GPO Prog02 part1:GPO Prog02 part1 19/05/2011 15:17 Page 14
The Treasure Trove at the Grange Drinking is in reality an occupation which employs a considerable portion of the time of many people; and to conduct it in the most rational and agreeable manner is one of the great arts of living. James Boswell Journals 1775 Smirke either didn’t know or didn’t care much what treasures he buried under the wing he added to the Grange in 1819. The excavation for the new scenery dock, like Schliemann at Troy, dug through Smirke, on down through Wilkins (1804) into three brick–lined pits (1660) which had probably been built as water cisterns. And it was here we found our treasures: not gold or even silver, but wine–glasses, bottles, china, earthenware and a large pile of oyster shells, a concentrated little hoard, all dating from the same period (1720–1760), all clearly from the same fine household collection. There was not much of it and there was almost nothing intact. But there was enough to give us a fascinating little sidelight into the history of this great house. The mid–18th century was a particularly interesting period in the development of both wine–glasses (and all the glasses we found were fine wineglasses) as well as glass bottles in England. The earliest English glasses were either imported or copied Venetian glass, and it was only with the introduction of glass–of–lead by George Ravenscroft in 1674 that glasses of a purely English origin can be dated. By 1745, when our glasses
were probably being made, England was at war again and a duty was levied on glass to help pay for it. It had a major influence on the design of drinking glasses: they became lighter and smaller as manufactures tried to keep their costs down. The feet of glasses also underwent a major change between 1740 and 1750. The folded foot, one of which we found at the Grange, was seldom made after that period, and a plain type took its place. After about 1770 the pontil mark beneath the base was ground flat, so there was no longer a necessity for the foot to be domed. We found some splendidly domed feet, the pontil roughly broken off by the glassmaker, helping the archaeologists to be even more precise in their dating. We also found some beautiful air–twist stems, a form of decoration added from the middle of the 18th century to the lighter, smaller, plain–bowled glasses of the time. An imprisoned air bubble was skilfully manipulated by the glassblower into a series of delicate silvery spirals. There were several wonderful examples in the pit under the old wing. In all we found nine glasses and seven fine china plates, none of them intact but with most of the pieces present. Just as interesting as the glasses were the bottles.
Varying in capacity, these bottles illustrate in chronological order the basic forms as they evolved from the first to the last decades of the 18th century. From the A C Hubbard, Jr. Collection
Published on Jul 28, 2011