A couple of challenges for you this week which will hopefully prove that real people can still be more useful for factual information than the seemingly omniscient internet.

Just over a year ago I was invited to give a talk at Rosedale Reading Room and while there Linda Chambers from the Rosedale History Society asked me if I could find out anything about King Henry’s Night. “I was told about this some years back by an elderly gentleman (now dead) who lived at Thorgill, just along the dale side,” she wrote. “It apparently centred around young people going out on a particular night and meeting up with likely suitors. Not sure what their parents thought but no doubt it was eagerly anticipated!”

I had a look in my dad’s collection of cuttings and files but could not find anything labelled King Henry’s Night. I also looked in a few of his books, Folk Tales from the North York Moors, Folk Stories from the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Days, but again nothing. He did write about occasions where young men and women would go out and perform certain charms and spells in the hope of attracting suitors, but I don’t recall him ever mentioning King Henry’s Night.

I then resorted to that most useful source of miscellaneous information, the British Newspaper Archive, but again, came up empty handed. So, I’m turning to you, dear readers, in the hope that one of you can explain exactly what it is. Perhaps you went out yourself on King Henry’s Night and found your one and only?

The second mystery might be more straightforward to solve. We were having a clear out at my mum’s house when I came across what looked like an old pewter teapot stand that had been abandoned on a windowsill for years. I asked Mum if I could have it. As regular readers know, I drink tea using a proper pot, and a recurring conundrum is how to avoid it scalding whatever surface I place it upon. Now I need worry no more!

Mum couldn’t remember how she came by it, but it was either used at home when she was young or picked up at a jumble sale. There is a stamp on the reverse labelled ‘National Products England’ and ‘National Silveroid’. It brought to mind the war effort and the ‘National Loaf’, but it turns out Silveroid appeared much earlier than that.

The stand looks a bit like pewter, which is an alloy consisting mostly of tin mixed with small amounts of other metals such as copper, lead or antimony. It has been used for making household items since Roman times and in the 17th and 18th centuries it would have been found in every household in the form of plates, cutlery, cups, jugs, buttons and the like.

Pewter was rather soft and prone to dents, and in the late 19th century, Silveroid started to appear. It was far more durable and yet mimicked the stylish look of pewter along with the shine of silver. It was patented in the USA where it was often used for watch cases. I did find a few references to it in the newspaper archive, the earliest of which appeared in the Daily Gazette in September 1878 and read: ‘Silveroid is the name of a new metal which has just been introduced in America in the manufacture of tableware. It has a fine texture, is susceptible of a high finish, and can be supplied at much less cost than anything heretofore used as a substitute for real silver.’

I also found the exact same paragraph in a number of other newspapers in subsequent years, so I did wonder how long it had to be around for it to be no longer considered ‘new’.

Six years later in 1884, there were adverts extolling the benefits of the product, but they now tell us that Silveroid is ‘the cheapest substitute for silver yet introduced, which being of a uniform white colour throughout, renders Nickel or Silver Plating quite unnecessary. This Metal is specially adapted for Steamship Fittings, Railway Carriage Furniture, and Art Metal Work. Specimens and price on application.’

So what do you know about Silveroid, what happened to it, and what are ‘National Products England’? Do get in touch via the usual channels!

Do you have opinions, memories or ideas to share with me? Contact me via my webpage at countrymansdaughter.com, or email gazette@gazetteherald.co.uk.