Decorative Arts

Our Decorative Arts collection contains around 5,000 items including ceramics, jewellery, textiles, glassware and metalwork (mostly silver).

The collections include examples of English pottery and glass from around 1600 to the present day, and examples of porcelain from all the major English factories including Don, Rockingham and other South Yorkshire factories.

Of greatest significance is the museum service’s collection of pieces from the Yorkshire potteries, of which the Heather Lawrence collection forms the centrepiece.  We also hold several Doncaster Gold Cups and the Gerald Shaw collection of Treen.

Many items from this collection, including the entire Yorkshire Pottery collection, are on display in Doncaster Museum and the Art Gallery.


Swinton Loving Cup
Pearlware, 1793

swinton loving cup

A loving cup is a two-handled cup that was passed around at weddings and banquets. Quite often these cups have an inscription on them, and this particular one is inscribed to Thomas and Ann Leck, with a date of 1793.

Thomas and Ann were not local people. They married at Easingwold, to the north of York, on 27 December 1784. So the cup is not to commemorate their marriage, but another significant event, perhaps the couple moving away from the village.

The cup was made at the Swinton Pottery at Wentworth Woodhouse near Barnsley. This pottery was founded in 1745, and used raw materials from the Wentworth estate. It later became the Rockingham Works, named after the landowners on which the pottery stood.

The cup was actually donated to Doncaster Museum in 2006 from a gentleman in Australia, where it had been purchased many years ago. How it got there we can’t be sure, but perhaps a later generation of the Leck family emigrated to Australia, taking the cup with them.

225 years after it was first made, this loving cup is back only 20 miles from where it was created, and still looks as good as new.


Doncaster Gold CupDoncaster Gold Cup 1779
Silver, 1779

Doncaster Museum Service has an important collection of racing cups. This example is the oldest in our collection, and was awarded to Magnum Bonum for winning the Doncaster Gold Cup in 1779.

The cup, which was made in London by Richard Carter, Daniel Smith and Robert Sharpe, is richly decorated with vine leaves. A panel on the side depicts an image from Greek mythology, of Hector leaving Andromache. The scene, which is described in Homer’s Iliad, shows the moment when Hector is preparing to depart for battle, where he is killed by Achilles. Greek mythology was very popular in the late 18th century.

The Doncaster Gold Cup, now known as the Doncaster Cup, is the oldest horse race to take place in Doncaster. It was first run in 1766, 10 years before the St Leger. The race was originally held on Cantley Common, and was run over a distance of four miles.

Magnum Bonum, the winner of this magnificent trophy, was the son of the great racehorse Matchem, which is one of the four stallions credited with producing every English thoroughbred. In total Matchem sired354 winners.

The Bethel family, the owners of Magnum Bonum, retained the cup until its sale in 1929. In 1982, the cup was purchased by Doncaster Museum at Christie’s auctioneers.


Commemorative medalcommemorative medal front side
George Verbanck, 1934

The art of the commemorative medal began in Roman times. It remained popular throughout the Renaissance and into the early 20th century. Most medals were produced to record a specific event, or to reward people for particular achievements.

This medal, by the Belgian designer George Verbanck (1881-1961), was produced to commemorate the death of Albert, King of the Belgians, who died after falling from a cliff at Marche Les Dame in Belgium, on 17 February 1934. The inscription on the medal reads Son Ame Seule Acheve L’Ascension (His soul alone ascended).

The medal is a fine example of its type, crafted in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. There is an angel on one side, and a striking portrait in profile of King Albert on the other.


Needlework boxneedlework box inside lid detail
Stumpwork, 1650-1670

This beautiful 17th century needlework box features the oldest piece of textile in our collections.  The decoration on the box is all hand-sewn, using a technique known as stumpwork.

Stumpwork is a form of embroidery that uses padding to create three-dimensional images. Traditionally, the embroidered stitches were woven around stumps of wood, hence the term stumpwork. The technique was particularly popular in the middle of the 17th century.

Looking closely at the box, the detail in the imagery is stunning. This is particularly true of the inside of the box, which has not received as much wear and tear as the outside.

On the inside of the lid are two panels. The left one shows a woman standing on a beautifully tiled floor while playing a lute, with finely detailed images of a stag, butterfly and caterpillar. On the right hand panel, a young woman holds a parrot and flowers, and in the Needlwork boxbackground are images of trees and the sun emerging from behind a cloud.

The individual drawers are all lovingly decorated with floral images, while the outside of the bottom drawer shows a hunting scene. The box also contains three secret compartments, where the owner may have stored private letters.

This stumpwork box is not usually on display, as it is fragile and easily damaged by exposure to light.


Enamel Tazza depicting Moses and the Ten Commandments enamel tazza
c.1540

This enamelled dish was made at Limoges in France around 1540, making it the oldest decorative art object in our collections.

A tazza, from the Italian word for cup, is a shallow saucer-like dish, mounted on a stem and foot or on a foot alone. It can be used for drinking, serving small items of food, or – as in the case of this particular item – just for display.

During the Renaissance, the city of Limoges was a major artistic centre, specialising particularly in enamel. Examples of Limoges enamel can be found in museum collections around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Hermitage in Leningrad.

The technique used to make the dish involved modelling the basic shape in copper, and then applying molten glass to the surface, which when dry is called enamel.

Because of the fragility of the glass surface, the Limoges enamels were not intended to be used, but were made for decorative purposes.

This tazza, which depicts Moses and the Ten Commandments, was a gift to Doncaster Museum from the Treasury in lieu of tax paid on the death of the 7th Earl Spencer, who was the grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales.



candelabraJackson’s Candelabrum

Enamel, 1852

This impressive nine-light centrepiece candelabrum belonged to the Jackson family, who owned the factory that manufactured Radiance toffee in Doncaster. It was made by Elkington’s of Birmingham in 1852.

Elkington’s was one of the most important manufacturers of tableware in the 19TH century, and produced the cutlery that was used on the ill-fated Titanic.

The candelabrum has three feet in the shape of claws, with enamel in red and blue.

Around the base there are three standing Roman figures. The man holds a laurel wreath. One of the women holds a caduceus and globe, a winged staff with two snakes entwined around it, representing commerce. The other woman holds corn ears and a scythe.

The Radiance Toffee Works, owned by the Jackson family, relocated from Scunthorpe in 1923, and was based in the Wheatley Hall Road area of Doncaster. At its height it employed around 500 people, mainly women.


Silver Belt ClaspSilver belt clasp
William Comyns & Sons, 1899

This silver clasp is significant as much for the person who donated it as for the object itself.  The clasp was given to Doncaster Museum by a collector called Anne Hull Grundy who donated a total of around 400 items to our collections.

Mrs Hull Grundy was the daughter of a wealthy banker, and she began collecting as a child. At the age of 21 she retreated to her bed, victim of a mysterious illness. However, she continued to collect jewellery, describing herself as “a large spider sitting at the centre of a web of dealers, salesrooms and museums”.

Towards the end of her life, Mrs Hull Grundy distributed her collection to museums around the country, including the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge.

This belt clasp was made by the company of William Comyns & Sons of London in 1899. The company was very fashionable in the 1900s, and supplied a number of shops including Tiffany & Co. in New York.