Friday, 31 May 2013


I found the remains of a hairbrush a few months ago, almost didn't pick it up. It took me back to another word - the London cottage industry of brush drawing - which sounds more romantic than it evidently was. 
Homeworking brush drawer East End London 19th C (Society of Brushmaker Decendents) . 

Holes were drilled into the brush back and wire or string was looped through the holes. Bunches of bristles were pushed through each loop by hand and were folded and pulled back into the hole as the twine was pulled from behind. Apparently it could take a whole day to draw a brush in this way. 

You can still see the twine sewn into the ridges at the back. On the reverse loops are just visible, nestling in each hole. The brush would have been finished with a back which was either stuck on with fish glue, the posher ones were screwed on. No screw holes in this one, so the commoner type I think. I can't work out if it's made of bone, horn or wood. Lovely comfy indentations for your thumb and forefinger, it would have been a rather cute hairbrush, I suspect from the 19th century.
Drilling holes in the brush backs (
As well as homeworkers the still in business GB Kent made their brushes in London from 1777, mainly employing women. An early visitor to their original factory observed 'bristles from Russia, Serbia, China and India; badger hair from Germany and the Balkans; whalebone from the Antarctic; fibres from Mexico, Brazil and Africa; beech, cherry, birch and sycamore from the English countryside and tropical timbers, ebony and satinwood from the forests of Ceylon, the West Indies, South America and Indonesia' (Executive Shaving Company) 

All of which I imagine would have arrived via the Thames.
The Rhinebeck Panorama of London c. 1807

1 comment:

  1. Ohhh... lovely. I adore items like this that have such a strong and tangible connection with the persons who made it and used it. Wonderful.
    Keep up the excellent blogging.
    Shane x