Friday, 18 January 2013

Blacking Pots 19th Century

Took me a little while to find out what this small salt glazed stoneware vessel was.Tapping stoneware drinking or  goblet into google failed to  flash up a twin. It was 'ink' that did it. The excellent Museum of London seems the only site to give this little object its voice and they have done it so brilliantly I can't do better than quote their account 


Mudlarking Find: Blacking Pot

Blacking Pot 1835-1895 (Museum of London) 

' Such pots traditionally contained blacking paste. Blacking ink was widely used in the 19th century for the cleaning and polishing of boots and shoes, floors and doorsteps. The most famous and successful blacking factory in London was Robert Warren's located at 30, the Strand. In the 1830s Warrens' was selling blacking liquid in bottles and blacking paste in pots of three different sizes, priced 6d, 12d and 18d each 'in every town in the Klngdon'. Many firms were set up as rivals to Warren's, attempting to cash in on the success and emulate the 'secret' recipe of the firm. One of these was run by James Lambert at Hungerford Stair who employed the 12 year old Charles Dickens to work in the factory. Dickens never recovered from the humiliation of having been sent to work in the factory due to his father's financial problems. He described his work as 'to cover the pots of paste-blacking;first with a piece of oil paper, and then with a piece of blue paper;to tie them round with a string' and then to clip the paper close and neat, all round, until it looked as smart as a pot of ointment from an apothecary's shop. When a certain number of grosses of pots had attained this pitch of perfection, I was to past on each a printed label; and then go on again with more pots'. (Museum of London)
A Midshipman Blackening his boots 1825 (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London)

7 comments:

  1. Good morning! I followed you from my Pinterest board to yours, and then here. I am really enjoying your blog. I am your American counterpart, searching the beaches and my own backyard for the bits and pieces of times past. It's a personal goal to pick through Thames mud...someday, someday! Best wishes and keep blogging--I am living vicariously through you! --Amy

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  2. I can't believe the Museum of London can get things so wrong. Warren's Blacking was first established by Jonathan Warren, who was copied by his brother Thomas. When Thomas died his business was taken over by his son Robert who went on to be more successful than his rival uncle Jonathan. Jonathan Warren eventually sold his business in 1822 to William Edward Woodd, who employed George Lamerte (not James Lambert) to help him run the business. George Lamerte was a cousin by marriage to Charles Dickens and took him into the factory at the age of 11 (not 12) in 1823, working for a time at Hungerford Stairs and then at Chandos Street in Covent Garden.
    All of this is available in my book "Charles Dickens and the blacking factory" (see Amazon), and the Museum of London should know better than giving out bad information. My book also has illustrations of blacking bottles and advertising. It's all fascinating stuff.

    Michael Allen

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  3. i have just found a warrens liquid blacking jar in our back garden as we are having foundations dug for an extension. we believe it dates to around 1810 as it is from 14 st martins lane charring croff. any idea of how much it,s worth or where i can get it valued? the builders also found 3 other pots but they have no markings on them. i think they could be even earlier. lindsey, christchurch dorset

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    1. Sorry I haven't a clue how much they would be worth, I suspect very little, perhaps revel in the history rather than the money. Julia.

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    2. Lindsey - I collect Warren Blacking jars and am also in the throws of writing a book about all the different kinds of blacking bottles and their origins - send me a photo of your bottle to markpotten@hotmail.com and I'll help you out ....
      Mark, Somerset

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  4. Lindsey - I collect Warren Blacking jars and am also in the throws of writing a book about all the different kinds of blacking bottles and their origins - send me a photo of your bottle to markpotten@hotmail.com and I'll help you out ....
    Mark, Somerset

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  5. If anyone has a Warren Blacking pot or jar for sale, I'd be interested in purchasing it. I'm an American collector of Charles Dickens and would love to have one in my library. My email is mrn145@gmail.com

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