The Makers Series: John Speed

The Makers Series: John Speed

One of the finest cartographers and historians of the Elizabethan era, John Speed’s work influenced generations and helped unite our disparate regions by establishing the notion of a British national identity. 

Although contemporary records are unclear, it is said that Speed was born in the village of Farndon, Cheshire in 1651 or 1652. It is thought that his mother died in childbirth or shortly after, since his father, also John Speed, is understood to have remarried by 1656.

The Makers Series: Satsuma Ware

Satsuma ware is a style of Japanese pottery that originated in Satsuma Province in the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands, Kyūshū. However, the roots of the trade stem from the feudal Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion of the Korean peninsula between 1592 and 1598.

Toyotomi enjoyed early success against the Korean armed forces and was able to capture several leading makers of the highly regarded Korean ceramics trade. These master potters were taken back to Japan where they essentially founded the ceramics industry in Kyūshū.

Terms of the Trade: Tantalus

A tantalus is a small cabinet designed for housing a set of cut-glass spirit decanters, usually constructed from exotic woods such as mahogany, walnut and coromandel. The cabinet’s most distinguishing characteristic is a locking mechanism, installed to protect one’s alcohol from the temptations of servants or younger members of the family.

Terms of the Trade: Quaich

This Thursday is Burns night when we celebrate the life of Scotland’s finest poet, Robert Burns. In honour of the legendary poet our subject this week is a staple part of any traditional Scottish celebration, the quaich.

Derived from the Gaelic word cuach, meaning a cup, a quaich is a shallow two handled drinking vessel, traditionally used for whisky or brandy. Given its Gaelic origins, it is hardly surprising that the first known use of the quaich was amongst the clans that inhabited the Highlands and Islands to the far north and west of Scotland.

The Makers Series: Benjamin Williams Leader

One of the most gifted and popular landscape artists of his era, Benjamin Williams Leader (1831-1923) made his reputation capturing a rural idyll rapidly disappearing amid the relentless onslaught of the industrial revolution.

Born in Worcester, Benjamin was the third of eleven children born to civil engineer Edward Leader Williams and his wife Sarah. A keen amateur artist and collector, Edward organised an exhibition of Modern British Art at the Worcester Atheneum in 1934, which would have a lasting impact on his young son. 

Terms of the Trade: Toleware

Tole or Toleware is a genre of painted or lacquered tin goods made popular throughout Europe and North America during the 18th century. The English term tole is taken directly from the French term tôle, which translates as sheet metal. The art of decorating toleware in French is known as tôle peinte, and is a term often used in the description of antique toleware items.

Terms of the Trade: Finial

Derived from the Latin word finis, meaning end, a finial is the name given to an ornamental decoration that sits atop a building, monument, or item of furniture. In western culture its classical use in architecture can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, although finials were also a common feature in East Asia adorning Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.