Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery - December 2015

Windsor Castle by way of Tunbridge Ware

Tunbridge Ware

December’s Object of the Month has been chosen by a primary school pupil. Isabel, 7, chose a piece from the Tunbridge Ware Gallery. The Tunbridge Ware picture, dating around 1830, depicts a panel with a view of Windsor Castle in irregular mosaic. In the nineteenth century, Tunbridge Ware was highly esteemed nationally as well as locally.

Visitors to Tunbridge Wells in earlier times would have had no difficulty in finding souvenirs to take home for friends and relatives. Today’s visitors to Tunbridge Wells will probably have to purchase Tunbridge Ware from an antique shop as none have been made on a commercial basis since 1939. Modern revival pieces by individual craftsmen do exist but are not widely available.

Traditionally, it was first made as a side line by woodworkers in nearby communities like Tonbridge and Speldhurst to be sold to visitors to the Wells; but some believe the earliest ware was bought in London. To produce mosaic veneers, patterns were worked out on squared paper in colour or copied direct from Berlin wool-work designs. To assist the band maker who assembled the blocks, the design was then either transposed on to an enlarged chart on which each square was assigned its wood (indicated by an initial or code letter) or instructions were written out listing the woods to be used line by line.

Isabel, who likes history and visiting old places, chose a picture which was created by a Mr Wise c.1830. The auction catalogue entry associated with this item reads “…135 view of Windsor Castle in Tunbridge Ware made by the late Mr. Wise in 1830.” Isabel clearly has an eye for quality as the catalogue entry goes on to say “the companion piece was purchased by Her late majesty Queen Victoria (then Princess Victoria).” Isabel’s mum says that she loves to sing and dance around the house to pop music. So perhaps she is a bit of a princess herself!

Since the 2012 Olympics one of Isabel’s favourite places is London. She also loves Paddington Bear so has loved reading about his adventures in the city! Isabel says about her choice: “I chose the picture of Windsor castle because it is famous for being one of the Queen’s houses. I have also seen it with my very own eyes, up close. The castle is near where the Magna Carter was signed 800 years ago. It was made by Mr Wise and bought by Queen Victoria – when she was still a princess.”

Want to receive the Object of the Month article directly?

Subscribe to our General Mailing List and receive the article straight to your inbox each month as it comes out, submit your email address here: