What goes on behind the scenes at Standen House, an Arts & Crafts family home

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Object from the Stores: ‘The Charge’; a jigsaw puzzle

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

‘The Charge’ – a 290 piece jigsaw which probably belonged to the Beale family of Standen

This wooden jigsaw puzzle is usually kept in our collections store, along with many other interesting objects that are not currently on display in our showrooms.

The jigsaw has about 290 pieces, and is called ‘The Charge’; the name suggests a military scene – perhaps the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. We don’t know exactly what scene the jigsaw shows, as we have never tried to piece it together, and the original box – which more than likely had an image of the completed puzzle – was probably lost or damaged many years ago.

The puzzle is stored in a biscuit tin, manufactured by a company called MacFarlane Lang & Co., which began life as a small bakery in 1817, although it later expanded and even held the royal warrant of appointment. One internet source suggests this particular biscuit tin was in production in the 1930s, but this is difficult to confirm. The only thing we can be sure of is that the tin was produced during or after 1904, when the company first began using the MacFarlane Lang & Co. name and expanded their business in London. The company traded under the MacFarlane Lang & Co. name until the 1940s, when it merged with other manufacturers. 

The biscuit tin is a commemorative keepsake; depicting a meeting between Roberts Burns, the Scottish poet, and Walter Scott, the Scottish writer, in Edinburgh in 1786. The picture is based on an original painting by Charles Martin Hardie which shows the only meeting between the two men. 

This jigsaw probably belonged to the Beale family, who were responsible for building Standen. A note inside the tin reads ‘Beale, Standen, E.G’. The Beales enjoyed puzzles and games of all kinds, and there are a number of different examples from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in our collection. Although some of them were later acquistions or donations, rather than family items, they give us an idea of how families spent time together.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

Another example of a jigsaw puzzle in Standen’s collection

Some of the puzzles and games in our collection are really beautifully presented, with bright colours and intricate designs – one such game was featured on the blog earlier this year. I love that this jigsaw not only indicates how late Victorian families often spent their time, but the biscuit tin also gives us an interesting glimpse into the commemorative memorabilia of years gone by.

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Object from the Stores: ‘Phyndit – a great party game!’


Phyndit – ‘at last, a really new game’

We’re currently checking and organising our object stores as part of an ongoing project to improve the storage of our collection. The cellar storage area is full of all sorts of interesting and beautiful objects, so I was keen to select something to display in the house, as part of the monthly Object in Focus feature.

The bold colours of a board game caught my eye, and when I removed it from its tissue paper, I found it was actually a type of parlour game called Phyndit. I was intrigued, so I decided this would be our object from the stores!

The well-used box is decorated in primary colours, with the figures of elegant individuals dashing around a large house. The costumes of the figures seemed to be 1930s in style, and a little digging around on the internet told me that the game was patented in 1931 in America, by a now defunct London-based box making company.

PhynditOpening up the box, the contents revealed the type of game popular with wealthier classes during the first half of the 20th century: games that often involved hurtling around the house (or even outside) from one box to the next, posting answers to questions, or matching up ‘letters’ with the correct post box.

A scorecard inside Phyndit was dated 18th March 1938, with a list of players names: Grace, Doreen, Joy…There are several lists of names inside, suggesting the game was played over and over again, perhaps by different generations of the same family – the box, which has been repaired several times using sellotape certainly seems to suggest that it was a favourite game.

Phyndit 010

Although most objects at Standen are on the inventory database and are marked with an inventory number (see here for last week’s post on inventory marking) there are inevitably some items that aren’t, for one reason or another – Phyndit is one of these. The most likely explanation is that it was a donation to Standen at some point, and has probably spent most of its time here in storage – the stores project will enable us to know exactly what we have in storage, and make sure it is better labelled and stored.

I’m really pleased to be able to have an object from the stores on display, and the fact that Phyndit has probably never been displayed before is even better. The bold colours of the box and the figures dashing around on the front evoke the glamorous dinner parties of the 1930s. Because of the lack of database information about the game, it’s unlikely that it belonged to the Beale family of Standen (in addition, the names on the scorecard inside the box don’t match those of the Beales) but games such as this were so popular, it’s just possible the Beales played a similar game…