A History of the World in 100 objects – The Holy Lands

Last week we invited Buxton library’s non-fiction reading group and the Friends of the Museum to a curator led tour of the ‘Revealing the World’ exhibition.  The event was to celebrate the launch of the paperback  ‘A history of the World in 100 objects’ and Penguin kindly donated 10 copies of the book for us to give away.

The aim of the event was for the group to choose their favorite object in the exhibition.  I was slightly surprised by their choice which beat objects such as an Egyptian pyramidion,  Nawhal tusk and Inuit canoe.

The object they chose was not the oldest, nor the most historically important or even the rarest .  Instead the object was chosen because of its beauty and meticulously painstaking production.  The group chose a mother of pearl carving depicting scenes from the life of Christ.   The carving made in Bethlehem, dates from the 18th century and would have been an early tourist souvenir.  The object was chosen because the group “loved the superb intricate carving and detail”, and the skill and “intricacy of the craftsmanship and reflection from the material”.

By the early 19th century the Middle East has become an adventurous addition to the usual Grand Tour, with tourists attracted to the area because of its biblical heritage and ‘Eastern’ culture.  By 1869 Thomas Cook were even offering a tour to the Holy Lands.

Artist were drawn to the area and another object in the exhibition which was a runner up with our group was a sketch of Sinai drawn by Edward Lear (1812 – 1888).  The group liked the simplicity of the sketch and felt it was very ‘evocative of the desert’.

We don’t know how or when the Bethlehem souvenir came to England but before the museum acquired it in the 1970s it belonged to Randolph Douglas and was displayed in his museum ‘The House of Wonders’ in Castleton.

Douglas was an extensive collector following in the footsteps of the 18th Century collectors and their cabinets of curiosity. He opened his House of Wonders in the early 1920s and it soon became an intriguing attraction for visitors, who were  guided around by torchlight.

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.

Derby Lecture: Mines, Mills and Machines

Thursday 31st May, 7:30pm to 9.00pm

Derby Local Studies Library


Enlightenment, industry and tourism in eighteenth century Derbyshire .

Join Che Binder as he explores the Enlightenment in Derby and Derbyshire. The birth of the scientific method and early emphasis on its application to industry led to the world’s first factories and other wonders such as the purpose-built technological marvel that was Strutt’s General Infirmary in Derby.

Philosophers, scientists and industrialists travelled from all over England and Europe to view these achievements in order that they might emulate them at home. Charles Cotton ‘Wonders of the Peak’ and Defoe’s work also encouraged people at this time to begin to view the natural landscape as a spectacle in its own right, rather than as a resource to be exploited.

Learn about the voyages of discovery taking place in eighteenth century Derby and the along the Derwent. Count the world firsts as they stack up and find out more about the men who laid the foundations of the modern world.

Tickets cost £6 and early booking is advised.  Tickets are available by calling Derby Local Studies Library on 01332 642240 or email localstudies.library@derby.gov.uk. For more information visit – http://www.derby.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/libraries/library-events/the-derby-lectures-mines-mills-and-machines/

Buxton Crescent Souvenir Patch Box



Buxton Museum and Art Gallery bought this enamelled patch box in January 2012.  It dates from the late 19th century and has a transfer print of the Crescent in Buxton.

Patch boxes were used to store ‘patches’ which were decorative beauty spots used to cover blemishes, scars, moles etc.  They ranged from purely functional paper or mole skin patches to highly decorative silk and satin ones which were cut into elaborate shapes such as hearts, stars and diamonds.

Buxton Crescent was a popular subject for artists and printmakers and features on a range of souvenirs from the period. 


Buxton Crescent, oil on Canvas, artist unknown, c. 1825

Buxton Crescent attributed to W. Cowen, c. 1850

New Bath Hotel, Matlock Bath


Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has bought a watercolour of the New Bath Hotel in Matlock Bath.  The picture was sold to the museum by a private seller and has just come back after undergoing conservation work – check out the before and after photos below.   

 The watercolour shows the front of the hotel, a rather windswept looking fir tree and groups of visitors – complete with the ubiquitous angler that graces so many Derbyshire scenes.

 The sign on the gable end of the hotel reads ‘Saxton’s New Bath Hotel’.  George Saxton and his son (also George) owned the New Bath Hotel from around 1797 to the 1850s.  During this period Matlock Bath was a burgeoning tourist town attracting visitors with its warm medicinal waters and rocky picturesque setting – you’ll see the watercolour shows the hotel against a backdrop of limestone cliffs.

 Matlock Bath had many hotels and boarding houses but ‘well to do’ visitors would stay at either the New Bath Hotel, Temple Hotel or Hodkinson’s Hotel. 

The three hotels had the same tariff and  in 1819 they charged  5s a week for a bed chamber, 14s to a guinea for a private parlour and bathing was 6d a time.  Each hotel would have also provided post-chaises and horses for excursions to local beauty spots. 

 Dr. Granville writing in ‘The Spas of England’ in 1841 considered the New Bath Hotel the best of the three with the decorated ball room being its main attraction.  Benjamin Bryan in his 1903 book ‘History of Matlock’ describes the hotel as being ‘finely placed, has been thoroughly modernised, is luxuriously finished, and admirably managed’.