We have invested in numerous specialists including a fine art photographer, an antiquarian and a carver to help curate the collection. My mother also spent considerable sums on her researches, and throw in my man hours collating and writing it all up. Regrettably we are now having to charge for the fruits of all this labour.
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Rosslyn spent many years rootling through libraries and pinging letters off to Curators in an attempt to find more stunning boards, forgotten in collections across Britain and the US. The fruits of her research are being pulled together slowly here.
Decorative ‘bread-platters’ were hugely popular in Victorian times, firstly among the elite who commissioned custom-made items featuring their coats-of-arms and mottos.
By the 1860s, enterprising workshops were producing bread-platters more cheaply with standardised carving for the mass market. The production centre until the 1950s was Sheffield, with skilled turners, carvers and metalworkers collaborating to produce matching sets of tableware. Regrettably the last company selling English-made bread boards ceased production recently, but a small number of master-craftsmen are ensuring the skills are not forgotten.
But who it was that first had the idea to take a plain, multi-use chopping board and carve it attractively, then create specialised boards for bread, is, as far as the founder could discover, untraceable. The earliest reference found to ‘bread-platters’ by Rosslyn Neave appeared in the Art-Union of 1848, referring to William Gibbs Rogers’ business of providing stunning, personalised breadboards to the aristocracy since the 1830s. Whilst being recorded, we cannot assert that he was the innovator. The vast majority of human activity goes unrecorded, and even when it is, the date the information appears in print may bear no relation to the dates of the activity itself. So it is with breadboards. The evidence recorded here is fragmentary and was happened upon mostly by chance.
There will be more out there, so we heartily encourage the reader to get in touch with any relevant information they may hold which proves or disproves anything we write here. This is the first concerted effort to commit to print and image a diverse assemblage of scraps of information, pulled together by her daughter, who is neither researcher nor maker and who has little to commend her for the job except that she grew up among them, watching the collection accrete over years, wincing as Rosslyn haggled over price, freezing among the open-air stalls in mid-winter and hearing Rosslyn’s excitement about her research discoveries.
I say ‘we’. Because self-taught with lots of guidance is the only true qualification in Art, and the guidance comes from Mr Tom Samuel, an accomplished cabinetmaker and carver, and celebrated member of the Art’s Workers’ Guild. His all-round experience of designing the pieces, sharpening the tools, choosing the wood and carving the motifs makes him the most qualified and precious person to feed into this blog. And it is a total privilege to have access to his time, knowledge and artistic eye.
Tom at lunch among the research papers. Jan 2018
breadboard vintage carved Victorian wood wooden rustic home and colonial kitchenalia antique cutting chopping cottage interior design kitchen period decorative collecting woodworking woodcarving wood art wood sculpture woodcraft