Sadly someone has torn away half the label, but already I am imagining the story and this much is clear...
It was addressed to Miss A Denton, c/o S.S.------ & Co, 2nd -------, Chronicle House, 72 Fleet Street. There is a date 14/12/24 and the number 233.
With no sign of any postage perhaps this was delivered by hand.
Opened in 1885 by Arthur Liberty, and with the vision of an Eastern Bazaar in mind, the shop grew larger by the day as surrounding properties were purchased, Liberty became the byword for quality and the unusual. The building we know today had actually been built in 1924, the year our box was given, so perhaps these were celebratory gifts. Given that the address is Fleet Street perhaps as thanks for help with advertising...
This from the store's website...
Our magnificent mock-Tudor building on Great Marlborough Street was built in 1924 so trading could continue while renovations were being completed at the other Liberty premises. Designed by Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall, the iconic store was constructed from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The frontage at Great Marlborough Street is the same length as the Hindustan.
Designed at the height of the 1920s fashion for Tudor revival, the shop was engineered around three light wells. Each of these wells was surrounded by smaller rooms to create a homely feel, and many of the rooms had fireplaces - some of which still exist today - in order to create the feeling of being in your own home. Sadly, Arthur Liberty died in 1917, seven years before the completion of his shops.
The mock-Tudor building was not without its critics, most notably and perhaps predictably, architectural historian Nicholas Pevsner in his series Buildings of England...
"The scale is wrong, the symmetry is wrong. The proximity to a classical façade put up by the same firm at the same time is wrong, and the goings-on of a store behind such a façade (and below those twisted Tudor chimneys) are wrongest of all".
Can you imagine what we might have to say were it built today, yet the building now a London landmark, revered and listed, and surely a mecca for anyone with the slightest interest in fabrics....they have cut quarter yards of Tana Lawn for me before now, and last time I was there I would have happily ferried this Ianthe rug back to the Shire on the 6.30pm from Paddington.
Arthur Liberty, conveniently spanning the fin de siecle with the growth of his business, forged strong links with both the Arts and Crafts Movement and also that of Art Nouveau, expanding his range of interests far and wide, from fabrics and clothing to decorative household wares and furniture, and working with many of the leading designers of the day. Archibald Knox I discover was one, and there is much more information about his Liberty connections here. The Liberty website also has some wonderful pictures from their annual Arts & Crafts exhibition here and if you have about a week to spare this website fills in some fascinating background detail.
Apparently the Liberty Yuletide Gifts catalogues were legendary, tempting buyers with lavish illustrations and offering affordable, well-made items that could be delivered by post.
I like to imagine what might have been in my box...
Perhaps some tissue paper to be unfolded to reveal...
Well what do you think... suggestions?
Whatever it was I'll bet Miss A.Denton was thrilled to bits, carrying this home on the bus as if it were the Crown Jewels (well I would have done) and somehow the box has survived over ninety years to find itself in a charity shop window in Exeter High Street.
And I think this fabric might still be among my Tana Lawn favourites.
The block is called Divine Guidance (much of which was required to make it) from Elly Sienkiewicz's book Baltimore Beauties and Beyond; cut-and-sew applique (for which Tana Lawn works like a dream) and the fabric salvaged from the jaws of our neighbour's dustbin back in about 1980.
'WHAT ARE YOU DOING???' I shrieked in a most unladylike fashion, but needs must.
It was one of those gathered, tiered skirts, the ever-extending frills providing yards and yards of fabric which she had hand-sewn in the absence of a machine, and which I proceeded to unpick before her eyes. I still have some scraps to tuck in my box.