This is the name given to an exclusively English form of wood mosaic, which was first made by local craftsmen in and around Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
Tunbridge Wells had become a fashionable place to take the waters early in the seventeenth century, and, as most people indulging in this healthy pastime were in effect on holiday in the town, with money to burn, local craftsmen soon began to take advantage and manufacture items made by this process, which is noted for the great variety of woods and colours used.
The most common items made were boxes in various shapes and for various purposes, but the Tunbridge technique was also used to decorate clocks and furniture.
It was in the early part of the nineteenth century that Tunbridge Ware came into its own with the invention in 1820 of the tessellated mosaic.
Thin strips of wood of different colours and grain were glued together and pressed down tightly in blocks. more...When the glue was dry, the blocks were cut across the strips (like carving a joint or slicing a loaf) to produce thin sheets of patterned wood, which were then applied as veneer to a great variety of objects, such as workboxes, candlesticks, writing boxes, jewel boxes, barometers, trays, and tea caddies.
Where the surface area permitted, the pieces often depicted popular tourist sites while smaller items could include geometric designs, flowers and animals.
As the decades went by, the craftsmen improved their techniques and used a wider range of woods and colourings, so that by the mid-nineteenth century Tunbridge ware had become one of the best-known forms of wood decoration. The scale on which pieces were made increased, and the result is that, while the skill remained an intricate one, a multitude of articles was turned out.
It is said that the young Princess Victoria purchased Tunbridge ware items for family gifts, and three Tunbridge ware manufacturers exhibited their wares at the Geat Exhibtion held at Crystal Palace in 1851.
One of the last firms making Tunbridge ware was Boyce, Brown and Kemp whose craftsmen were still producing articles after the First World War.
A fine Victorian Tunbridgeware box, circa 1860s, the finely worked parquetry box, with a large diamond set within borders to the lid intricately decorated with a tapestry style floral mosaic in natural wood tones and soft colours against a darker ground, w
A Victorian tessellated Tunbridge ware box, late 19th century, resembling petit point, the finely tessellated box having floral and patterned veneer borders to the sides and lid, the centre with a similarly worked floral spray upon a blonde wood panel; lin
Three Victorian footstools with beaded and floral upholstery, including a walnut and Tunbridge ware example (diam27 cm); a rosewood footstool with raised beaded cushion (width 31 cm) and another circular (diam 39 cm). (3)
Early Tunbridge ware box, decorated with a scene of a house on the lid, ornate borders and a flowering plant band around the base, interior is fitted with filing compartments, 25.5 cm wide, 16.5 cm deep, 15 cm high
A Victorian walnut Tunbridge Ware box, circa 1880s, with mosaic patterned bands in colours around the box and with a hexagonal cartouche and matching escutcheon, and having black silk lining; with key. Height 10 cm. Length 19.5 cm. Width 12 cm.
A Victorian figured walnut and inlaid box, latter half 19th century, rectangular with a hinged arched top enclosing a fabric-lined interior, the top and front with bands of Tunbridge Ware-type geometric decoration flanking in inlaid mother-of-pearl centre-
A quill work sewing box late 18th century, the rectangular lidded box set with fine brown and gilt edged paper quill work, internally segmented to store sewing equipment including a netting winder and a Tunbridge house tape marked in nails, 21.5 cm wide. I
An unusual specimen wood inlaid sewing box of Yachting Interest, last quarter 19th century rectangular, veneered in woods including burr walnut, ash and mahogany, the cover inlaid with a central cartouche depicting Queen Victoria's Royal yacht, H. M. Y Alb
A very good specimen woodwork box Tasmanian, or earlier, intricately inlaid with steamer ships, schooners, dogs birds, kangaroos emus, crowns, and Tunbridge Ware type banding in various Australian native timbers on a core base of cedar, 18.5 x 38 x 31 cm
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