations, mostly grossly false, most monstrous, and most cruel — involving, not only me, but innocent persons dear to my heart... I most solemnly declare, then — and this I do both in my own name and in my wife's name — that all the lately whispered rumours touching the trouble, at which I have glanced, are abominably false. And whosoever repeats one of them after this denial, will lie as wilfully and as foully as it is possible for any false witness to lie, before heaven and earth. Household Words (1858).
I will merely remark of [my wife] that some peculiarity of her character has thrown all the children on someone else. I do not know — I cannot by any stretch of fancy imagine — what would have become of them but for this aunt, who has grown up with them, to whom they are devoted, and who has sacrificed the best part of her youth and life to them. She has remonstrated, reasoned, suffered, and toiled, again and again, to prevent a separation between Mrs. Dickens and me. Mrs. Dickens has often expressed to her sense of affectionate care and devotion in her home — never more strongly than within the last twelve months. New York Tribune (c 1858). 
Whilst admiring Dickens I have always felt sympathy with Catherine Dickens who when dying in 1879 gave her daughter Kate a number of letters she had received from Dickens with the words  “Give these to the British Museum that the world may know he loved me once”. I have not studied Dickens enough to really give an opinion about the influence that Catherine had over the man and his works. But quite often I can feel her presence in his writing. As with a number of larger than life writers and artists it is sometimes the woman who is shunted into the background in the shadow of a great man, and sometimes cruelly he dispenses with her. Perhaps without this characteristic Dickens would not have been the writer he was. I am unqualified to say but I have a nagging feeling that when he separated from Catherine something was lost.

Catherine Hogarth Dickens

Mary Hogarth

Georgina Hogarth

         Bronte Sisters
We are all aware of Dickens life story so I am not going to go into it in any detail. What fascinates me is why Dickens like the Bronte sisters has endured. When I was twenty-one I had the crazy idea of cycling from Ealing to Haworth after reading some of the sisters' novels. When I arrived three days later I was expecting to find a dusty damp museum but to my surprise it was crowded with visitors from many countries. This was in the mid seventies and the rush has not stopped since. Both the Brontes and Dickens are as popular now as they were thirty years ago and with the advances in media more accessible. Who remembers Charlotte M Yonge (1823-1901) who was known as the novelist of The Oxford Movement? Although for some reason her books are quite easily available in Hungerford  (I see them quite frequently) as far as I know none of her novels have been dramatised for television or the cinema. I think if you asked the average schoolchild about Charlotte Yonge or The Oxford Movement then they would look blankly at you whereas if you mentioned the Brontes or Charles Dickens then you would get a reaction. 
Rather like the Harry Potter phenomena today one imagines that when Dickens was at his height the Victorian equivalent would have been the same. Perhaps there would have been no studio tours or plastic characters but there would have been many souvenirs. My wife recently purchased a Charles Dickens Birthday book of 1882 as a gift for me. The book was published some twelve years after his death by his eldest daughter with illustrations by his youngest daughter. Throughout the year different extracts from Dickens are included. This obviously sold well, as with the Harry Potter merchandise today, and is a haunting read. 
But in one hundred years what will the world make of Harry Potter. I think that it will be viewed as an odd time where fantasy characters lead the reader into a world of dreams and make believe divorced from reality. Although Dickens had his faults and in a Victorian way was exploited as much as J K Rowling’s novels are today. I believe there was a greater attachment to Dickens. The girl receiving the birthday book probably at Christmas in 1881 I believe would have had a different attachment to Dickens than the contemporary child with the Harry Potter novels.
Although closed at present there is a fine Charles Dickens museum in London, which is easily found on the internet. His home at Gads Hill in Kent is also easy to find and well worth a visit - again I would consult the relevant web pages for details. There are many Dickens events being held in 2012 as well as various other events in the media. Sadly the very atmospheric museum in Broadstairs in Kent is no longer with us having suffered a fire. It is now I believe a private residence. I visited it a number of years ago when on a Dickens pilgrimage. Unlike the Bronte museum in Haworth it was a rather dusty and had a somewhat ill organised collection but in its way it reminded me of Miss Haversham’s faded glory. I was sad to see it go. 
Away from Dickens I also decided to visit the house that Augustus Pugin built for himself in Ramsgate as well as the church that he was in the process of building when he died. Sadly at the time the house had seen better days and looked in dire need of love. Happily due to the sterling efforts of the Landmark Trust the house has been renovated and you can either stay there or visit the house (named The Grange) on specified days - again the internet will give you the detail required. 
Dickens like Pugin had a lot of connections with Kent and if you are in that part of the world it would be fun to break your Dickens itinerary with a visit to Ramsgate to visit Pugin’s house and church. As I have noted both were born in 1812 and died quite young (mainly due to overwork) but there, to a great extent, the similarities end. But both were however men of their era in their separate worlds.

Gads Hill Place
The Grange, Ramsgate

researched a great deal of this article in Margate whilst taking a few days out in Kent. As I wandered along the promenade I was leafing through an old copy of Hard Times that I had purchased at the Pilgrims Hospices charity shop. I began to wonder whether Dickens had ever visited Margate (it is likely he would have done) and what he would have made of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in the town today. I could not guess what his feeling would have been but as I read his novel I knew he would have recognised some of the decay in the town which would have changed radically since his times and wondered if he had included it in a novel how we would have read it in 2012. Although an abstract question I did not answer it to my own satisfaction throughout the day. 
Each of us has their favourite Dickens novel and outside of The Signalman mine is Hard Times. I think that the day would have been even more blissful if I had travelled the short distance to Ramsgate and with a fine Kent ale for refreshment settled into my rooms at The Grange with Gradgrind and company, taking time out occasionally to look out of the window at the distant Goodwin Sands. 
Stuart Miller-Osborne

Sunday, 13 October 2013


We had a very special visitor at the Arcade, artist Kate Kessling.  Kate is a famous and very gifted artist.  Her work includes, Buttons, Skulls, Animals, figures and much more.  You must visit her website and see for yourself the marvellous art created by this lady.   Kate and a number of other artists will be exhibiting at the Arlington Arts Centre in Newbury from 28th October to 23rd December from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.   The exhibition is "A story time of lost and found".  A glance into fragments of time.  A chance to unpick carefully woven collections and unravel the stories delicately captured inside.  

If you are wondering what Kate purchased on her visit to Hungerford Arcade, have a look below!

Well caught Adrian!

I wonder what unlucky people
had to have these in their mouths!

Looks like Lego!

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Everybody loves a good book and the people of Hungerford are no exception!  This month, The Hungerford Literary Festival returns for it’s second year! 

The festival has been extended this year to allow more time to see the authors and I can tell you, the line-up for 2013 is very impressive indeed!

From Jo Jingles’ “Where’s My Teddy?” for the little ones, to Top Ten best seller Salley Vickers talking about her new book “The Cleaner of Chartres".  There really is something for everyone!

Around the town you might be lucky enough to hear Hungerford LitFest Patron and leading military historian, Sir Max Hastings talking about his latest work “Catastrophe: Europe Goes To War 1914” in which he will reveal the tensions across Europe which really brought about the Great War.

Here at The Arcade, we will be welcoming antiques expert Marc Allum in to talk about his book “Antiques Magpie”.  Marc is best known for his work on the Antiques Roadshow over the past 15 years but he has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, writes for mainstream magazines and is also a lecturer.   The "Antiques Magpie" explores the fascinating world of antiques and collectables.  You will meet the garden gnome insured for £1 million, track down Napoleon's toothbrush and spookily, how to find a corpse in a Victorian photograph!  This is a fantastic book and once started, you will not want to put it down.  Marc will be talking about everything from artifacts of the ancient world, to saucy seaside postcards!  
Marc will be joining us at 5.30 on the 19th October for a drinks reception, before continuing across the road at the lovely Three Swans Hotel.   So, for all you antiques and collectable lovers this is an event not to be missed. Do come along and meet Marc and you will even get your book signed.

The festival will run from the 17th to the 21st October in a number of different venues around the town.  Programmes are available to pick-up from Hungerford Arcade, Hungerford Bookshop, the Library and other local businesses.
Alex Rogers

You can catch up with all the information on our What's On Page in our current Newsletter.  Just follow this link to our website  and click on the button on the left-hand side of the page. 

Tickets are available at the Hungerford Bookshop
E-mail: sales@hungerfordbooks
Tel: 01488 683480
and at 

Marc Allum
Author of 'Antiques Magpie'

Friday, 4 October 2013


Hope you enjoy this brilliant article as much as I did.  It was beautifully written by weapons expert, Mike Cartlidge.  This article was previously published in an earlier edition our Newsletter.  You can find the current edition of our Newsletter on our website at  Just click on the button on the left hand side which says 'Articles' and you will also find the current Newsletter on the same button.

Sheffield Made Bowie Knives

For over two centuries, Sheffield has been the leading manufacturer of all forms of cutlery.  There were large deposits of coal and iron on hand in the countryside and local forests provided charcoal for smelting, with quarries of stone for grindstones.  The power the knife makers required to drive the grinding wheels and other machinery came from the fast flowing streams.  With these facilities Sheffield became a household name throughout the world, as workmanship was of an extremely high quality, so much so, that during the period 1840 to 1875 many American knife makers marked their products “Made in Sheffield”.
With little or no cutlery being made in America, the era of Sheffield-made “Bowies” began with the fame of James Bowie – knife fighter extraordinary.  George Wostenholm was one of the first Sheffield knife makers to visit America, taking six weeks to travel from Liverpool to New York.  It was a profitable undertaking for him as he returned to America the following year – 1837.  With the demand for his knives increasing, he set up agents and outlets for his Bowie knives throughout the eastern states.  It did not take long for other Sheffield knife making companies to see that here was a huge market for their products.
Sheffield-made Bowies exported to America came in all shapes and sizes: from the 3 ½ inch prostitute garter knives with mother-of-pearl handles to 16 inch blade knives.  Bowie knives with hilts bearing the crest of the States of America were very popular ie. Kentucky – half horse, half alligator, The Texas star, Virginia etc. Initially, the blade of the early Bowies were plain with just the maker’s name or trade mark, but around 1845, the Sheffield makers began decorating the blades.  They were often acid etched with a gold motto eg. “California Knife”, “America Land of The Free”, “Tennessee Knife”, “Arkansas Toothpick”, and when gold was discovered in California in 1848, a popular motto was “I can dig gold from quartz”.  Not to be confused with the Sheffield maker’s trade mark were knives marked “Buffalo Knife”, “Bear Knife”, “The Hunter’s Companion”, which were stamped with designs such as horses, dogs, deer, buffalo.
With the advent of the American Civil War in 1861, sayings like “Death to Traitors”, “Death to Abolition”, “Georgia Pike”,  “The Union must and shall be free”, appeared on the blades.  During this period hilts became fancier, with ivory and mother-of-pearl being used in profusion.  Hilts with large silver horse heads now became very popular.  John Biggin of Sheffield was one of the finest makers of silver hilts and supplied most of the Sheffield trade.  Todays collector of the small bladed Bowie knife – 3 ½ to 5 inches embossed with German silver hilts, refer to them as “Cake Cutters”.
The true fighting Bowie knife started to disappear with the end of the Civil War in 1865, although the Buffalo hunters, cowboys, scouts and Indians still carried them.  At this stage a lighter weight knife appeared, as well as a breach-loading revolver which became the favoured weapon.
It is still the tradition of the cutlers of Sheffield to produce knives of the finest quality and throughout the world, “Made in Sheffield” is recognised as a guarantee of the highest workmanship.
Mike Cartlidge

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Stuart has gone all 'crabbie'!  I wonder why?  Read his article and like me, you will, in a fascinating way, learn what it is all about.

On The Counter 

Often when I am in the Arcade, I am shown interesting items which sometimes do not give a clue as to their actual use. This was the case recently when I was shown several pairs of what I supposed to be either late eighteenth or early nineteenth century nutcrackers. However their size troubled me as they were rather small and did not look like they were up to the task. 
I do not eat nuts so I supposed these crackers to be for the smaller varieties of nuts but I was soon corrected. These instruments were for crabs. I was not surprised at my error as I do not like any kind of crustaceans. I have never eaten one in all my life. Indeed during my foolish years of youth, I often purchased live crabs and released the creatures back into their habitats (this is a rather expensive pastime so I would not recommend it).
My wife and I have been known to raid the odd crab bucket (when the fisherman was not looking) and release the contents back into their watery home (again I would not recommend this as fisherman can be fleet of foot and to say that the incident was accidental is not always believed). 
But what of these crab crackers? I had not really considered their existence prior to being shown the examples but knowing that the creature is covered by a thick exoskeleton they are an entirely logical invention. I have looked on the internet and indeed these instruments stretch back a good numbers of years. 
We are all very familiar with crabs, from our early holidays when we innocently fished with our nets for crabs to the thrill of finding one of these tiny creatures in a rock pool usually hiding under seaweed or burrowing into the available sand. 
It is well known that crabs walk sideways (not all but most) and the occasional philosopher had looked into this gait when studying their sciences. As we are all aware crabs are quite aggressive (towards enquiring fingers and each other) we have all experienced a crab nip. Like man they are territorial and are also known to argue over the female of the species. They are omnivores and mostly feed on algae and other detritus. To some extent it is the make up of the crab which makes its behaviour easy to predict and therefore they are easy to catch. Over one million tons are caught and consumed annually worldwide. 
Unlike something like a banana, crabs are by nature very difficult to eat. They can be served in different ways, eaten whole (some crabs have a softer shell than others) or just the legs and claws are eaten. Whichever way it was obvious that the diner on some occasions would need some help. The aim when eating is not to get the contents of your dish on your clothes. Hence the idea of crab crackers. 
When researching, it is difficult to pin down exactly when these fearsome looking instruments were introduced. We have been consuming crustaceans from the prehistoric times. Archaeologists have discovered the detritus left by our early ancestors. It was not a question of etiquette with these people but survival. If they were near an available food source then as long as the taste was acceptable and the contents were not poisonous then they were consumed. 
Lobsters (and I imagine crabs) were known to the ancient Romans and Greeks and it would not surprise me if these people might have invented the forefathers of the crab crackers that were shown to me on that day. In Asiatic countries these creatures had been delicacies for centuries and although I have not seen examples it is likely that these instruments were used.  
For me the crabs will always be the creatures in the rock pool visited by the dog Boot every summer in The Perishers newspaper cartoon. For them “ The Eyeballs in the Sky”  were at once a mystical visitation as well as an excuse for some crustacean infighting. I would like to think amongst all the chaos in that rock pool that there would be a more philosophical crab who might have noticed the similarities between the crab crackers and the very crabs themselves. He might have written “ If you do not like your reflection, then turn away”  But that is a million miles away from the brass crab crackers I was shown on that late summer Saturday. 

If you want to lean more then there a number of excellent websites on the internet on this subject. With regard to our friend the crab there are as far as I can see not so many websites on crab crackers but a large number on crabs and other crustaceans as well as the cooking and preparation of these creatures.
Stuart Miller-Osborne