Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #77 - January 2018

Mr Jorrock's Silver & Enamel Vesta & Cigarette Cases

Original woodcut by John Leech

In 1843, Robert Surtees, a country squire, turned lawyer, turned writer, penned a novel Handley Cross, or Mr. Jorrock’s Hunt, that chronicles the adventures of John Jorrocks, an eccentric grocer who became the Master of Fox Hounds. The novel has become known as the classic comic fox hunting book and the illustrations by John Leech, in the 1854 edition, have been recognized as one of the most delightful of the genre.
The novel’s protagonist, Jorrocks is a Cockney grocer with a love for fox hunting. He is talkative, high spirited and somewhat uncouth. The book details Jorrock’s adventures and misadventures in the town of Handley Cross when he is asked to lead the hounds for the upcoming fox hunting season. Jorrock’s lives for “unting” but knows he was chosen to lead the hounds because of his wealth rather than his social position. 
The novel's comedy arises from his problems with losing his hounds, getting lost and encountering high fences. The end of the novel is somewhat sad as his friends have him committed to an insane asylum because he is using his wealth to finance his love of hunting and they want to protect him from losing his fortune. But one of the great pleasures of this book is the depiction of its events by the artist John Leech. Leech’s illustrations closely follow the text in what appears to be a result of close collaboration between the artist and writer.
In 1889, Thomas Johnson, a noted London silversmith, created a series of sterling silver and enamel vesta cases, called match safes in the United States, that celebrated Surtees’ characters and Leech’s drawings. To date, we know of seven different vesta cases and two cigarette cases. One of these vesta cases and one of the cigarette cases are marked as made by Frederick Edmonds & Edward Johnson (partners of Thomas Johnson) in 1889/90 - the other seven are all marked by Thomas Johnson, alone. All the vestas measure 1 ¾” x 1 ½” x 3/8” and the cigarette cases is 4 ½” x 2 ½” x 3 ¾”.
On the front edge of six of the vestas and the two Cigarette Cases there is a quotation from Surtees’ book. The vesta where the man is holding the fox reads, “the old customer”, the man holding the whip reads,”Send my sec here”, the one with Jorrock’s holding a book reads, “Mr. Jorrock’s and his Whipper-in”, the vesta and the cigarette case where Jorrock’s is facing right reads, “The Handley Cross Fancy Ball”, the vesta with Jorrock's holding his back and with his hat and wig on the ground reads, "Hurt! No Sir, - rather the Contrary" and the cigarette case and vesta with Jorrock’s facing left reads, “Jorrock’s lectures on Unting”. The vesta with the image taken from the original woodcut of “The Convivial Meeting” does not have an engraved quotation.

John Leech's original illustrations, the inspiration for the Cigarette and Vesta Cases:-
Mr Jorrock's Lectures on "Unting"

The Handley Cross Fancy Ball

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"The Old Customer"
In the history of worldwide vesta manufacture, roughly 1835 -1920, very few vestas were made that feature literary designs or motifs. There are vestas that are souvenirs for theatrical plays and even musicals and light operas, but this set of vestas with interpretative portions of Leech’s drawings stands alone as a series exclusively based on one novel.
The firm of Thomas Johnson was established in the early 1850s. Johnson is listed as a maker of fuzee boxes –an early form of vesta- by 1860. By circa 1875 his firm was known as Thomas Johnson & Sons and by circa 1878 the firm, now known as Johnson, Sons & Edmonds was still manufacturing all sorts of small silver items, including vestas. In 1898, the firm was transferred to Sampson Mordan & Co., Ltd. who also made vestas cases along with other silver items, most notably, propelling pencils. 
The question of who did the enameling on the Surtee’s vestas is an interesting one. There is documentary evidence that at least some enameling on vestas and cigarette cases made by Sampson Mordan’s company was done in Paris. There is also documentary evidence that many enameled English vestas were sent to Birmingham’s enamel painting shops before being returned to the silversmith for hallmarking and sale. Whether the enameling was done by Thomas Johnson’s firm, a Birmingham enameling shop or in France is difficult to determine at this time. Edward Eldred, a Sampson Mordan scholar, and researcher as well as an expert on English enameling has told the writer that in his opinion the deep sky blue color of the Jorrock’s vestas is not readily encountered on Mordan vestas and not much on vestas of anyone else.
But this much is certain; the enameling on the Jorrock’s vestas is of a high quality and the care and artistry of the enameller in selecting certain portions of the original woodcuts
and color illustrations shows a high aesthetic sensibility and a fidelity to Leech’s original drawings.
No one knows how many Jorrock’s vestas were made nor how many still are extant. The original five were found and purchased by a collector in London over several years. Recently, the collector purchased, at auction, another Jorrock’s vesta with a new image – “The Convivial Meeting”. In the 1854 edition, Leech has 16 colored illustrations and 84 engraving on wood so the possibility that there are many more vestas with images of Jorrock’s remains a delightful possibility.

The Cigarette Case depicting Mr Jorrock's at The Handley Cross Fancy Ball and the Vesta Case with "Hurt Sir! - Rather The Contrary" are also recent new finds.

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Victorian Silver "Castle-Top" Card Case Brighton Chain Pier Victorian Novelty Silver Carrot Telescopic Propelling Pencil Victorian Silver Flower Shape Vinaigrette Malachite Panels  Victorian Silver & Enamel Royal Standard Flag Vesta Case
George III Antique Silver Traveling Inkwell & Penner William IV Silver Gilt & Blister Pearl 'Cat' Vinaigrette Victorian Silver Mounted 'Spiders Web' Porcelain Scent Bottle Pair Victorian Cast Silver Stork Grape Scissors

Once again I am pleased to be able to update the site this month with over 50 new items of stock and some highlights include; a rare Victorian Silver "Castle-Top" Card Case depicting Brighton Chain Pier, a rare Victorian Novelty Silver Carrot Telescopic Propelling Pencil a Victorian Silver Flower Shape Vinaigrette with Malachite Panels  a Victorian Silver & Enamel Royal Standard Flag Vesta Case , a George III Antique Silver Traveling Inkwell & Penner, a rare William IV Silver Gilt & Blister Pearl 'Cat' Vinaigrette, a rare Victorian Silver Mounted 'Spiders Web' Porcelain Scent Bottle, and an unusual Pair Victorian Cast Silver Stork Grape Scissors.


I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques


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