Networking in Hull

Thanks to Alice Rose, research and documentation assistant in Archaeology at Hull Museums, I’ve had the opportunity to consult Hull and East Riding Museum‘s archives relating to the collections of Arthur E. Hastings Crofts (1849-1912) of Bradford. Crofts was a keen collector of pottery and glass, mainly Roman, from the Near East and Cyprus, and much of his collection passed to Hull Museums through a family bequest after his death.

Crofts’ correspondence is particularly interesting to me for its information about early 20th century networks of people collecting ancient Cypriot objects in Yorkshire and the Humber. He appears to have been initiated to the pleasures of collecting by William Cudworth, a local historian from Bradford, whom I’ve discussed before in connection with the Kent Collection in Harrogate. Cudworth seems to have recruited his friends and acquaintances as fellow collectors; he asks Crofts to ‘allow me to consider you as a pupil in the little school of archaeologists under my charge’, suggesting he saw himself as a leader in this area. Cudworth’s recommendations to his friend give an insight into his own collecting practices:

‘In collecting, keep to certain definite lines, instead of being tempted to acquire relics, however cheap, simply because they are old. Otherwise you only get a lot of curious things which lead to nowhere. In your case, you might adopt as Line 1 – Palestine, Line 2 – Cyprus, Line 3 – Roman remains in England. The first two might suffice.’

‘A lot of curious things which lead to nowhere’ might describe many antiquarian collections, but Cudworth evidently had greater intellectual ambitions. He was enthusiastic about Crofts’ progress in Cypriot collecting:

‘In Line 2 you are already at the top of the school. So far as Bradford is concerned, you lick the master into fits. Go on urging your friend ad lib. Like Oliver Twist always be wanting MORE.’

Cudworth letter s

Letter from Cudworth to Crofts
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums

Although Crofts diffused his collecting along several ‘lines’, he still managed to accumulate an impressive ancient Cypriot collection, much of which now belongs to Hull and East Riding Museum. Thanks to the excellent archival practices of both Crofts and the Museum, these objects have unusually rich collection histories, and can help to fill the gaps in our understanding of local, national and international Cypriot collecting networks.

As well as providing advice and guidance, Cudworth aided local collectors through his connection with the well-known dealer, ‘my London friend’, George Fabian Lawrence, best known for his role in relation to the discovery of the Cheapside Hoard. Lawrence regularly dispatched groups of objects from his dealership which Cudworth then sent on to his collecting friends, remitting funds to Lawrence for any sales made. The correspondence provides an insight into the domestic nature of this collecting, far removed from the archetype of the solitary antiquarian. Women’s voices are not heard in this archive, but their presences are detectable in the background; Cudworth mentions a piece which ‘Mr Fred Craven was taking away as a present to his wife’, and comments of a new purchase, ‘I hope Mrs Crofts will like [it] as well as yourself’. The collectors’ wives could hardly have been oblivious of the constant flow of ancient objects in and out of their houses, and may, to some extent, have been actively involved.

After Cudworth’s death in 1906, Crofts bought part of his collection, including Cypriot objects formerly part of the Lawrence-Cesnola collections. The Cesnola brothers’ publications seem to have been Cudworth’s main source of written information on ancient Cyprus, unsurprisingly for this period. He makes frequent references to A.P. di Cesnola’s Salaminia in describing objects from his collection; his edition of this work was donated to a local museum in 1951, and I am attempting to track it down.


Salaminia by A.P. di Cesnola

Crofts then took over Cudworth’s role as Lawrence’s Yorkshire correspondent, and received many dispatches of ancient objects, mainly lamps and glass. One striking aspect of this collecting activity is how hands-on the process of gaining knowledge was; Lawrence comments to Crofts of one consignment of lamps that ‘At least they will be instructive for you to look at, if you have no room’. Looking at and handling objects was the means of building up expertise.

In September 1908, Lawrence sent Crofts a series of lamps which were ‘the result of the digging of a Mr Pierides on his property at Curium Cyprus’. This is a most welcome archival sighting of Kleanthes Pierides, the source of many ancient Cypriot objects in the Kent Collection in Harrogate. Pierides wrote extensively to the British Museum and the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris to enquire about objects in his collection and the possibility of arranging sales, but it hasn’t previously been clear how his objects made their way to Yorkshire. In my paper for the ‘Classical Cyprus’ conference at Graz in 2017, I speculated that Pierides had sent objects to England through arrangements with private collectors, and it is interesting to get some insight into how this took place. A sale at Christie’s in 1908 included gold, gems, and glass, but not pottery of the kind found in the Kent Collection; it’s therefore very pleasing to hear from Lawrence in September 1908 that ‘I got what remains of the Pierides Coll at a lower rate than he wanted when he first came to London. His best went to Christies and sold well.’

Crofts had already made more direct contact with Pierides in 1907 via J.R. Holmes, whom Alice has identified as a Bradford solicitor who moved to Cyprus and worked at the District Court in Limassol. From the tone of his correspondence, he appears to have been an old acquaintance of Crofts, and familiar with his collections. He gives a vivid description of Pierides’ collection, and suggests that Crofts should club together with local friends ‘so that you might buy for all and then the curios could travel in one parcel’. Most excitingly, photographs sent by Pierides survive in the Hull collection, evidently duplicates of those sent to his museum contacts but not preserved, alongside a list in Pierides’ handwriting of the objects he was prepared to sell.

Pierides image 3

Pierides image 2

Photographs by Kleanthes Pierides of objects from his collection
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums

The staging of the objects in this photograph is fascinating: propped on a desk against books and packets of photograph paper, in front of a painted background of a pillar and leaves. I would particularly like to see the object marked a.1, according to Pierides ‘a bronze vase Mycenaean piece, on the handle a human face, 7 inches’. All this can be cross-referenced against Pierides’ correspondence in the British Museum and the Cabinet des Médailles, and Olivier Masson’s research into Pierides’ collection and its destinations (CCEC 24), helping to fill some gaps in the overall picture of Pierides’ operations. The final stage of the journey of Pierides’ objects to the Kent Collection is still unclear, for now, but one of the photographs he sent Crofts includes an impressive pair of large Base Ring jugs, which can be identified with some confidence as those still in the Kent Collection today.

Pierides coll s

Photograph by Kleanthes Pierides of objects from his collection
© Hull and East Riding Museum: Hull Museums


Pair of Base Ring jugs from the Kent Collection, Harrogate
© Mercer Gallery, Harrogate

As a result of these rich and detailed archives, the networks of Cypriot collecting are coming into clearer focus. These ‘second generation’ collectors benefited from the influx of objects into the UK from the Cesnola brothers’ sales from 1871 to 1892, and the importation and later dispersal of  the collections of consular and early colonial residents on Cyprus. Pierides’ correspondence also suggests that, paradoxically, the 1905 Cypriot Antiquities Law prompted the sale overseas of his collection, though this claim may also have been part of his sales technique. These small collections tended to make their way to local museums after the deaths of their collectors, where their institutional settings gave them new contexts and audiences, and began a new phase of their histories.

New light on an ancient lamp

Recently I’ve been working with Dr Sally Waite of Newcastle University on the Kent Collection at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate.This is a large and varied collection of archaeological artefacts from a wide range of locations and cultures, assembled by two generations of the Kent family and bequeathed to Harrogate Council in the 1960s. Most interestingly from my perspective, it includes over a hundred objects from ancient Cyprus. The Kents do not seem to have acquired directly from Cyprus themselves, but to have bought from sales via dealers. They kept a register of their collection, which includes some information about previous owners, making it possible in some cases to trace the history of an object.

Sally and I are currently looking at the objects in the Kent Collection which previously belonged to Thomas Sandwith, the British Vice-Consul on Cyprus from 1865 to 1870. There are six which are recorded as having come from his collection, but the information in the Kents’ register has enabled us to add to this number.The Kent Collection register describes a simple ancient Cypriot lamp as follows:

“Lamp, open type, shallow bowl with flat base, and flat rim pinched abruptly, slit narrow, dia of bowl 3⅜”. Cyprus, Cudworth Collection.”

Cypriot lamp from the Kent collection © Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council

Cypriot lamp from the Kent collection
© Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council

There are several examples of this type in the British Museum. While its date is difficult to determine without any archaeological context, it probably dates from the 6th to 4th centuries BC.

As discussed in my previous post, Mr Cudworth published a guide to his collection which includes useful information on provenance. Looking at this guide, the lamp that best fits the bill is described as:

“Open lamp, shell pattern, rare (Sandwith Cyprian Collection).”

Cudworth’s term ‘shell pattern’ refers to the theory that this kind of lamp was based on the shape of Terebratula shells, often known as ‘lamp shells’ for this reason (a term that came into use as early as 1787, according to Samuel Pickworth Woodward’s A Manual of the Mollusca). Cudworth states:

“If we have not in the fossilised Terebratula the original design of the early open lamp used for domestic purposes, the coincidence is, at any rate, somewhat remarkable.”

His guide illustrates this point with a woodcut, which bears a marked resemblance to the Kent Collection lamp.
Woodcut of open lamp from the Cudworth Collection.

Woodcut of open lamp from the Cudworth Collection.

Cudworth records the lamp as being from the Sandwith Collection. There were no lamps exhibited at the 1875 Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, from which many Sandwith objects were acquired by Yorkshire collectors, and it may well have been bought from the saleroom in Sheffield where the pottery was displayed for sale from 1870. No unified catalogue exists of the Sandwith collection (this would be a great project to undertake at some stage), but we have some additional information from Sandwith’s 1877 article on ancient Cypriot pottery in Archaeologia, the journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London. This includes a brief description of lamps of this kind:

“It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the better kind of pottery is found in all the tombs. The contrary is the case. Most of the graves contain but two or three common vases, either destitute of pattern or with the simplest designs… A common open lamp (see woodcut) of plain clay, on which no pattern or subject is ever represented, not unfrequently forms a part of the furniture of the deceased’s abode.”

Illustration of lamp from Sandwith's Archaeologia paper.

Illustration of lamp from Sandwith’s Archaeologia paper.

This is so similar to Cudworth’s illustration that I initially thought it was the same woodcut, but on closer examination there are a few small differences. It seems likely that Cudworth was familiar with the Archaeologia  piece, perhaps due to his interest in the Sandwith collection. As Sandwith discusses this kind of lamp in general terms, we can’t go as far as saying that the Kent lamp is the same one illustrated in the Archaeologia paper, but it’s certainly of the same type.

It’s interesting to see the different uses which have been made of this simple lamp by its previous collectors; Sandwith contrasts it with ‘the better kind of pottery’ as a common grave-good, while Cudworth is struck by its similarity to Terebratula shells, presenting this as a possible source of inspiration for its design. Today it is one of the less visually exciting objects surviving from the Kent collection (which includes some spectacular pieces), but it’s given additional interest by what we know of its relatively recent history.


I’ve been researching an ancient Cypriot lamp from the Kent Collection in Harrogate – a fascinating collection, on which much more another time. The lamp was previously owned by William Cudworth (1830-1906), a journalist with the Bradford Observer and a keen local historian and antiquarian, being a founding member of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society. He is best known for his many works on Bradford and the surrounding area, including Worstedopolis: A sketch history of the town and trade of Bradford. He also seems to have tried his hand at translating part of Homer’s Odyssey into English; a man after my own heart.

Portrait of William Cudworth

Portrait of William Cudworth

I was very pleased to discover that William Cudworth had published a monograph on ancient lamps (1893), based on his own collection, and even more pleased to find a second-hand copy. This turned out to be very helpful on the lamp from the Kent Collection, but also helped solve the mystery of another unidentified lamp, an unexpected bonus.


‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’ by William Cudworth

I like the way the publisher has created a generalised air of ‘antiquity’ with the illuminated capital A, and the rather affected ‘Publiʃh’d’. However, I was more struck by the engraved picture of a lamp, with three wicks, a looped handle and two ivy-leaf-shaped projections at the rear. It looked very similar to the lamp in one of the lantern slides made by Henry Crowther, Curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s Museum, in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Lamp from the cover of 'Antique Terracotta Lamps'

Lamp from the cover of ‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’

Lamp with triple wick. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with triple wick.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Cudworth’s volume includes a photograph of his lamp, and a description:

Etruscan Lamp from Cudworth's volume, p.8

Etruscan lamp from Cudworth’s volume, p.8

“The large Etruscan specimen in my collection… possesses three projecting nozzles for wicks, which, judging from the openings, must have been of large size and of considerable illuminating power. The lamp is of the solid black paste characteristic of the real Etruscan ware, and is enriched with Bacchic ornamentation in the shape of vine leaves and grapes, with the face of a bacchante, of noble profile. The numerals LVI are inscribed at the base of the lamp. It is a unique specimen, measuring 10 by 10 1/2 inches, and was found in a deposit at Rome. Dr Birch says that this ware exhibits the highest degree of art attained in Italian potteries.”

[Dr Birch = Dr Samuel Birch (1813-1885), Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.]

Since it is ‘a unique specimen’, I think we can say with some confidence that Henry Crowther’s lantern slide shows the same lamp. It’s worth noting that the colour was added by hand by Mr Crowther’s daughter Violet, and is not necessarily the exact shade of the original lamp. The fact that it is Etruscan does at least explain why I haven’t been able to find any Cypriot parallels! It must have been included in the sequence of Cypriot slides by mistake, whether by Mr Crowther or at a later date.

The question is how this lamp, from the Cudworth collection, came to be photographed by Mr Crowther; but it’s fairly straightforward to conjecture that after Mr Cudworth’s death in 1906 his collection was broken up by bequests and/or sales, and that the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society took the opportunity to acquire this lamp. The current location of the lamp is unknown, but there is still hope that it may be found again at some point. It’s great to have shed some light on this mysterious image entirely by accident; and to have a further demonstration of how closely interconnected were the circles of antiquarians, curators and collectors of ancient Cyprus.