Part of an old ornate black and white trade card Show image info

Trade card for John Pyke, toyman, 1753

City Shopping, 1755

Written in 2019 by a member of a creative writing class, through a collaboration between Bath Record Office and the St. John’s Foundation.

John Pyke looked into the mirror attached to his shop wall and proudly adjusted his powdered grey wig. There was a slight nervousness in his demeanour as he smoothed down his burgundy and gold silk waistcoat which sat over a long, lace-trimmed sleeved, white cotton top. Grey silk breeches, white stockings and silver-buckled black leather shoes added an air of elegance. He smiled at his neat appearance, that he had always prided himself on, and his choice of clothes. Maybe Elizabeth, his wife, had been right in saying that the beauty spot he had attached to his face that morning was not really in keeping with the new role he was about to undertake as a toy keeper.

This was to be the grand opening of the Golden Flower D’Luce;  his and Elizabeth’s luxury gift and novelty shop here on the highly desirable Grove, an area of the City that was becoming renowned for its high quality shopping. The City’s growth over the last decade had encouraged the wealthy to move into Bath and buy up the new large town houses. Also, the City’s spas were encouraging wealthy visitors to visit and take the waters.

John proudly surveyed all around him. He and Elizabeth had put a lot of thought into how their shop would best work. They were a young, bright, artistic couple who, after honeymooning in Paris, were eager to bring some of the Parisian way of décor to their own shop. The shop itself was not large; just one room with a small area at the back for storing all their merchandise. Large ornate mirrors, with silver candle sconces attached, lined the primrose painted walls. Lighted candles, reflecting in the mirrors, illuminated the shop and highlighted the wooden cream painted shelves below, which housed the wonderful array of Venetian glass vases, paperweights, atomizers and twisted stemmed goblets. Also hand painted fans, playing cards and the exquisitely painted figurines from Paris.  Behind the light wood counter the shelves boasted John and Elizabeth’s most exciting purchases from Paris: a selection of the latest automaton toys: monkeys that clapped cymbals together, clowns that laughed and rolled their eyes and gilded birds in cages that flapped their wings and sung.  Silver backed hair brushes, hand held mirrors, snuff boxes, bon bon dishes and many other silverware trinkets were housed on blue velvet lined shelves in a glass fronted cabinet.

A small circular table sat in the middle of the cream and tan tiled floor. Belgium lace trimmed handkerchiefs and exquisitely embroidered ladies’ and gentlemens’ soft kid gloves lay strategically placed upon it, surrounding a large crystal cut glass vase in which sat a magnificent display of highly scented golden yellow roses. Upon a green baize shelf, set within the bottled glass paned bay window, sat a silver salver laid up with a very fine delicate china tea set Suspended above the tea set was a myriad of shimmering coloured and plain glass prisms which, on that bright summer morning, was showing them off in all their glory.

With the children of the affluent customers in mind, brightly painted building blocks were stacked along a low shelf so that the children would get a good view of them. Centre-stage was an intricately carved ark with Noah stood holding a dove on the palm of his hand while nearby the carved wooden animals were set out two by two.  And there, in the corner of the shop, was a small display of hobby horses with real horsehair manes and red leather bridles standing behind what, for all the world, looked like a stable door with their heads poking over.

It was a very proud John Pyke and his equally proud wife who opened their shop to the public on that fine sunny, summer’s day to the many compliments from the rich and affluent customers that visited the shop. Of course there were a few who tut tutted and thought the colour scheme ridiculous. But word soon spread about the new Golden Flower D’Luce on the Grove and it grew and prospered under the young, forward thinking artistic couple for many years.  

Margaret Eyles, 2019