Ashford Black Marble pen rest

At Buxton Museum and Art Gallery we have a large and unique collection of Ashford Black Marble objects. The collection contains over 200 items including tables, jewellery, obelisks, candlesticks, thermometers and a window. A lot of these items are on permanent display in the petrifaction shop in the ‘Wonders of the Peak’ gallery.

Thanks to the Enlightenment! project we added to our collection by purchasing the silhouette socle and our latest addition is a pen rest. What made this piece stand out for us was the subject matter (the bird) and the label on the reverse. The label reads;

‘Mawe’s Original Royal Museum, Matlock Bath; Near the rotunda, Cheltenham, and 149, Strand, London. Where are constantly on Sale, A great variety of Italian and Derbyshire Ornaments, beautifully copied from the Antique, by the most skilful workmen. Minerals, Shells, Corals &c. scientifically arranged. Diamond engraving’.

Mawe (1766 – 1829) was born in Derby but left Derbyshire to work as a merchant sailor. During his seafaring days he became interested in mineralogy and began to collect stones and shells. He returned to Derbyshire in 1794 and married the daughter of Richard Brown, a mineral dealer, marble worker and proprietor of the Royal Museum in Matlock Bath. Mawe became part of the family business and managed the London store ‘Brown, Son & Mawe’ in Covent Garden. Mawe published ‘The Mineralogy of Derbyshire’ in 1802.

If you want to find out more about Mawe then read the Peak District Mines Historical Society bulletin (volume 11, Number 6, Winter 1992).

Mawe and Brown’s story intertwines with that of John Vallance who started his career at the Royal Museum before establishing his own rival museum next door. It was Vallance’s museum that originally sold the Ann Rayner engraving of Matlock Tor that we were outbid on in July 2011.

3 Responses to Ashford Black Marble pen rest

  1. jj allen says:

    Hello! Is there any specific cataloguing or trademark to identify who the specific artists are for Black Ashford Marble pieces. I am specifically looking for guidelines and standards that would help determine any works or creations by Selim Bright, S. Bright and Company, Buxton. Selim resided at #4 in the Cresent for several decades. I beleive this is also where he had his store and workshop. Many thanks for your help and guidance.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bright occurs in the business directories in 1822 as Bright and Sons, the Square; by 1835 they had moved to the Crescent ( near the middle of the shop parade on the lower floor). They were associated with jewellers and cutlers in Sheffied (St James Street) and are listed as such rather than marble workers. 1881 is the first record of Selim Bright and Co.

    It is really difficult to attribute Ashford to individual workers unless they signed it, and often, the name appears on the thermometer or the fitting rather than the marble. As with an ink stand on display here where the well is signed S.Bright and Company but the stand is attributed to Fanshawe. Even the best workers didn’t sign the pieces, because it was a piece work trade. They commissioned outworkers to do the hard work, bought in and mounted pieces to sell under the jewellers name. We have two table tops which our documentation suggests might be by either Bright or Turner, but no reasoning is provided to support this. Some pieces have a particular style: some Woodruff pieces can be attributed stylistically, and I have a sense there was one worker whose signature was a golden rose; there is also one worker who had an exquisite way with butterflies

    I wonder whether he was more of a jeweller, perhaps?

    Ros Westwood
    Derbyshire Museums Manager

  3. Pingback: John Webber and William Day – Views of Castleton « Enlightenment!

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