A visit to Wakefield

In search of the lost history of the objects mentioned in my previous post, I contacted David Evans at the Wakefield Museum to have a look at the Educational Resource Service accession register. I’m always impressed by the helpfulness of museum professionals in accommodating me and my research, especially since on this visit I had my junior research associate (aged 6 months) along with me.

The Wakefield store is a treasure trove of objects not currently on display in the Museum, including the records of the Educational Resource Service. David also kindly showed me a few ancient Cypriot objects from the ERS which are now in the Wakefield collection, including a medieval jar with beautiful lustrous blue-green glaze, and a lentoid flask with strap handle and just-visible white painted bands of decoration.

Medieval Cypriot jar © Wakefield Museums

Medieval Cypriot jar
© Wakefield Museums

Cypriot lentoid flask © Wakefield Museums

Cypriot lentoid flask
© Wakefield Museums

The accession register turned out to cover a large span of the history of the collection, from 1963 to 1988, and helped to pinpoint the change of title from the School Museum Service to the Educational Resource Service in January 1986. There was also a card index file, which included additional information on some of the items.

Making matches between the objects I’ve found so far, the accession register entries, and the rather opaque (to me) card index system was not straightforward, but I have been able to glean some additional information about the Cypriot objects which formed part of the ERS collection. As Mr Woodward, former Senior Advisor to the ERS, had recalled, some came from the British Museum, presumably duplicates which were passed on without having been accessioned. The BM is recorded as the source of a tempting list of Cypriot artefacts, including a chariot model, but sadly none of them readily identifiable among the objects I’ve seen to date.

Others were purchased from the Folio Society’s ‘Collectors’ Corner’, and later from Charles Ede Ltd., and more from D. Reaney, a dealer in antiquities in Long Eaton in the 1960s. From these records we learn that the lentoid flask was one of three, costing either £14 or £22, and that the blue-green glazed jar was dated to C13th – C14th AD. Unfortunately, there is little solid information linking the extant objects to their dealers, and still less about where they might have originated from.

Nevertheless, I’m now following up these leads to see if the trails can be followed any further back. It’s fascinating to think of the varied lives these objects have led, and what they have meant to their different owners and users along the way.

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Gone but not forgotten

Lately I’ve been thinking about Henry Crowther’s magic lantern slides of ancient Cypriot ceramics, and regretting those which no longer survive in the Leeds City Museum’s collection. These images are the shadows which remain of objects which have been lost, deaccessioned or destroyed.

For example, this lentoid flask with a single strap handle is marked ‘Enkomi, Cyprus’.

Lentoid flask from Enkomi, Cyprus. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lentoid flask from Enkomi, Cyprus.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

This means it’s almost certainly the one sent to the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society by the British Museum in 1902, described by A.S. Murray, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities, as a ‘flat-bellied flask of plain red ware.’

BM list

Extract from A.S. Murray’s note. © British Museum

There are two tankards, one with two bands of incised decoration and a thumb-grip, the other with a raised band below the lip and a simple loop handle. The colours are rather deceptive as they were added by hand by Miss Violet Crowther, Henry Crowther’s daughter, but suggest that both of these were of red ware.

Tankard with thumb grip and incised decoration. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with thumb grip and incised decoration.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with looped handle. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Tankard with looped handle.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

There’s a dish with a small loop handle and painted decoration, which looks quite heavily restored, judging by the cracks and the gap in the pattern. The decoration looks like stylised Bronze Age helmets, though I’m not entirely sure…

Dish with painted decoration. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Dish with painted decoration.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

There are also some lamps, including this three-wicked example; I particularly like the leaf-shaped projections near the handle. The vine-and-grape decoration, with a long-haired head in relief, presumably indicates Dionysus and perhaps suggests it was for use in a banqueting setting.

Lamp with triple wick. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with triple wick.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

I’m intrigued by the decoration on this smaller lamp, which seems to show an eagle holding an ear of wheat in its beak. I’m not very clear on the symbolism, but this may be associated with the god Baal; I haven’t seen anything quite like it before.

Lamp with ?eagle and ear of wheat. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with ?eagle and ear of wheat.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Most of these probably perished in the Second World War bomb, but it’s just possible that some may turn up one day; we know that there are quite a few objects currently with Artemis, the School Loans Service. I’ll certainly be looking out for them!