One of the things that amazes me about the new House at Scotney is the amount of objects and knick knacks around the house- you don’t know where to look first and you are always likely to come across a new discover. Pieces of the collection that happened to catch my eye recently are an assortment of match box holders that can be found in several rooms around the house, placed by fireplaces or next to ashtrays, made in a variety of materials and styles.
Matchbox holders as well as variety of cases to hold matches, known as vesta cases and match safes, first became popular in the mid-19th century with the introduction of the friction matches. Friction matches at this time were a little too good at their job and would sometimes spontaneously burst into flames. Match safes were then introduced to protect the user from having their coat catch alight by accident!
There are over 20 matchbox holders at Scotney castle which would have been used for domestic purposes such as lighting the fire or for smoking. Matchbox holders used within a domestic setting tended to be of larger sizes, rather than the handy pocket size match safes which could be carried on your person. One example from the collection at Scotney is a silver matchbox holder with the initials E.H and date 1900 inscribed on the case. This matchbox holder probably belonged to Edward Windsor Hussey (1855-1952), the son of Edward Hussey III who built the new house. Along with this matchbox holder is a silver cigarette case bearing the Hussey crest which is of a similar date, carrying a mark on the base of London 1898.
Matchbox holders could come in a variety of sizes, styles and also materials. In the Library of the new House, to the side of the fireplace, are three jade matchbox holders. One is a plain rectangular box while the others have a little animal on top- a turtle and a frog.
My favourite matchbox holder in the collection and the inspiration for this blog is a later example made of brass. This matchbox holder furthermore reflects the character of the last occupant of Scotney Castle, Mrs Betty Hussey. Mrs Hussey was a big cat lover and her last cat named Puss Puss still lives in the house today. This little brass matchbox holder depicts a cat sitting on a brick wall and captures the character of Scotney in Mrs Hussey’s time down to a tee.