Antiques Column with Michael Dowse
This summer, as part of our summer break my wife and I plan to travel the highways and byways of Scotland, with the top of my extended mid-life crisis sports car tucked away in the boot and our hair (well at least my wife’s) blowing in the wind.
One of the towns I am keen to visit on this exciting drive through Scottish history is Mauchline.
Mauchline is a town in East Ayrshire in Scotland which became famous in the 1800s for the production of box-ware, now commonly referred to as Mauchlineware.
Mauchlineware was souvenir ware made from sycamore trees. This Scottish souvenir wood ware was exported all over the world from Europe to Australia and America.
The success really came from the trend in the late 18th century for snuff-taking.
Snuff boxes had been gold and silver, tortoiseshell and papier-mâché but the wooden ones failed to keep the tobacco fresh. This was all to change when James Sandy perfected the integral wooden hinge making wooden snuff boxes airtight and so began a new industry in handmade wooden boxes.
All manner of small and later large items were made in Mauchlineware from cigar cases, bookmarks and pin cushions to vases, jewellery boxes and other household objects. An incredible range of boxes including the aforementioned snuff boxes were produced in every shape and size one could wish for.
Designs were transfer printed and then varnished; some receiving up to 26 layers of varnish and the pictures transferred were popular landscape scenes, famous landmarks and attractions from across the world. Mauchlineware was specifically aimed at the tourist market, both domestic now the British people were travelling further by rail, but also with the export market in mind.