Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Samuel Pembertons (Silversmiths)**

Samuel Pemberton silver toothpick case, 1793.
Held at Birmingham Assay Office.

There are at least three generations of Samuel Pemberton's working as jewellers and toymakers in Birmingham in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. The first lived from circa 1704 to 1784, the second from 1738 to 1803, and the third from circa 1771 to 1836. It is the two latter whose silver survives in museums and private collections (see more of their silver on Pinterest). The name Pemberton was long established as a name in both precious and non-precious metal trades in Birmingham; a Thomas Pemberton was working as a goldsmith in the 1600s (will dated 1640), and another Thomas Pemberton became a very wealthy iron founder from the late 1600s, and lived in a grand house on what is now Colmore Row.

From the mid 1770s to at least the 1820s their workshops were on Snow Hill, the heart of the jewellery and toy making district at that time, before (what is now) the Jewellery Quarter came into being.
Samuel Pemberton nutmeg grater, 1798-9.
Held at the V&A.

From about 1812 to 1821, the third Samuel and his son (possibly Thomas) partnered with Roger Mitchell. At this time they were described as 'jewellers, silversmiths, and watch and time-piece makers' at Snow Hill.  

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Thomas Rothwell (Copperplate Engraver)


Thomas Rothwell (1740-1807) was a British engraver working in England and Wales in the late eighteenth century, whose skills were utilised in both the book trade and in the making of enameled and pottery goods. He was born in Liverpool, and began working as an enamel painter,* later, in the early 1760s, working for Humphrey Palmer in Hanley, Staffordshire, (a rival of Josiah Wedgwood) painting enamel as well as engraving designs for the printed creamware being produced by Palmer.

Teapot with design by T. Rothwell "Delin & Sculp.",
meaning that he drew the design and engraved it.
Produced in the mid 1760s, maker unknown.
A detail of the lid is at the top of the post.

In 1769 Rothwell produced the copper plate engravings for a publication of A Pilgrim's Progress published in Wolverhampton by Thomas Smith, and by 1770 was in Birmingham; this time engraving plates for printer Christopher Earl. The work printed in Birmingham was The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, and Rothwell produced engravings taken from drawings produced by Birmingham born painter James Millar.

In 1774 Rothwell had set up a partnership with a Mr. Hick's on Birmingham's Church Street, but the next reference to him is not till 1782 where he takes on an apprentice engraver called Henry Allden in Birmingham;** he appears in Birmingham trade directories throughout the 1780s till 1788.

By 1790 he was in Swansea, producing topographical views of the city, as well as working within the Swansea ceramics trade, especially producing commemorative items.

Swansea commemorative ceramics.
Attributed to Rothwell. 

In 1794 he was in London (or possibly his son, Peter, was), producing engraved plated for books, including portraits of famous people and notable London buildings. It seems that he spent the next few years between London and Birmingham; in 1798 he takes on an apprentice engraver (Horace W. Fell) in Birmingham and in 1799 his copper plate engravings are published in London in The Cabinet of Arts. He was now nearly 60 years of age.

The Admiralty, from The Cabinet of Arts, 1799.

Rothwell was back in Birmingham in about 1803, and died in the town in 1807, being buried in St. Mary's Church on January 19th.

Samuel Raven's Snuff Boxes

Snuff box painted with the actress Mrs. Honey, c. 1820 by Raven.
From the V&A Collection.

These snuff boxes were made in Birmingham at around the 1820s, by Samuel Raven (find out more about Raven here). Each one is a small (about 10cm) black japanned box with an intricately painted lid. Enjoy!

A box with the portrait of George IV.
George IV, c. 1822.
From the BMAG Collection.
Signed inside, see below.

Other snuff boxes painted by Raven include one of the printer and japanner John Baskerville, which is a copy of a larger portrait thought to be by James Millar. The production of the snuff box perhaps coincided with the exhuming of Baskerville's body in 1829, when it was put on display for several months at a local warehouse!
The Baskerville snuff box painted
by Samuel Raven is at BMAG.
Below is a selection of boxes from private collections, for interest (all signed).

A lady in clouds. Signature is below.

The Duchess of Clarence, later Queen Adelaide
A selection of provocative ladies.....

And a rather stern little dog....

Edward Thomason (Toy Maker and Silversmith)


Edward Thomason attributed to Sir William Beechey.
Date unknown but probably late 1700s.
After an apprenticeship with Matthew Boulton, Edward Thomason began trading in 1793, utilising his father's buckle manufactory that had been left to him on Church Street. Thomason's apprenticeship with Boulton had showed him what ambition could achieve and whetted his appetite for science and mechanics. His 'mind became restless to produce some novelty or invention worthy to be patented'.* He began making gilt and plated buttons, but soon branched into jewellery, coins, tokens and medals, continually expanding the business, so that by 1796 sixty to seventy rooms were utilised for his manufactures, as well as having twelve show rooms. The use of show rooms was an excellent tactic as it included Thomason's manufactory as part of the Birmingham tour where the town's articles could be examined and the the ingenuity of their maker wondered at.

Throughout this time Thomason was also working to achieve his ambitions of invention, and after several years of being generally unsuccessful he finally patented a new design for a corkscrew in 1802 which helped to make his name, as well as a very decent fortune. His ingenuity was aided by unflinching self promotion; he would send examples of new articles to whomever he thought best to promote himself and his wares, whether that be scientific medals to the most eminent scientists if the day, or commemorative medals to the Prince Regent himself. He also made the town and himself known to all Europe by sending religious medals to all of Europe's monarchs, and over the nineteenth century he received many honours and gifts from these; honours that he actively sought, and sometimes asked for.* He included illustrations of many of these gifts in his memoirs, as well as a portrait of himself wearing his honours (see below), and the many letters of praise received from esteemed persons. He was obviously very proud of his achievements, but one commentator (who called Thomason 'pleasant, chatty, spirited, yet egotistical') gave vanity as one of the main drivers in Thomason's memoirs.**
Thomason with his honours, from his Memoirs.

Thomason was knighted in 1832, the first Brummie to be so. Shortly afterwards his friend, James Bisset, sent him the following verse:

            I congratulate you on the honor
So lately conferr'd by our Monarch (the donor).
Who, judging most wisely where merit is due,
The badge of true Knighthood bestowed upon you;
And feeling as all other amateurs felt,
Rewards you with title, gilt spurs, sword, and belt!
    I remember the time (fifty years since, when boys)
Your name at SOHO 'gan to make a great noise;
And when to the 'toy shop of Europe' you came,
Each season exalted a THOMASON'S fame.
As an Artist whose works o'er the globe have been whirl'd,
Your renown has extended all over the world!
No wonder HIS MAJESTY then thought it right
(High-talented Edward) to make you a KNIGHT!
                       I am Sir, Yours very faithfully,
                                        JAMES BISSET,
                                                 A Septuagenarian."'

Monday, 10 October 2016

Samuel Raven (Miniature Painter)


Portrait of Samuel Raven, c. 1816.
Held at BMAG.
Samuel Raven (c. 1774-1847) was a painter, particularly known for adorning papier mâché snuff boxes. It is thought that he worked for the japanner Henry Clay, before branching out on his own in about 1815 (though the plain papier mâché boxes were probably bought from Clay). 

He seems to have been admired for his skill, as on 21 February 1820 the following article appeared in Aris's Gazette:

'His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, after having personally expressed himself to S. Raven that he was highly gratified with the Segar Case lately presented to him, was pleased to command that Portraits should be taken, by the same Artist, of his Royal Highness and the late Duke of Kent; which being now finished may be seen previous to their transmission to Kensington Palace, at Mr. Cooke's, Carver and Gilder, New Street'.

Raven was also a member of the Anacreontic Society, a social club that met at the Eagle and Ball on Colmore Street, and formed in October 1793. The society took its name from the Greek poet Anacreon, who was particularly known for writing drinking songs, as well as other verses. It is no surprise that notable socialite, James Bisset, was a member then, as well as Theophilus Richards (who ran the grand toy-shop on High Street), Peter Wyon (die-sinker), and Charles Jennings (button maker). Raven painted a devise for the society, a British crown encircled in light and a ribbon bearing the inscription 'May our Friendship endure as long as the Sun'. This hung on the wall of the Eagle and Ball, until the pub (and the street it stood on) was demolished when New Street Station was built in 1846. It reportedly then moved to the Woodman on Easy Row, but has since been lost.

A selection of his snuff-boxes can be found here.
Further Information: Samuel's brother was George Raven, a toy maker.

Charles Jones (Jeweller and Silversmith)


Charles Jones had been in partnership with Edward Thomason as 'Jewellers and Silverworkers' until December 1823, when Jones opened his own grand toy-shop/repository, the Pantechnetheca. Jones entered two marks into the Assay Office, the first on 6th October 1824 as 'Silversmith of toy shop' and the second on 20th July 1828 as 'Silversmith & toy warehouse (Pantechnitheca)'.

Charles Jones's silver mark from 1824.
Jones's mark for silver plate was taken out 21st June 1824, and was an altar and blaze [below].

Charles Jones declared bankruptcy in 1837.

Partnership dissolved, from The London Gazette, 1824.