Ashford Black Marble jewellery – Selim Bright & Co

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has bought an Ashford Black Marble jewelry set, consisting of a brooch and earrings set in gold and in their original box.  The work is of the highest quality but what made it stand out for us was the box which bears the words ‘S. Bright & Co, Buxton, Goldsmiths and watchmakers’.

Buxton was one of the main centres for the Derbyshire Black Marble industry and the museum has a fantastic collection of Ashford Black Marble.  Much of it is on permanent display in our Wonders of the Peak gallery.  Most of the work is unsigned and is difficult to attribute it to specific workshops so we are delighted to have the original Bright box.

Selim Bright appears in the business directories in 1822 as ‘Bright and Sons, the Square’. By 1835 the business had moved to the Crescent. They were associated with jewellers and cutlers in Sheffield (St James Street) and are described as such rather than marble workers.  By 1857 they are listed in White’s Derbyshire Directory as Bright & Co, still in the Crescent.  Bright exhibited an Ashford Black Marble table and numerous vases at the 1851 Great Exhibition, where he was awarded an honourable mention for his work.  A decade later he exhibited at the 1862 London International Exhibition.

The jeweller’s box is marked S.Bright and Co. Buxton, so the garniture dates from the height of the marble trade, around 1850 – 1865.

Selim Bright had a shop under the arches in the Crescent. It is a pity we can’t make out an A Board outside his door.

The Bingham Trust kindly gave us a grant to assist with this purchase and we are very grateful for their support.  In 2005 they also helped us purchase the Tomlinson Collection of Ashford Black Marble, which is now a highlight of our collection.

We have bought other Ashford Black Marble pieces during the project including a pen rest with a Mawe’s Museum retailers sticker and an intriguing socle decorated with a silhouette.  We were spectacularly outbid on an Ann Raynor etching of Matlcok Tor in 2010.

Paget Family – Ashford Black Marble Socle

Back in March 2011 we put out an appeal for help in identifying an Ashford Black Marble socle that we bought at auction in 2009.  We wanted to know more about the piece and in particular the shield and silhouette.   Many people came forward with ideas, so thank you very much.

 Maxwell Craven pointed us in the direction of the Paget family and in particular Canon Thomas Bradley Paget (1812 – 1893).  He identified the wording on the shield as reading ‘Deo Pagit’ and not as we’d thought, ‘Deo Pacet’. 

 Canon Thomas Paget was a parish vicar at Welton in Yorkshire for 47 years and a chaplain to the Archbishop of York.  I got in touch with the Borthwick Institute for Archives at York University which holds the ecclesiastical records for the Minster.  Amongst their Faculty collection for 1893 they found a permission to erect a memorial tablet to Canon Thomas Bradley Paget in the chancel of Welton Church. 

 I contacted Welton Parish Council and Jill Gill and Robin Peacock very kindly photographed the tablet for me and hey presto, it is the same outstretched arm holding the scroll.   We can now be pretty certain that our mystery silhouette is linked to the Paget family, but is it Canon Thomas Bradley Paget?

Cheffins auction house sold a watercolour by Sophie Paget titled ‘Portrait of the Reverend Thomas Bradley Paget, MA, and W H Broadley Esq, going Fishing from Welton House’ in 2010.   Is there are likeness between our silhouette and either men? 

Paget’s half brother Franceys Bradley Paget (c.1820 – 1855) lived and was buried in Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire.  I feel that he must be involved somewhere as it seems too much of a coincidence that he lived in the same village as where the Ashford Black Marble was mined.  Franceys died aged only 35, so could this have been a memorial to him?

 Tracking down the individual Paget family member is probably going to prove impossible, but at least we now know something about our socle.  For those who relish a challenge and believe nothing is impossible, let us know if you find out anything more!

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.

Ashford Black Marble engraving of Matlock Tor

Anna Rhodes, Assistant Collections Officer, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

On 13 July I went down to Halls Auction House in Shrewsbury to bid on an Ashford Black Marble diamond engraving by Ann Rayner (1802 – 1890). It was a really nice piece with a lovely moonlit view of Matlock High Tor. It had an estimate of £300 – £500, and after discussions with colleagues we decided that our maximum bid would be £750.

At Buxton Museum we already have two Ann Rayner Ashford Black Marble engravings, one is of Haddon Hall and the other of Matlock Bath. The piece for sale had a label on the reverse from the Centre Museum at Matlock Bath. We have a few other pieces in the collection which also came from the Centre Museum, which was owned by John Vallance.

This ‘museum’ like the other museums found in Matlock Bath at the time was basically just a shop selling Derbyshire spars and minerals. John Vallance joined Mawe & Brown at the Royal Museum in Matlock Bath as an assistant in 1811. In 1831 he set up his Centre Museum next door. At the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace he won a prize medal for his in-laid marble tables. The juries report went on to say that a ‘Prize Medal has been awarded, not for these tables only, but for his general collection of Derbyshire marble manufactures, which is in a very high degree interesting and instructive’.

Engraved Ashford Black Marble paperweights like the one for sale were popular from 1830 – 1850 and they often featured moonlight scenes and country houses. They were made by scratching the polished marble with a diamond which created a paler line that could be built up into a picture.

Anyway, back to the saleroom…..

At the auction I sat patiently through the Chinese ceramics and watched bids fly in from across the world – China, Taiwan and America clinched most of the deals. Finally after an hour and a half Lot 100 arrived. It started with the auctioneer on commission at £300, before being opened to the room. My paddle shot up at £350 but a millisecond later an internet bid came in offering over a £1000 – my short lived bidding days were over. A fierce contest erupted between a gentleman in the room and the internet and it finally sold for £3400.  Alas…

If you want to find out more about Ashford Black Marble read Tomlinson’s ‘Derbyshire Black Marble’ which is for sale at Buxton Museum, £9.95, alternatively you can borrow it from Derbyshire Libraries.

Can you help? Ashford Black Marble silhouette

Back in November 2009 Buxton Museum and Art Gallery successfully bid on an Ashford Black Marble plinth at Tennants Auction House in Leyburn, Yorkshire.  We were interested in this piece as we have nothing like it within our collection. It is however a bit of a mystery and we are trying to find out more information about it. 

On one side there is a silhouette of a man and on the opposite side there is a shield, the other two sides are decorated with flowers.  We have an inking that it may have come from a school, college or university, maybe it was the base for a school cup? The shield has a white cross, a scallop shell and an outreaching arm holding a scroll with the writing ‘Deo Pacet’ on it.  Does anyone have any ideas of its origin?  Can anyone point us in the right direction?


The Chatsworth Attic Sale

At the beginning of October Chatsworth House held a three day auction of furniture and personal artefacts belonging to the Devonshire family.  With over 20,000 objects for sale we felt sure that there would be some interesting and Enlightenment related lots.  The catalogue was excitedly passed around and Ros Westwood, Derbyshire Museums Manager went to have a look at some of the objects in person.

We decided to bid on lot 279, lot 423 and lot 453.  Things started off well as we successfully secured lot 279 – the lot we were most interested in.  We are now the proud owners of six John Bluck early 19th century prints of Derbyshire that show scenes of popular places such as Dovedale and Matlock Bath. 

Things didn’t go as smoothly on the other two lots as the hammer fell way above their estimated price (and our bid!).  The first was an Ashford Black Marble table that went for a whopping £19,000 which was four times its estimate.  The table was unusual as it featured a dragonfly and a large band of Duke’s Red marble.  The second item was a patch box –  a souvenir of Buxton – that also soared past its £150 – £200 estimate and realised £1000. 

These two lots weren’t in anyway unusual in smashing their estimates; it was a general theme of the auction.  It seemed that the allure of owning something linked to the great house and the Devonshire family put an understandable premium on everything.  Perhaps the most extreme example is of a brooch that went for 106 times its estimate.  The brooch belonged to the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and was estimated at £80 – £100, the hammer fell at £8,500.   The total auction raised nearly £6.5 million, which was £4 million more than expected. 

The six prints that Enlightenment! bought will be undergoing some conservation work and should hopefully go on display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery next year.