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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (W)

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Wag-on-the-wall clock: Of Dutch origin (the Friesland Clock), for hanging on the wall; long exposed pendulum and weights.

Wainscot (from the Low German wagenshot): Originally the term was used to describe a consignment of timber from the Baltic, by the seventeenth century the word was used to describe timber for use in furniture and panelling and it is this latter reference that has survived.

Waiter: A small silver tray dating from the eighteenth century.

Waldglas: A glass made in Germany during the Middle Ages, green, brown, yellow; sometimes called `Natural Forest Glass' because the alkali came from ferns and bracken.

Walnut: There are two varieties. The first, grown in Europe (including England) and some eastern countries, is pale brown with dark brown and black veining. The other, sometimes called `Virginia' or `black' walnut, is of a deep brown colour with dark markings and veining; it comes from the eastern states of the U.S.A. Walnut is an excellent carving wood and it takes a good finish. It was used in the solid in France and Italy during the Renaissance, but in England the `age of walnut' is 1660-1720.

Wardrobe: Developed from the oak cupboard or press during the eighteenth century. Early wardrobes are not usually made with doors the full height, but have a hanging section above a tier (or tiers) of drawers. Large wardrobes dating from the middle of the eighteenth century are constructed in three sections, the centre forming a case of drawers or clothes press, the wings serving as hanging cupboards.

Warming Pan: Originally a covered metal pan enclosed in a wooden cage. In the fifteenth century the cage was dispensed with and a long handle was attached to the pan. The best are of brass, finely-pierced, and with iron handles.

Washing Stand: A stand specifically designed to hold a basin does not seem to have been made before the middle of the eighteenth century. In the second half of that century several types evolved, notably the `disguised' type which, when closed, looked like a small table or chest of drawers, the circular tripod basin-stand, usually with a small central shelf or drawer, and another type with so many fittings, including a mirror, that it almost qualifies as a dressing table.

Waster: Porcelain spoilt in the firing so that when taken from the kiln it has to be thrown away.

Watch: The invention of the portable clock or watch goes back to the early sixteenth century. Germany took an early lead in watch-making, Nuremberg being famous for its watches, and later the industry was established in France, and at Geneva by 1585. The so-called `Nuremberg eggs' (q.v.), of flattened oval form, were made in the south of Germany between c. 1600-50. The first glasses were fitted to watches about 1600; prior to 1700 watches had one hand only. Few if any English watches were made before 1600.

Waterford: Glass Some glass seems to have been made at Waterford from the second quarter of the eighteenth century but it was not till the 1780's that activities became remarkable. In England the Glass Excise Act of 1745, which taxed flint glass by weight, discouraged the making of heavy glass. Ireland could not at first take much advantage of this owing to export restrictions; but in 1780 Irish glass-makers were allowed full freedom to export, a freedom quickly seized by English merchants. John Hill, member of a Stourbridge glass-making family, went to Waterford in 1784, taking more than fifty skilled workmen with him, to manage the Penrose Brothers' Glasshouse. The Penrose brothers relinquished control in 1799, but thanks to Hill, and later Jonathan Gatchell, a worldwide reputation was built up for Waterford cut glassware. A decline set in about 1830 (the glass excise duty imposed in Ireland in 1825 may have had something to do with this) and the glasshouse closed in 1851. Waterford glass has no distinctive features and, unless a stamped seal shows the makers' name, identification is difficult, even for the expert.

Webley revolver: The most successful British weapon of its type, still the prominent product of Webley & Scott Ltd., Birmingham, developed from the unique double-action invention of Philip Webley and Robert Adams, 1851.

Wedgwood: The great name in Staffordshire pottery. Records of the Wedgwoods, as potters, date back to the early seventeenth century. Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), the son of Thomas and Mary Wedgwood, was apprenticed as a thrower to his brother Thomas in 1745; by 1754 he had commenced a five-year partnership with Thomas Whieldon; in 1759 he launched out on his own. Ten years later the factory he had built, Etruria, was in production and in that year (1769) his partnership with Thomas Bentley began, a partnership that lasted till Bentley's death in 1780. The business continued to prosper during Wedgwood's lifetime, went into decline under the direction of his son, Josiah Wedgwood II, and subsequently, but is today in high regard again.

Wedgwood experimented from the beginning, certainly from the time he was with Whieldon. He was fortunate in that his creamware, perfected in the early 1760's, soon after he setup on his own, was such a commercial success. It was the bread-and butter line that enabled him to devote time and cash to the superb ornamental wares, particularly jasper and basalts (qq.v.), and to such projects as copying the Portland vase (q.v.). The greatest of English potters, Wedgwood's influence on his fellow manufacturers of pottery and porcelain both in Britain and on the Continent was profound.

Marks nearly always include the word `Wedgwood' although the initials `w' & B.' (for Wedgwood and Bentley) may be encountered. The inclusion of the Christian name `Josiah' indicates the period of Josiah Wedgwood II.

Welsh Dresser: A side-table or dresser consisting of potboard, two-doored cupboard, drawers and a shelved upper structure. This is the usual form, though there are variations. Normally of oak.

Whatnot: Square or rectangular stand of three or four tiers with turned, sometimes bobbin-shaped, pillars and drawer beneath; on castors often; of rosewood, mahogany, walnut. Georgian and Regency examples often have ormolu rails; Victorian (the heyday) are sometimes adorned with fretwork.

Wheel-lock: Form of gun ignition. The matchlock (q.v.) musket was extremely clumsy, and about 1517 at Nuremberg the wheel-lock was invented-possibly based on the extant fifteenth century designs of Leonardo da Vinci. The wheel employed has a serrated edge and is first `wound up', then released to spin and make contact with pyrites, thus showering sparks on priming in the pan. Its principal advantage over earlier methods was that a wheel-lock gun could be loaded and carried or left about ready to fire at once. But it was expensive to make.

Whieldon, Thomas (1719-95): Staffordshire potter of distinction who established his factory at Fenton Low in 1740, had Josiah Wedgwood as a partner 1754-59, made every kind of pottery that could be made in his time, and retired a rich man about 1780. Whieldon's name is particularly associated with `agate' ware, `tortoiseshell' ware and `marbled' wares. He also made figures (though not so many as are attributed to him!), simple, lively and colourful. (There are no marks on Whieldon's wares.)

Wig-stand: A wooden standard, usually on a circular base, with a bulbous or mushroom-shaped knob at the top. An extremely rare survival.

Willow: A soft tough wood that takes a good polish; often dyed black and used for inlay and applied ornament on furniture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Willow Pattern: Probably the most popular example of chinoiserie applied to the decoration of porcelain in England. A speciality of Spode and Minton.

Wilton Carpets: Wilton, Wiltshire, has been noted for its carpets since 1740 when a factory was established as a result of the efforts of the Earl of Pembroke to introduce the Brussels manner of carpet making (woven as velvet). The cutting of the looped pile was probably practised from the beginning. The Axminster (q.v.) looms were acquired in 1835 and since then knotted pile carpets have been made.

Windsor Chair: A type of chair with back and legs formed of spindles and turnings inserted in a shaped seat (which is usually of elm). The spindle back surmounted by a top rail was usual till about 1740 when the hoop back came in. Manufactured chiefly in Buckinghamshire, this type of chair was widely used as a garden chair, and in inns and farmhouses. The woods used were beech, elm, ash or yew.

Wine Cistern: An oval or circular vessel, usually on legs, for keeping bottles cool. Wooden cisterns, lead-lined, came in about 1730. Most are of mahogany, often with brass hoops and mounts. Cisterns of metal date from the late seventeenth century.

Wine Cooler: A smallish silver vessel for keeping a single bottle cool.

Wine Table: A type of table, dating from the late eighteenth century, specifically designed for after dinner drinking. A typical example is horseshoe-shaped and has two metal coasters attached to a brass rod (or sliding in a well).

Wine Waiter: A wagon on legs with castors for circulating wines and spirits in a dining room. The top is in effect a partitioned tray. They were made in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Wing Bookcase: Another name for the breakfront bookcase.

Wing Chair: Upholstered chair with high back and projecting or winged sides, which are sometimes called cheeks, the arms usually ending in a scroll or turnover.

Witch Ball: Glass globe, often lustred or otherwise treated to resemble polished silver.

Wood: Family of Staffordshire potters, the most famous being Ralph I (active c. 1750-70; figures and toby jugs are notable), his son Ralph II and his grandson Ralph III who continued the business till about 1800; Aaron Wood, a brother of Ralph I, was the finest block-cutter of his time and worked for nearly all the leading potters and probably at the Longton Hall porcelain factory; Enoch Wood, a son of Aaron, was active 1783-1840, trading variously as Enoch Wood & Co., Wood and Caldwell, and, from 1818, Enoch Wood & Sons.

Worcester: The Worcester `Tonquin Manufacture' was established in 1751 by a company which included Dr John Wall, Richard and Josiah Holdship. In 1783 the factory was bought by Thomas Flight for his sons, Joseph and John. After the death of John Flight, Barr was taken into partnership in 1792 and from that year until 1840 the firm's style went like this: 1792 to 1807, Flight & Barr; 1807 to 1813, Barr, Flight & Barr; 1813 to 1840, Flight, Barr & Barr. In 1840 Robert Chamberlain's factory was amalgamated with the older company. From 1852 to 1862 the firm traded as Kerr & Binns and from 1862 to the present the correct style is the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company. Two local factories were victims of take-over bids: that of Thomas Grainger in 1889 and that of James Hadley & Sons in 1905.

Early Worcester had a soft-paste body which contained soaprock; it shows greenish when held up to the light and appears somewhat opaque when viewed from a distance. Underglaze blue was a favoured decoration and the usual Oriental influences are apparent. From about .1765 Meissen provides the inspiration, soon (from 1768) to be rivalled by Sevres. Transfer-printing was much used at Worcester (Robert Hancock was closely associated with the company for a time); painted decoration by such miniaturists as J. H. O'Neale and John Donaldson was of a very high order; a great deal of Worcester porcelain was decorated in the London workshop of James Giles during the 1760's and 70's. Figures were never a speciality at Worcester and are relatively rare.

`Japan' patterns were much used from the early years of the nineteenth century. Figure painting was quite outstanding, as were topographical scenes, but most of the floral decoration was dull. Some pierced wares are esteemed, and the `egg shell' china produced from the 1850's has many admirers.

Marks are many and varied. Typical are the crescent `c', several stylistic variations on the letter `W', pseudo-Meissen and Chinese marks. The crown appears after the king's visit in 1788. There are many workmen's marks, and, of course, `Flight', `Flight & Barr', `B.F.B.' and `F.B.B.' are selfexplanatory.

Work Table: A table for ladies, at which they did their needlework, etc., made from the second half of the eighteenth century. A lifting top is quite common in such tables; a writing board is often incorporated; a frequent feature is the suspended silk bag or pouch. A different type, the French work table, has a tray for a top and shelves below.

Writing Chair: See Roundabout Chair.

Wrought Iron: Ductile iron that has been `wrought', worked, formed, by hand. As opposed to cast iron, which is hard and brittle, wrought iron is malleable and tough.

Wu Ts'ai (Chinese): 'Five-colour' overglaze decoration on Ming porcelain. The `five' is misleading as it really means polychrome. Red and green were the main colours used, with the addition of yellow and purple. The wu ts'ai wares of the Wan Li period are most esteemed.