A forthcoming Tunbridge Ware exhibition will feature a small portable antique desk decorated with a scene from North Yorkshire; which is a mystery, as practically all the Tunbridge Ware views ever produced depict scenes from Sussex and Kent.
Tunbridge Ware was a particularly detailed form of marquetry, or inlaid woodwork, in which miniscule slivers of different coloured woods were arranged in mosaic fashion to create a decorative picture. A uniquely time and labour-intensive craft even by marquetry standards, it flourished in the Kentish towns of Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells during the 18th and 19th centuries. While it is most common in smaller items such as antique desk accessories and boxes, it was also used on larger items such as antique dining tables . In 1826, the young Princess Victoria was presented with a lavish marquetry table when she visited Tonbridge Wells, while the 1851 Great Exhibition featured several pieces of inlaid Tunbridge Ware furniture by craftsmen like Edmund Nye.
One of the best collections is at the Tunbridge Wells Museum, which has several examples of locally made antique marquetry furniture , including a gaming table and writing slope. Writing slopes were a form of portable antique desk and an unusual example can be seen at a Tunbridge Ware exhibition in Edenbridge, Kent, from 6th – 20th October. It is unusual in that, while the rest of the exhibits depict local scenes as was the norm, this one shows a view of Gisborough Priory, North Yorkshire. The question which has plagued experts ever since is – why?
You don’t have to travel to Kent to find quality antique marquetry furniture. Head to an established antique dealer in Lancashire for a broad selection.
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