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Object in Focus: No. 42-Snuff Case, 19th Century

Berwick Museum and Art Gallery

Many of the items in our collections are adorned with a name or date, as we see here. This unusual small mussel shaped snuff case would have been received by the individual whose name can be seen engraved across the front. The case has had a hard life and has become separated from its base in later years. Similar designs from the 19th century show that the base would have likely been made from an actual mussel shell.

Snuff Case, 19th Century

Berwick Museum and Art Gallery

The case was donated to Berwick Museum and Art Gallery in the 1990s, and was discovered by a tenant at the address 62 Church Street.

Many of the items in our collections are adorned with a name or date, as we see here. This unusual small mussel shaped snuff case would have been received by the individual whose name can be seen engraved across the front. The case has had a hard life and has become separated from its base in later years. Similar designs from the 19th century show that the base would have likely been made from an actual mussel shell.

Snuff is a smokeless tobacco ground from pulverised tobacco leaves. It became popular in Europe in the 17th century. By the 18th century, snuff was regarded as a product for the elite. During this time, snuff accessories were becoming very popular and the most ornate designs would make excellent table pieces to show off to house guests in the billiard room. Even Queen Charlotte appears to have succumbed to its popularity and was given the name ‘snuffy Charlotte’ amidst contemporary reports that she had an entire room dedicated to taking snuff.

The silver case is delicately engraved with a filigree design and decorated edge reading,

It was presented to A.K. Makins, of Tweedmouth, on 23rd September 1889.

Unfortunately, we do not know why the snuff case was presented to Mr Makins. Perhaps it was linked to his work as an auditor. It is likely that he would have left the snuff case on the sideboard for decoration in the family home.

Alex Kirkwood Makins was born around 1854 in Twizel, Northumberland. In July 1889, his name was recorded in the Berwick Advertiser, with reference to the Berwick Equitable Benefit Building Societies annual shareholders meeting which was held at the local corn exchange. It is here that Makins was re-elected as an auditor, with a bonus payment of 4 shillings and 3 pence; worth roughly £17.44 in 1889.

Twelve years later Alex Makins is recorded as living with his wife Kate Makins and their seven children at 53 Main Street, Tweedmouth. Three of Alex and Kate’s sons fought in World War One, and it was reported in the Berwick Advertiser in July 198 that Stanley Makins was presumed dead in France after he was recorded as missing some months before. In the same report it pays tribute to the late Alex Makins who was a prominent member of the old Berwick Volunteer Artillery and was for many years Q.M. (Quarter Master), Sergeant. The last known recorded address for Kate and the family was Blakewell Road, Tweedmouth.

 

 

 

BERMG:1992.3.2

 

 

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