Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tunbridge Ware

Tunbridge Ware refers to a process of inlaid wood decoration developed and made popular in the town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. Although the process was developed earlier, Tunbridge Ware was most popular in the 19th century Victorian period.

The most famous makers of Tunbridge Ware were family owned businesses: Wise Family; Burrows Family; Fenner; Nye; Barton; Hollamby; Boyce, Brown & Kemp; and Tunbridge Wells Manufacturing Company.

The most popular item to be produced in this fashion was the box; e.g., tea, snuff, stamps, gloves, handkerchiefs, matches, among others. Many of the geometric patterned boxes are from the earlier part of the century while floral patterns were adapted later on.
(Sources: and

The following images are courtesy of Armherst Antiques.

Image 1 shows a dressing case with a view of Windsor Castle by George Wise, circa 1840

Image 1

Image 2 shows a writing slope/lap desk with a view of Battle Abbey Gatehouse by Henry Hollamby, circa 1870.

Image 2

DID YOU KNOW that the then young Princess (later Queen) Victoria was a frequent visitor to the town of Tunbridge Wells and used to buy articles of Tunbridge ware as gifts for her family? As gratitude to her, the town's people presented her with a specially made example: a kingwood work table (see image 3 below, courtesy of the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery (

According to the Museum, the principal manufacturers of the time had to draw lots for the privilege of making the table.

Image 3