Downlane Hall Antiques

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Tunbridge Ware Box
As Tunbridge Wells developed into a fashionable spa town in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the demand for souvenirs and ornaments created by local craftsmen grew too. A technique was developed which used tessellated mosaic, a process of assembling slips of woods in bundles, following patterns drawn on squared paper which were later glued, sliced, reassembled into secondary blocks and then cut into a series of identical veneers applied to the surface of each piece.


Local woods including oak, holly, yew, sycamore and maple were combined with a number of foreign timbers to achieve a wide range of colours including a green made from Oak infected with fungus!

The end result is a distinctive patterning and style which help makes Tunbridge ware both unique and highly collectable.

The Tunbridge ware workshop site

Makers of Tunbridge ware were most prolific in the Tunbridge Wells area of Kent from about 1830 to 1900. Perhaps the most famous of these being "The Chalet", home and workshop to Edmund Nye and Thomas Barton for much of that period where they produced numerous articles from cribbage boards and paperweights to writing slopes, snuff boxes and glove boxes.

Henry Hollamby was another well known maker from the second half of the nineteenth century and whose fine work is still highly sought after.

A wide range of designs and styles

Geometric patterns were popular throughout the period of Tunbridge ware's popularity. Floral designs based upon Berlin woolwork were often featured along with animals, birds and interesting insects such as butterflies and moths. Human figures were rarely depicted although crests an motifs often did. In the 1850's Robert Russell created heavier, abstract designs which became popular using bold geometric shapes to create jigsaw type patterns.

The top end of the Tunbridge ware market favoured scenes capturing local landscapes such as The Pantiles or local castles including Penshurst and Hever. Famous locations from further afield that inspired the Tunbridge ware makers include Stratford-upon-Avon, Windsor Castle and numerous London landmarks. The popularity of Tunbridge ware slowly declined as the 20th century progressed ceasing in 1927.


Be sure to call by our emporium antique chapel or visit this site again soon to view or discuss our beautiful Tunbridge ware pieces.

Mike Howlett - Thursday, November 30, 2017 |