Saturday, 19 January 2013

Guest Post - It's a bit nippy!

In my previous post i showed you what my other half found as a result of a house clearance. Today he is doing a guest post on what he found this morning.

I woke up this morning with a banging headache, after a night of restless sleeping. Possibly dreaming about all the goodies I was looking at on EBay and Arthur Johnson and sons the previous night.
I decided to go for a walk and investigate the local charity shops which i frequent in West Bridgford. There is never much in the way of hidden treasures, but from time to time you can pick up some bits. This morning I felt that there was something to be found, maybe something in the air that all this snow bought in, who knows? 

Off I went, the streets were empty. Everyone still tucked up in bed nice and warm. The first shop was full of new bits, but nothing much of interest. Then I spied the horns of a teak antelope sticking out, checked the price £1.50 SOLD!!!

The next few shops had the normal charity shop stock, so it was a quick in and out. The final shop was empty too, and then I noticed something sticking out the top of an Ikea vase. It was a lobster claw……this attracted my attention. I lifted it out and to my surprise a letter opener!! 

I looked more closely and saw the makers name on the metal mount. Rowland Ward & Co Naturalists 166. Piccadilly. W. This got me excited, it looked old and just felt right. Priced at £2.00 it was a no brainer. Quick sale and I was out of the shop before anyone could change their mind on price. 

Once outside a quick check on my phone confirmed my suspicions. For extra confirmation I nipped up the road to West Bridgford Antiques to speak to my friend Andy. He couldn’t believe what I had just got from the charity shop, “why don’t I ever find anything up there” he said. He gave me some indication to what he thought It could be worth, which excited me even more. He thinks the white metal mount would be silver and that the letter opener part is definitely ivory.  I headed home gripping on to my finds, praying I wouldn’t slip on the ice and ruin my hard work.

I came home to do some real research, Rowland Ward was a British taxidermist and founder of the taxidermy firm Rowland Ward Ltd. of Piccadilly. 

The company specialized in, and was renowned for, their work on big game trophies, but their output covered all aspects of taxidermy. Rowland Ward was trained by his father Henry, himself a very well-known taxidermist in his day.

He started work on his own around 1872 in premises on Harley Street trading as 'J Rowland Ward'. He moved to 158 Piccadilly after a few years, at which time his business became known as 'Ward & Co. Ltd'.

In 1879 he moved his studios from 158 Piccadilly to larger premises at number 166. These tie in with the date on the letter opener.

He is quoted in saying “My ambition was to begin at that point in taxidermy where the old-school had left off. Instead of merely stuffing the skins of animals with quite a secondary regard to shape, I determined to study nature and adapt it, in connection with modelling, to the taxidermists' art."

Rowland Ward was in the habit of claiming to have invented practically everything with which he was in any way connected. One invention was what he called 'Wardian furniture', this being the transformation of animals, or parts of animals, into useful or ornamental everyday articles. This is obviously when the letter opener began its life. 

He had some very peculiar tastes and obviously this is what people were looking for at the time. Some of his creations included giant Indian Tortoises with hollowed out backs as musical boxes, Alligators with hollowed out stomachs standing erect on their hind legs as cigar boxes, Tigers skulls as bedroom lamps, Emu egg sugar basins and Stag antler cutlery. 

This appetite for Curiosities had a big following for the wealthy in times gone by, which has started to have a big resurgence recently. I know of young people who are learning to do their own taxidermy at home. Finding old originals are few and far between. If you are lucky enough to find some they will undoubtedly command a hefty price tag. Also the sale of such items does come with a few rules. One of which is ivory items produced post 1947 cannot be bought and sold for obvious reasons. Items produced before this is fine. My letter opener is from around the start of the 20th Century possibly late 19th Century so is fine to buy and sell. 

So what do you think of my other half's first blog post, want to see more?  I love how finding things brings on research and learning about new things.

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