Art, Ornament, Science

I recently took some photos of Form and Design in Victorian Britain at the Muirhead Tower. The display case consists of three separate sections and we arranged the objects into themes – Art & Music, Object & Ornament and Science & Industry. The brief for the display was to complement the BAVS conference theme of ‘Composition and Decomposition’ and the objects speak to both notions – making, creating, assembling, design (both natural and manmade), destruction, decay, falling apart.

Many of the objects have close links with Birmingham, including three stained glass designs by John Hardman. I was really lucky to be able to include these drawings as the bulk of the Hardman archive is in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Birmingham Central Library. Hardman and Co. came to prominence after working with A. W. Pugin on Birmingham’s St Chad’s Cathedral. They began making stained glass in 1844 and quickly became the world’s leading manufacturer.

Another fascinating part of the Cadbury Research Library’s collection are embroidered samplers. We included one which was completed by a 12 year-old girl from Sierra Leone named Ann Crowther. An educational tool, samplers combined both lessons in needlework and morality.

The final section includes some screws still in active use today on Birmingham University’s campus. In 1851, the screw manufacturer John Sutton Nettlefold bought the exclusive rights to Thomas Sloan’s machine for making screws. With adaptation of the machine for their Birmingham premises and the inspiration of Birmingham mass production methods, Nettlefold and Chamberlain became Britain’s leading screw-making firm.