Thursday, 23 February 2012

Baden-Powell Asante chest, London

Daniel Scott-Davies, Archive and Heritage Manager of the Scout Association, has kindly sent through some details of the Asante chest in the Baden Powell collection, to compare with the one on loan to Leeds by the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment of Yorkshire. The Baden-Powell collection chest has very similar chased and beaten motifs visible on its dark brown copper alloy lid, including birds, circles and possibly elephants.

Two bronze or copper alloy loops for attaching locks can be seen on this photograph of the front, where the designs continue. The base seems to project out from the sides at the bottom, and the biggest surprise, evident from the third photograph of the chest when open

is that this chest does not appear to have any wooden European chest core. The underside of the beaten metal work shows clearly on the inside of the lid, and the back.  The description of this chest in the Baden-Powell records is:

"A King’s coffin of an Ashanti Chief made out of brass, 1ft x 1ft x 2ft. Accompanied by a note in Baden-Powell’s own hand about the coffin and burial of an Ashanti King. When the King died the body would have been set out on an ant hill to have the bones picked clean. They would then have been broken up and gilded with the gold he had acquired in his lifetime. Any surplus would have been placed in the coffin and then placed on a mound in the Kings House".

Baden Powell's description of the use of the chest is framed and stored separately. Like the Yorkshire regiment chest this coffin was acquired empty in 1896, as Baden-Powell also took part in the fourth Anglo-Asante war.

Hopefully we can examine the Baden-Powell chest in more detail later this year, and then make a full comparison between it, the one shown in Leeds, and the one in the British Museum.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A conversation with Malcolm McLeod on the Asante chest on loan to Leeds from the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (LEEDM.F.L.1984.1.1 )

This chest is currently on show in the World View – Out of Africa gallery at Leeds City Museum. Malcolm McLeod (author of The Asante, published by the British Museum  in 1981) visited recently and we had a detailed conversation on its construction, use and the many designs on its surface. The chest measures 990mm long by 507mm wide by 330mm tall, and is covered in copper sheeting with beaten and chased designs. The sheeting is held down by copper pins, rather than the staples Malcom has seen on other vessels. This chest is one of three similar Asante chests in the UK, the others being at the British Museum, and at the Baden Powell House in London. The interior of this wooden European made chest is lined with printed cotton. It is on loan to Leeds from the Yorkshire regiment who took part in the 1895-1896 Anglo-Asante war, and escorted King Prempeh to exile from Kumasi to the coast. As far as we know the chest was already empty when the officers of the regiment acquired it.

These chests may have been used to store gold dust (in gold dust storage boxes or Kuduo), gold ornaments or covered weapons etc, or they may have been used as mortuary chests, for holding the bones of deceased chiefs or royalty, and some of their personal gold ornaments and regalia. Next time the case is opened it would be important to see if there are any stains or traces inside which would indicate what European or UK items might have been transported to the Asante inside. In the 19th century the wealthy Asante were very fond of champagne, and Dutch gin. Are there any traces of alcohol? Are the chest’s internal dimensions appropriate for storing champagne bottles, maybe correct for a full case of champagne (12 bottles)? The Asante also imported lots of ammunition, and a range of fire arms. However,  gun boxes are usually longer and slightly lower, and ammo boxes generally much smaller because of the weight. The other favourite import was tobacco, usually imported in long dark strips soaked in molasses. So next time we look inside we should check for alcohol, oil from guns or ammunition, or tobacco fragments. Reading through the object file the next day reminded me that the chest was cleaned by Doncaster Museums and Arts Conservation service in 1985, when it’s hinges were strengthened and the interior hoovered. Doncaster does not mention interior stains on their report.

Malcolm suggested we do a detailed comparison between this chest and the British Museum and Baden Powell ones. We can begin this process by publishing a series of photographs here.
This detail of the centre of the lid shows men, chain patterns- and 'soul washer discs' (see Suzanne P Blier, Royal Arts of Africa 1999, caption to illustration 128 on page 155, talking about the British Museum chest).  
Further to the right on the lid are birds, most probably hens according to Malcolm, and very stylised elephants.
On the back are padlocks in seried rows.
The front right has more men, and turtles or lizards.
The sides are also covered (this is the left side). But the underside has only plain metal strips, looking more of a brassy copper alloy. 

By Antonia Lovelace, Curator of World Cultures at Leeds, and Malcolm McLeod, after a conversation on 8 February 2012

Monday, 20 February 2012

South Asian Jewellery

The Changing Times of Gold Jewellery and Fashion in South Asian Culture
A personal comment from Ameena currently an intern on the ‘Voices of Asia’ project at Leeds Museum and Galleries.

In South Asian culture it is customary for the bride to receive gold jewellery in her dowry, as it gives them a ‘measure of economic independence’ and represents their status among the Asian Community. However, jewellery represents much more than this especially to South Asian women. To my mother it was more of a sentimental notion; it deepened the bond between mother and daughter. As on the onset of her wedding, her mother gave her a 24 carat gold set with a deep red, brown carnelian heart shaped stone and gold cutwork around the outer part of the stone. The ring also has a red carnelian stone but is circular and has the same cutwork detailing on the outer part.
This set is extremely valuable to my mother not just because it is gold but because of the sentimental value. My grandmother had bought the stone in Saudi Arabia whilst on a religious pilgrimage in 1985 and later, on her arrival in England had the stone set in gold by Asian jewellers on Whetley Hill, Bradford. This set was then given to my mother on the day of her wedding.  The stone, the design was carefully chosen, the heart shaped locket illustrated the strong relationship between mother and daughter and although my mother was leaving her family to be married it showed that the connection with her own family would still be there through this gold set. In later years, my grandmother set the same stone in gold for herself this further suggests that the stone symbolised the relationship between my mother and grandmother.

In Islamic tradition much of the jewellery has a precious stone in it, for example in this gold set it is red carnelian but also turquoise, amethyst, and sapphires are very popular in Saudi Arabia. As according to Muslim belief, stones possess mystic properties and therefore have often been used to inscribe astrological religious or magical inscription on the surface of the stone. Therefore, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) stamped his foreign letters with a personal seal using a seal ring made out of carnelian stone. Furthermore, the red carnelian is also referred to as the ‘Medina Stone’ and to many South Asians it is known as Aqeeq.  
Precious stones are used in the elaborate jewellery of the Mughals, their jewellery was a blend of Islamic, Persian and Hindu influences and more importantly their era changed the design and trends of jewellery in South Asia. For many South Asians today jewellery is seen as a form of insurance and the Mughal’s used their gems as a form of portable wealth. It was used during ‘military campaigns’ as well as bargaining chip with other foreign countries.  My mother’s gold jewellery is influenced by the styles and design of the Mughal period, for instance the deep intense bold carnelian stone, as the Mughal’s adored different bold stones such as emerald and ruby in their jewellery. Also, the heart shaped design is very similar to the yellow heart shaped diamond locket that was given to Mumtaz Mahal by Shah Jahan the Mughal Emperor.
This set was remodelled in 2007 when my mother thought it had become a bit outdated. The earrings are no longer dangly and the style of filigree mount has also been changed. The gold set was changed in Pakistan because the jeweller was a part of my families extended network as my mother quotes ‘he is the only jeweller we can trust to give us the same amount of gold and that the purity of the gold will stay the same.’ There are strong kinship networks amongst the South Asian community in both Pakistan and England.  For example my grandmother went to this jeweller and then later my mother and aunty. Traditional gold jewellery sets like this one binds families together as well as illustrate the strong ties to their native country.
 The price of gold has soared over the years and it has become difficult for many people to buy gold. Furthermore, many newer designs contain more beaded work rather than being just gold.
These earrings were given to Leeds Museums and Galleries by Mr Abad Ali and were made in 1975. This design is known as Karanphul jumkha, made of gold wire and is 22 carat gold. The upper part of the earring is in shape of a five petal flower (phul) with pink glass set in the centre. The lower part is a semicircular dome form known as jumkha which means a bunch of flowers. The pendant fringe at the bottom of the dome is known as jhumna. This is a classical Mughal design which is often interpreted in a variety of styles. The beauty, fragrance and attractiveness of a flower in jewellery represent romance in South Asian culture which is similar to the symbolism of the heart shaped stone in my mothers’ gold set.  To South Asian women, jewellery reflects their identity and connects them to their native country. As the design of the earrings and my mothers’ set have been influenced by the Mughal period and South Asian culture.
From the 1950s following the influx of South Asians in Britain, jewellery designs developed further, mixing both eastern and western culture.  For instance, at an Asian wedding now, many brides tend to wear more artificial jewellery rather than traditional gold as shown in Asiana magazine.  This is because of a number of reasons, one being the artificial jewellery is more affordable, it can be matched with any outfit and therefore can be wore again. Times have changed; there is a more of contemporary, practical take on traditional styles gold of jewellery, thus creating a new style of jewellery.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Snuffing out crime in Leeds

With the generous help of The Friends of Leeds City Museums, we have recently purchased a silver snuff box. We already have several in the museum collection, but this one stood out – not for its decorative qualities – but because it was owned by J. Hainsworth.

Hainsworth was a police inspector in Leeds, having been appointed by the Watch Committee. He is referred to in Leeds trade directories relating to 1837, 1839, 1842 and 1843. To the modern citizen, this is nothing new or exciting – we have police all over the city. The difference with Hainsworth and his contemporaries is that they were the original police. The Leeds City Police force was first formed in 1836, with as few as 20 day officers and a chief constable. The force disappeared in 1974, when it underwent a merger to become part of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police.

By 1841, the Leeds City Police had reached 133 officers. The book ‘The Leeds Police 1836-1974’, lists for 1841 “the arms, accoutrements, clothing and other necessaries for the Day Police”:
“1 Constable’s staff, 1 pair of handcuffs, 1 walking stick (note, this is paid for by the Constable himself), 1 dark blue top coat, 1 blue dress coat or body coat, 1 black stock or collar and clasp, 1 box of Crumb’s yellow, 1 button brush, 1 oil cape case, 2 pairs of shoes per annum, 1 pair of blue pantaloons, 2 pairs of white drill pantaloons, 1 hat, 1 armlet to denote when on duty (note: the armlet is not worn by the Inspector but only by the Sergeants and Policemen), 1 printed book on instructions, 1 leather waist belt, 1 pair of white cotton gloves, 1 button stick”

Most items on the list are familiar, but others such as Crumb’s yellow are more of a mystery. We have not found out exactly what it is, but are leaning towards a cleaning substance as it is listed next to the button brush. There were also 40 cutlasses available if needed, but these were more for appearances than everyday use.

A 1974 postcard from when the Leeds City Police were merged with other forces.  It represents a policeman from the period 1836-1860.

The sorts of incidents dealt with by Hainsworth have been recorded in the local press. Not every crime was recorded in this way, but the occasional report appears in the Leeds Mercury or other local papers from the time. For example, this piece, taken from the Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, April 27th 1839, goes under the heading of Sunday gambling:

Three young men were brought up at the Court House, on Monday, charged by the churchwardens of the parish with having been found gambling on the previous day, in a lane in Burmantofts. Inspector Hainsworth stated that one of them, on his approach, drew a knife from his pocket, with which he threatened to stab any one who should lay hands on him. They were reprimanded by the Bench, and liberated on entering into their own recognizances for their good behaviour for six months.”
Whilst there are undoubtedly familiar aspects to this statement, there are some obvious differences. Nowadays, football matches are just one of the many organised sports played on Sundays, with people being able to bet as they are any other day of the week, and I doubt that any criminal would be let off on a good behaviour bond for threatening a modern police officer with a knife.

As well as small incidents like the one above, there were far more serious issues that Hainsworth and his colleagues would have had to deal with – for instance in August 1842, they had to deal with the Holbeck and Hunslet Chartist Riots. Around 1,600 special constables were sworn in to assist the regular police, alongside soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment and 17th Lancers and even horse artillery. They had to contend with a mob travelling from one mill to the next, where violent disturbances quickly followed.

Events came to a head when Chief Constable Read managed to beat most of the mob to a mill on Dewsbury Road, and locked a few inside the mill whilst ensuring the others could not get in. A large number of the special constables then caught up with the mob where the Riot Act was read, the crowd told to disperse and 38 people were arrested. Sentences for those convicted ranged from being bound over to keep the peace, to being deported for several years.

An example of a police sword from the museum collection - probably a little after Joseph Hainsworth's time as it was used in the 1889 Gas Riots.

Overall, some aspects of modern policing would be unrecognisable to their predecessors such as Hainsworth, but in some ways the challenge remains the same – maintaining law and order and keeping the people of Leeds safe and riot free.

Written by Nicola, researched by our placement student Hollie Scott from Leeds Trinity University College.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ellen Terry centre stage again in Leeds

Ellen Terry as Portia (Merchant of Venice),
sketched by Jim Dodgson (Kester),
a member of the Leeds Savage Club.
This was probably during her 1902 tour.
 The renowned Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928) visited Leeds many times during her career and performed with her stage partner Henry Irving at the Leeds Grand Theatre on many occasions.

We have a number of items in the Leeds museum and gallery collections relating to this great actress and they feature in the new "Performance" exhibition now open at Abbey House Museum (until December 2012).  The display includes a beautiful cream silk dress which was reputedly designed for Ellen Terry and was worn by the actress K.L. Langstaffe when playing Desdemona in 1898.  It was originally made by a top London dressmaker, Alice Mason of 4 New Burlington St. and has been lovingly conserved by Jacqueline Hyman of Heritage Science Services (   Jacqueline says that she felt a personal connection to the dress as she was working on it because her great-grandfather had owned a theatre in Leeds and actually knew Ellen Terry, naming Jacqueline's grandmother Ellen in her honour.

Textile conservator Jacqueline Hyman
making final adjustments to the Ellen Terry
dress for display at Abbey House.

Leeds Grand Theatre, New Briggate, Sept. 8th 1881,
Henry Irving and Ellen Terry's performance of "Hamlet"

Medallion of Ellen Terry, 1936 (plaster)
by Albert Toft (1862-1949)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Miss Bradley's tea set - a tale of factory work and marriage

Trawling through the industrial collection's accession registers this morning, I have managed to unearth the hidden story behind one of the many unprovenanced decorative Victorian tea services we have in our stores.

The story highlights the fact that although women and girls may have formed a good percentage of the workforce in many industrial mills and factories, they were not supposed to continue to work once they married.

Miss Emma Bradley (the donor's grandmother) worked for John Barran & Son Ltd. as a tailor and machinist until her marriage.  It was the practice of the firm to retire female workers when they married and this tea set was the firm's gift on this compulsory retirement.

John Barran was a pioneer in the manufacture of ready-to-wear clothing.  He started of as a traditional tailor in 1842 but soon expanded his business on an industrial scale, taking advantage of new technology such as the sewing machine.  In 1856 he had a factory with 20-30 sewing machine and in 1858 he introduced the use of a bandsaw to cut cloth.  By the 1870s he had 2,000 machines and by 1904 he employed 3,000 people.

Wool cuttling machine for folding cloth from John Barran & Sons Ltd,
on display at Leeds Industrial Museum (Armley Mills)

Female Learners Certificate of Employment
 issued by John Barran & Sons Limited, Leeds
to Amy Evelyn Brown in 1912. 
On display in The Leeds Story, Leeds City Museum