A local industry which endured until the end of the 19th century was the making of ornaments of various kinds out of Derbyshire Spa, a marble-like gypsum which is found at Chellaston, near Derby, some ten miles away. An ornament, or gaud of small actual utility, formerly classed as a plaything, was termed a bauble. Hence, the small workshops connected with this trade in the district, were always referred to as “Bauble Shops”; an interesting survival of a word now scarcely or ever heard.
One can only surmise as to how this industry, which demanded artistic taste and skill, came to be established in a coalfield, many miles from the source of the raw material. In the “Middle Ages” the image makers, tomb makers, and Alabaster workers of Nottingham and Burton-On-Trent were famous throughout England and the continent. Their supplies of Alabaster, or Marble,hence the term, “Alabastermen” were obtained from Chellaston and Gotham, where Gypsum today is extensively mined. We incline to the opinion, that our local industries were a minor offshoot of the greater one at Nottingham or Burton; Alabaster workers from these towns drifted into the Cole Orton coalfield in times of stress, in search of work, and then established their bauble making in the local area to supplement their income
The local industry became quite important to the economy in Coleorton, Thringstone, Whitwick, Pegg’s Green and Griffydam during the Victorian era.
THE BAUBLE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
Firstly, we should remind ourselves that the natural Spar would have had to be delivered from Chellaston, about 10 miles from the local area, in large blocks by horse and cart. We can only imagine how long that would have taken. The cost per ton in the mid 1850’s, would probably have been in the order of 10s to 15s depending on colour and quality. The local peddlers would have perhaps collected smaller pieces from Chellaston for selling on to the bauble makers. The manufacturer would then have had to saw the block into suitable shapes for the items to be made, in what would have been an extremely dusty environment. The circular ornaments would have been turned on a treadle lathe to the required design. During the turning process, they would have been smoothed with a wet pumice paste. In some cases, dependant on the design, the baubles were made in separate pieces which were then glued together with spar dust, resin and the white of an egg .The bauble was finished by being warmed and waxed before final polishing with fullers earth (reference a “Lost Leicestershire Industry” by J.A. Daniell). The baubles were sometimes decorated by painting, as on the Tulip Vase above, but this would not have been long lasting. For ease of manufacture (turning and drilling only) the great percentage were circular in shape. The skill in making baubles should not be underestimated, particularly due to the variance in the structure and quality of the material, and many of the people had no previous experience of this.
GRIFFYDAM SPAR/BAUBLE MANUFACTURERS
The cottage shown in the photograph is where Charles Platts lived in Elder Lane, Griffydam and where he manufactured baubles over a long period of time. Charles was born in Worthington. Charles is first recorded as living in the cottage in the 1841 census at the age of 7. He was recorded as a “Spar manufacturer” in the 1851 census at the age of 17, and similarly in the 1861 census at 27. In the 1881 census, he is still recorded as a “Spar Manufacturer” living with his wife Mary, who was born in Market Bosworth, and they are aged 46 & 42 respectively. If we now fast forward to the 1901 census, he is listed as being a “Retired Bauble Manufacturer” at the age of 64 still living with his wife Mary. Strangely he seems to have gained 7 years in age since the 1861 census. The cottage was demolished in the 1950’s. The old cottages in the distance on the left were also demolished in 1996 to make way for a new property.
The fragments of baubles shown were found when a ditch was opened for pipe work to a new house built in 2017 adjacent to the site of Charles Platts' cottage. The area of bare earth on the right hand side of the photograph is where the ditch was excavated and the bauble fragments found. The area behind the gate was where the old cottage was situated.
The Ford Family (James, George and Edwin)
This is a good example of people moving to the area from Derbyshire to work in the Spar / bauble industry locally.
In the 1851 census, James Ford, aged 58, who was born in Darley, Derbyshire, is listed as a Spar Manufacturer. He is living with his wife Ann, aged 56, who was born in Langley, Derbyshire. Also in the household is William Richardson (servant), aged 45 and listed as a journeyman spar maker. He was born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
In the 1851 census, a George Ford, aged 32, is living next door with his wife Mary Ann, aged 26, and daughter Ann. George is listed as a Spar Painter. They were all born in Derby. Presumably George is the son of James above and will be painting baubles made by his father and other makers. Below is an example of a painted bauble.
The Fords’ were presumably living in adjoining cottages, which were somewhere on the Top Road, Griffydam, and the last recorded by the enumerator before Waterloo cottages at the Rempstone Rd cross roads.
In the 1851 census, Edwin Ford, aged 26, who was born in St. Alkmunds, Derby is listed as a “Petrifaction Maker”. He is living with his wife Elizabeth, aged 35, who was born in Etwall, Derbyshire, and is presumably brother to George. They appear to be living near to the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.
James Ford, presumably another brother, aged 24 and born in Derby P.N.P. is listed in the 1851 census as a Spar Manufacturer also.
Leonard Palmer’s business was indicated by the census enumerator’s walk as being located near to the Chapel, and we understand that lots of spar shards have been found in that area also. His Spar manufacturing business appears to have been the last surviving in Griffydam.
Leonard, who was born in Ravenstone, is listed in the 1861, 1871 and 1891 census as a Spar manufacturer.
He is also listed in trade directories dated 1870, 1875, 1877, 1880 and 1892 as a Spar Manufacturer / Turner suggesting that he was running a sizeable operation.
George Peters & Oliver Farnsworth
George Peters, born in Whitwick, first appears in the 1881 census as a Spar Manufacturer. Lodging with him is Oliver Farnsworth, born on Derby, also listed as a Spar Manufacturer.
SALES OF BAUBLES
Very few baubles were made for sale locally, although there was a market for them at St. Bernard’s Abbey and other Monasteries for selling to visitors by the monks. The largest and most lucrative markets were at Fairs / Wakes, places like Matlock and sea-side towns like Weston-Super-Mare. A substantial industry did grow up in Matlock much earlier than in this locality.
It is noticeable that within Bauble making families, there were often people listed as “Hawkers of Spar”, who were clearly engaged in selling the Baubles made at home to these markets, from their barrows, during the season. Like any good salesman, they would have been ultimately responsible for the output of the manufacturer.
The cost of the items shown in the photographs would have varied from say a few pence for the small simple items, to perhaps say 4s for the more complex one like the watch stand shown later.
The industry came to an end at the end of the 19th century due to an influx of cheap imports from abroad, and a change in fashion.
Joseph Ashton, Bauble Manufacturer in nearby Pegg's Green selling his wares at Weston Super Mare c.1851.