James Bond and The Creeping Landlord

Great Britain, Observatory

Forgive me for turning this column into the online equivalent of the Antiques Roadshow – I just thought it was an interesting subject.

Had you lived in the latter half of the 19th century and gone to an English fair, you might have tried your luck with a sideshow game and won a trinket, a little china figure now referred to as a Fairing. These Fairings were mostly about 3.5″ long and about 2.5″ deep and 3″ tall, mounted on a rectangular base. Each one, and there were over 400 different varieties, depicted a comic scene either of risqué courtship and marriage, parenthood, politics, war, children and sometimes animals behaving as children. Some of them were quite creepy, like this one – ‘The Landlord In Love’.

p7018272When I moved house I found one behind some books called ‘Two In The Morning’, which featured a drunk husband falling over the end of a bed as he tries to come in quietly, not realising his wife is awake and about to hit him. Unfortunately, in the complicated move of two households, it vanished. There are great ones of horrible dentists, disturbed sleepers and drunk barbers, often in violently animated poses, but I could only find a few tiny examples online. Eventually these strange little tableaux were changed to chalk, and the practice of making fairings in coloured chalks continued until well into the 1970s.

Now they’ve all gone – as indeed largely have funfairs themselves – but the fairings have become very collectable. They were manufactured mostly in Germany by Conta & Boehme of Poessneck, and had captions written in black script on the front of the base. Some had titles such as ‘Last into bed puts out the light’, ‘Twelve months after marriage’ and ‘Shall we sleep first or how?’ There were lots of jokes about sex and drunkenness, and they got a bit ruder as the years passed.

p7018213p7018238I remember seeing these things everywhere when I was a kid, especially china beer bottles printed with odd ditties like this:

‘I’ve been doing some serious thinking,

And a thought has just popped in my head:

If you don’t have a drink when you’re living

You’ll have a Hell of a job when you’re dead’.

One of the most of all popular fairings, a little white china ornament of a British bulldog draped in a Union Jack (sometimes seen smoking a cigar in later versions to resemble Sir Winston Churchill) made it’s way onto M’s desk in ‘Skyfall’, and Royal Doulton Mint reproduced them because of popular demand. They’ve now all sold out.





10 comments on “James Bond and The Creeping Landlord”

  1. Chris Tandy says:

    A very obscure title for this amusing piece on fairings, if I may say so, Chris. Incidentally, I believe these ‘C&B’ pieces are subject to fakery nowadays. There is probably a factory in China churning them out…I’d guess that the fairground barkers who used to give these as winning trophies never realised the potential value they might one day have.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Excellent piece. Please do another.
    The title was intriguing and I had a passing vision of Dame Judy “M” coming up quietly behind Mr. Bond.
    No fairing featuring Punch and Judy? It would seem a natural with Punch lurking with his club.

  3. Pheeny says:

    Is it just me or does the head of the “landlord in love” bear more than a passing resemblance to Steve Bell’s caricature of David Cameron 😀 ?

  4. Chris Tandy says:

    @ Pheeny: I see where you are coming from; I think the landlord’s peruke is looking a little like a condom on his head.
    There is scope, I feel, for contemporary political fairings as you accidentally suggest. Remember how there was a 19th century craze for chamber-pots with transfer-printed images of politicians within? I believe Gladstone was an (un)popular recipient of ‘stools laid in venom’, shall I say…

  5. J. Folgard says:

    I didn’t know about those trinkets, and hope maybe you’ll post more in the same vein when you can. Coincidentally,I only got to see (and enjoy) ‘Skyfall’ yesterday, and I liked how the Bulldog prop was used in the story -nothing groundbreaking, but it was efficient, well done and even humorously endearing.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    There was an item on the American Roadshow showing German made pieces that were given as good luck gifts for a housewarming. They all involved defecating gold coins into a chamber pot and would fit in well with the figures Admin showed as part of Christmas creches.

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    There are several defecating creatures, particularly lucky pigs and rabbits, in Germany. Gold and poo go together because of a well-known saying.
    Added note: farmers still use liquified manure to fertilize their fields and have massive piles of it rising and steaming back of the barn. The odor at certain times of the year that one smells when driving through the countryside in much of Europe is what it smells like. Not good wafting across during an outdoors wedding, barbeque, hottub dip, or what have you.

  8. Pheeny says:

    And where there’s muck there’s brass …

    On the subject of gezunders Chris I remember seeing a war time one with a picture of Hitler on and the inevitable joke about “po-land”

  9. Helen Martin says:

    We were always told that the smell of manure is the smell of money. The farmers in the Fraser Valley spray liquefied manure, too. We lived for a year in a house built on a separated piece of farmland so we had spraying happening behind and in front of us. My feeling was that the farms were there before we were and they were following commonly accepted farming practices. Lovely place and lovely people.

  10. Cathy C says:

    What extraordinarily interesting china Fairings. Lucky if you get a ghastly fluffy toy made in China these days which probably won’t become collectors items in the future, however, never say never! Of course, i’d be happy with a red balloon and chocolate soldier!

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