Mystery Objects

Tonsillectomy Guillotine

Surgical device used by Nineteenth Century doctors as a means of clipping off the tonsil with a blade and catching it in a small rounded receptacle. Tonsillectomy dates back to antiquity, before the National Health Service doctors would perform this procedure either in the surgery or at a patient’s home. The procedure would often be carried out without the use of anaesthetic. Examples of this item and other surgical instruments can be seen in the Doctor’s Surgery at Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Tonsillectomy Guillotine

 

Boot Scraper

Although roads and sanitation were improving in the Nineteenth Century, roads and pavements were still very dirty so boot scrapers were necessary to prevent mud, dirt and horse manure from being walked into buildings and onto carpets and polished floors. This scraper is design No 37 and appears in the Coalbrookdale Company catalogue of 1875. Other examples can be seen at Blists Hill Victorian Town and also in the Museum of Iron in Coalbrookdale.

Boot Scraper

Candle Snuffer

The origins of the candle snuffer (or extinguisher) can be traced back to the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Although it was considered very unladylike in Victorian times to blow out a candle, a candle snuffer was the most effective and safest way of extinguishing a candle, without creating smoke or spilling melted wax.

Candle Snuffer

Umbrella Stand

An umbrella stand was a practical and often decorative addition to many a hallway. This design of a child with a hoop appears in the Coalbrookdale Company catalogue of 1875 and the actual umbrella stand, as well as other examples, can be seen on display in the Museum of Iron in Coalbrookdale.

Knife Cleaner

Rotary knife cleaners were sometimes advertised with the slogan ‘No Injury To Knives’, and models were available to clean 3, 4, 5 or 6 knives at a time. The knives would be inserted into the holes around the rim and the turning of the handle caused felt pads and bristles to be pushed past both sides of the knives. The increasing use of stainless steel cutlery in the 1930s led to the demise of such machines. Many examples of kitchen gadgets can be seen at Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Knife Cleaner

Soda Water Siphon

Sodium bicarbonate and flavouring such as tartaric acid was put in the upper globe and water in the lower. The top was then screwed down and the whole object tilted in order to allow the water and powders to mix. This created carbon dioxide which dissolved in the water and, due to the pressure, forced the liquid out through the spout when the valve was opened. The glass bottle was contained in a wire mesh basket in case of explosion. This example can be seen in the Chemist’s Shop at Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Soda Water Siphon

Caughley Leaf-Shaped Dish - ‘Fisherman’ Pattern of about 1780 - 1790

What would you serve in these curious little dishes?; nuts, crisps, sweets? In the 1780s, when these delicate dishes were produced at the Caughley Porcelain Manufactory, they were used for serving pickles and butter at the dinner table. The three vine-leaf shaped dishes held pickles to accompany the meal. Each diner had their own individual pickle dish. The two smallest dishes were based on the shape of a geranium leaf and held servings of butter, which was probably eaten with vegetables.

Caughley Leaf-Shaped Dish - Fisherman Pattern of about 1780 - 1790

Chamber Pot

Can you imagine what use this large and beautifully decorated bowl might have been put to? It might be highly decorated, but this stunning item is in fact a chamber pot. In the days before indoor flushing toilets, chamber pots were used at night as an alternative to cold and smelly outdoor privies (toilets). In the wealthy household, servants were employed to empty and clean the chamber pots each morning. However, its unsavoury function did not stop the Coalport China Works and other ceramic manufacturers from turning the humble chamber pot into a work of art.

 Chamber Pot

Sugar Snippers

This strange object is made of metal. There are two small curved blades at one end and a pivot in the middle to allow them to be opened and closed like a pair of scissors.

What do you think they were used for?

In the past sugar was not supplied as granules or even as sugar cubes; instead it came in cones called sugar loaves. The sugar would be broken off the loaf with a small chopper which looked like a meat cleaver. Metal sugar ‘snippers’ were then used to cut the sugar into small pieces. These would be left as sugar lumps and placed in a sugar basin for putting into tea, coffee or hot chocolate. If the sugar was needed for cooking it was ground into a powder like the sugar we buy in packets today.

Sugar Snippers

Asparagus Servers

These two objects are made of china. They have raised sides and taper towards one end.

What do you think they were used for?

These were used for serving spears of asparagus. They would be placed on a plate at the dining table and would hold an individual portion of asparagus so it could be arranged attractively on the plate and make it easier to eat. They were made at the Caughley Factory and belonged to Alfred Darby I. They are decorated with the fisherman pattern.

Asparagus Servers

Wine Glass Cooler

This object is made of china. It is glazed so it would be water tight. Look at the rim and notice how the edges are curved in and out into a fluted shape. It is decorated with a blue transfer print and was made at the Coalport Factory.

What do you think it was used for?

White wine is usually chilled, but how would you cool your wine before refrigerators were invented? Wine bottles were kept in the cellar which would be cool because it was built into the ground. The bottles could also be cooled in an ice pail or a cellaret. You could even use objects like this one to cool the glasses. It was filled with ice or cold water and the glasses were placed upside down inside it. The fluted edges held the stems of the glasses. Wine glass coolers were made in silver, glass, pottery and porcelain. Those made in silver were known as ‘montithes’ and those made of porcelain were known as ‘verrieres’.

Wine Glass Cooler

Cork Press

This object is made of metal. The top of it has a raised leaf pattern in the casting to make it look more attractive. It has a hinged top and a handle at one end. There are a series of raised ridges across the base and the top.

What do you think it was used for?

This object is a cork press. It is difficult to get a cork into a bottle, but if they are compressed slightly first they will fit in more easily. The cork would be placed horizontally in the press and then squeezed between the base and the lid. There are different sized spaces for different sized corks. These were used in the home or in chemists shops.

Cork Press

Tobacco Box

This object is made of iron. It is air tight. Inside it contains a heavy iron plate which fits snugly into the box. It has a bronzed surface and gilt decoration to make it look more attractive.

What do you think it was used for?

It was used for storing tobacco. It is airtight so the tobacco would keep fresh and it would be compressed by the heavy iron plate inside. It was cast by the Coalbrookdale Company. It is a decorative object because it would have been used in the home. Wealthy men would keep a box of tobacco in their study to offer to their male guests.

 Tobacco Box