Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An object's story is revealed!

The displays at the new Wakefield Museum will showcase some unexpected new discoveries from the Museum Store, as well as better known iconic objects such as the cayman that naturalist Charles Waterton captured in South America and Wakefield’s Anglo Saxon cross.

Plain-looking wooden box
One new discovery is a plain wooden box which has been in the collections since the 1970s, but may never have been on display. Its significance was only recognised last year when a furniture specialist, Adam Bowett, was brought in to assess the furniture in the museum collections. 
The box looks unassuming inside too...

A hidden drawer is found!
Inside the box a handwritten document was found explaining that the box was made to hold the papers of a Society of Wakefield Cabinet Makers newly formed in 1790. The purpose of the Society was to regulate the prices paid to cabinet makers for each piece of furniture, to stop the poor economic situation driving down their wages.  

Document found inside hidden compartment which sheds new light on Wakefield's trade.

The existence of the Society was previously totally unknown and adds Wakefield to only one or two other towns where cabinet makers joined together this early to protect their livelihood. Cabinet makers in Leeds published a printed book with the costs for making different pieces of furniture: no similar book seems to have survived in Wakefield although the handwritten text suggests a Wakefield price book was printed.

"this Society was made on purpose
to regulate Cabenet prises
so a Book was printed at Time
Liveing was then very deear
Corn was 23 shillings a Loade
and Beef at 7 pens a pound"

An article about the box has recently been published in the journal Regional Furniture.

The discovery highlighted how little was known about cabinet makers in Wakefield in the late 18th century. Stimulated by the discovery of the box, local historian Lesley Taylor has done original research on the subject and found that Wakefield almost rivalled Leeds in the size of the trade locally. The results of her work will be published shortly in the next journal of the Wakefield Historical Society.

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