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Read the 'Bonnets & Boaters' Blog Feature

Bonnets & Boaters

Fashionable and functional bonnets & boaters from yesteryear. (read)

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Bonnets & Boaters

Published on March 28th, 2022

Until very recent times, it simply wouldn't do to be seen outdoors without wearing a hat or bonnet. This month, in hopeful anticipation of a long, hot summer, we bring you a selection of Frith photographs featuring bonnets and boaters galore!

Dapper men and boys wear smart straw boaters and children play on the beach in their sun bonnets. Countrywomen and fishwives wear traditional and functional bonnets, and women of fashion show off stylish headwear with poise and grace.

River outings on the Thames were popular in Victorian times. Jerome K Jerome describes a classic journey in his ‘Thee Men in a Boat’. He tells of the bedlam at Molesey, where ‘you could not see any water at all, but only a brilliant tangle of bright blazers, and gay caps, and saucy hats, and many-coloured parasols, ... and streaming ribbons, and dainty whites’. This photograph depicts pure pandemonium, with punts and skiffs forcing their passage in every direction.

Photo: East Molesey, 'coming Over The Rollers' 1896.

Small children cluster round the hokey-pokey stall, gleefully licking at the cheap ice cream. They look like ragged street urchins in their rumpled clothes and battered boots, and were probably bought their penny treats in return for posing for the photographer. The stallholder, standing to the right in his apron and straw hat, is no more than a youth, and is probably one of many hired hands working for a much larger concern.

Photo: London, A Hokey Pokey (Ice Cream) Stall, Greenwich 1884.

Staithes, on the north-east coast of Yorkshire, was a fishing port of some standing. It landed sufficient cod, mackerel and haddock for the North Eastern railway to run three or four special fish trains a week. Lining was one of the methods by which the fish were caught. The lines were baited with mussels, or sometimes limpets.
The women are wearing traditional bonnets, which were flared at the sides to stop the coils of hooks and lines becoming entangled in their hair. Each bonnet required a yard of material, and was double-plaited at the front and tied at the back with a bow. To this day some of the women of Staithes still wear these bonnets. White in colour, when a woman is widowed the colour of the material is then changed to black, which is worn for a considerable time after the bereavement. This bonnet, in turn, is exchanged for one of a mauve coloured material.

Photo: Staithes, Baiting The Lines c.1900.

This view was taken in 1903, although it appears earlier. The timber colonnades are an unusual feature. The pump standing beneath the awning on the left was removed in 1960. On the right, a wooden water butt gathers rainfall, via a pipe from the guttering. At about this date, 18 needy women occupied the Biggin, receiving about 10s each.

Photo: Hitchin, The Inner Courtyard, The Biggin 1903.

This busy shopping street reveals a wealth of fine old wooden shopfronts. On the right is Sando's multi-paned frontage and, on the left, a sizeable shop for ladies, advertising its clearance sale of blouses, which is in full swing. Many enamelled signs hang from the fascias, for cycles, oil spirit and dyeing agencies.

Photo: Liskeard, Fore Street 1906.

This fine study of the Granny’s Teeth steps on the Cobb at Lyme Regis in Dorset shows the setting of the incident in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Persuasion’ where Louisa Musgrove falls off the wall. Jane Austen visited the town and adored the setting, capturing her enthusiasm in her novel. ‘The young people were all wild to see Lyme’, she wrote as her characters approached the town.

Photo: Lyme Regis, Victoria Pier 1912.

Stagecoaches, remnants of a bygone age even in 1913, take tourists on local excursions. Notice the man with the stepladder, evidently used to enable passengers to ascend to the top of the coach. Nearby a photographer struggles with his camera.

Photo: Shanklin, The Stagecoaches 1913.

This fashionable group take a rest along the Parade in Cowes. Thomas Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby School, immortalised in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays', was born at Cowes in 1796. Arnold probably did more than most to shape the popular perception of Victorian values.

Photo: Cowes, Fashion 1913.

Names of the men sitting on the bench are, from left to right: Siah Longmade, Tommy Cloak, Bill Mills, Wilbur Hunkin, Harold Barber, Dick Nicholls, B. Over, Bill Joe Robbins, Jimmy Dunn, and Jim Bullen. Bill Hunkin is standing, holding the little girl’s hand (she is his granddaughter). By the wall, the man with the pipe is Willie Dyer, and Cliff Nicholls is behind him. This was the place where the old men of Mevagissey in Cornwall would meet to gossip and generally put the world to rights.

Photo: Mevagissey, Parliament 1924.

Here we see the lovely gardens at Saltbury-By-The-Sea. The gardens, laid out with rose beds, rustic work, and benches remain relatively unchanged today.

Photo: Saltburn-By-The-Sea, A Day In The Park 1932.

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