A Victorian Tea

Every May 24th weekend one of our local museums hosts their annual Victorian Tea, complete with freshly baked scones, white tablecloths and fine china.   

 The May 24th holiday weekend in Canada is called the Victoria Day weekend, because May 24 was Queen Victoria’s birthday.   Older people may remember the schoolyard rhyme children chanted years ago – “the twenty-fourth of May / Is the Queen’s birthday; / If they don’t give us a holiday / We’ll all run away!”    Now many people don’t even know who Queen Victoria was, unless you watch the PBS TV show Victoria, but she was Britain’s longest reining monarch, although Queen Elizabeth surpassed her in 2015.   She became Queen at age 18 and reined over the British Empire for 63 years, from 1937 until her death in 1901, a period known as the Victorian era.   She married her cousin Albert, had nine children and survived 20 different governments and 11 prime ministers.   After her death, her birthday was made a federal holiday, which was eventually was moved to the Monday preceding May 24 because of the weekend.   Queen Victoria most likely would have approved as weekends were an invention of the Victoria era.   This May 24th marks the 200th anniversary of her birth in 1819. 

Victorian Tea CottageNote: the Union Jack (Canada did not get it’s own Maple Leaf flag until 1965) and the old fashioned lilac bush (see Lilac Time)

The Victorian cottage is one of many buildings on the museum site, whose mandate is to display our past customs and heritage.   Many have been moved to the site, including a one room schoolhouse, a small church and a log cabin from the days of the early settlers, but the cottage was part of the original grounds.   It is a small one floor dwelling, built in 1893,  which was used by a Detroit woman as a summer home until her death, when it was donated to the museum.    She was known as the cookie lady, for her kindness in treating the neighborhood children to sugar cookies on the veranda when they were passing by. 

Victoria Tea Cottage

 It consists of a good sized dining room, living room and  kitchen and two very small bedrooms.   

Victorian Tea

Victorian Tea Cottage

The inside still looks as it did during the time she lived there, floral wallpaper, quilts and all.  

China cabinet Victorian Tea

The problem with the Victoria Day weekend is that the weather is usually guaranteed to be cold, rainy and miserable, which does not deter the campers, as it is considered the unofficial start to summer.   It seldom fails, whereas the following weekend, the US Memorial Day is often quite nice.  Still, not one to let a bit of rain (or even forty days of it like this spring), get in the way of a good tea spread, I decided to attend.   The last time I was there,  it was miraculously a warm and sunny day, with a pleasant breeze coming off the river, and we were able to take our tea outside on the veranda, as opposed to inside huddled beside the stove.     It was such a fine day we lingered over a second cup.  

Victorian Tea cottage

Although the day started out warm and sunny, the forecast was rain by 3pm, (I’m quite serious about the forty days of rain), so we set out early and decided to tour the buildings first (my friend had never been there), as we could always sit inside later if it started to pour.   On our walk about, I noticed a big patch of rhubarb growing beside the log cabin and took some pictures which I could have used in last week’s Rhubarb Lunar Cake blog.  (It’s never too late to edit!)  

Rhubarb

There’s something so civilized about a tea party and the clink of china tea cups, shades of Downton Abbey.    Each small table was laid with white tablecloths, cream and sugar sets, crystal butter dishes, jars of strawberry jam and a colorful mixture of china cups and plates. 

Victorian Teat

 The servers, young and old, were dressed in the costume of servants of the day, complete with frilly caps and white aprons.   The wind was so strong, their aprons were billowing in the breeze and the tablecloths were threatening to blow away, so we decided to sit inside. 

Victorian Tea

The only occupant of the veranda was a bird nesting high up in the rafters, most likely anticipating left over crumbs.   

Bird nesting

 Even inside, with the veranda doors open, it was so windy that our vase of flowers blew over soaking the tablecloth, which they removed and replaced with one even more exquisitely embroidered.   Our server, a charming young girl of about ten, inquired as to our choice of tea and scones – raisin, rhubarb, orange or apple cinnamon.   

Victorian Tea China

 Such a difficult decision, but my choice is always the rhubarb – it was divine, light and fluffy, and I am still trying to get the recipe, a carefully guarded secret.    Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it before it was consumed!   Victorian Tea Cottage

They make up to 400 scones for the day, using the cottage’s own wood-fired stove.  (Note the mirror at the top – I guess that was to check your appearance after slaving over a hot stove all day?)    The cost of the tea was $7.50 with donations to the museum fund, ordinary admission being $5, a bargain for the price.    

Exactly at 3 pm as predicted, the skies opened up and rained on our lovely tea party.   Oh well, there’s always next year…I’m sure I’ll be back.  

Postscript:   Easy rhubarb scones, only for truly lazy cooks or those whose kitchens are about to be torn apart.   Mix this, Rhubarbwith this, Rhubarb scones

bake as directed,  Rhubarb sconesand you get this.  Rhubarb scones

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea in a china cup!

 

 

19 thoughts on “A Victorian Tea

  1. Anne says:

    What a delightful occasion! While one can enjoy scones on any other day, I think the beautiful cloths and china make them all the more special. What a good idea too to flavour scones with rhubarb. I think I should plant some rhubarb seeds in my garden – it has always been a favourite of mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com says:

    What a lovely day for you and your friend — until the wind blew you inside, followed by the downpour. Well, it’s still April, isn’t it? No, May already? At any rate, I much would have preferred the verandah until the winds whipped around the corner.

    And your story reminds me that I must prepare a “proper” tea party for my daughter’s children when they come out in July. They love the ceremony with tablecloth and my largest Blue Willow tea pot. I’ll ask my daughter to snap digital photos to post on a special blog story afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      That would be lovely to post…..I love Blue Willow. I looked at the forecast and it’s rain all next week too until June 1, maybe one day of sun. It’s so depressing and so unusual. This is much worse than last year. I am way behind in my reading Jo, as I have run into problems with my kitchen design and have spent the past two weeks trying to find electricians and plumbers and painters and appliances etc. I have a small kitchen with a small budget, and I hadn’t counted all all these other expenses!

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      • Joni says:

        The quote for the cabinets came in okay, but then I decided to put in one of those over the range microwaves which also vent the fumes, sort of a two in one solution, so that means an electrical upgrade and shortening the current vent pipe…..I’m sure it will all work out in the end. I’m just finding all the deciding on hardware and colours and things tiring…..will need to find a painter too, and I am not good at picking out paint. Lowe’s had a whole aisle of sinks and another whole long aisle of faucets – does anyone need that much choice?

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  3. lindasschaub says:

    What a lovely visit you had Joni. This looks like fun and I like the way everything was preserved the same way it had been for years. What a nice spread they had laid out for everyone too. The scones remind me of my mom – she loved scones and used to bake them and we’d have them with sweet butter and jam, or her mixture of strawberry rhubarb on top. She would love the rhubarb scone recipe – they looked wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      My neighbour got me some rhubarb at the farmers market this morning so I plan on making some this week, (with the cheater grocery store mix). And I am dying for a piece of that Lunar Rhubarb Cake. It was a nice day out – kind of reminds me of your pioneer village that you post pictures of sometimes. I will probably do Part two on Pioneer Days in a few weeks, as I took so many pictures, it’s a shame to waste them. My mom is painting the one room schoolhouse and the log cabin.

      Liked by 2 people

      • lindasschaub says:

        That was nice of your neighbor. It’s okay to use that cheater biscuit – it will rise nicely and they’ll be delicious. You can feature your mom’s picture in the post then Joni? I like that park as it reminds me of Upper Canada Village and I remember going there as a kid with my parents. This weekend at Greenfield Village (now called “The Henry Ford” as it has several Model Ts, Model As in the museum) they have their annual Civil War celebration/observation commemorating Memorial Day weekend. They have Confederate and Union soldiers and the women are dressed in period costumes and they will serve you coffee and hardtack (which are the hard biscuits they served to soldiers during the Civil War). They used to have musket drills too – probably still do, where they fired off these muskets … it is a photo op for sure. Here is a little video what they do in the reinactments. https://www.crazycrow.com/site/event/greenfield-village-civil-war-remembrance/

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Me too! At first I thought it sounded like a tea biscuit. We don’t have tea biscuits here and my mom used to like them so we’d buy “Digestives” (I think that was the name of the sweetmeal biscuits in a red wrapper). But it looks like you’d break a teeth on them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I never got into the Queen Elizabeth show – I think I watched one episode, and it was flashbacks? Maybe I should give it another chance. I watched a few episodes of Victoria, and it was okay, but certainly no comparison to Downton Abbey. I stopped watching Victoria because her husband Albert was so dislikable – I thought he was horribly miscast, and a bad actor, and just generally annoying.

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