A Napoleonic prisoner of war tea caddy decorated with straw work. It has its original stop hinges and handle and has a working key.
C1800. It measures 14cm h x 13cm w x 12.5cm d
See below for more details.
Here is a remarkable Napoleonic prisoner of war straw work tea caddy.
dating from around 1800. These straw boxes were made in England in prisoner of war camps and the prison ships between 1793-1815. Prisoners, mainly French and Dutch were scattered across England but two of the main areas were Dartmoor and Norman Cross.
As discussed in an earlier article the straw splitter believed to have been invented by a prisoner of war and illustrated below was used at the start of the construction process to split the straw into different sizes. It was then flattened, bleached and dyed and then either glued directly onto the wooden box or onto paper which was then glued to the box. This was an extremely skilled job as the correct amount of pressure had to be applied to ensure adhesion but also to obtain a flat surface. To remove any excess moisture from the glue blotting paper was used.
The intricate foliage and flowers which cover this tea caddy on all four sides and the lid must have taken the skilled men along time. Each side of the caddy has been divided into four columns and straw has been applied to the background to give a herringbone appearance using contrasting colours, which at the time must have looked magnificent. The colours have faded to a lovely mellow colour on this box, but still can be seen particularly on the back panel. The herringbone pattern would have been achieved by using long strips of straw which would have first been glued onto paper and by cutting them diagonally would give a sharply defined herringbone pattern.
The interior lid of the tea caddy, where it has not seen much sunlight,retains the deep colours. Note the geomertic edging and stripes to the interior, typical features of Napoleonic prisoner of war work.
When you think of the living conditions, the amount of light and materials available to these prisoners, to produce a box of intricate design with the subtle colourings shows the imagination and skill of these prisoners.