I have used the content of this months Newsletter in a previous edition, but I make no excuses, as I feel it is just as relevant to the five Victorian novelty silver items illustrated above as it was to the previous pieces that I used it to describe in the Newsletter of March 2013
The Victorians were great ones for celebrating and protecting (by Patenting the designs) their ingenious and wonderful inventions. The firms of Sampson Mordan & Co, Thomas Johnson and Henry William & Louis Dee in particular, faithfully reproduced these products of the age as silver and gold novelty items.
The iconic Policeman’s Bullseye Lantern
is a perfect example:-
When people think of the British Bobby what does their mind's eye envisage? They probably think of a police helmet, perhaps the famous cylindrical whistle and maybe even a truncheon, or night stick. I doubt police lantern comes to mind, yet during my research into the historical background for this Newsletter the opposite seems to be the case, at least in the past. Comical post cards, advertisements for all kinds of products and honour roll documents abound with depictions of the police officer holding his trusty lantern.
These iconic tools of the trade were originally developed by the Dietz Company in New York, USA in the 1850's. The most distinguishing feature being the large convex lens, thereby coining the term "Bulls Eye Lamp". In addition to this they have a double handle on the back along with a wide hook to fasten it onto the officer's belt. Some lamps have a second hook-like feature to keep the lamp from working its way up and off the belt. Another feature is the cone shaped chimney which can be either single or stacked one on top of the other up to three high.
The book - "The Policeman's Lot" tells of policemen holding the lit lantern under their cloaks, or capes, in order to stay warm on cold damp winter nights. The officer would return to the station at the end of his shift with his face blackened by soot produced by the burning fuel in the lamp.
The Watchman's Lamp,
as depicted above, was a slightly different design and used a simple candle rather than an oil burning wick.
The Watchman or "Charlies"
as they were known did not always have a happy existence. The watchmen's duties included crime and fire prevention, waking people who needed to rise early, calling out the time and weather, and helping drunks home. Watchmen tended to be elderly, often drunk, usually incompetent and highly ridiculed by the public.
The men gathered nightly at the watch house at nine o'clock in winter and ten o'clock in summer where the ward beadle called the roll and wrote their names in a book. Armed with a staff , a lantern, and a clapper to signal another watchman for help, they then took their positions at watch-boxes or where they had a good view of a street. Their locations were printed and posted in public areas to notify citizens. Watchmen worked in pairs, patrolling their beat twice, once calling the time, the other silently. They came off duty in the morning at seven o'clock in winter and five o'clock the rest of the year. Anyone nabbed by a watchman would spend the night in the watch-house. In the morning, the constable would take the offender to a magistrate.
The Watchmen's Box was made of timber or stone, the wooden ones provided targets for bored young "Gentlemen" who tipped them over (and the snoozing watchman within) for sport.