A French Prisoner of War Cribbage and Dominoes set carved from bone

We shouldn’t overlook the importance of the many wars during the Age of Enlightenment. Towards the end of the American War of Independence (1775-1783), the British Armed Forces were again engaged in battle with Spain and France at the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783).   The French Revolution which followed in 1789 was time of great social change based on Enlightenment principles. The traditional ideals of the state and authority were being challenged in favour of equality and human rights.

Derby Museums have purchased this cribbage and dominoes set, intricately carved from bone by a French prisoner of war. A label on the underside is handwritten and reads ‘Presented by ~ Gardiner to his sister Ann who married William Peach of Normanton by Derby about 1798, Brought from France’.

We have found a reference to a William Peach of Normanton aged 83 buried 18th February 1843 at Normanton by Derby, also marriage William Peach to Ann Gardiner 23rd July 1799 Eggington, Derbyhire.

Throughout the ages prisoners of war have made arts and crafts to pass the time, to sell to guards for extra food and occasionally as a ‘thank you’ for families who had looked after them. Although games and puzzles have a long history, it was in the 18th Century that leisure pursuits became very popular. The fretwork lid covers the ornate chest while the inner lid slides out reveal the dominoes.

The 55 domino pieces have an extended numbering system to the highest value of 9 spots (or pips). We are looking into conservation of this piece as the hinge on the lid is broken.

Matt Edwards, Derby Museum and Art Gallery


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