Bilston Decorative Boxes
Fellows' forthcoming sale of Antiques & Fine Art on Monday 2nd April will feature a single-owner collection of 'Bilston' enamel boxes, with strong links to local industries of the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the period 1760-1800 these miniature boxes were produced using powdered coloured glass which, when painted onto copper and fused by firing, created scenes of remarkable beauty. It is thought that the upsurge in quality manufacture of these boxes in the Bilston area was triggered by the closure of the Battersea factory in 1756, when talented workers may have relocated.
Rather than being mass-manufactured at a single location, enamel production was very much a ‘cottage industry’, with women forming a crucial part of the workforce, something unusual for the time.
Amongst the examples to feature in this collection are a nutmeg grater and a vinaigrette, both of decorated egg design, and a cowrie shell with a rare enamelled lid. There are also the more-typical oval boxes, some of which feature a mirror beneath the lid used for applying beauty spots or ‘patches’, thus earning them the title ‘patch boxes’.