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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Quirky family heirloom

I enjoyed another episode of the BBC’s The Repair Shop this week – with a box of tissues close to hand, as usual. I don’t seem to be able to watch the programme completely dry-eyed!

For the uninitiated, The Repair Shop is filmed in a workshop located in the fabulous Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex. People bring in their treasured possessions, often precious family heirlooms passed down through the generations, for experts to repair and restore, bringing the items back to their former glory – an emotional experience for many, not least for the viewers, hence my box of tissues.

Of the things I have which might be termed family heirlooms, I only have one item of furniture – a "what-not" which belonged to my gran. She used to keep a round sewing basket on it and I do the same, now that the what-not lives in my house.

I also have my gran's button box, still full of the buttons we used to play with as children when we went to visit.

But it occurred to me that while an identifiable item such as piece of furniture might be cherished and passed down to the next generation, who’s going to be interested in a old button box?

However, the box is a historic artefact in itself. Inside the lid is the name: Harry Vincent, Ltd, Hunnington, Near Birmingham. Harry Vincent invented the Blue Bird Toffee brand in 1898, and as children we were very familiar with Blue Bird toffees (very yummy, if not great for teeth!).

Reading up on the company, I discovered that, having moved to Hull from their West Midland’s site in 1998 (interestingly, 100 years after the company was founded), it was eventually bought out by Ashbury Confectionery in 2002.

While Ashbury discontinued all Blue Bird sweet lines, they did, at least, donate the company's collection of historic Blue Bird packaging to the Black Country Living Museum, a favourite place of mine.

So, if no one wants to keep my button box, maybe the museum might like it? They might even like the buttons inside!



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