12 September 2019

Trade Catalogue Nᵒ.3: Japanned Boxes and a Bilston Japanner's Design Book

Fig. 1.

Pages of a Bilston japanners design book from about 1761, held at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, USA. It is thought to be from a Bilston maker as another book bought with it, from a later date, has 'Bilston' written on it. This pattern book is probably from the 1760s, though, as some of the designs (figs. 11-14) have designs celebrating the coronation of George III, which was on 22 September 1761. This is an excellent survival, as japanned boxes are liable to damage as the varnish and paint gets chipped away, so provides insight into what boxes might have looked like at this time, and many similar examples were made in Birmingham.

The pages probably formed a design book rather than a trade catalogue, as many of the illustrations are very rough and contain instructions for decorating, so the book was probably a guide for the painters. One such painter was James Bisset, who had been apprenticed as a box-painter to Thomas Bellamy, a Birmingham japanner, in 1777.*2* Bisset later recalled that his ‘daily task was two gross of Snuff Boxes or six dozen of small Painted Waiters – but I have very frequently painted 3 gross [432] of Boxes in a day’. This daily output from one individual at one manufactory depicts the extent of mass-production in Birmingham, as Bellamy was among several japanners at this time. Bisset also recorded the process: ‘Every Box was to have a flower painted on it of Three Colours, with the leaves touched with a light & dark shade; or we might paint flies, Butterflies, Insects, fruit or Landscapes on the Snuff Box lids, but with none less than three different colours’.* A selection of boxes from this period, painted in similar ways, are interspersed with the pages of the book, below.


The design book was noted by Robert Charleston who surmised that it was an enameller’s book, but there are several reasons that this is almost certainly not the case.* Firstly, many of the designs include ‘Oriental’ imagery rarely found on enamel but frequently found on japan-ware. Secondly, methods of colouring were described on the pages, such as ‘Virmilion Dip on Black’, ‘Green Grounds’, and ‘Silver ground Umber Dip’, which are all darker shades utilised on japanned goods. Thirdly, one sheet has the words ‘Cut paper Boxes 2/6’ written on it, which is highly suggestive of papier mâché bases, only used in japanning. Considering the lack of surviving japanned toys dated to this period, the design book is highly valuable, especially as it includes smaller designs which likely represent buttons, which have no counterpart in museum collections.

Fig. 2.
View here.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 6.

Fig. 7.
View here.


Fig. 8.

Fig. 9.

View here.

Fig. 10.

Fig. 11.

Fig. 12.

Fig. 13.

Fig. 14.

Fig. 15.
View here.

Fig. 16.

Fig. 17.

Fig. 18.

Fig. 19. 
View here.

NOTES
* References on request.
*2* National Archives, Country Apprentices 1710-1808, 29 f 145.

24 August 2019

Gallery Nᵒ.6: John Wilkes' Beautiful Locks & 'keys so finely wrought'

Birmingham made 'detector' lock from c. 1680. V&A.

This brass lock was made in Birmingham in about 1680 by John Wilkes and is a fascinating object.

'the keys so finely wrought’, Robert Plot. 

The lock is able to record how may times it has been opened through the turning of the numbered dial. It would therefore ward off any potential thieves, and on the front are written the lines:

If I had ye gift of tongue 
I would declare and do no wrong 
Who ye are ye come by stealth 
To impare my Master's wealth.

When a button is pressed, the man’s leg moves forwards and backwards to reveal and conceal the keyhole, and his hat is tilted to release the bolt. It is an ingenious piece of craftsmanship, and Wilkes signed it Johannes Wilkes de Birmingham. It is not the only surviving John Wilkes lock, and more are shown in the gallery below.

Wilkes is generally considered to have lived and died on the Square, a fine housing development dating from about 1713, and his famous lock, above, is depicted in Kenneth Budd's 1967 mural which is situated in the modern square (called Old Square, see below). There were two John Wilkes', though, father and son, and the Wilkes who made these locks was not the same who lived on the Square.

Kenneth Budd's 'Old Square' mural made 1967. Wiki Commons.
Part of Budd's mural depicting John Wilkes' lock, J. Dixon, 2011.


The elder John was born in about 1651 and had been a locksmith in Darlaston in Staffordshire, as noted on his marriage licence to Elizabeth Heynes.** Lockmaking was dominant in Darlaston and nearby Staffordshire towns and villages. Robert Plot, who wrote A Natural History of Staffordshire in 1686, described Wolverhampton door-locks ‘with brass or iron boxes so curiously polish’t, and the keys so finely wrought’.*  In 1654 John Evelyn, the diarist, also described ‘a lock for a doore, that for its filing, & rare contrivances, was a masterpiece, yet made by a Country Black-Smith’ continuing that ‘a dore lock, of a tolerable price, was esteem’d a Curiositie even among forraine Princes’.* Although Evelyn did not note which area the 'Country Black-Smith' came from, it was likely the Black Country area of Staffordshire or Birmingham, as these were the dominant sites of lock-making outside London at this time.

John and Elizabeth were married in Sedgley, Staffordshire, where Elizabeth was from, in 1673 when they were both 22 years of age. They seem to have moved immediately to Birmingham as a daughter, Mary, was baptised at St. Martin's in 1674. They had five children altogether, John, Mary, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Joseph, and although baptisms can be found for all but John junior, they were all mentioned in John seniors will, dated 1709. The will contained an inventory of the Wilkes home as well as John's workshop, containing the tools of his trade, which was possibly on Bull Street (more on his home here).

The tools contained in Wilkes' two workshops provide insight into how these locks were produced using eighteenth-century methods. Wilkes had a hearth, as bellows were mentioned, and also a trough for cooling hot metal. There was an anvil, hammers, tongs, shears as well as technologies such as lathes. His ‘Squares & Cumpasses [compasses]’ helped him get the correct shapes and measurements, and tools which created the intricate shapes and polish were also recorded, such as vices to hold the metal and drills to begin the designs. Dozens of files of different shapes and sizes were also listed, including ‘3 New thin files, 2 oval half round & new thick half Round’. These would help him file the shapes of the foliage in the locks below. For polishing the finished articles there were rubbers and ‘smooths [smoothers]’, as well as a polishing wheel. Wilkes owned ‘Wimbles’, which were used for boring holes, and ‘Screwplates’, which formed the thread on screws. This shows that Wilkes made his own screws and that this labour was not being majorly outsourced or divided at this time.*

After the elder Wilkes' death, it was the younger John Wilkes who lived on the Square. He had followed his father's trade as a locksmith and in about 1712, or just before, had borrowed £200 from his mother, possibly to purchase one of the new grand townhouses in the Square. He died in December 1732 and was buried at St. Martin's.


Gallery

Birmingham made 'detector' lock, John Wilkes, c. 1680. V&A.

This lock is from about 1680 and is one of three Birmingham locks made by John Wilkes held by the Victoria and Albert Museum. The working of the lock is described: 'The master of the house could select, by turning the small knob at the top of the lock, the number of bolts (1 to 4) that he wished to put into operation. When set at number four, which is maximum for locking the top four bolts are locked out by just turn of the key, but four turns of the key are required to withdraw these, i.e. one at a time. There is however literally a "sting in the tail" of the top bolt, the one last withdrawn, for it triggers off the twin anti-burglar bottom bolts, and these can only be unlocked by a reverse action of the correct key'.***

Similar locks (or at least parts of them) are held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the MET Museum in New York (below). The layout and workings are slightly different, but overall the designs are very similar.
Birmingham lock, c. 1680. MET Museum.
Attributed to John Wilkes as the lock is unsigned.

Lock,  signed by John Wilkes, c. 1680. BMAG.

Hinge plate in similar design to Wilkes' locks and probably made to match,
so would be placed on the same door as the lock.
Held at V&A.


Dyrham Park, a National Trust property near Bristol and Bath, have two Wilkes locks of this design still in use, which also include a decorative keyhole plate and doorknob used on the other side of the door (belowthanks to Victoria Barker). Wilkes not only made the locks, then, but everything needed to make both secure and beautiful doors. 


Wilkes keyhole plate and knob, images by Victoria Barker.

A detector lock signed by Wilkes and sold at Sotheby's
in 2015 for £12,500.


Locks Attributed to Wilkes

Another very intricate detector lock held at the V&A.


The panel which is removed at the top reveals two dials which detect how many times the lock has been opened. 



Below is another unsigned lock very similar to the first depicted. This is very likely by Wilkes, although others may have imitated his locks. 
Held at the Rijks Muesuem.

Other locks were sold at Bonham's, here and here
See all galleries here.

NOTES
* References on request.
** 1. John Wilkes, a locksmith from Darlaston, married Elizabeth Heynes, from Sedgley, in Sedgley on 20 September 1673. The licence stated that they were both 22. Their five children were John, Mary (1674), Elizabeth (1678), Rebecca (1683), and Joseph (1689). According to wills Rebecca Wilkes married Richard Dolphin, a baker, and Mary Wilkes married Edward Burton, a short cutler. 
*** V&A.

John Wilkes' House, 1709

The Quaker Meeting House (centre building) on Bull Street.
Conjectural image of what it would have looked like after opening, c. 1702.
Held by Birmingham Archive.

John Wilkes was a lockmaker living in Birmingham from about 1674 (aged about 23) till his death in 1709. Many of his locks survive and can be seen in a gallery here. In his will was an inventory of the contents of the family home and John's workshop, which gives some insight into life in the early 1700s for an artisan. The Wilkes' owned maps, pictures and books, as well as a 'Clock & Case' and a looking glass. There was also a good range of furniture, so this was a comfortable home.

John Wilkes was listed in the Hearth Tax Returns of 1682* on Bull Street, which was where lockmakers were predominantly situated in the late 1600s. The property had one hearth. Although it is uncertain whether he stayed there till his death, it is likely, especially as the family one of his daughters married into, the Dolphin's, also had a long history being resident on Bull Street. John's son-in-law, Richard Dolphin, was a baker whose shop was adjoining the Quaker Meeting House built in 1702 (see above-a post about the Meeting House can be found on the Iron Room blog here).

The contents of Wilkes' home were:

In the Hall
One Table
One Little Table & Three Leather Chairs
One Screen Joyn’d [Forme] & Stool
One Clock & Case
One Little Cubbard
One Fire Grate
Mapps & Pictures
One old Gun
In the Parler
One oval Table & a Little Table
Eight Leather Chaires & Some Iron Barrs
Several Pictures & a Chimney Peice
In the Kitchen
One Dresser [torn] a Table
One Screen & four Chaires
Sixteen plates & a chees plate
Pewter Dishes
One Copper & Brass Potts
Three Brass Kettles
One pair of Scales
One Little Table
A sett of Curtaines
One fire Grate Ash Grate Racks & Cranes, Fenders fire shovel & toungs, Dripping-pan & Clever
One Jack & two Spits
One Rim a little gun & a [Holbard]
One pair of Bellows & some [sadd] Irons
One Bacon Crank
One Hanger [?]
Five Brass Candlesticks & Snuffers
Silver-plate
Knives & Forks
In the Brewhouse
One Copper 30 Browning [vessels] & Pailes
Sive & [Boles] & a Joyn’d stool
In the Scullery
One Grind Stone
One [?] a Pail Boles & [Shovels?]
In the Pantry
One Dresser – one Warming pan & candlestick
[Boxes ? herb] & other things
In the Celler
Six Barrels two Tressells a Bole [Cover] & some Glass Bottles
In the Little Room
One Hanging Press, One Chest, Boxes & Basketts
In the Chamber over the Parler
One [foild] Bedstead 2 feather Bedds One Quilt [Carlaines] 2 [occance] 2 Blankets 6 Bolsters & Pillows
A chest of Drawers, a Table, Glass Boxes
Six Chaires
In the Chamber over the Kitchen
A Set of Curtaines Vallances & Counter [pain]
Two magnifying Glasses [and] Books
Seven Cane Chairs One Chest of Drawers
One Grate fire shovel and Toungs
A Bedstead [and] Hangings
In the Little Garrat
One Bedstead feather Bed Bolstor a Rug Blankets
One Coffer
In the Middle Garrat
One [?] Bedstead feather Bedd Bolsters
1 Rug 1 Blanket & 2 Pillows
One Desk 2 Trunks one Chest
Twelve pair of sheets & other Linen
In the Drying Room
A [Mactin ill] a Screen a Strike & other [?]
One Dough Tubb
One Table [?] Reels & 1 Roole
A Mael Bagg & Shelves, 2 Bedsteads [Mals] & Cords
Seales Wax Borax Putty & [Gravers]
One feather Bedd & Bolster
Five Blankets, Six Napkins, a Barrell
One Looking Glass

NOTES
*Mistake previously made with the date 1674.

23 August 2019

Printed Ephemera Nᵒ. 9: Trade Card for a Regency Sign Painter

Trade card collection, box 7 no. 436.
Held at Birmingham Archive.

An undated trade card for a Harrison, probably from about the 1820s. Harrison was a sign painter at 219 Bristol Street, but also mentioned a 'Painting Room' on Essex Street. Nothing can be found on either Harrison or the painting room, but the card still gives some insight into the trade of a sign painter at this time, as it included a message to 'Surgeon's and Druggist's' that their 'Bottles, Drawers &c' could be labelled and their 'Window Plates neatly Written'. A set of druggist's drawers from Hall Green with hand painted labels is held at Birmingham Museum and can be seen in a post here.


See all of the 'Friday Ephemera' posts, here.

18 August 2019

Georgian Terraces Nᵒ.5: The Square


'The Square' was an early eighteenth-century urban development completed in about 1713. This was elite living, including fine townhouses which were bought and lived in by some of the town's wealthiest inhabitants.

Originally the land was part of the ancient priory of St. Thomas dating back to at least 1298. In the early 1700s, though, this area began to be built up with the Square becoming the centrepiece. Four new streets led into the Square, Upper Priory in the north, Upper Lichfield Street to the east (an extension to an older street), Lower Priory at the south, and an initially unnamed street to the west which later became the Minories. Nearby was Pemberton's Yard, named after John Pemberton, a wealthy ironmonger and predominant landowner of the plots, and Westley's Row. William Westley was a local designer-builder, so was probably highly involved in the construction of the new houses. Westley's son also produced several prints and maps of the town, including a view of St. Philip's with the Square inset (top image), further suggesting a strong involvement in the development.

1731 Map.

In building the Square, Birmingham was quick in following a national trend. As Peter Borsay states, England gained its first square in London's Covent Garden in the 1630s, designed by Inigo Jones, and provincial squares followed in the early 1700s. The Square in Warwick was completed in about 1704, St. Anne's Square in Manchester in about 1720, Derby Square in Liverpool was constructed between about 1705 and 1725 and Bristol's Queen Square between about 1699 and 1727. Bath's Queen's Square was not completed until 1736.**

These survive either in remnants or whole squares, but Birmingham's Square was completely demolished. Half of it was removed when Corporation Street was cut through the area in about 1878, and the rest as new Victorian and Edwardian buildings were built around the new square, now called Old Square (see below).

Old Square in the 1890s.

Many other squares were situated around or alongside churches, and a later Birmingham development followed the same pattern around St. Philip's church. These were larger sites and were public spaces as well as containing homes for the elite (see below), but The Square was small in comparison containing only sixteen premises. Its smaller size was probably a major factor in its demise.

Bristol's Queen Square, c. 1831.

Today the area is still an open space surrounded by buildings, but nothing remains from its Georgian past apart from the name, which had become 'Old Square' by the Victorian period.


In the central open space are two twentieth-century sculptures, one of the comedian and actor Tony Hancock and the other depicting the history of the site by Kenneth Budd. Budd's mural, from 1967, explores some of the early history and the most well-known residents.

Friar, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.


Well before the Square was built St. Thomas's Priory had occupied the site, which had a chapel and graveyard attached. Budd depicts one of the friars (above) who would have worn black habits, and sometimes were not particularly godly. In 1344 it was noted that
The Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr Burmyngham is found to be in a most deplorable plight, that vile reprobates assumed the habit that they might continue their abominable lives under the religious garb, and then forsake it and call themselves hermits.*
According to Hill and Dent, the Priory and chapel were built of the same red sandstone of other early buildings in the area, which survives in other ancient structures such as the spire of St. Peter and St. Paul's church in Aston.* The Priory was closed during the reign of Henry VIII. When the Square was built, the old priory was remembered in the naming of nearby streets and in 1781 William Hutton wrote that 'Some small remains of the old foundation are yet visible in the cellars [of Old Square], chiefly in the south-east'.*

The Priory was also remembered in the name of the ancient Chappell Street (see 1731 map above) which had run past the chapel and graveyard. From at least 1584 the Bull Tavern was situated along this street, and in the early 1700s the road became known as Bull Street, and maintains that name today.

Bull Tavern, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.


The original design of the Square was around a garden surrounded in railings with paths allowing residents to stroll through the area. This was seemingly reduced in the 1750s or 1760s to a smaller circle which was possibly more ornamental, and probably allowed more space for coaches to come through. This may have been encouraged by the opening of an assembly room at number 11, which William Hutton noted was one of only two in Birmingham in 1750.* In 1765 this assembly room was the site of a grand public ball. The occasion was that royalty had visited Birmingham, namely the Duke of York, younger brother of George III, who had toured the workshops of John Taylor, a major manufacturer in the town. He dined at the Castle Inn and in the evening local gentry and other wealthy locals, such as the Holte's of Aston Hall and the Gough's of Perry Hall, danced the night away at the Square.*

Edward, Duke of York, 1762, by Pompeo Batoni.
Royal Collection.
1765 ball, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.



One of the early residents of the Square was John Wilkes, son of the famous lockmaker of the same name. The elder Wilkes's workshop had possibly been on Bull Street and he made fine brass locks which survive in museums such as the Victoria and Albert and Birmingham Museums. The younger Wilkes was also a lockmaker, and the success of both generations in the trade can be seen in being able to afford one of the most desirable houses in Birmingham in the 1710s.

Houses and a Wilkes lock, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.


Another famous resident was Edmund Hector, a surgeon and doctor from Lichfield who settled in Birmingham in about the 1730s. Hector had been at school with Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer, and the two lodged together with the Birmingham printer Thomas Warren, drinking nearby at the Swan Hotel. Hector purchased number one in the Square in 1747, which was particularly grand and had originally been the house occupied by John Pemberton who owned the land of the Square. Pemberton was a wealthy ironmonger and also had built a grand house on Bennett's Hill.

Hector's house at number one, Square. 
A plaque was erected on Hector's house in 1865 which read:

HERE IN THIS HOUSE
SAMUEL JOHNSON
WAS THE GUEST
EDMUND HECTOR
WAS THE HOST

Johnson and Hector, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.


Another notable resident was Sampson Lloyd at number 13, who was one of the founders of Taylor and Lloyd's Bank in Birmingham, a forerunner of Lloyd's Bank. The Taylor was John Taylor, toymaker.

Lloyd, Kenneth Budd's mural, Old Square.


Budd's mural can be seen by visiting the modern Old Square, but the images below show what it used to look like, at least in the late 1800s. 

Gallery of the Houses
Many of the buildings had some alterations, but some were close to their original state and those with dormer windows on the third floor were most unaltered. In the 1790s the numbers changed, so the images represent eighteenth-century numbering. The selection of residents is taken from Joseph Hill and Robert Kirkup Dent's, Memorials of the Old Square (1897). They include the first known residents and selected others that may be of interest.

Looking West

15 & 16: see below. Number 16 was rebuilt.
Minories
1: John Pemberton, ironmonger (completion-1747); Edmund Hector, surgeon (1747-1794); William Carless Hopper (1794-1796); Clement Cotterill (1796-1812).
2: John Pemberton, gentleman (c. 1728-1735); others; Samuel Bradburn, merchant and born at number 16 in 1716 (1744-1755)

Looking South

3: Dr. Samuel Swynfen, physician and godfather of Samuel Johnson (1728-1736); Oseland, Stuhlmann and Bingham, merchants (1770); John Bingham, merchant (c. 1774-1798) in about 1798 numbers 3 and 4 were joined by John Bingham to become the Stork Tavern, later Stork Hotel. The two houses were refronted in about 1812 and it was still the Stork Hotel in the photograph.
4: Daniel Whalley (1721-1735).
Lower Priory
5: Mrs. Wall (?-1740); Birch family and partners, button makers (1740-c. 1792); Barker and Unett, attorneys, see numbers 6 and 7 (1800-?).
6: Samuel Stewart, attorney (1727-1754); Birch family and relations (1770-1799); John Wilkes Unett (1798-?).

Looking East

7: W. Adcock junior. (c. 1713-1727); John Baddeley, toymaker (c. 1731-1747) then John Baddeley junior moved to number 10; Stewart family (see number 6); Rev. Ward (1749-1769); George Hollington Barker, attorney, Dent states the second oldest legal business in Birmingham (1769-?).
8: Richard Baddeley, gunsmith and button maker, (c. 1713-1742); John Turner, button maker? (1748-1763); Edward Turner, merchant and factor (1763-1777). There was a button manufactory at the rear which was run by the inhabitants as well as George Anderton and William Hunt.
Lichfield Street
9: John Wilkes junior, locksmith (1713-1733); Edward Dolphin, attorney, nephew of John Wilkes (1744-c. 1760); William Hodgkins, cabinet maker (1769-c. 1790).
10: Henry Bradford, timberman (c. 1713-1736); Lewis Paul, co-inventor of first spinning machine (c. 1738-1747); Baddeley junior, see numbers 7 and 8 (1747-1756); Samuel Wheeley, coachmaker (1758-c. 1812).

Number 10 was described in 1757: 'five rooms first floor, wainscotted, two back Chambers, and large Dining room to the front, with six Garrets, and all the back windows sashed'.*

Looking North

11: Mrs. Beal, school room (?-1740); William Sawyer, ran an assembly room called The Great Room, and a dancing school (1740-1779); James Cresshull, assembly room (1780-c. 1855)
12: Joseph Farmer, ironfounder, connected in trade with Galton's at number 13 (?-c. 1735); Henry Hunt and widow, nail merchant (1735-1794).
Upper Priory
13: John Fidoe and widow (c. 1716-c. 1746); Samuel Galton, gun maker, connected in trade with Farmer's at number 12 (1746-1748); Joseph Duncombe, merchant (1754-1767); Sampson Lloyd and other Lloyd's, banker, beginning what is now Lloyd's Bank, related to the Fidoe family (1774-c. 1795).
14: Mr. Eborall, house owned by Fidoe of number 13 (1723); Michael Giles, apothecary and surgeon (1747-1767); Robert Mynors, surgeon and man-midwife (1767-c. 1780); James Millar, artist (1783-c. 1795).

Looking West again...

15: Miss. Porter, owned by James Billingsley (c. 1723-1727); James Billingsley, gentleman (c. 1727-1733); Widow Freeth (1743-?); others; Dr. Withering, physician (1787-c. 1791); Richard Cadbury, draper, father of chocolate making Cadbury's (1798-1803).
16: (rebuilt in photo): Randle Bradburn, ironmonger, (1714-1746); Samuel Bradburn, merchant, son of Randle and born and died at number 16 (1755-1796). Number 16 was demolished and rebuilt in about the 1840s by the Birmingham Gas Company which used it as its offices.
Minories
1 & 2: see above





Other Georgian Terraces.

NOTES
* William Hutton, History of Birmingham (1781); 2 May 1757, Aris's Birmingham Gazette;
**Peter Borsay, The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town, 1660-1770 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 74-79 & 323-324.
Joseph Hill and Robert Kirkup Dent, Memorials of the Old Square (1897).