Betsy Bumbles - a touch of English eccentricity in Cheshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 March 2015

Sheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage China

Sheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage China


A charming cottage in Wimboldsley has become a bit of a hit in Shanghai, thanks to owner Sheila Wharton’s love of vintage crockery

Sheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage ChinaSheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage China

Everyone adores the quirky quintessentially English delights of chocolate box cottages and afternoon tea but for Sheila Wharton it’s a double whammy that has led to new found fame.

Her “truly English cottage” in Wimboldsley near Middlewich has become the perfect backdrop for Betsy Bumbles, a treasure trove of tea things that are regularly hired out for weddings and parties.

The catalyst for the business was her daughter Lindsey’s desire for a vintage style wedding. Sheila had six months to amass china for 150 guests and the collection grew from there.

‘I’d always loved china ever since I was a girl. My love of vintage china started on a visit to my grandparents’ farm as a little girl. Grandma always served afternoon tea in beautiful cups and saucers with home-made cake on patterned plates with flowers and sparkly gold edges and when my daughter said she wanted a vintage wedding it gave me the green light to go ahead and start collecting!,’ she explains.

Sheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage ChinaSheila Wharton of Betsy Bumbles Vintage China

‘I only had six or seven months to collect enough for the guests so it was quite a challenge.’

She admits that her passion might once have been considered “eccentric” but luckily for her it has led to a new career that brings her myriad dotty delights.

After the wedding she decided to launch her own company hiring out her beloved china and called it Betsy after her first grandchild and Bumbles after the cat. Now she’s busy supplying weddings and one of her regular clients The Residents Lounge in Nantwich has used her china for parties - serving up cocktails in teapots and china cups and saucers.

The prized collection has grown to fill cabinets and cupboards in this black and white 1890 Victorian cottage but not only that, it has also become something of an internet sensation thanks to the enthusiastic response of one of her customers.

Taking afternoon tea has a huge following in China and that is where images of Sheila’s home ended up following a visit from one of her clients, Lillian.

Continues Sheila: ‘She remarked that she had never seen a more truly English cottage since she has been living in the UK and was so smitten by it that she asked if she could take photos to show her Chinese friends.

‘A couple of weeks later I met her again, and taking out her phone she showed me the screen full of messages in Chinese from ladies wanting to see more photos of my cottage as they loved it. It had gone viral!’

Lillian had bought some of Sheila’s collection to ship over to Shanghai where there’s a vogue for behaving like true English ladies of leisure, chatting over afternoon tea and plates of scrumptious cakes. They just love country style too which is why Sheila’s house has been such a major hit.

And she was just as smitten by the place 12 years ago when she spotted an advert on the wall of the building society where she used to work and instantly had to check it out.

‘I told my husband Paul we just had to go and see it and the next day it was ours,’ she says.

‘It has many original features including a large red brick fireplace in the living room together with a large floor to ceiling cupboard, original internal doors with locks and keys, fireplaces in the bedrooms and original quarry tiles in the kitchen and I have been careful to chose furnishings, trinkets and treasures to compliment the vintage homely feel of the place. It is warm and welcoming and I feel very lucky to live here.

‘Of course a business like this one would not have worked in our old house which was far too modern. Here it fits in perfectly.’

At first glance there is little to differentiate the six identical-looking cottages on her row but she reveals that three were originally for farm workers , one was where the local schoolmistress lived and hers was a former policeman’s residence.

But perhaps one of the more intriguing differences is that Sheila’s house has its very own ghost.

‘I’ve never seen him but I think of him as a man because whenever he manifests himself there’s a peculiar smell and I don’t think a woman would ever smell like that,’ she says with a laugh.

Meanwhile, she’s wondering whether her next visitation won’t be her friendly ghost at all, but all those ladies from Shanghai keen for a first hand glimpse at her charming Cheshire cottage.

‘You never know,’ she says.

‘You may one day pass through Wimboldsley and see a coach full of Chinese ladies popping in to the cottage for an English afternoon tea!’

Betsy Bumbles Vintage China, Nantwich Road, Wimboldsley, nr Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 OLN

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