A Souvenir Purchased From A Georgian Museum

By Anthony Dove F.R.S.A.

The four part extending toasting fork[1] illustrated here is London hallmarked for 1809, made by George Collins and is 9in closed & 26in fully extended; and inscribed around the outer collar:-
B[ough]T AT WEEKS'S R[oyal mechanical] MUSEUM, Tichborne Stt, 1138.[2]

The Royal Mechanical Museum was started in the late 18th century[3] by Thomas Weeks[4] as a successor to Cox's Museum in Spring Gardens[5]. It was fully established in the 1802 Holden's directory as such at premises at 4[6] Titchboume[7] Street, Haymarket. Boyle's City guide of 1803 describes Thomas Weeks as an umbrella manufacturer at no. 4 while the Museum is at no. 3 (over the Black Horse Inn).[8]

The Post Office Directories, although starting at the beginning of the nineteenth century, do not acknowledge the existence of either Thomas Weeks or his museum until 1820. From his death in 1833 the name of Thomas is dropped and the firm is described as Messrs. Weeks. There was a sale of artefacts[9] in July 1834[10] and from 1836, the directories replace the word 'Museum' with the curious term 'mechanist'.[11] This was obviously as strange at the time as now, as in two instances it is misprinted as 'machinist'.

In 1844 the remaining exhibits moved to 202 Piccadilly under the name of Charles Weeks[12] described again as 'mechanist'. Charles Weeks died on 23rd March 1864[13] and by 1879 there was no further mention either of the Museum or the family.

I would be interested if any members know the whereabouts of any other items of silver from this source and especially if there are comparable numbers or dates.

1. I have been informed of the existence of two similar forks but details of these are not available at present.
2. The significance of this number is not known.
3. The London Encyclopaedia ed. by Ben Weintraub and Christopher Hibbert page 309.
4. Described as a Professor of mechanical music in Pigot's Directory of 1827.
5. London Encyclopaedia (op. cit. page 206).
6. The exact number varies between 3 and 4 over the period.
7. Various spellings - Titchbourne, Titchborne, Tichbome.
8. London Encyclopaedia (op. cit. page 309).
9. There is no mention of any extending silver toasting forks in this catalogue.
10. British Library press mark CUP.1256.a.9. I am very grateful to J. Luke Schrager for this information.
11. "An expert in mechanics" - Oxford English Dictionary.
12. Thomas's son .
13. Curiosities of London by John Timbs 1876 (page 606).

I am grateful to Michael Golding for the photographs.


The Finial, October/November 2003

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