If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea as we do here, you can’t help but love a bit of nauticalia.
But whether you are channelling (geddit!?) anchors, Breton stripes or deck shoes, the nautical look has edged its way into your wardrobe. Every summer it’s everywhere — fashion’s catch of the day!
Join Sarah Jane Wilson as we get ship-shape!
Let us set sail on a voyage across the fair seas of vintage.
Vintage deck chairs
These gorgeous deck chairs in obligatory blue and white stripes are a star item. Show off by taking them to the beach, or just relax by the river.
£25 each, Out of the Attic (Customs House, West Bay).
Written in 1907, this music hall favourite sums it up!
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
So just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll be beside myself with glee
And there’s lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea!
Maritime antiques sale, Exeter
On Wednesday 1st July 2015, starting at 10:00am, there’s a dedicated Maritime Auction at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter. The full catalogue is available online » www.bhandl.co.uk
But here are some lots that might just float your boat!
Coffee can and saucer: From the Royal Service of the RY Victoria & Albert III, by Copeland. It has an apple green border with gilt ropework and alternating medallions for George V. Estimate £80-120.
Scale model of RMS Queen Mary: Made for Hamleys of London. This has a removable upper deck with triple funnels, radio masts, flying bridge, davits with life boats, over a hull which is painted black to the water line and red beneath — quite a piece! RMS Queen Mary typified the luxury and sophistication of the height of the golden age of ocean liners. Decommissioned in 1967, she was purchased by an American consortium and is now a major attraction at Long Beach, California. Estimate £300-400.
Portable orrery: A portable modern orrery, circa 1791. Features an oak platform with printed plate for seasons, months and star signs, with geared earth and moon with moon phase dial, revolving around a gilt sun. Estimate £3,000-4,000.
Mantel clock: A Victorian gilt launch commemorative mantel clock, for the stern paddle steamer La Victorine, with movement by Japy Freres. Mounted on a marble plinth with presentation plaque inscribed “Launched by Mrs Duranty Sept 25th 1886”. Estimate £200-300.
A Continental silver presentation beaker, engraved with a two-masted brig, inscribed “To Captain W Sinnott of the English brig Diadem remembered from his broker M Vanden Bergh Fils Antwerp”. Estimate £100-150.
Ship’s Wheel Pipe Stand
Ooh, shiver me timbers, where to store me pipes? £7, The Old Chapel Antiques and Lifestyle Centre, Axminster.
Ships in Bottles
The mind-blowing magic of a ship in a bottle! The Old Chapel has a fine array of these delicate wonders that challenge physics. £12 — £35. The Old Chapel Antiques and Lifestyle Centre, Axminster.
This single drawer nautical telescope is quite exquisssssite! A fine item to use when looking out for pirates. £110, The Old Chapel Antiques and Lifestyle Centre, Axminster.
How to get the look
Home: A deep navy blue (Farrow and Ball’s Drawing Room Blue or similar) against crisp white is an elegant way to achieve the look. Coupled with a rustic wooden flooring to echo decks, you’ve got your basic maritime theme. Vintage tea chests make excellent, sturdy storage and are in keeping with the vibe. For lighting, lanterns (both old-school and the new wave of LED new ones) and cage lighting look stylish. One fun idea is to paint a compass on the ceiling — obviously make sure your bearings are spot on though!
Fashion: Stripes, obviously. As fashion writer Alice Fisher said in The Guardian (29 March): “Do buy a striped top. Every wardrobe must have one of these super-versatile tops that bring freshness and order to any outfit.” Wide sailor trousers are in, thankfully! Rope necklaces too but not Bridport Daggers!
If you have to buy new, support the South West and consider buying from Seasalt Cornwall, as it works with local companies and uses sustainable textiles. It also makes charity products to help the Fishermen’s Mission. There are shops in Lyme Regis and Dorchester and Lilliputs in Bridport stocks items.
These sturdy items would look great in a garden (maybe with the vintage deck chairs?) — you know they wouldn’t rust. £10 (smaller) and £15 (larger), Pam’s, Bridport.
What to collect:
Maps: cartography is simply mesmerising. You can gaze at an old map of a familiar place for hours. If you’re a keen traveller or love your local area, then a collection of framed, vintage maps is a fabulous way to make a gallery wall. Shipping memorabilia, such as compasses, wheels, anchors and buoys, can be an entry-level collection right up to much more higher-end items.
Flags: The Alleyways in Bridport has a bounty of flags from around the world. Items such as lobster pots can be cleverly up-cycled into lampshades. Old tourist guides are also a fun, nostalgic purchase and can be picked up cheaply.
Not strictly vintage but we couldn’t do a nautical piece without giving her a mention! She has come ashore to The Alleyways and is crafted from plaster, wire mesh and mixed materials, £450, Alleyways, Bridport.
An intriguing piece, this old horn galleon reflects the light beautifully. £20, The Old Chapel Antiques and Lifestyle Centre, Axminster.
Tattoos and their meanings:
Sailors are responsible! Often nautical fashion and home-ware reference the classic at-sea images, popularised by sailors. But what do they mean?
From the 15th century, European pilgrims would mark themselves with reminders of locations they visited. In case they died while travelling, they added the names of their hometowns and spouses.
By the late 18th century, records show that about a third of British and a fifth of American sailors had at least one tattoo.
Swallow: In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5,000 miles, swallows are also associated with the idea of return.
Anchor: At sea, the anchor is the most secure object in a sailor’s life, making it the perfect representation of stability. It’s a reminder of what keeps you steady.
North Star: The North Star is historically used by sailors use for navigation so a nautical star was believed to keep a sailor on course. As such, they were also considered to help guide a sailor home.
Pigs and cockerels: The superstition behind this has to do with the wooden cages where chickens and pigs were kept in on ships. When ships wrecked, the lightweight wooden frames became personal flotation devices, giving them a surprising survival rate. A sailor hoping for good luck would get a cockerel on top of the right foot and a pig on top of the left.
Turtle: Once a sailor crossed the equator, he earned the right to get a turtle inked on his body.
bearing the name ‘Constitution 1814’
This beauty would stand proud in any coastal property. £28, Alleyways, Bridport.
Fact: the term “groggy” comes from grog — a watered-down rum issued by the British Royal Navy to every sailor over the age of 20
Bridport Harbour: renamed West Bay when the railway came
“Bridport is an interesting case study of a port created in an unlikely place to meet local industrial demand. A protected harbour only from the 1740s, it was successful enough to be consolidated and expanded in the 1820s. It enjoyed a 30-year heyday before railway competition started to bite into its trade. Traditional exports of rope, nets, twine and sailcloth, especially for the Newfoundland fishery, then began to give way to gravel for construction. By the early 20th century, coal and culm were beginning to be replaced as the main inward cargoes by timber, oilcake, and, later in a declining overall trade, cement and fertilizer. A sailing-ship port until the early 1920s, Bridport continued to function thereafter for another 65 years despite the hazards of a difficult entrance. Having dwindled further after the Second World War, commercial traffic came to an end in the 1980s, at much the same time, and for many of the same reasons, as it did at a number of other West Country ports.” (From Bridport Harbour: The rise and decline of a coastal port by P.A.B. Thomson, The Society for Nautical Research).