Going through the photographs of my cataloguing project at Erddig again over Christmas, I stumbled upon an image of this lovely rocking seat, originally located in the Nursery. As I mentioned before, Erddig is very similar to Calke Abbey: both houses are full of stuff! As with children’s books, much-loved children’s toys tend not to survive, but Erddig is very fortunate to have a large collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century children’s toys and books.
The rocking seat is currently in storage because it is very fragile, but little Philip Yorke loved it so much that, age 5, he drew a picture of it – or something very similar – in a book he’d also devoured.
The book itself as another one of those moralising texts which nineteenth-century parents used to instruct their children in ‘proper’ morals and values. Interestingly, the author, Mary Elizabeth Southwell Leathley, had converted to Catholicism only a few years before the publication of this work. This was evidently no concern to the Yorkes, who appear to have been very high church Anglicans, and one of the Yorke children, perhaps Philip himself, was allowed to colour in the frontispiece. The book is falling to pieces, which is a likely sign of intense engagement with it. But what makes it so special is of course the doodle of a five-year-old of a piece of furniture he evidently enjoyed to play with, perhaps pretending to be at sea on his ‘yacht’!