As part of our continued ‘colonial tinsmith’ research, I found a delightful blog full of a designer’s collection of ‘inventive repairs’. It seems folk of that era did one of two things; they destroyed anything cracked or broken or carried out inventive repair of same. At ‘Woodbury’ in the southern midlands of Tasmania, friends have been reconstructing a c.1824 house and outbuildings of historic significance. It seems that everything chipped, cracked or outright broken was dumped in a ditch not far from the kitchen. Linda Cooper has retrieved thousands of shards, some pieces almost fully complete from this crockery burial mound. It seems in this household, the orders were to destroy anything not up to scratch. While in our c.1843 shop and residence, 11 kms north we find the exact opposite; every item there has been repaired rather than replaced.
This jug remains useable despite multiple breaks, made new with the tinkers magic of scored and folded tin sheet and solder.
This plate is part of the remnant group from a service originally owned by an early Brisbane pastoralist – A. H. Wittingham. As a teenager I worked on the weekends for the antique dealer Harcourt Howard of Clayfield who had a shop in the old Albion telephone exchange. He would make a trip to “Mayfield”, on Windermere Road, Hamilton every second saturday and enter by the left hand side of the laundry. There, at the end of the long scrubbed pine table would be the goods on offer and a purse. Mrs Wittingham (and her maid) had by this time outlived her husband by nearly 30 years. He left the house to the Melbourne Grammar school upon his wife’s decease but made no arrangements for the ladies survival in the interim. Each fortnight the phone call would come from the maid, Harcourt would arrive by taxi the following morning early, let himself onto the property and always leave the same amount in the purse – he never set eyes on the ladies. He was never able to negotiate the price on the goods, from my memory, it was the early 1960’s he left 22/- (enough for a large side of brisket, butter bread jam for the ladies to live on). He would arrive back at the shop where I had opened up and stacked the ‘leg-openers’ outside and had the billy on the boil. Some times he would come back with absolute crap, sometimes there would be a painting by Stark, once a Landseer, a Chromo or a Baxter print, on many occasions just a simple bobbin. I remember the day that one piece of blue & white had appeared and sparked his attention, further pieces would be left out but just one at a time . . . 17 in all. The only piece with a mark was the last to appear, the base of a large oval butter dish stamped in two rows of long capitals – CHAMBERLAINS WORCESTER – c.1847.
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