Newsletter – January 2017

January 31st, 2017 by JCope

I am sure you will know what I mean by the term ‘status symbol’ and can think of any number of modern examples from the iPhone to the Rolls Royce. However in the 18th Century an unlikely status symbol was the Pineapple which in 1780 cost about £40. In many well-to-do homes a Pineapple would be prominently displayed and rather than be eaten would sit on a mantle for months, quietly rotting away. If you weren’t rich enough to own one, you could rent one for an evening. However, for families who were looking for a more permanent status symbol, for £70 you could purchase a piano. That would represent about £7,500 today and you had to learn to play it. You now understand the real cost of a Pineapple!

With increasing prosperity, the gentry wished to differentiate themselves from the hoi polloi. The importance of the piano at that time was that it indicated the material status of the family and was at the heart of the rising middle class social culture and aspiration. This included comportment, deportment, music and dancing and it introduces us to the Helm family of Worcester, the topic of our speaker this month, Madeline Goold. Her research into the history and restoration of her own period piano had brought this family to her attention. They were a dynasty of Dancing Masters who set up a Dancing School in College Square opposite Worcester Cathedral. Within a generation, through their encouragement of music, they were a major influence on style and etiquette in the heart of the City.

A number of people who purchased copies of the ‘Hagley Miscellanea’ book have asked if we could include an Index. We have now produced one and can send you one free if you contact us.

Our next meeting at St Saviour’s Church Hall is on Tuesday 7th March 2017 at 7.30pm. There will be a presentation by Derek Clarke RIBA, entitled ‘The Back to Back Houses Project in Birmingham’. Derek was Project Architect for their restoration, and has been involved in many other prestigious schemes, including rescuing the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain at Witley Court. Visitors are most welcome at all our events – see for details and contacts.

Comments are closed.