Julie & Tony â€” Thompson pp41/42 notes the registration description of this vase as a spell glass
. This is probably not derived from spall
, an early type of match with a sulphur head, as by 1876 vestas or ordinary non-safety matches were in common use. Therefore it must be a mis-spelling or a local Manchester spelling of spill
, a strip of paper or wood used for transferring a flame from one place to another.
We often forget today that in 1876 there was always a need for flame, for lighting candles, oil lamps, gas lights, cigars and pipes. Matches were then more expensive than today in real terms, so spills were the solution. A filled spill glass or vase at each side of the fireplace or mantelpiece would have been a common sight, probably more frequently seen in the working class home than a flower vase. I can recall as a boy in the 1950s at my grandparents' terraced house in Swindon (24 Cheney Manor Road) being given the job of recycling newspaper in two ways, neatly torn into rectangles to go on the hook in the outside privy, and rolled into tight spills, then rolled into a loose roll to serve as a firelighter, with one long end tucked through to hold it together and protruding for use as a spill. Very little was ever thrown away there, everything organic went on the compost heap, and even tin cans were strung up as noisy bird-scarers on Granddad's highly productive allotment. There was always a bucket and shovel on standby in case a horse left something precious in the road outside â€” too good for the allotment vegetables, that went on his prize-winning chrysanthemums!
Any scrap timber could easily be made into spills using a spill plane. I bought an antique one some years ago at a Towcester racecourse antiques market. It is a wooden framed plane, looking rather like an old moulding plane, except that it looks a little strange. It produces very tight spirals, slightly narrower than a pencil.
If you want some to add authenticity to your spill vase, they are available on the Internet, made using a genuine old spill plane.
ps â€” for the unfamiliar, Towcester is pronounced Toaster