The Golden Age of Picnic sets
Wicker cased Sets
From the turn of the century most picnic sets were made in wicker, due to the abundant supply of cheap female labour, very intricate sets were produced by the highly skilled workers of the leading makers of the day - Barratt, Vickery and Drew.
Most common were the very simple two person fold fronted or suitcase sets, with provision for a drinks flask, sandwich box and enamel beakers-these were secured by simple straps and buckles, as they were not expensive and were doubtful to attract any passing thief or footpad. Sometimes a kettle was incorporated in the basic layout, and as the early veteran cars were developed with larger engines, then grander bodywork was supplied, with space for four and even six passengers.
Obviously these grand vehicles were very pricey in this period of 1905-1908, and so the proud owner would then order a picnic set in keeping to the grandeur of the car from glossy motoring catalogues supplied by Harrods and Brown Brothers.
Soon four and six person sets were supplied, and the fitments vastly expanded and improved to incorporate much larger kettles and burners, with sometimes even twin kettles provided for the very finest sets suitable for six persons. Obviously elaborate drinking flasks, fine china, glasses, plates, preserves jars and fine sets of cutlery were needed, so the basic designs were enlarged to incorporate all the additional pieces.
There are two basic types of wicker sets. Fold fronted and suitcased. The fold fronted variety usually had a simple plated lining to the inside front panel, to allow the tea to be brewed using this panel as a support tray for the kettle & burner. The more elaborate types used this space for storing cutlery etc. Suitcase types were obviously more portable, the size being the deciding factor for the prospective buyer- so both types were made in all combination of height, width and depth styles.
|Click any image below or its associated word link for examples of that type of set.|
|Wicker Fold Fronted||Wicker suitcase|
Sometimes amazing creations were devised with intricate woven wicker panels, backed with fine leather panels, straps and handles. Fine locks were also supplied, and by 1910 an amazing array of wicker sets were provided by the top makers working from London, Liverpool and Manchester.
Incidentally the six person sets were getting increasingly heavy, but of course in the heyday of veteran motoring, chauffeurs and butlers were a necessity, thus the wealthy owner and his party of picnickers could enjoy a sumptuous feast from a beautiful wicker picnic set without any strain on their part. But quite a drain on their wallets I should think! Wicker picnic sets continued to be very popular into the mid twenties, but as labour rates increased with the passing of time, and the skilled hands of the lady workers grew old, it became more difficult for the makers to supply the sets at any price. The early makers then turned from the production of wicker sets into the leather and leathercloth varieties.