Prisoner of War Games Boxes

Prisoners of War particularly the French but other nationalities as well used their time whilst in captivity in the British prisons to make exquisite items from bone, straw and wood. They used whatever material was readily available to them, hence the use of bone from the meat that they ate.

The prisoners worked in teams as there was several stages to achieving the end product, for example for bone to be used all the meat was stripped from the bone, boiled to remove the grease, scraped, cleaned and dried before bleaching to improve colour. The bone would then have been cut, sliced and pared into different widths, lengths etc ready for games boxes, ships and toys.

Carpenters and cabinet makers would have also made up the teams, producing wooden boxes on to which the thin bone or straw would have been stuck. Artists painting and decorating the final product.

The prisoners were allowed to sell these items in markets outside the prison walls. This in turn gave them a small amount of money to spend, Inner markets within the prison were opened for prisoners to spend their money usually on food, drink and gambling.

The Prisoner of War Industry not only helped pass the days in captivity but also prevented many prisoners from getting unruly. These markets surrounding the prisons were a thriving business and worked both ways as country folk bought their goods to be sold to the prisoners, having a captive market, as well as people flocking to these prison markets to buy the beautiful goods produced by the prisoners.

Prisoners of War also undertook commissions and restoration work.

Today many of these fascinating items have survived beautifully covered boxes with split straw decorations to finely carved ships from bone and wooden snuff shoes or games boxes often inlaid with bone hearts.

Illustrated here are some examples of the lovely bone game boxes that were made. The links below are current Prisoner of War items that are in stock.

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We first became involved in Antique Treen and furniture some twenty five years ago and since then a passion for Treen, small wooden snuff boxes and decorative wooden items has developed into Opus Antiques.

This web site shows only a  small selection of our current stock for sale, if you are looking for something you don't see, please contact us.


We are also interested in buying Antique Treen items. As well as using our Contact page, you can also email or telephone us on 07941 285532


The word Treen is derived from the word tree and is a term used to describe wooden household objects, all turned from one piece of wood e.g. a bowl, plate, gingerbread mould, and spoons, always having a function.

Nowadays when we talk about Antique Treen it tends to cover all small wooden items including antique snuff boxes, candle stands, spice towers, etc. often made from several pieces of turned wood.


When a piece of wood has been painstakingly turned or carved, handled, polished and loved over a few hundred years old, it can develop a wonderful colour and patina and becomes an irresistible piece of Antique Treen.

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Address: Bath, Somerset       Contact Telephone: 07941 285532       Email: