Progress with donors: Mr Joseph Hall

I’ve had a breakthrough with the mystery benefactor. It turns out that there are two donors of Cypriot ceramics with the surname Stott: Miss F.L. Stott, who made a bequest to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society around 1920, and Mrs Ethel Stott of Kirkstall, who gave several items, including this Cypriot jug, to the Leeds City Museum in 1957. The records had become confused, no doubt because of the coincidence of name.

Cypriot vessel donated by Mrs E. Stott
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Mrs Stott was the daughter of Mr Joseph Hall (1841-1905), who lived in Burley and later Kirkstall, Leeds.

Mr Joseph Hall

Mr Hall was a successful engineer specialising in machinery for the leather trade. The 1901 census records that his son was employed as an engineer and two of his daughters worked in the Engineer’s Office, indicating that it was a thriving family business. One daughter, Jane, is listed as ‘Art student’ and later became a sculptor, exhibiting at the Leeds Art Gallery. It’s not clear whether Mr Hall was a keen collector, or whether this jug just happened to take his fancy, but unusually we do have some more background information, as the bequest came with a copy of a letter from the vendor.

This was a ‘M.H. Verity’ of Whitby, whom I haven’t yet traced. His (or her) letter is worth quoting at length:

“According to promise I am writing to give you some information respecting the pitcher you bought at my sale as given by Mr Newton of the British Museum.

The pottery was dug from ancient graves at Dali in the island of Cyprus. It appears to be Phoenician or very early Greek. The Phoenicians were very early settlers in Cyprus and were succeeded by the Greeks, as they were by the Romans, and the period of the graves and contents are given by Mr Newton at from 300 to 700 BC. The digging has been under the charge of Mr Sandwith our Vice Consul, brother to the late Dr Sandwith of Kars celebrity, and the pottery sent to England to be sold for the relief of the inhabitants, who were suffering from famine.

The pottery is most interesting in an antiquarian sense, being as it was a link between the Prehistoric and an early Greek art.” © Leeds Museums and Galleries

‘Mr Newton of the British Museum’ must be Sir Charles Thomas Newton (1816-1894), Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum from 1862-1885, and also a key mover in the foundation of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. It’s not clear how he came to give his opinion on the vessel; was he acquainted with M.H. Verity?

Also intriguing is the reference to Thomas Backhouse Sandwith, which makes it probable that this vessel came to Yorkshire with the rest of his collection displayed at the 1875 Yorkshire Exhibition (although there is no trace of an exhibition label). We know from his Archaeologia article that he excavated tombs at Dali (ancient Idalion), so this ties in. It’s interesting that there is a further mention of famine relief as the motivation behind Sandwith’s excavations and sales, which also came up in the ‘Visitor’s Guide’ to the 1875 Yorkshire Exhibition.

It’s true that ‘dug from ancient graves at Dali’ doesn’t amount to much in terms of archaeological provenance, since we don’t know when, where and in what context this vessel was found. But the details in the letter help to paint a picture of the dispersal of Cypriot antiquities in Yorkshire, and the interests and priorities of those who collected them.

So what of Miss F.L. Stott, the original benefactor from 1920? Hopefully there’ll be more to tell another time…

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