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The Kalmar Vault

The Vault: A Vinaigrette Case gifted to Miss Miriam Isherwood

Antique jewellery is a window into the past lives of those who came before. This piece from the personal collection of the Kalmar’s is a perfect encapsulation of how these jewels connect us to a different time, place and person.  This item is a vinaigrette case and is layered in both sentiment and purpose. Through the existence of this item, we meet Miss Miriam Isherwood and her aristocratic family whose lives unfolded in the quaint town of Marple, Cheshire. 

Upon first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking this piece as an item of mourning jewellery, created to mark the bereavement of a loved one. The lock of woven hair and the inscription on the reverse side of the locket are common aesthetic elements of mourning jewels. However, upon further inspection it is evident that this item was gifted with another sentiment in mind for the recipient.  


The inscription upon the inside lid gifts us insight into the intended sentiment of the piece. The cursive font is so decorative and neatly done that it is hard to believe that it was engraved by hand. Undoubtedly the work of a master engraver, the length and consistency of the message that has been inscribed upon the lid is truly remarkable. With careful inspection we can read the inscription as follows; 


Mifs Miriam Isherwood 

By the female monitors of the 

Marple Church Sunday School 

A token of respect for her 

Unwearied exertions in  

Promoting the spirituals 

Temporal welfare of new 

Scholars 17 June 1839” 



After deciphering the inscription, we begin to understand the circumstance surrounding this jewel and its intended recipient. The beneficiary of the piece was Miriam Isherwood as a token of respect for her work as a Monitor at the Marple Sunday School gifted to her by her colleagues.  

Another element that adds to the sentiment of the piece is the inclusion of plaited hair in the locket compartment. During the Victorian era, of which this piece originates, “hair compartments are to be seen on every kind of jewel from this time” (Hinks, 1975). Hair was a common token to be gifted as a token of friendship and love.  

 “There’s different kinds of hair art and there are different purposes; one is for mourning, and then one is for family trees, or friendship keepsakes, so there’s different imagery you’ll see in those things” (Burgess, 2018). 

When we consider the circumstances in which this piece was gifted, it is unlikely that the hair contained in the piece is that of Miriam Isherwood.  This is a fair assumption as the piece is dated 1839 and records show that Miss Miriam Isherwood passed away in 1870.  It is therefore, very unlikely that the gift givers would have had access to Miss Isherwood’s own hair. We can speculate that the hair within the piece was that of the gift givers, the female monitors of Marple Church Sunday School, or perhaps even that of the students which Miriam Isherwood offered spiritual guidance. Although we cannot know for sure, a locket containing the hair of her peers or her students as a sentiment of thanks for her service is likely to fit the occasion for which the piece was gifted.  

The style of hairwork featured in the piece was created using a palette work technique. “Palette work tends to be for jewellery and larger works, and is a technique where you’ll see woven hair in patterns. Clean, flattened hair was woven or mixed with a sap-like material to create a sheet, which was then crafted into shapes that usually goes under glass, or it goes on top of ivory, in jewellery” (Burgess, 2018). Considering the technique, it is possible that the hair enclosed in this piece was that of multiple people that had been worked together in this way.  

Jewellery in the Victorian era was renowned for being deeply sentimental but another important aspect of design was utilitarian function. This piece serves as an example of this with the reverse side of the locket being utilised as a vinaigrette. Vinaigrette cases were used to house a perfume-soaked sponge or piece of cotton that could be brought to the nose to mask unpleasant odours. During the 19th century, vinaigrettes were a fashionable indication of social ranking, as those who were able to afford perfume or concern themselves with their outward appearance at all, were among the elite. Sanitisation standards were low for all including the highest classes, but they were able to compensate with perfume which would distinguish them from the working class” (AC Silver, 2022). Therefore, through this piece we can begin to understand the social ranking of the Isherwood family.  A piece such as this would likely have been worn suspended from a chatelaine at Miss Isherwood’s waist, a truly thoughtful and useful gift.  

This piece not only provides us with Miss Isherwood’s name but it connects us to the church in Marple, Cheshire where she received this gift some 183 years ago. Miriam Isherwood was the daughter of John Bradshaw-Isherwood and Elizabeth Bradshaw-Isherwood born in 1816. She was one of seven daughters and one brother who made up the Isherwood clan, a highly respectable family from the quaint town of Marple. The Bradshaw-Isherwood family were one of the most notable families within this region and the lavish Marple Hall has been the ancestral estate to the family for many generations. The Bradshaw-Isherwood family are widely documented for making substantial contributions to the Marple Church and community. As such, it comes as no surprise that a piece such as this, would be gifted to a member of the Isherwood family.  

Further research reveals the impact which the aristocratic Isherwood-Bradshaw family have had on the region of Marple and to English history. When tracing the ownership of Marple Hall (pictured right) we see that the family of Miss Miriam Isherwood were descendants of Lord President John Bradshaw, whose father Henry Bradshaw II and older brother Henry Bradshaw III were both noted as Landlords of Marple Hall. John Bradshaw made a significant impact to the history of England with his close political connections to Oliver Cromwell and his appointment as the Lord President of the Council of State. His legacy would be one shrouded in controversy for his role in issuing the warrant for the execution of King Charles I in 1649. When the crown was restored to King Charles II, he condemned the actions of regicide and therefore John Bradshaw can be considered a divisive figure when reviewing English history. Centuries on from their ancestor’s tribulations, the Bradshaw family lived in relative obscurity with no other notable endeavours into political life. They appeared by all counts to have lived a life of quiet privilege within the town of Marple and surrounds.  

This item, a token of gratitude, connects us to the life of Ms. Miriam Isherwood and her distinguished family ties in Marple, Cheshire. With this tangible connection to the parish of the Marple Church community, we are able to greater understand the local history of this area and also the Bradshaw-Isherwood family.  Unfortunately, Miss Isherwood’s family home, Marple Hall, is no longer standing with only minor ruins remaining. The Marple Church is still in operation, as is the Sunday School of which Miss Isherwood pioneered.  






The Vault: An Imperial Half Pint Measuring Cup by James Blanch

Objects are important as they tell our human history by connecting us to past places and people. These tangible bonds offer us the rare opportunity to touch history. Never has this sentiment rung truer than in the instance of this imperial half pint measuring cup. One of the humbler items in the Kalmar’s collection, although it may not be crafted from the highest carat gold or covered with the finest jewels, the unique instrument offers us a direct lineage to our local history. From this measuring cup, the redemption tale of James Blanch, a convict, instrument maker and perhaps Australia’s first metrologist unfolds. 

A Convict’s Tale

James Blanch was born in England in 1784 and at the age of fourteen it is surmised that he was apprenticed in the trade of mathematical instrument making. By the end of the 18th century, London had become the world’s leading centre for scientific instrument making with numerous piece-makers and wholesalers specialising in the manufacture of optical, mathematical and philosophical instruments (Holland, 2000). Despite this training, the first recorded occupation of James Blanch was from 1814 as a Customs House Officer working on the London docks. It was during his time working on the docks that opportunity mixed with poor judgement would lead Blanch to commit an act of petty theft. Together with a fellow official, Blanch stole ten yards of Russia Duck, a heavy linen fabric, worth 30 shillings from the ship, ‘Lord Harlington’. This misdemeanour would see the pair sentenced and bound for Botany Bay aboard the convict ship ‘Fanny’ which landed on Sydney shores in 1816.  

Having served his time in the colony, Blanch gained his Ticket of Leave in 1821 and just one year later, his wife Sarah sailed out on the ‘Brixton’ to join him. Now open to start his life as a free member of society, Blanch set up his professional trade and established the Sydney Foundry and Engineering Works. “Blanch set up business in Pitt Street as a mathematical and philosophical instrument maker, brass founder, brazier, plater and general worker in silver and brass” (Holland, 2000). He would later move his business to the central location of George Street where he would also acquire further properties. Accompanied by other convicts and an apprentice of his own, Blanch would achieve reasonable success with his business whilst supporting his growing family. However, it would be the ‘Bill for preventing the use of false and deficient Weights and Measures’ passed in August 1832 that would forever weave the work of James Blanch into our country’s history.  


The Measure of a Man

It was accountant and mathematician, Patrick Kelly, who first recorded the term of ‘metrology’ in an 1816 text in which he proposed universal standards, a central remit of discipline, aimed at the development of agreed standards for weights and measures in science and industry (MAAS, 2022). As it stood, Victorian England and Colonial Australia were awash with interpretations about reliable and agreed standards, and the construction of artefacts to accurately measure them” (MAAS, 2022). It was therefore decided, that with the passing of the new bill the infant colony of New South Wales would develop a uniformed approach to measurement and weight based upon the imperial system of England.

The provision of these items was awarded to James Blanch with the task of creating seven sets of instruments accurately determining weights, volume measurements and a standard yard. The sets were to include the below; 

Series of weights: 1, 2, 4, and 8 drams, 1, 2, 4, and 8 ounces, 1, 2, 4, 7, 14, 28, and 56 pounds. 

Series of volume measures: half gill, gill, half pint, pint, quart, half gallon, gallon, peck, half bushel and bushel  

An instrument the length of one standard yard, better known as a yard stick.  

The seven sets were “distributed to police offices in various regional towns – Parramatta, Windsor, Bong-Bong, Goulburn, Bathurst, Maitland – as well as one to the police office in Sydney” (Holland, 2000).  These instrument sets would be the foundations of accurate and cohesive measurement units across the colony of New South Wales.  

Embossed in the metal of the measuring cup is the maker’s mark ‘J.Blanch’ and the date ‘1833’. There is another symbol etched into the side of the measuring cup that resembles an arrow. This mark is described as the ‘broad arrow’ and was used across England and colonial Australia. “Every item made or used by government convicts had to be marked or stamped with a broad arrow, the mark of government property, to prevent theft and the selling-on of government goods and tools. The broad arrow was so widely used to mark objects used by convicts, that it became associated with the convict system itself, rather than just a symbol of government property” (Sydney Living Museums, 2022). At the time of this item being commissioned by the government James Blanch was a free member of society. Therefore, a distinction can be made that this mark was associated with the sets belonging to government property as opposed to being included due to Blanch’s prior convict status.


An Instrumental Legacy

From convict to successful businessman and pioneer of engineering practices within Australia, the tale of James Blanch is a true under-dog story. James Blanch passed away in 1841 with multiple properties to his name and is listed at number 182 of all –time richest Australians (Past Lives, 2012). His foundry was taken over after his death by Peter Nicol Russell who continued its operation with his two brothers under the company P.N Russell and Company. Peter Nicol Russell would live on to become a pioneering figure of the engineering industry within Australia and was a significant benefactor to the University of Sydney.   

Workers photographed in front of the Sydney Foundry & Engineering Works operated by PN Russell & Co circa 1870-1875

Image source: The State Library of New South Wales Collections

The legacy of James Blanch and his contributions to engineering and instrument making within Australia live on, although they are far less noted than that of his successor. It is through objects such as this imperial half pint measuring cup, which bears his name, that the tale of James Blanch endures.  Undoubtedly, there are many objects crafted by the hands of Blanch that would remain scattered across the state of New South Wales and afar, the imperial half pint measuring cup in the private collection of the Kalmar’s is but one example of his work. Another is an Imperial half bushel which can be viewed at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.  

 Image source: Powerhouse Museum Collections




Australian Government National Measurement Institute (2010), ‘History of Measurement in Australia’; ‘History of Metric Conversion’,  www.measurement.gov.au/measurementsystem/Pages/HistoryofMeasuremtin

Holland, Julia (2000), ‘James Blanch – Australia’s first meterologist?’; The Australian Metrologist, http://members.optusnet.com.au/jph8524/JHjames_blanch.htm

Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (2022), Imperial half bushel measure; Powerhouse Museum Collection, https://collection.maas.museum/object/550907

Past Lives (2012), ‘James Blanch (1784 – 1841): custom house officer, convict, and mathematical instrument maker’, https://mprobb.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/james-blanch-1754-1841-custom-house-officer-convict-and-mathematical-instrument-maker/

State Library of New South Wales (2022), ‘Fanny voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1815 with 175 passengers’; Convict Records, https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/fanny/1815

Sydney Living Museums (2022), ‘Branding iron early to mid 19th century’; Objects Records, https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/taxonomy/term/18636#object-107796


The Vault: Pocket Watch and Albert Chain by Australian Jeweller Henry F. Hutton

To kickstart The Kalmar Vault series we begin with two significant pieces of Australian jewellery history. From the Kalmar’s private collection comes a fantastic pocket watch and Albert chain from acclaimed jeweller and watchmaker, Mr. Henry F Hutton. “The business founded by Henry Hutton around 1880 became one of the premier retail jewellery establishments in Ballarat, Victoria.” (Cavill, Cocks & Grace: 1992).  The town of Ballarat in Victoria was one of Australia’s most significant gold mining towns during the mid-19th century. The gold rush saw prospectors migrate to towns such as Bathurst, Buninyong and Ballarat. This brought an influx of many Colonial jewellers who settled and set up businesses in the towns. Hutton worked out of his shopfront on Stuart Street in the second half of the 19th century between the 1880s to late 1950s. It was there that Hutton gained notoriety for his quality jewellery and skilled watchmaking.  

Card Box Photograph, Huttons the Jewellers advertisement, Ballarat circa 1916

Although the Kalmar’s have owned other pieces of Hutton’s work this exceptional Albert chain and pocket watch is a piece which remains in their private collection. “Because of its great rarity, Australian jewellery of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is now eagerly sought after by collectors and museums alike” (Schofield, A & Fahy, K: 1990). The pieces are not only of exceptional quality but have fantastic significance to Australia’s history. 

The Albert Chain:  Albert chains were originally created for the purpose of fastening a pocket-watch to a men’s waistcoat.   Named after the style of watch chain worn by Prince Albert the chain traditionally comprised of a T-bar at one end that would affix to a button hole and a swivel hook at the other to attach to the pocket watch.  This Albert chain is of this traditional design but with exceptionally ornate detailing. 

“One thing which distinguishes Australian jewellery of the mid-nineteenth century is its generous use of gold which was so abundant. Australian gold watch chains, based closely on the type made popular in England by Prince Albert, are usually much heavier than the English ones: the same principle applies to Australian gold fob seals and brooches” (Schofield, A & Fahy, K: 1990).

Crafted in 18ct yellow gold the piece features two twisted chains held in place with two sliding mechanisms. At the end of the chain hangs the traditional T-Bar and ornate chain tassel. Each surface of the gold has incredible hand-engraved details which feature beautiful floral patterns. A ‘Hutton’ maker’s mark can be found embossed on the bottom bail of the chain. 

The Pocket Watch:  The pocket watch case, also crafted in 18ct yellow gold, features exceptional detailing on either side. On one side, a shield with an ornate wreath of floral and filigree engraving surrounding it. The other side, features the same wreath pattern but with a bouquet of flowers in the center. The watch-face is also decorated with floral designs and roman numerals upon the dial. Sitting underneath the centre twelve are the words “Henry F. Hutton Ballaarat”, this is interesting as it not only depicts the maker’s name but also the traditional spelling of the city, which later dropped the additional ‘a’ from its title.  


These two incredible pieces of Australian history are such fantastic examples of the quality of work being produced by Australian jewellers throughout the 19th century. Many pieces of jewellery from this era tell the history of our country, from the gold rush, colonization, societal changes and the appreciation of native flora and fauna. To find out more about other significant Australian jewellers read a brief history of Australian jewellery. 



Shop Antique Australian Jewellery





Cavill, K; Cocks, G & Grace, J (1992) “Australian Jewellers, Gold & Silversmtihs-Makers & Marks”: C.G.C Gold Pty Limited.  

Fahy, K & Schofield, A (1990) “Australian Jewellery 19th and Early 20th Century”: David Ell Pres Pty Ltd.  

First Image Courtesy of the Victorian Collections 


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