Hidden Gems of London, Ontario: Eldon House, Fanshawe Pioneer Village

Artifacts from the history of London, ON

Fanshawe Pioneer Village (1820) by VariousLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

Fanshawe Pioneer Village

Fanshawe Pioneer Village tells the story of rural communities in the former townships of Westminster, London, North Dorchester, Delaware, West Nissouri and Lobo in Middlesex County from 1820 to 1920 and the founding and development of the City of London up to 1840.  Fanshawe Pioneer Village is owned and operated by the not-for-profit charity known as the London and Middlesex Heritage Museum with the support of the City of London, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, and the Municipality of Middlesex Centre.

Elgie Log House (circa 1865) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

The Elgie Log House is an original log structure and was built on Lot 24, Concession 7 in West Nissouri Township, Middlesex County, Ontario. James Elgie purchased the house and farm in 1877, where he and his wife, Mary, raised their family of six children.

The house is not a shanty or cabin but a real house made with hewn logs, wood floor boards, a brick fireplace, and glass in the windows. These additions were improvements over the original dwelling, suggesting that the settlers would have been on the land long enough to add some comforts, but not long enough to have built a second home.

Originally a one and a half storey structure, the log house was reconstructed as a single storey dwelling when it was relocated to Fanshawe Pioneer Village in 1957.

S.S. #19 Fanshawe School (circa 1871) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

On July 11, 1871, the trustees of School Section #19 acquired property from Samuel Perkins and built this schoolhouse in the hamlet of Fanshawe.

The School Act of 1871 mandated compulsory school attendance for at least 4 months of the school year and prescribed a curriculum that promoted British sensibilities and nationalism. The focus of 19th century schools was to teach students the skills, and the social and moral values needed to make them productive members of society.

Thanks to the generosity of former teachers, students, and volunteers in the London community, this last surviving building of the once thriving hamlet of Fanshawe was moved from its former site on Fanshawe Park Road in May, 1994.

Jury House (circa 1888) by William Jury Jr.London Heritage Council, London, Ontario

The Jury Farmhouse is the childhood home of Wilfrid Jury, the founding curator of Fanshawe Pioneer Village, whose family practiced mixed farming. It is a storey and a half balloon frame structure. The house features many unique architectural details including: pocket doors in the parlour, recessed oak cabinets in the dining room and kitchen, quarter sawn oak trim and chair rails in the kitchen, and a two-toned hardwood kitchen floor of stained cherry and maple.

The Jury Farmhouse was built on Lot 12, Con. 2 of Lobo Township by William Jury Jr. in 1888 for his son Amos on the occasion of his marriage to Charlotte Julia “Jewel” Alder. The house was occupied by the Jury family until Amos Jury’s death in 1964. When the house was moved to Fanshawe Pioneer Village in 1973, the building had to be cut into two pieces and have its roof removed in order to transport it.

Peel House (circa 1850) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

This house, originally located at 230 Richmond Street, was the childhood home of Paul Peel (1860-1892), who was the first Canadian artist to achieve international fame. His father, John Peel, was an English immigrant who founded the London Marble and Granite Company. Many members of the Peel family were skilled artists, including Paul’s sister Mildred, who was an accomplished painter and sculptor.

The Peel House was moved to Fanshawe Pioneer Village in 1963 to escape demolition. It is currently interpreted c. 1890, the period of Paul’s artistic prime and early death. This house is recognized as a site of national historic significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Denfield General Store (circa 1877) by J.T. DinsmoorLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

J.T. Dinsmoor built the Denfield General Store and Post Office in 1877 in a community known as Brecon, a name which was later changed to Denfield. Dinsmoor built his store using balloon-frame construction, and lived upstairs in the rear part of the main structure.

The store closed its doors after World War Two, due to the increasing competition from new stores. In 1987 the store was designated as a heritage property and was relocated to Fanshawe Pioneer Village in 1997. It is currently used as a retail gift shop and for historical displays.

Eldon House (1834) by Harris FamilyLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

Eldon House

Virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century, Eldon House is London Ontario’s oldest residence and contains family heirlooms, furnishings and priceless treasures of the Harris Family who settled in the home in 1834.

Shodana Cabinet (circa 1850) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

Rosewood and other hardwoods inlaid with silver, carved and filigreed panels. Doors and other sections inlaid with ivory and Shibayama work. Chased copper fittings on all corners and connections. The decorative themes on most of the doors is figures of landscapes depicting Japanese history and legends. Early gods and heroes, poets and courtiers are readily identifiable. These scenes are made from small carved ivory pieces cut in jigsaw puzzle fashion and mounted in the central panel of each door. Wooden back panels have landscapes carved in low relief, inlaid with ivory figures of Chinese and Taoist hermits (sennin). Two doors and one drawer front display an entirely different style, their panels being inset with an ivory carved in a basket weave pattern. This in turn is inlaid with birds and flowers in Shibayama technique using ivory, wood, tortoise shell and mother of pearl. A group of narrow, smooth surface panels with inlay of birds and flowers is in yet a different style.

On close examination it is apparent that these panels were originally part of another cabinet or box as the orientation of some plants and birds are not in their natural positions. The carved dragon corner-post at the upper left is of a different type of wood and in a style which matches nothing else on the cabinet, yet the craftsmanship is very good. This may have been one of a pair of matching posts intended for a Buddhist household shrine (Butsudan) and added here instead.
The carved ivory phoenix ornament in the same section of the cabinet as the dragon does not connect in style with any other filigree ornamentation. The latter is all wood with mostly floral and bird motives. The phoenix, too, appears to have been added to dress up the cabinet to Victorian taste.

All the metal fittings are engraved with stylized chrysanthemum motifs. The narrow shelf edges and uprights are all inlaid with narrow strips of sheet silver, set in on edge in Chinese style. A simple key fret design is used, with more elaborate floral arabesques inlaid on the door frames.
The stand is carved and inlaid to match the cabinet, the motifs being mostly bird and floral patterns. As the Japanese culture at this time did not use western style chairs, and all their furnishings were meant to be seen and used from a sitting position on the floor.
In most cases the furniture was made of natural or lacquered ones with a simple metal fitting and a minimum of carved or applied decoration. To appeal to 19th century European taste it was necessary to take the basic Japanese designs, add large amounts of heavy ornamentation and more shelves and drawers. Then these pieces were raised on specially made stands to the typical height for display in Western homes.

Brass Art Nouveau Snail (1910) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

Intricate brass snail on a leaf, with fine surface detail. This piece is typical to the Art Nouveau style in its subject matter and attention to detail. Plant life, insects, winged creatures and organic forms of all kinds figured largely in Art Nouveau jewelry and decorative objects.

Art Nouveau was a movement in the visual and decorative arts popular from the early 1890s up to the First World War. It is viewed by some as the first self-conscious attempt to create a modern style. Its influence can be found in painting, sculpture, jewellery, metalwork, glass and ceramics and was a movement that self-consciously tried to marry art and decoration into one object. The pieces produced in this style are almost all hand-made and often small in size.
Many names refer specifically to the organic forms that were popular with the Art Nouveau artists: Stile Floreal ("floral style"), Lilienstil ("lily style"), Style Nouille ("noodle style"), Paling Stijl ("eel style"), and Wellenstil ("wave style"). The philosophy of the style followed in the footsteps of the “Arts and Crafts” movement, suggesting that if one surrounded themselves with beautiful handmade objects which had aesthetic value, their lives would be intrinsically improved.

Botanical Specimens Folios (circa 1820) by Robert RonaldsLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

A twelve volume Hortus Siccus and its purpose-designed mahogany cabinet are on display in the library at Eldon House, a museum located in London, Ontario. Most of the 2,089 species now represented were collected and arranged by Robert Ronalds in 1817-22. Significant numbers of the plants are Mediterranean, North American and, particularly, Australian in origin, reflecting the nursery’s global tentacles. Many came from the Ronalds nursery and old herbarium, as well as the Kew Botanic Gardens and the Horticultural Society’s garden, but they were also gathered from nearby nurseries such as Lee’s and such mundane locations as the ‘Thames’, ‘Brentd Canal’ and ‘Virginia Water’. Other sources were further afield, including the ‘Ruins of Chepstowe [sic] Castle’ in Wales and the ‘Alps’; the latter were gathered by Henry on a trip to Switzerland.

Hugh Ronalds Jnr was described in one of his obituaries as having ‘a very extensive knowledge of the different branches of science connected with Horticulture’. Another noted that: ‘During his early botanical studies, he formed an extensive Herbarium … This Herbarium is not now in existence, but some of the specimens have been rescued from decay, and preserved in a Hortus Siccus in the possession of his family.’

Robert wrote of his project:
“I have now completed the arrangement of my Botanical specimens … placing each plant according to its place in the grand scheme of Linnaeus … At the top of each page I have written in a fair and legible hand the class, order, and genus; and under each species its name, both Linnaean and English, and the character and the letter, the former expressing it to be either a dry-stove, Stove, Greenhouse or hardy Plant, and the latter showing to be either a tree or shrub, a perennial, a triennial, or an annual plant … The Class and Order commencing each volume and those which end it are neatly expressed on the back of them in gold letters, and I have ranged the whole in a botanical cabinet furnished with glass doors … When we next spend an hour together you will be struck with the elegance of this piece of furniture which now forms a striking and an interesting object in my study.”

Rhinoceros Tantalus (1901) by Ronald Ward CompanyLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

The preserved hide and foot of a Black Rhinoceros houses a silver insert that contains a cut glass decanter. The hinged ornamental hardware that reaches across the glass stopper is lockable, giving rise to the term “Tantalus” in the pieces identification. An inscription in the silver cuff reads: “Rhinoceros, Angola 1901, shot by Ronald Harris.”

Ronald Harris (1873-1942) had a keen interest in articles of natural history; it was he who is responsible for the wide array of weaponry and game trophies in the back hall at Eldon House. As a mining engineer, Ronald travelled widely and collected many exotic and unique natural objects.
On the reverse of the silver casing, is an indication of the manufacturer of the finished piece: Rowland Ward Ltd. 165 Piccadilly W. The company specialised in, and was renowned for its taxidermy work on birds and big-game trophies, and created many practical items from antlers, feathers, feet, skins, and tusks. The Rowland Ward Company made fashionable items (sometimes known as Wardian furniture) from animal parts, such as zebra-hoof inkwells, antler furniture, and elephant-feet umbrella stands. The Eldon House collection hold two additional pieces that the Rowland Ward Company created originating from Ronald Harris’ game hunting: two elephants foot umbrella stands.
A “Tantalus” has typically referred to a small wooden cabinet containing two or three decanters. Its defining feature is that it has a lock and key. The aim of that was to stop unauthorised people from drinking the contents (in particular, "servants and younger sons getting at the whisky"), while still allowing them to be on display. The name is a reference to the unsatisfied temptations of the Greek mythological character Tantalus.

Natural history is the research and study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment. Until well into the nineteenth century, knowledge was considered by Europeans to have two main divisions: the humanities (including theology), and studies of nature. In modern terms natural history included the biological and geological sciences. Individual “Natural History” collections, also known at times as “Cabinets of Curiosities” encouraged systematic study of nature, eventually leading to the subdivision of the sciences. Late in the Victorian period, the fascination with natural history and of exotic species of wildlife in particular, found an outlet in the type of “animal art” or animal furniture” such as is exhibited here.

Crystal Smelling Salts Bottle with Silver Filigree (circa 1875) by UnknownLondon Heritage Council, London, Ontario

The small cut crystal bottle exhibited here contains ammonia crystals and is enhanced with silver filigree ornamentation and chain work. The piece is one of several domestic articles that Victorian women carried with them in their reticules, so to be handy when needed. Smelling salts, also known as ammonia inhalants, spirit of hartshorn or sal volatile, are chemical compounds often used to arouse consciousness.

They were widely used in Victorian Britain to revive fainting women, and in some areas constables would carry a container of them for the purpose. During this time, smelling salts were commonly dissolved with perfume in vinegar or alcohol and soaked onto a sponge, which was then carried on the person in a decorative container called a vinaigrette. Not only were these containers used for rousing unconscious individuals, the strong smelling substance in the Vinaigrette could have been as innocuous as vinegar and carried by women in the Victorian era to counter the stench from open sewers and befouled streets, common in cities.

There are many beautiful examples of smelling salt or perfume bottles which date back as far as the Roman era. In earlier history, liquids could be held in metal containers that were attached to a band and worn as a ring. In the medieval period, these metal containers became heavily decorated with jewels and patterns. In the Victorian era the smelling salt bottles could be made of marble or have elaborate metal work. The one at Eldon House is an example of fine metalwork, and is rather dainty for ladies’ use. One of the most practical elements of design in the piece exhibited is the stopper being held by a hinge, allowing immediate access to the smelling salts the bottle contains.

Credits: Story

Artifacts belong to Eldon House and Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

Photo credits: London Heritage Council, Eldon House, and Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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