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October 16, 2010

The Massey China Comes Home

This set of Royal Albert China has had an interesting journey. My mother-in-law passed it to me just last week and its adventures are too fascinating not to share.

Massey House 1908
In 1859 my husband's great great great grandfather William Massey bought land on Waterloo Street in St. Mary's Ontario. There he built a small house for his growing family. One of his daughters was 5 years old when the house was built and she recalled in later years that she remembered her handmade wooden cradle sitting on the newly laid floor of the house.

Massey House ca 1942
Over the years the house had many additions but it never left Massey ownership. William's son Thomas, my husband's 2nd great grandfather, was born in that home, and he was the next owner. At some point Thomas' wife Harriet came into possession of this china.
Harriet (Purdue) Massey died in 1945 and the china, still in its original crates, passed to the next Massey who also took ownership of the house. We do not know if Harriet used it and it was simply re-packed for the auction, but it is not a complete set so it seems possible she did use it and over the years a few pieces may have been broken.

In the early 1970s the last of the Masseys in the original 1859 Massey house died, and the contents were sold at auction. The china, in its original crates, was bought by a man named Wilbert (Wib) Hooper. He gave it to his wife Florence, who co-incidentally was the aunt of my husband's mother.

So the china, once owned by the Massey family (on hubby's paternal side) now passed into the hands of the Hooper family (on hubby's maternal side through marriage). Florence never opened the crates and the china sat unused until her death in 1996.

That is when my mother-in-law (Florence's niece) inherited the unopened, unused china. She displayed it in her china cabinet and used the set a few times over the 14 years she owned it. This past week she passed the china on to her son, my husband. She told me to use it and enjoy it and that is what I plan to do.

Although I'm not into big fancy china settings, this lovely set of Old English Rose by Royal Albert will grace our Christmas table this year. And my hubby can enjoy the fact that the Massey china, as it came to be known, has once again passed to a male Massey. Many hands have touched it in the last 70 years and hubby can have the fun of imagining his 2nd great grandparents entertaining guests in their tiny home. They did not have much money and the china was almost certainly the nicest thing they had.

And so the china has had its adventurous journey coming into the Massey family in the 1940s, leaving it in the '70s and returning once again in the 90s.


Carol said...

Great stuff.

I think a interesting follow up would be to tell us how you know all this history?

Was it written down somewhere??

Hope you will show us a photo of it on your holiday table, all set up and ready to use, or maybe even better, after the yummy meal! Proof you are using it! LOL

Enjoy, it is quite beautiful.

Myrt said...

Lorine, this is a wonderful story. It's important to let our descendants know which of the items in our household are indeed heirlooms, or things we've purchased because we remember grandma having one just like it.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

Barbara said...

I love the story, love the china. Also, as Carol mentioned, I would like to see it set out during the holiday season, so please a picture. What a nice mother-in-law to give it to you now. I hope you enjoy it often.

Genealogy Blogger said...

Thanks for the ideas and comments everyone. I am going to post an update about the china and will take a picture at Christmas to include.

As for my mother in law giving the china to us now, yes, she IS a very nice person. But aside from that...the reason she gave us the china now was because she bought a gorgeous set of Limoges Dinnerware at an auction we were at a few weeks ago. And she didn't have room in her china cabinets for both! :-)

Now we are both happy :-)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful treasure to have. The set is very beautiful, I agree I picture of the holiday table will be great to see.

I too have a set of china that I look forward to displaying. It is being passed to me from my maternal grandmother (she passed last Dec). Currently my Mom is holding on to it, until I have the room to display it. I cannot wait to cook a big meal and dine on the plates that I begged to have dinner on as a child.

The Grandmother Here said...

I am amazed at the beautiful things that our farmer ancestors had. I remember Great Aunt Clara's crystal water pitchers.

Mary Kircher Roddy said...

Beautiful china. Beautiful post.