It’s true what they say about one man’s trash.
I should know. I’ve found a few treasures of my own while browsing through jumbles of used items other people have for sale. I never know what I’m going to find in a booth at my local swap meet or on a table of items at a neighborhood garage sale.
Just last week I found a set of Pimpernel British Heritage place mats at a garage sale. Each cork-backed mat in the set of six measures about 8″ x 8-1/2″ in size; and though the original box is a little beat up, the place mats themselves are in great condition.
But I didn’t spend $2 of my hard-earned money to take them home and put hot plates on them; I bought them solely because of the images they depict of old London landmarks. And when I scanned each image and cropped off the red and gold borders on my digital copies, they were nice images, indeed.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the box to indicate where the original images came from.
Nor do they name an artist (although the box did assure me these mats would add “interest and elegance” to my table).
So I turned to Google Image Search and found a couple of matches, but I couldn’t be certain how reliable the background info was that I found.
The above image of Ludgate Hill viewed from Fleet Street returned several matches, one of which indicated the original was by Jones & Co. from 1830.
Based on the style of dress of the people depicted in each scene, I’d agree the setting for each image is about 1830.
The other nice thing about these illustrations is the amount of detail they contain. Take the Ludgate Hill image, for instance. In the shadowed corner of the building on the far right of the illustration you can see the marker for Fleet Street.
And on the face of the four-story white building you can just make out the name “Albion Fire and Life,” an insurance company founded in 1805.
The illustration of the intersection of Piccadilly and Coventry has similar details, from the business names on the buildings to the style of coach and dress at the time:
The other thing I like is the scale each image provides, showing the monumental size of the buildings and landmarks.
So these place mats, once planned for a purely utilitarian purpose, will now be added to my collection of items related to the Regency era. The next time I’m writing about the era and find myself stumped describing a London landmark, I’ll have these images to refer to. All in all, I think this set is one of my better $2 investments.