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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Put your name on everything

I wouldn't normally have any interest in a collection of tobacco and snuff tins going up for auction. One person's collection can be another person's junk. But these piqued my interest, because they had been personalised. Ever since coming across the faux-memento of Ben Huggins of the ship Lovely Matilda, I've been making sure to put my name on things, as you never know who will come across in the future and wonder who or where it came from. This was underlined by the mysterious Hutchinson collection that I've been working on at the Zoology Museum (more on him in another blog coming soon).

Because some of these random little tins were personalised, the diligent auction house had done a bit of a search to find out who they once belonged to before the sale. And they have weirdly (for me at least) transformed into little memento mori items.

stamped metal tobacco box
David Fermor Westerleigh Gloucestershire 1919

So, allow me to introduce David Fermor of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire in 1919 (and auction lot 355 of this catalogue). David Fermor was born in 1862 in Boxted Sussex. He was living in Westerleigh Gloucestershire according to the 1911 Census and worked as a labourer in a brickyard.

stamped tobacco box
Charlie Jaynes

And here is Charlie Jaynes (auction lot 356) 5 Adlaide Terrace, North Malvern. Charlie Jeynes was born in 1876 and according to the 1901 census he worked as a Tinsmith and then a Gasfitter in 1911.

stamped tobacco box
Alfred Sweet St George's BRistol 1907

And Alfred Sweet (lot 357) of St Georges 1907 Bristol. Born in 1854 Alfred was a leather cutter in the boot trade.

stamped engraved tobacco box
George Walker Handsworth coal hewer

George Walker (lot 364) was born 1863. According to the 1901 census at age 38 George was a Coal Hewer at Handsworth coal mine South Yorkshire and the box was presented to him by David Hill (21) also a Hewer at Handsworth mine. He could be an ancestor of mine.

Less likely to be a relation to me, (as wrong area of the country, but possibly someone else's grandfather or great grandfather) is Edmund Ann Frenchay (lot 365) who in 1907 lived in Gloucestershire. According to 1901 census Edmund was a stone quarry worker and lived at 15 Westbourne Cottages in Frenchay, Bristol.

engraved stamped tobacco box
Richard Carlyon timberman at Silksworth pit

Richard Carlyon (lot 373) listed himself as Timber Man Silksworth 1906. Richard was born in 1886 in Tunstall, Durham. According to the 1911 census he was a Timberman in the Silksworth pit - so lovely bit of confirmation there!

George Watson tobacco box

George Watson (lot 374) makes do with a minimum of information - just adding 1891. According to the 1891 census George was born in 1861 and was a coal miner in Gloucester.

Similarly, F Hosking (lot 368) of Rose Cottage 1909 St Germans '. Frederick Hosking was born in 1893 in Ludgvan Cornwall and was a tin miner, and fortunately his first name was found! I could continue to share Joseph Rogers (lot 358) Farrington Somerset August 1 1901. Joseph was born in 1851 and worked as a coal miner.

J Cox of Park Cradley (lot 366) missed a trick by not including his first name - but it did make the box prettier with the picture of a pipe. with the date 21/5 1908. An etching of a pipe to the centre. According to the 1911 census Cox was born in Blackheath 1879 and was a coal Hewer. Cradley Park Colliery was part of the South Staffordshire Coalfield from 1867 - 1933.

J Cox snuff box

And there are more: the boxes of James Dunkerton of West Pennard 1906 Somerset, James Craig of 5 Zion Row Bedminster in 1905, Thomas Roberts, 1st Engineer of G.W.R Bristol in 1903, and so on for Henry Maggs, Stanley Nelms, Thomas Wilkins, Thomas Angel, John Elsmore, Henry Gulliford, and poor R. Lewis - Late Sergeant RA Royal Artillery 1908 Shoeburyness.

round metal box for snuff or tobacco
John Mellors "A stitch in time saves nine"

John Mellors (lot 379) gets a special mention for adding a motto (which leads to extra speculation that he was a tailor - as the auction text reads); "An early 20th Century antique small brass tobacco or snuff box, likely belonging to a member of the Merchant Taylors Company. The round hinge box engraved to the top with the Lion from the coat of arms and the name ' John Mellors A Stitch In Time Saves Nine '."

And whoever had this fine scrimshaw puzzlebox (lot 370)for his tobacco is not known, so this beautiful and mysterious artefact goes unnamed and unremembered into history.

Scrimshaw puzzle box with engraving of ship
Scrimshaw puzzle box with engraving of ship

Of course, I just happened across these lots because I was browsing around auctions. I didn't know people had such fine archives of personalised tobacco tins. I found it because of a "collaborator's warning coffin" (lot 523) A WWII Second World War related believed Free France / French Resistance ' Collaborators' Death Coffin ' warning object / token. The coffin of crude wooden construction, with hand-carved Cross Of Lorraine symbol to the top. Unusual and interesting item, which in turn came from the "Escape and Evade" collection of the late Arthur Muggeridge

a small, crudely carved wooden coffin
Collaborators warning coffin - from the Arthur T Muggeridge escape and evade collection

Arthur T. Muggeridge, born 18th December 1919 - it’s thought he spent most of WW2 in the Royal Artillery and was at Dunkirk in 1940 during the evacuations and was minorly injured by Luftwaffe bombing whilst on one of the navy ships. He later took part in a special raid called Operation Claymore 4th March 1941 in Norway where he was injured once again in the leg by shrapnel. Later again, he was injured a third time when a field artillery gun misfired causing deafness which is believed to have resulted in him being discharged from the military. In his later life he collected mainly military items and particularly spy / clandestine objects. Whilst visiting Devon in the 1960's he became acquainted with Charles Frazer Smith who had worked for MI6 & MI9 in the war, and designed spy items for the SOE and others. Arthur died aged 91 after a short illness on 27th Feb 2010. His amassed collection is now being offered for sale by his family.

That collection included a compass cufflink, a telescope in a matchbox, a dagger hidden in a ladies' powder compact and an escape map of Spain printed on a silk handkerchief. Which just goes to show what weird and wonderful insights into history one little browse of the internet can find!

Top left an escape mini-compass set in a cufflink, bottom left a telescope in a box of matches, top right a ladies' makeup compact with hidden dagger, bottom right an escape map of Spain printed on silk
Spy and POW tools of the trade from the Arthur T Muggeridge collection

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