Author: Brian Lemin.
Archivist: Diana Smith.
All illustrations are from the “DIANA SMITH COLLECTION”.
There is one exception to the statement above and that is the “Transportation Bobbin”. The Higgins Bedford, UK is the copyright source and owner of the object image.
There are only a few classifications of lace bobbins that have been published. Of those that are, probably Freemans, though heavily based on information from Thomas Wrights book, is the best overall, especially for those starting out their collecting journey. Because of this I have chosen to use this system and illustrate it in order to help the collector to organize their collection, perhaps choose to specialize their collection, or using Freemans as a start develop their own alternatives to those offered by Freeman.
Many collectors choose only to collect say, bone bobbins, but I believe that whilst bone bobbins are often more beautiful and sometimes spectacular, the collector is possibly losing the total feel for these wonderful lace-making tools by leaving out examples of wood bobbins. For this reason, I have chosen to offer examples of both types where I can.
Collectors are encouraged to purchase two books which I believe can be good resources for them. These are:
Freeman, Charles. Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Borough of Luton Museum an Art Gallery. 1958 Reprinted 1980.
Not in production, still available on the Internet from time to time. If it is, then it is a very worthwhile book to have. In fact, this was the first book I bought and could be said it was this book that started this bobbin quest.
Christine & David Springett. Success to the Lace Pillow
This book provides a history, classification and identification of 19th Century East Midland lace bobbins and their makers, adding a further 16 years of research to their first book published in 1981. This book is used by Phillips, the international auction house, to classify bobbins in their auctions. Self-published from:
8 Strath Close
Phone: 01788 544691
The heading for the entries are taken directly from Freeman and thus the references in brackets refer to his book.
I hope you will find this effort is both useful and enjoyable.
1 Dumps or Bobtailed: Wood only, small, usually single-
necked, plain, without spangles.
2 Cow-in-Calf or Jack-in-the-Box: Made in sections with a hollow space inside concealing a miniature bobbin either loose or attached to the foot. Some with single necks.
3 Trolly or Bedfordshire Trailers: Stout, sometimes single necked, sometimes with spangles, fitted with loose pewter or wooden rings called gingles, mostly in wood but sometimes in bone with bone gingles.
4 Quills: Wood, with long neck on which the whole skein of gimp is wound. Used to refill trolly bobbins, not on the pillow.
5 Yak: Large heavy wooden bobbins used in
making worsted lace. (Below is a comparison normal bobbin.)
6 Gold Thread: Large wooden bobbins, single-neck section forming a reel to hold the metal thread used in making gold thread lace.
7 Plain Shank: Plain turned shanks. Exceptionally thin ones are called Old Maid bobbins. These occur also in metal.
8 Turned Shank: In a great variety of baluster, ball-and-reel, bobbin and other turnings. These occur also in metal.
9. Incised Decoration: Coloured dots, dashes or other incised ornamentation.
10 Banded: Decorated with coloured bands.
11 Coloured: Dyed green, red, purple, or other colours.
12 Mottled: Mottled staining by dye or aqua fortis.
13 Bedfordshire Tigers: Plain shaft inlaid with lead or pewter bands.
14 Bedfordshire Leopards A similar
type with pewter spots.
(Sometimes pewter spots are protruding, due to degradation of the pewter.)
15 Butterflies: A similar type with
splayed or winged pewter bands.
16 Pewter Inlay: Similar but with other decoration in pewter
17 Tallies : Similar but with broad pewter or tin band around the shank. Used for working the plaits or leadworks on point ground net.
8 Bitted: Wood, rarely bone, inlaid with wood of contrasting colour in various
designs, or occasionally with bone
19 Spliced: Two colour woods, or wood and bone, sometimes metal, spliced and riveted. Some were repairs to broken bobbins.
20 Sectioned: Made in sections in contrasting woods or wood
21 Wired: Shank covered completely or intermittently with tightly wound brass or copper wire.
22 Wire-beaded: Decorated with small coloured beads threaded on wires coiled around the shank and arranged to form a pattern, or set into spiral or other grooves in the shank.
23 Tinsel: Decorated with tinsel set in spiral or
24 Mother-in-Babe: (later Church Window) Shank hollowed and cut into open-work compartments in one or more sections, sometimes spirally, the spaces often containing miniature bobbins, coils of wire, lead shot, wooden balls or glass beads. The collection includes an iron example.
25 Bird-cage: Similarly cut, but with more compartments each containing a miniature bobbin or beads kept in position by wire coiled around the shank to form the bars of the cage. A variation appears in metal where wire uprights threaded with metal or glass beads unite the two halves of the shank to form an open bird-cage for the miniature bobbin.
26 Adapted types: Bobbins from other English or foreign lacemaking districts were sometimes provided with spangles and used by East Midlands workers.
27 Native types: Missionaries and others sometimes taught East Midlands lace-making to native workers in the colonies and other parts of the world, the bobbins being copied by the natives, often with characteristic variations. The picture shows an Indian example in ivory, in which a carved open-work bird and flower ornament takes the place of the spangle and the shank is engraved with a design of grotesque animals.
Inscribed bobbins were usually of bone, a few of wood, exceptionally of metal. They are mostly of class 7 in design, though occasionally of classes 9, 10, 11, 19 and 21. The inscription is almost invariably carried out in coloured drilled dots, though some incised and a very few painted examples exist. In the case of wooden bobbins, it is also found punched in dots on applied or inlaid pewter bands, or picked out with inlaid or metal studs. Many, especially those with names, are dated.
(A) General Inscriptions
Most of the following images have been “flattened” in Photoshop in order that the reader can see “all” of the cylindrical bobbin inscription on the flat page. Sometimes, the manipulation of the inscription from the cylindrical shaft of the bobbin just does not seem, to me, to work. If it fails the “reasonable” test, I have just left a single image of one side of the bobbin. The inscription is part of the entry for you to read.
1. Initials or pairs of initials: BS CS CB 1828. CY 1861 Lu.
2. Christian name(s): sometimes prefixed Dear or Sweet JAMES WILLIAM. MERCY LOVE. DEAR SOPHIA. GEORGE SARAH.
3. Relationships: sometimes pre-fixed Dear” DEAR FATHER. MY DEAR SISTER 1870. MY SON HABRAM PRENTIS. DEAR UNCLE. ANN HULL MY DEAR AUNT 1865.
MARTHA ALLEY MY DEAR MOTHER 1868
4. Names: MATILDA GOODMAN 1832. NAMIO BUGBY. ANN PENEY 1812. MR JOHN BUTCHER TC 1831. WILLIAM BECKEIT 1863.
THOMAS TEBBY 1829
ELENOR MATTHEWS 1832
5. NAMES AND PLACES: These and class iv sometimes occur insets, each bobbin bearing the name of a member of A family. WILLIAM PETETT AMPTILL. JOHN MALLET MY DEARRIDGMOUNT. HENRYASH LITTLEHORWOOD 1840. REBECCABATES DRATON 1843. A set of four: WILLIAM, JOSHUA, ELIZABETH and MARY WAITE, YARDLEY HASTINGS.
HARIET WRIGHT TURVEY BEDS 1864
ELI KING CATWORTH
6. Names and occupations: Rare A Wooden Mother-in-Babe bobbin in the Museum collection inscribed: WILLIAM CLARK SHEPORD GOOD GAL MAKE CAST AND WORK (William Clark, Shepherd, good girl, make haste and work) is probably unique. THOMAS BARKER BRAFIELD GREEN SWEEP (Wright).
WILLIAM CHAPMAN KEEPER
7. Famous people: JOHN BUNYAN. LORD NELSON. WAKES OAK; made from the oak in Whittlebury Forest traditionally connected with Hereward the Wake (Wright).
8. Royalty: QUEEN CAROLINE FOREVER. MAY THE PRINCE OF WALES BE WITH GLORY WED. A pair: VICTORIA MARED FEB 1O/ALBERT MARED FEB 10.
GOD SAVE THE KING (William IV)
9. Politicians and Elections: VOTE FOR OSBORNE; probably John Osborn, MP for Beds. 1806-7, 1818-20 (Wright). GUNNING AND REFORM; a Northants. MP (Wright). CRAWLEY FOR EVER; probably S. Crawley, Beds. 1832 (Wright).
ROBINSON FOR EVER
(Election bobbin for Sir George Robinson of Cranford, Northamptonshire. Sitting for Northampton Borough 1820 – 1832.Very unusual layered spiral inscription.)
10. Murderers: JOSEPH CASTLE HUNG 1860· Castle murdered his wife at Luton and was tracked down with the help of a bloodhound kept at Luton police station. On the night of his execution at Bedford Gaol, the friends of his wife held a party at which every guest was given an inscribed bobbin as a memento. WILLIAM WORSLEY HUNG 1868; Worsley murdered William Bradbury at Luton; his was the last public hanging at Bedford Gaol. WILLIAM BULL HANGED 1871; Bull murdered an old woman named Sarah Marshall and was executed at Bedford. FRANZ MULLER HUNG 1864; Muller was the first person to commit murder in a railway train.
JOSEPH CASTLE HUNG 1860
MILES WEATHERHILL HUNG 1868
(This is a recent find that adds to the other recorded “murder” bobbins.)
Weatherhill was executed on 6th April 1868. He fell in love with Sarah Bell who was working as cook for Rev Anthony Plow, the vicar of Christ Church, Todmorden. The vicar refused permission for Miles to call on Sarah. When she returned to her family in York, Weatherhill followed her to persuade her to return to Todmorden - she refused - in a rage he returned to Todmorden on 2nd March 1868. He broke into the vicarage and killed the vicar and his baby daughter, also servant Jane Smith. There appears to be no visible connection with the lace making area, possibly the bobbins were made due to a huge public uproar at the killings.
11. Transportation: RANNSON DILLINGUM BOTANY BAY (Wright).
There are two refences to this bobbin. The first is in Wrights book, The Romance of the Lace Pillow and the second is in the book Lace and Lace Making by Alice May Bullock. The latter is recorded as being in the collection of the Wardown Museum (Luton). At the time of writing I have enquired of them as to “if the bobbin still exists”, but I have no reply at the moment. (Dec 2016) Meanwhile the bobbin pictured below is on current display.
It can be seen in the display in the Higgins, Bedford Museum)
The Higgins Bedford, UK is the copyright source and owner of the object image.
The inscription on the above bobbin contains many mistakes, as Research clearly shows it should read Richard Dillingham, and he was also transported to van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) not Botany Bay. The Maker can be well established as “The Bitted Man”.
12. Suicide: JOSEPH WEST; West hanged himself during a night in the lock-up at Cranfield (Wright).
(The only known reference to this bobbin is from the book by Thomas Wright The Romance of the Lace Pillow. An actual bobbin has not been located by the author.)
13. Memorials: SARAH HOBBS DIED FEB 10 1836 AGED 18 YEARS JOHN WESTON MY HUSBAN AGED 28. WILLIAM LOVEDAY DEAD AND GON. ROSE ANN JUDD DIED JANY 27 1862 AGED 6 WEEK. HERYWIN HILL HELMDONAGED 22 1844 (Northants). ELIZA HALL MY DAUGHTER DI FEB 15 1866. ALICE CURTIS BORN AUGUST 24 1840 DIED SEPTEMBER 16 1841.
TO THE MEMORY OF ELIZABETH DAWKES
WILLIAM ELAM DIED MARCH 8 1839 AGED 28 YEARS
14. Birthdays: FAITH WESLEY BORN MARCH 12 1836. EMILY GWYNN BORN DECEMBER 1 1839. A set of triplets: FAITH SETCHILL BORN JUNE 10 1831; HOPE SETCHILL BORN JUNE 10 1831; CHARITY SETCHILL BORN JUNE 10 1831 (Wright).
JOHN FREEMAN BORN JUNE 14 1843 DIED DECEMBER THE 6 1849
THOMAS KNOWLTON WAS BORN MARCH 7 1790
15. Historical events: WATERLOO 1815 (Wright). ALMA 1854 (Wright).
SEBASTAPOL TAKEN SEP 1855
16. Presentations: A GIFT FROM LESTER (a reward for good lace given by Thomas Lester, the Bedford lace dealer). ACCEPT THIS TRIFEL FROM A FREIND WHOSE LOVE TO THEE WILL NEVER END FOR BETSY. A KEEPSAKE. A NEW YEARS GIFT 1861. A GIFT FROM ELIZABETH HURST 1859. CHRISTMAS BOX. WILLIAM LEACH A GIFT TO BB. A PRESENT FROM MY AUNT 1842.
A GIFT FROM LESTERS
A PRESENT I HAVE BROUGHT YOU: MY LOVE TO YOU I LL MAKE: IF YOU LOVE ME AS I LOVE THE: O KEEP THIS FOR MY SAKE: (2 hearts) R LOVESY 1849
(This is an amazing feat of inscription. Freeman tells us that this type of verse is usually only inscribed on “sets” of bobbins, each having part of the inscription)
17. Curses: IF YOU TOUCH IT WILL TAKE.
(The author was unable to find an example in the collection… sorry)
18. Blessings: BLESS JACOB. BLESS MY DAN. MAY THE PLESOURS OF REST IN OUR HARTS. PLENTY AND PLENTY.
PEACE AND PLENTY
19. Admonitions: DO GOOD TO ALL. BE NOT FORGETFUL.
MAKE CLEAN WORK
20. Biblical texts: THOSE THAT SEKE ME EARLY SHALL FIND ME. THOU SHALT NOT STEEL. JESUS WEEPT. TIME IS SHORT. Wright records a set of 12 each inscribed with a clause from the Lord’s Prayer.
PRAISE YE THE LORD
21. Pious phrases: I LOVE JESUS. JESUS IS ALTGETHER LOVLY.
GOD IS LOVE
JESUS IS ALTOGETHER LOVELY
22. Apophthegms: TIME FLIES 1714. BETTER TO DO WELL LATE THAN NEVER.
23. Popular songs and poems: WITH ALL THY FAULTS I LOVE THE STILL; William Cowper. O THAT WILL BE JOYFUL WHEN WE MEET TO PART NO MORE; T. BIBLY (Wright). WAIT FOR THE WAGGON (Wright). POP GOES THE WESEL (Wright).
POP GOES THE WESAL
24. Verses: These usually occur in sets, one line to each bobbin. TAKE ME FOR BETT/ER OR FOR WORSE/YOU PRAISE MY EYE/BUT EYE MY PURSE.
TAKE ME FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE YOU PRAISE MY EYE BUT EYE MY PURSE
25. Alphabets: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.
YM RDAE I LEOV OUY SAS SRIDB OLVE SHEREIE (My dear I love you as the birds love cherries) (Bedford Modern School Museum).
+ UR + UB AN ++ UR TO ME
CROSS YOU ARE, CROSS YOU BE, AND TOO CROSS YOU ARE
27. Catches: PEEP FOOLE PEEP DINT YOU NEVER SEE A BOBINAFOR (Wright).
KISS ME QUICK
(B) Aspects of love and Courtship
28. Aspiration: TO LOVE AND LIVE HAPPY IT IS MY DESIER WITH MY LOVE. I WANTS A HUSBAND. I LONG TO WED THE LAD I LOVE. I LONG TO BE A LOVING MANS WIFE.
LOVE AND LIVE HAPPY
LOVE ME FOREVER
29. Invitation: KISS ME QUICK AND DONT LOOK SHY. LOVE COME AGAIN. LOVE GIVE ME A KIS. KISS ME QUICK MY LOVELY DEAR. KIS ME COURT ME HUG ME TITE DONT CRUMP MY COLR TONIGHT (Wright).
I WANTS A HUSBAND
KISS ME QUICK FOR MY MOTHER IS COMING
30. Warning: DON T KISS AND TELL. LADS NEVER COURT TO LASCES AT ONCE.
LOVE ROB ME NOT (heart shape)
31. Flirtation: I LOVE THE BOYS. DONT TELL MY MOTHER. KISS ME QUICK FOR MY MOTHER IS COMING. IF I LOVE THE BOYS THATS NOTHING TOO NO BODEY.
I LOVE THE BOYS
32. Despair: IF YOU DENY MY LOVE I DY – DA HER I LOVE HER BUT ILL NEVER GO NIGH HER NO (Bedford Modern School Museum).
ITS HARD TO BE SLITED BY ONE AS I LOVE
BROKEN (heart shape)
33. Protest: LET GO. LOVE ME OR LEVE ME ALONE.
LOVE ME OR LEVE ME ALONE
LOVE ME AND FORSAKE ALL OTHERS
34. Question: DO YOU LOVE ME YES. WHO IS YOUR LOVER MY DARLING (Wright).
MY LOVE WHEN SHALL I MARRIED BE
WILL YOU BE MINE OR NO
35. Proposal: NAME THE DAY. LOVE WILL U MARREY. COME LOVE AND LIVE WITH ME MY DEAR. SWEET ONE BE MINE AND MAKE ME THINE. MARRY ME QUICK AND LOVE ME FOREVER. WILL YOU WED.
36. Refusal: JOSEPH IT NOT FOR HE KNOW IT. ITS ALL VERY FINE BUT NO LODGE HERE FOR YOU MY LAD (Wright).
I WILL NOT WED A FALSE YOUNG MAN (heart shape)
37. Acceptance: BUY THE RING. LOVE BUY THE RING.
I LONG TO GET MARRY MY DEAR
38. Injunction: LOVE ME MY LOVER. B TRUE. LOVE ME AS I LOVE YOU. LOVE ME TRULEY. LOVE ME AND FORSAKE ALL OTHERS. PROVE TRUE.
LOVE FORGET ME NOT
39. Declaration: MY DEAR. MY LOVE. LOVEY. I LOVE YOU MY DEAR THAT IS TRUE.
MY MIND IS FIXT I CANNOT RAINGE I LIKE MY CHOICE TOO WELL TO CHANGE
40. Plighted love: DANIEL GOODWIN MY LOVE 21. DB I LOVEYOU MY DEAR IT IS TRUE JHHS. SWEET WILLIAM IS THE LAD I LOVE SO TRUE MAY 24 1846. JAMES HARPER MY SWEET HEART IS CY. GEORGE BOYCE MARY DEVRICKS SWEET HART 1859. JOHN WEBB SUSANNAH READ 1840. I LOVE YOU. MY LOVE FOR THE NO ONE CAN TELL.
GEORGE BENBOW I LOVE YOU TRUE MY DEAR 1859
IT IS HARD TO PART FROM MY SWEETHEART
41 Blighted love: IT IS HARD TO BE SLITED BY ONE A I LOVE. LOVE IS A SHARP THORN. LET NO FALSE LOVER GAINE MY HEART. RICHARD COBB SLITED BY ONE AS (Wright).
SWEET IS THE LOVE THAT MEETS RETURN BUT BITTER WHEN IT MEETS A FROWN
42 Quarrel: +UR+UB AN ++UR TO ME. KEEP YOUR TEMPER.
KEEP YOUR TEMPER (heart shape)
43. Reconciliation: LOVE DONT BE CROSS.
WHEN THIS YOU SEE REMEMBER ME+E+C+1859
44. Happiness: MY LOVE IS LIKE THE BLOOMING ROSE. SITING ON THE STILE MARY HAPPY AS THE DAY. LOVE AND LIVE HAPY. LOVE IS LOVE. MY JOY.
THE GIFT OF LOVE TO ME IS GREAT JOY
45. Constancy: MY BOYS IF I AM RAGGED MY HART IS TRUE. MY MIND IS FIXT I CANNOT RAING I LOVE MY CHOICE TOO WELL TO CHANGE. I WILL FOREVER LOVE THE GIVER.
CONSTANT BE TO ONLY ME
I WILL FOR EVER LOVE THE GIVER
46. Absence: MY LOVE ABSENT. FORGET ME NOT WHEN I AR AWAY. LOVE DONT TARRY. MY LOVE I LONG TO SE. REMEMBER ME MY LOVELY DEAR.
LOVE DON T BE ABSENT
47. Sailor s return: JACK A LIVE
JACKS A LIVE
I LOVE A JOLLY TAR
48. The recruit: LOVE DONT YOU LIST. DONT LIST LOVE.
LOVE DON T YOU LIST
49. Husband and wife: EDWARD AND MATHER WALDEN.
JAMES DAY: MARY DAY (2 heart) 1832.
Special thanks to the Diana Smith Collection and the Higgins Museum Bedford.