We love Halloween at Hoptroff & Lee! So many of our vintage and antique items fit into this category making it a great time of year for display! Think apothecary, chemist, medical, anatomical, ghouls and ghosts, black cats and owls to name but a few! But what is Halloween really all about?
The word Hallowe'en is a shortened version of All Hallow's Evening or All Saints Eve. It occurs on the day before All Saints Day November 1st. Traditionally this was when pumpkins and turnips were carved to ward off evil spirits....
Decorating for a vintage Halloween!
It doesn't all have to be about skeletons and horror, the predictable things sold in your local supermarket! Some lovely old items come out of the woodwork at Halloween. A great favourite are vintage glass and ceramic pumpkins, some with fantastic colours and amazing accuracy! Many of these are purely for display, others lidded for use in the kitchen.
Other fruits of the season include dry gourds and squashes which can be found in florists, and the fresh ones that are now popular in supermarkets, the latter making good carving material! These can be arranged in brass bowls on a coffee table for a great talking point. Pumpkin-shaped pots and brass cauldrons are all the rage and even the smallest ones are useful for flower arranging or seedhead collections! The pumpkin-shaped pot, incidentally, has been around since Victorian times.
Halloween door wreathes and garlands are fast becoming popular. Fasten a plain leaf or twig variety to the door and add orange ribbons, faux miniature gourds and a witch on a broomstick for great effect! Almost anything can be fixed to twigs using a glue gun, and florists wire is useful for securing things you'd like to re-use.
Now we can bring in the old terracotta plant pots again and these lend themselves to making little gifts: fill them with cacti or tiny seed heads, dried flower heads or your living herb cuttings from last summer. Tie an orange and black ribbon around the top of the pot, add a little candle, or a scary
paper cut-out on a stick! These are all good fun at parties as table decorations, or thank yous!
Setting the table for tea on a dark afternoon is a very spiritual thing to do around Halloween, or maybe you're having a party? Fairy lights and battery operated tee-lights are probably the safer options unless your real candles are safely placed in deep pots. Arrange lights and candles on your dresser on little mirrors to reflect the light. A table centrepiece is a lovely idea and these are available in all sorts of Halloween shapes. Why not try a black cat teapot, or an owl milk jug, or just a beautiful vintage vase with some deep gold and red chrysanthemums?
Old candlesticks and light fittings are excellent bases for fake spider webs, fairy lights and hanging skeletons. Add a large black crow for effect! If you want to set up a spooky-looking area on your dresser for example, use old poison bottles (clean of course), eye baths, a microscope maybe or a magnifying glass among your pumpkins
Cat jugs and teapots
Candlesticks and holders
Antique chemist and medical
Bottles & eye baths
Ceramic & glass pumpkins
Light a candle in the gloaming and enjoy!
At dusk, the lonely bat
Encircling churches, houses, trees
Of town and country, moor and hill
And over rivers swooping low
A moonlight spectacle to show.
A glimpse of stop frame fibrillation in the gloom,
And quick as blinking he is gone,
Though, where, we cannot see,
A fleeting glimpse is all he'll be.
What fearsome face the bat must have
Bearing teeth and tongue,
To catch the insects of the night
A monstrous, yet ethereal flight!
Haunted Houses (extract) by Longfellow
All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted.
Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the doorway, on the stair
Along the passages they come and go
Impalpable impressions on the air
A sense of something moving to and fro.
The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been visible and clear.
The spirit world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
So from the world of spirits there descends A bridge of light, connecting it with this
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.
Three little ghostesses
Sitting on postesses
Eating buttered toastesses
Greasing their fistesses
Up to their wristesses
Oh, what beastesses
To make such feastesses!
(My spell-check didn't like this one!)
A few good reads for Halloween....(though perhaps not to be read alone!)
*The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
*The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights (Various Authors)
*The Signalman by Charles Dickens
*Afraid of the Shadows...an anthology of crime stories (Various authors)
*Lost Hearts by M.R. James
* Dracula by Bram Stoker
* Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Fancy a Halloween walk on a dark and foggy night?
A Stamford Hallowe'en Walk
Stamford once had many religious establishments such as nunneries and monasteries and so it has its fair share of ghostly legends involving the appearance of grey ladies and monks, although many are passed down through word of mouth rather than the result of documented records.
Bull-running was part of the town's history for 600 years, being banned in 1839, and it is said that the sound of the bulls can be heard across the meadow on November 13th (bull running day), and in the bull yards. There are ancient stories of town tunnels running beneath and between the buildings, and myths and legends associated with certain houses and inns.
The specifics are not described here, but we will be taking a walk in the eerie thoroughfares themselves. If you are interested in ghosts, hauntings and other grisly details, please enquire at The Stamford Visitor Centre about organised ghost walks.
We start our walk at the North Street car park, making our way down Nags Head passage, the site of a brewery and inn for many years. This is a main thoroughfare into town and has a strange metallic echo when you walk alone at night. It is a partially-covered thoroughfare with red brick vaulted exit onto
Broad Street. It was once known as Lowes passage due to the associated Lowes and Cobbold brewery. Many Stamford people remember the famous Lincolnshire Poacher inn at the lower end of the passage and its giant painted sign of a game poacher which hung over the lane during the 1960s and 70s. The furtive features of the poacher were lit by night lights!
At the end of the passage, walk across Broad street bearing left and enter Goldsmith's Passage, a medieval thoroughfare linking Broad Street with High Street. This is a narrow passageway, dimly lit in winter. One must imagine the cries from the overhanging buildings of "Watchunder" when the slops were thrown out into the street! This would have once been a foul, stinking place to inhabit, and locals would not walk through it after dark for fear of thieves and cut-throats.
Walk across High Street bearing right, and turn left after the church into
Cheyne Lane, another medieval passageway, this time linking High Street with St. Mary's Street. The alley is slightly curving and is narrower and darker at each end. This is due to closely built and overhanging buildings which make it eerie after dusk. There are 8 visible former windows or entrances leading out into the lane, their ghostly outlines can just be seen in the walls. Imagine eyes looking out at you every
step of the way!
At the lower end of Cheyne Lane, walk across St. Mary's Street into St. Mary's Place, a quiet cobbled area bordering the church. It was reported by the Stamford Newspaper of the time that St. Mary's Place had a haunted house, even the local clergy were afraid to spend time in the building. There were reported noises at night and shadowy figures passing before the windows. The apparent haunting was enough to frighten away its resident!
Opposite the lower end of St. Mary's Place is St. Mary's passage, a narrow alleyway leading to
Bath Row and the river. The decorative Norman entrance probably once had a door as it was said to be a postern gate in the town wall. There are cobbles along the first few feet inside the passage, and the high walls of the buildings make it dull and dank. This area was the start of the wharf with many warehouses and grain and boat stores. Imagine entering this area of darkness at night with few lights, a magnet for pickpockets and murderers?
Turn right out of St. Mary's Passage and walk along to the rear of a small white cottage standing at the entrance to narrow
Cross Keys Lane, leading up to the town. This quaint medieval thoroughfare is not well-lit and has an incline towards the top. It is also a little uneven underfoot. The high walls obscure the long rear gardens of the shops on St. Mary's Street. This would have been used as a walkway from the street to the river, and would not have been inhabited at night by respectable people. It takes its name from a former adjacent inn.
At the top of the lane turn right, and immediately you will see another narrow lane leading back down to the river. This is St. John's Lane taking its name from the church nearby. Again, a very long and narrow medieval lane, you should ensure you have a torch at night as it leads downhill and you may have a feeling of being enclosed...or being watched!
From the lower end of St. John's Lane, turn right again and you can walk back up to St. Mary's Street via Bugle Lane, a third medieval thoroughfare with overhanging buildings supported by wooden struts. Bugle Lane is accessed from Olde Barn Passage by taking a few steps in front of the cottage directly next to the car park. This short lane is well-hidden so you may wish to consult your
Back on St. Mary's Street, walk up along St. John's Street past ASK Italian and the church and turn right into High Street. On your left you will see Wellington Lane with a rather unusual entrance, being part of a shop front (far left of image). It takes its name from a former inn that stood in close proximity. The lane is partially covered and very narrow to start, then widens out with high walls giving it a low light level. In winter it is cold and dank with dripping water. There is evidence of timber framed buildings in the narrower part of the lane and former doors in the walls. Some former residences and shops have high windows overlooking the lane, including my own Grandmother's house at the Broad street end. At night you would shutter your windows and certainly not venture out into the lane with its poor lighting and threat of menace!
Leaving Wellington Lane at the top end you will find yourself on Broad Street. Here, it is worth taking a look at the frontage of Browne's Hospital, a medieval almshouse. Browne's is only open to visitors on certain days so it is best to check with the Stamford Visitor Centre for opening times. It will not be open during the evening but it's worth knowing that the almshouse has some very interesting cloisters and stairways for investigation on a Halloween walk during the daytime!
Browne's Hospital stands close to your return to Nags Head Passage and