Wolverhampton has a large collection of locally-made decorative metalware and papier-mache that reflects it’s rich heritage in the metal industries and is a testament to the skills of local craftsmen and women.
Japanning refers to the thick application of varnish which was a technique developed to imitate more expensive imports of oriental lacquer ware. Wolverhampton was a major centre of the English japanning industry and the collection includes over (800??) examples of 18th and 19th century decorative papier-mache and tinware. The production period spanned from the 1760s when a factory was established at the Old Hall works, right up to the 1920s when Henry Loveridge’s Merridale works finally ceased production.
Cut steel was a popular material for making jewellery, primarily in the Midlands towns, from the mid 18th century. Wolverhampton steel workers, who had been making “toys” and buckles, found that their skills and equipment easily transferred to the production of fine jewellery. Intricate designs were shaped from soft steel and traditional jewellery cutting techniques were used to fashion gem-like steel studs. The studs were riveted onto a base plate and then polished to produce a finish that is often mistaken for marcasite.
Wolverhampton is fortunate to possess one of the finest collections of English painted enamels, the majority of which were locally made. The collection has grown in three major stages. From 1929 – 1934 Mrs Kate Bantock presented almost a hundred enamels to the collection. In 1937 Gerald Mander gave financial support to purchase the Egan Mew Collection – Mew was one of the first serious collectors of English enamels. In 1966 following a local government re-organisation Bilston Museum and Art Gallery joined with Wolverhampton Arts and Museums service and a number of enamels collected by the Curator, L.E.Taylor, were added to the collection.
This fine collection is comprised of largely 19th Century Japanese and Chinese decorative objects along with a small range of decorative and everyday objects collected in India and the Middle East. The Japanese collection is particularly strong, with fine examples of intricately detailed swords and swords furniture, carved ivory netsuke and beautiful lacquered inro.