I found the object hidden in a drawer in my aunt‘s home, buried under a collection of random papers, after she had passed away and we had the job of clearing all her possessions from the property. I remember the moment so clearly when I found it, because it was already familiar to me. I’d seen it many years before as an adult, when I had discussed its history with my aunt, but more importantly I also remembered the artifact from when I was a child.
According to my aunt this small object was handmade by my Norwegian great-grandfather, Peder Gerhard Ingebretsen (later to become translated to Peter Englebretsen following his naturalization in England). Peder was a merchant seaman and lived at the family home in Hughson Street, Toxteth in between his visits to sea. The property had a small vestibule which joined the main front door to the front room, and this picture was hung within it for many years, serving as a token which would hopefully bring good fortune and a safe journey to anybody who passed it on their way out of the house.
The picture itself is printed on a card which would more usually be kept in a purse or wallet. It is relatively small, 11 by 7 cms in size, and has a plain plywood backing with a glass front. Both have been smoothed down at the edges for safety. The three metal supports for the glass are held in by two panel pins and a loop of flat brown elastic is used to hang it from the pin at the top.
At the time I found it I asked my Mum whether she wanted to keep hold of the picture herself, but instead she stated that she would prefer it if I looked after it. I decided that I wanted the item to be seen rather than to be hidden away in the family history cabinet where I keep a few other precious possessions, and with this in mind I knew there could only be one place to display it. Our front porch… the single place where all visitors pass who come into our home.
From the information passed down from the family, I would calculate that this object is around 85 years old at the present time. It is rather satisfying therefore to think that the St.Christopher is still serving as a token to keep my own family safe, in just the same way that my great-grandfather had used it all those years ago.