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A Forgery in the British Museum and other Objects

September 3, 2009 Hidden Stories 1 Comment

As well as the pilgrim badges I asked the British Museum to send me a list of Mary’s objects. There are hundreds! Some are given in memory of Thomas Greg and most were accessioned in 1921, with a few from 1919 and 1924.

There are 30 badges and pilgrim badges, a host of keys and spoons and some intriguing items, like a fire-steel; an object used to strike a spark for a fire. A marrow spoon; a spoon with a long thin bowl to extract the marrow from bones in the 18th century. Another object is a loin cloth previously thought to be a belt.

Loin Cloth in the British Museum

Loin Cloth in the British Museum

Marrow Spoon used in the 18th Century

Marrow Spoon used in the 18th Century

There are 167 items that were donated by Mary and 2 items that the museum purchased from her. One of them is a forgery, it is a locket from the Shadwell Dock forgeries in the mid 19th century. I looked this up and it was a quite exciting story about two mudlarks who searched the banks of the Thames for items of value; they were called ‘Billy and Charley’, William Smith and Charles Eaton. They would take their finds to William Edwards a London antique dealer who would pay them, however as their finds became fewer they decided to make counterfeit antiquities in 1857. They made moulds and dipped the metal objects into acid to speed up the ageing process and they would make £400 a year. It is an extroadinary story and they were eventually caught for fraud and had a trial (which surprisingly increased the sales of their forgeries) where leading archaeologists of the day such as Thomas Bateman and Henry Syer Cuming challenged them. You can read more about the Billy and Charley forgeries here

A nice bit of scandal!


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. hazel says:

    Really like this story Melanie..I try and age my work too, to make it look old (not antique and valuable!).
    Forgers are very skilled.

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