Tag Archive: #GoCosy

  1. #Go Cosy: Bed warmers

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    If, like me, you grew up in a house with no central heating and remember frost patterns on the inside of your bedroom windows on icy mornings, then you probably still love a good hot water bottle.  A recent survey by a leading bed manufacturer claimed that electric blankets were making a comeback thanks, particularly, to millennials.

    Apparently, Britons aged 25-34 are the most likely to own an electric blanket, while 48 per cent of the nation’s electric blankets are owned by those aged 18-34. But for me, the rubber hot-water bottle remains a firm favourite, especially as you can now get hundreds of snuggly covers for them.

    A ‘stone’ hot water bottle

    Considering our climate, it is no real surprise that Gallery Oldham, has quite a large selection of bed-warmers in its collection. These range from old-fashioned ‘stone’ hot water bottles to some more curious early electrical devices. The practise of heating the bed goes back hundreds of years. Originally, copper warming pans, filled with hot coals or embers, were used to warm between the sheets.

    Later as mass-production grew with the industrial revolution, they were replaced by ceramic hot water bottles. Water was somewhat safer than hot coals and the vitreous china or ‘stonewear’ bottles were cleverly designed so they could be stood on their small, flat end in the bed, making a tent under the sheets to spread their heat.

    Stone hot water bottles lasted well into the twentieth century but were gradually superseded by ‘vulcanised’, rubber ones that you could actually keep in bed to warm your toes.  The invention of the rubber hot water bottle is widely accredited to Serbian, serial inventor Slavoljub Eduard Penkala. In 1903 he patented the ‘Termofor’ hot water bottle, although, ironically, he died of pneumonia on a business trip in 1922. 

    Over the years there have been many attempts to modernize the art of bed warming. Caged electric light bulbs and heating elements have been used since the 1920s; made by companies like Belling, Swan, Veret (who advertised ‘150 hours of warmth for one penny!’) and Failsworth-based PIFCO.

    More recently still, we have had the electric blanket, invented in the USA by another serial inventor, George Crowley. At just six-years-old, Crowley invented an electrical early warning device on the stairs of his home, to warn of approaching parents. Obviously destined for great things, he went on to work for the General Electric Company and developed heated flying suits for use at high altitudes during WW2. In peacetime, he adapted this technology to create a range of thermostatically controlled, over and under-blankets and also found time to invent an electrified device for chasing squirrels from bird tables.

    Electric blankets were popular in the 1960s and ‘70s and makers have included Northern Blankets of Vine Mill, Royton. But somehow, the quirky and peculiarly British hot water bottle has remained incredibly popular. They are easy to use, safe – although do remember not to use boiling water – and above all comforting. Keep warm!      

  2. #GoCosy: Take it easy in a Rocking Chair

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    What’s more cosy than putting your feet up in a Rocking Chair? Sitting comfortably, Gallery Oldham’s Curator Bill Longshaw, will tell you more.

    ‘Old friends, old tales, old hearths, old chairs’

    Ammon Wrigley

    Nothing says ‘take it easy’ quite like a rocking chair and a quick trawl of the internet reveals thousands of comfy ones to choose from. There is even a model called the ‘Oldham’ rocking chair although, sadly, I have been unable to establish quite why leading furniture-maker Ebern Designs chose the name.  Gallery Oldham has many old chairs in its collection, including several ‘rockers’. This scaled-down children’s chair, for example, belonged to a little boy who lived at the ‘Telegraph Post Office’ in Hollinwood in the 1920s:  

    Scaled-down children’s rocking chair which belonged to a little boy who lived at the ‘Telegraph Post Office’ in Hollinwood in the 1920s.
    Miniature Rocking Chair

    We also have a number of miniature, dolls house examples, like this one:

    The first rocking chairs appeared in America in the mid-1700s and were simple adaptations of existing chairs; fitted with rockers for lounging on the porch, nursing babies, or just to help sitters drift off to sleep.

    Over time, they have evolved into popular and stylish pieces of furniture. However, they still seem to symbolise a laid-back approach to life and despite the best efforts of designers remain ever-so-slightly ‘naff’. You only have to think of Irish entertainer, Val Doonican, who famously closed his shows singing from a rocking chair, often sporting a cosy cardigan.

    Val Doonican

    Doonican, who modelled himself on American crooners like Bing Crosby and Perry Como, began his television career in 1964, when he appeared on Sunday Night at the Palladium. From there, he went on to record a series of live shows for the BBC at their Manchester Studios on Dickenson Road, Rusholme; the converted Methodist Chapel that was also the home of Top of the Pops. The Irishman was only hired for six episodes but went on to become a regular fixture on Saturday night television. While  the chair, a studio prop he is said to have inherited from a singing nun also carried on creaking well into the 1980s.  Find out more about Val Doonican.

    John Whittaker’s Rocking Chair

    Rocking Chair made by Saddleworth furniture maker John Whittaker

    Along with half-sized and tiny rocking chairs, Gallery Oldham also recently acquired this full-size version, made by Saddleworth furniture maker John Whittaker.

    In the 1970s, Whittaker left the rat-race behind to follow his dreams and make beautiful, hand crafted furniture.

    He also designed and built striking, outdoor seating, including a bench that stood for many years outside Saddleworth Museum, next to the statue of the famous dialect poet Ammon Wrigley. The bench, installed in 1974, lasted over 40 years before the Pennine weather finally took its toll. It was replaced by a replica, made by Greenfield group ‘Men in Sheds’ in 2019, with financial support from Saddleworth Civic Trust. Wrigley, who obviously liked a comfy seat and may, or may not have owned a rocking chair would have approved. He once wrote:

    To loll at ease in old arm chairs,

    While at the door the cold wind bites.

    Old friends, old tales, old hearths, old chairs,

    Are all I ask, enough for me,

    And he who finds no joy in them

    How lone and dreer his life must be.

    From ‘All I Ask’ by Ammon Wrigley, Published in ‘Songs of the Pennine Hills’, 1938.

    We’re going cosy at Gallery Oldham, have you seen our previous blog about winter warming hot drinks? Read more about Oldham’s answer to Ovaltine. You can also search our collections online.

  3. #GoCosy: Bedtime Drinks

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    We’ve been getting cosy this winter and what better than hot bedtime drinks to warm us all up?

    In January this year, The Mirror newspaper reported that “Stressed-out millennials” were turning to malted milk drinks, like Horlicks, to beat the pressures of modern life after its manufacture announced a sudden spike in sales. Since then, we’ve all been looking for comfort and this got me thinking about cosy bedtime drinks in the Gallery Oldham collection.  

    Amongst our many tins, and jars is a vintage jar of Horlicks, once displayed in the replica street that some readers may remember from the Old Museum. Horlicks was invented in the late 1800s by brothers, James and William Horlick. Made from wheat flour, malt and skimmed milk, it was first marketed with the slogan: ‘For infants, invalids, the aged and travellers.’ 

    We also possess a 1920s tin of its arch-rival Ovaltine. Ovaltine was originally named Ovomaltine; until a spelling mistake on a patent application gave us the shorter, snappier name. It was invented in Switzerland and launched in Britain in 1909. The Ovaltine company was a pioneer of advertising and marketing. It developed its own farms, using the most up-to-date methods and they often featured in its advertising, along with the landmark art-deco factory it opened in Hertfordshire in 1929. You can see a picture of this impressive factory here.

    Ovaltine produced mugs and mixing glasses bearing its logo and famously sponsored the ‘Ovaltiney’s Concert Party’ show on Radio Luxemburg in the 1930s. There was even a children’s club ‘The League of Ovaltineys’ and their ‘We are the Ovaltineys’ jingle was soon being sung in playgrounds across the land. We also have a variety of cocoa tins, including Cadbury’s and Co-op ‘Lutona’, named after Luton, where the CWS (co-operative wholesale society) had their Cocoa and Chocolate works.   

    Delicious Barlova gives you go: Oldham’s contribution to the bedtime drinks boom 

    Tin of Barlova
    Tin of Barlova

    Perhaps most surprisingly, we have a tin of Barlova, a malted and chocolate milk drink made here in the Northwest, in Hyde. It was marketed as ‘Nature’s perfect nightcap’ and its distinctive blue and cream, or red and cream tins announced: ‘Made in Hyde, Cheshire, the dairy county’.

    In its heyday, Barlova even had its own radio jingle, sung to the tune of ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’, it went: 

    Baa baa Barlova, have you any go? 
    Yes sir, yes sir, we’ll say so. 
    Go for mummy, go for dad, 
    Go for sister and go for the lad 
    Go for the folks who live next door 
    Go for Barlova at your store 
    Yes sir, yes sir, we’ll say so 
    Delicious Barlova gives you go 

    Sadly, Barlova was unable to see off its bigger rivals and ceased production in the 1960s. It’s a shame there was never an Oldhamtine, but it’s still nice to know the Northwest once played a its part in putting the nation to bed.