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Some home-made items including some 'spatter-work' textiles may have been made before commercially produced items were available.

There are unmarked relief-moulded and transfer-decorated pottery jugs with fern decoration that, because of their shape, are suspected to be 1850s in origin but one of the exhibitors at the 1862 Exhibition provides one of the first well-dated patterns.

The Victorians had a great passion for ferns and this passion was expressed, among other ways, through the production of a wide range of 'ferny' decorative objects made in pottery, glass, metals, textiles, wood, printed paper, stone and other materials.

An attempt is made here to place the production of ferny objects within a social context and provide an indication of the timescale within which the objects were produced.

Also, they were most diverse and abundant in the wilder, wetter, western and northern parts of Britain which were becoming more accessible through the development of better roads and, subsequently, in the late 1840s and 1850s through the development of a railway network.

People of many different social backgrounds sought out the species and varieties described in the fern identification books to press the fronds in albums or to collect fern plants to grow in their gardens or homes.

This made ferns particularly suited to grow in poorly lit Victorian homes so long as they received adequate moisture.

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Although the main period of popularity of ferns as a decorative motif extended from the 1850s until the 1890s, the interest in ferns had really begun in the late 1830s when the British countryside attracted increasing numbers of amateur and professional botanists (male and female).

Even when the representation was stylised such as was common on engraved glass and metal, the effect was still recognisably 'ferny'.

Some of the decorative objects that were made are undated so it is difficult to fully document the development of the use of the fern motif.

Although there are only about seventy native British species and natural hybrids of ferns, the Victorians selected hundreds of varieties. Soft Shield Fern Polystichum setiferum, Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina and Hartstongue Fern Asplenium scolopendrium) each yielded about three hundred varieties.

For many people, fern hunting was just a pleasant pastime but for others it became a serious scientific pursuit and, for some, fern collecting became a commercial matter.

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