Alexandrina Victoria was born in May 1819. She was the niece of William lV and inherited the throne at
eighteen years of age. In 1840 she married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
She died in 1901 and was the longest ruling British monarch. Her subjects were known as the "Victorians" and during her reign they built palaces, bridges, and tunnels, they travelled widely and attended expositions in great numbers. Victorian thimble makers were quite prolific and unquestionably made more "pictorial" thimbles than any other thimble makers either before Victoria came to the throne or after her death. Many thimbles commemorated the Queens reign but many other Victorian activities were illustrated on these thimbles (sometimes called "commemorative", "castle", or "souvenir" thimbles) too. In this paper examples of these "pictorial" thimbles will be described.
Very few of the thimbles commemorating the Queen's reign seem to be marked but the makers of a few of the thimbles are known.
Several thimbles were made depicting either the Queen or simply bearing her name. It is not known
whether they commemorated any specific event during her reign.
Thimbles depicting either Queen Victoria or bearing her name
The left thimble is a simple thimble with a decorated rim and "Victoria" on a ribbed border. The other thimble is taller and was probably made to commemorate the accession or coronation of the Queen. It has a border decorated with a bust of the young Queen in a leafy wreath and "Victoria" written between rose garlands.
Ascending the throne/Coronation
This thimble has a plain border with an engraved crown and "Queen Victoria born May 24 1819, Ascended the throne June 20 1837, Crowned June 28 1838".
The left thimble has a plain ribbed border with "Victoria", a crown, and "crowned" and then below <<<<<1st>>>>> "June. 28. 1838". The right thimble also has a ribbed border decorated with a crown interspersed with shamrock, thistle and roses and "Victoria 1st Crowned June 28th 1838".
Busts of both Albert and Victoria are to be found on most of the thimbles made to commemorate the Royal
Wedding. The border of the left thimble (left) is decorated with the busts and roses, daffodils, shamrock
and thistles. The middle thimble (center) is decorated with rose, thistle and clover and a medallion containing the busts of Albert and Victoria, the words "Victoria and Albert" are in the medallion above the busts. The right thimble (right) has small busts and "Albert born Aug 26. 1819" on one side and "Victoria born May 24. 1819" on the other side. "Married at St James's Palace Feb 10, 1840" is stamped on the rim.
This heavily dimpled, cast, pewter thimble has "Victoria-Albert 1840" printed around the border and a decorated rim. The original thimble was made to commemorate the wedding of Victoria and Albert by an unknown maker, and this copy was made by Westair Museum Reproductions, Birmingham in the 1990s.
Creation of the Prince of Wales
Edward VII was the second child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and within about a month of his birth
he was pronounced "Prince of Wales". Several thimbles were made to commemorate this event.
The border of the thimble on the left has a figure on a throne on one side of which "Prince of
Wales our future hope" is written and on the other side of which "Heir to British throne born Nov 9 1841" is written. "Christened at Windsor Jany 25 1842" is printed on the rim. The right thimble's (right) border is decorated with the Prince of Wales feathers and "Ich Dien".
In 1887 Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee and at least one thimble was made to commemorate this occasion.
The thimble is made of nickel silver and has a plain flat border and rim with "Victoria", a crown, and "Jubilee". It was made by Charles Iles and Company.
The left thimble has an applied border with "Commemoration of the diam | 1837-1897 | ond
jubilee of Queen Victoria" above a thistle, VRI, a shamrock, a crown, a rose, and a bust of the Queen. It is marked 0, D & F, and Rd. 295282 (Hamilton & Inches [goldsmiths] Victoria Jubilee thimble). It was made by Deakin & Francis of London. The right thimble (right) is a cast pewter copy and has a single hole in the rim to signify that it is a copy. It was made by Stephen Frost, Warwick Models, England in the late 90s.
The left thimble has a ribbed border decorated with an applied chain and 3 shields containing "37" "VR", "97". It was made by Henry Fowler of Birmingham. The right thimble is very plain but has "JUBILEE + 1887" around the rim.
One of the important engineering developments during the Victorian era related to communication. Coaches, canals, steam ships and the railways allowed goods, raw materials and people to be moved about rapidly, thus facilitating trade and industry. Trains became such an important factor in ordering society that "railway time" became the standard for setting clocks throughout Britain. Steam ships made international travel and advanced trade possible. The introduction of the first postage stamp, the "Penny Black", meant that letters cost a penny irrespective of distances sent.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge which spans the Avon Gorge and links Clifton in Bristol to Leigh
Woods in North Somerset was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The idea of building a bridge across
the Avon Gorge originated in 1753. An attempt to build Brunel's design in 1831 was stopped by riots in
Bristol and work was not started again until 1836. The bridge was finally completed in 1864. The ironwork
for the bridge was cast at the Hazledine Foundry in Coleham, Shrewsbury. The bridge was started in 1819
and opened on 30th January 1826. Thomas Telford had rejected the original designs claiming that no
suspension bridge could exceed the 577 feet span of his own Menai Suspension Bridge (below). This bridge
was built over the Menai Straits between Anglesey and the Welsh mainland by Thomas Telford.
A silver thimble depicting the Menai Suspension Bridge was made in the 1840s. It was made by George
Unite of Birmingham in 1826. The bridge differs from the Clifton Bridge in that there are four arches on the
Anglesey (left) side of the main span and three arches on the Mainland (right) side in the Menai Bridge
whereas the Clifton Bridge has no arches at all.
George Unite of Birmingham, made the Menai Bridge thimble (left) which is only marked "GU". A silver thimble (right) with three arches on either side of the main span is clearly a representation of neither bridge but it is marked "Clifton Suspension Bridge 1864" around the rim and must have commemorated the opening of the bridge. The maker of this thimble is unknown.
Another great engineering feat of the Victorian age was the sewage system in London. It was designed by
Joseph Bazalgette in 1858. The Thames Embankment, also designed by Bazalgette housed the sewers,
water pipes and parts of the London Underground District and Circle lines. During the same time London's
water supply network was expanded and improved, and a gas network for lighting and heating was
introduced in the 1880s.
Other major engineering achievements during Queen Victoria's reign include the Crystal Palace in 1851 (see below), Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Saltash Railway Bridge (1859) and SS Great Eastern (1858), the Tower subway under the Thames (1869), Reid's climate control systems (1835), the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales (1805), the Britannia Tubular Railway Bridge, a companion to the Menai Suspension Bridge, (1850), and the Thames Tunnel (1843). With the exception of the Crystal Palace and the Thames Tunnel none of these events were commemorated on thimbles.
The Thames Tunnel was an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames and connected Rotherhithe
and Wapping. It was 35 feet wide, 20 feet high and 1,300 feet long. It passed, at a depth of 75 feet
(measured at high tide), below the river's surface. It was built between 1825 and 1843 and was the first
tunnel known to have been constructed successfully beneath a navigable river using Thomas Cochrane and
Marc Isambard Brunel's newly invented tunnelling shield technology. It was originally planned as a
pedestrian tunnel and carriageway so that Victorians could cross the Thames easily and quickly (below).
Plans to open the tunnel as a carriageway however failed due to cost and financially the tunnel was not a
It was purchased in 1865 by the East London Railway Company in order to provide a rail link for goods and
passengers between Wapping and the South London Line. The tunnel's generous headroom, resulting from the need to accommodate horse-drawn carriages, additionally allowed sufficient space for trains.
The first train ran through the tunnel in December 1869. In 1884, the tunnel's disused pedestrian entrance
shafts in Wapping (above) and Rotherhithe were converted into stations. The East London Railway was
later absorbed into the London Underground, where it became the East London Line. It continued to be used for goods services as late as 1962. In 1995 it was closed for long-term maintenance and was finally reopened again for main line passenger trains in 2010.
A brass thimble (below) was made to commemorate the opening of the tunnel in 1843. In addition to a bust of Queen Victoria, "Visited the" followed by a depiction of the tunnel and the date which seems to be "July 26 1843" is printed around the border.
Queen Victoria did not like the Brighton Pavilion as a summer home and rural retreat but, as she had spent
enjoyable holidays on the Isle of Wight as a young girl, she and her husband decided to buy Osborne House
on the Isle of Wight in 1845. They liked the setting of the house but it was too small for their needs so
Prince Albert designed a new house in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo and the earlier smaller
house on the site was demolished. The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect.
Osborne House (below, first image), built by the Victorians, together with two other Royal residences, built before Queen Victoria ascended the throne, Balmoral (below, center image) (bought by Queen Victoria in 1852) and Windsor (below, third image), are all commemorated on thimbles made during the latter period of the Queen's reign. They differ from earlier thimbles in that they were deep drawn and have flat turnover rims which were stamped with the name of the dwelling. The "Osborne House Isle of Wight" and "Windsor Castle" thimbles were made by Samuel Foskett of London in 1901 and 1894 respectively. The other thimble is unmarked.
Pursuits (Travel and sightseeing)
Victorians loved to travel for leisure and used all methods of mechanised transportation available to them at the time - bicycle, train and boat.
The bicycle was particularly attractive to women because it gave them greater freedom to travel around.
Susan B. Anthony, a member of the American women's suffrage movement, said that it had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." although clearly it was not all "plain sailing" (biking) as this advertisement (below) of the day indicates.
This, the simplest form of mechanised transport, is illustrated in the so-called "Blackberry" series where some of the Blackberry thimbles depicted a bicycle on the border.
There were several bicycle designs (reference 1) - with and without a cross bar (upper row), with and without a chain mechanism (upper row) and with solid tyres (upper row) or tyres with holes (lower row) and these differences probably reflect the inclination of the particular engraver responsible for engraving the thimble. Opposite the bicycle was an engraved bird (upper row). The thimbles were made by James Fenton, Birmingham, in 1896 and 1901 (Rd 280564).
At the beginning of Victoria's reign railways had only just begun. Soon, however, trains were beginning to
criss-cross the country and they became the most popular form of transportation used by the Victorians.
The railway companies initially operated expensive luxury trains which were really only used by the rich (below, Chester station 1848).
In order to force railways to carry poorer passengers and make rail travel available to all, the "Railway
Regulation Act" was passed in 1844. The act compelled the Railway Companies to operate at least one train a day over all of their lines at no more than 1d a mile. Railway travel thus became possible for the majority of Victoria's subjects and was soon commemorated on thimbles. By 1845 the railways were carrying 30 million passengers a year and ten years later over a million passengers were being carried by rail. This age of tourism resulted in the development of popular resorts around the country with the parallel development of the souvenir industry. Thimbles made in both ceramic and precious metals were soon being made to satisfy the travellers need for simple souvenirs to take home or to friends.
The so-called "Train" thimbles should possibly be called "Railway" thimbles (reference 2) because one such thimble came in a cardboard box with an engraving of the train on the lid which was inscribed "The Railway Thimble". The thimbles are small in size, possibly for children, and are unmarked. They all have an early steam locomotive pulling a variety of coaches. The locomotives may be different and are difficult to identify.
The left thimble (above) has a round turnover rim and depicts a locomotive which may be "Puffing Billy" which was one of three similar engines built by Hedley, the resident engineer at Wylam Colliery, to replace the horses used as motive power on the tramway. "Puffing Billy" remained in service until 1862. The driver sits at front and stoker at the back. The right thimble has a turnover faceted rim and it possibly depicts another representation of "Puffing Billy".
This thimble (above) has a round turnover rim and the locomotive appears to have a tender. The train
seems to be travelling over a viaduct of some sort. It could be a representation of Robert Stephenson's locomotive, "Locomotion No 1".
Canal boats and barges (below) were used extensively for moving heavy produce around the country on its
highly developed canal system.
The thimble (above) depicts a Thames barge in front of an unknown Thames Bridge. There are no marks
on the thimble, maker unknown.
Pleasure boats, steam paddle steamers and ferries carried Victorians on the rivers and estuaries to nearby
This thimble shows an unknown Thames paddle steamer similar to the one shown docked at Gravesend (above, right), it has no markings and the maker is unknown.
There is another paddle steamer thimble (above) which depicts a boat with two masts and a single funnel and is thought to represent the Royal Yacht "Victoria and Albert l". The "Victoria and Albert l" was laid down in 1842 and was designed by William Symonds. She carried two guns and was renamed "Osborne" in 1855 when she was replaced by HMY Victoria and Albert ll.
One of the destinations for these paddle steamers was Gravesend where the Rosherville Gardens (above)
was one of the largest and most popular Victorian pleasure sites for Londoners. The gardens were built in a
disused chalk pit which belonged to Jeremiah Rosher, after whom the gardens were named. A London
businessman, George Jones, formed the "Kent Zoological and Botanical Gardens Co." who leased the chalk pit in 1837 and laid out the gardens. There was a terrace, a bear pit, an archery ground, a lake, a maze, flowerbeds, statues, a lookout tower and many winding paths.
A silver souvenir thimble (above) depicts the lookout tower and bear pit and has "A view of the Tower Rosherville Gardens" printed around its rim. Initially the gardens were intended to appeal to the wealthy with serious tastes, but sadly they never came in large enough numbers so that to save the gardens, the prices were lowered and less sophisticated entertainment was provided. From 1842, the Gardens became an enormous success and visitors flooded in.
One evening in September 1878, the paddle steamer "SS Princess Alice" was returning from a day trip to the Rosherville Gardens when it was hit by a the coal boat "SS Bywell Castle". The paddle steamer was hit amidships, broke in two, and within four minutes had sunk (above).
Approximately 700 passengers were aboard the "SS Princess Alice" and between 69 and 170 were saved. Many people died because of the contaminated water which resulted from the direct discharge of raw sewage into the river at that time. This great loss of life heralded the decline of the Rosherville Gardens
but it is possible that pleasure gardens would begin to go out of fashion also as soon as Londoners could afford train rides to seaside resorts.
The London to Brighton railway line was very popular with Londoners and Brighton developed rapidly as a
centre for tourism.
The Royal Pavilion, often called the Brighton Pavilion (below), was a former royal residence and was built in
three stages. In the mid 1780s George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), rented a small farmhouse
overlooking the promenade in Brighton. In 1787 the architect, Henry Holland, was hired to enlarge the
existing building, which became known as the Marine Pavilion.
George lavishly furnished and decorated the Pavilion in the Chinese style with Chinese export furniture and
objects, and hand-painted Chinese wallpapers. In 1808 a new stable complex, built in an Indian style, was
added and this had a lead and glass-domed roof and provided stabling for 62 horses.
Between 1815 and 1822, John Nash redesigned and greatly extended the Pavilion, and it is this Oriental
looking building (above and below) with its minarets, domes and pinnacles which can be seen today.
After the death of George IV in 1830, his successor King William IV stayed in the Pavilion on his frequent
visits to Brighton but Queen Victoria disliked Brighton and its lack of privacy, especially when Brighton
became more accessible to Londoners as a consequence of the railway.
Several silver souvenir thimbles were made depicting the Brighton Pavilion in the 1840s. The thimbles are
usually unmarked and comprise a die stamped border and rim with a view of the pavilion, which is rolled
into a cylinder and soldered to a dimpled, domed top. All of the early pictorial souvenir thimbles of the time
were made in this way (below, left and center). A later Victorian thimble simply has "Brighton" on the rim (below, right).
Victorians visiting Brighton would also have spent time on the "Chain Pier" (above). The Royal Suspension Chain Pier was the first major pier built in Brighton. It was designed by Captain Samuel Brown and built, like a suspension bridge, in 1823. The chains were made of wrought iron and the suspensions were made of cast iron. The pier was primarily intended as a landing stage for packet boats to French ports, but there were also a small number of other attractions including a camera obscura. An esplanade with an entrance toll-booth controlled access to the pier. It became unsafe and was destroyed by a storm on 4 December 1896.
There are several unmarked silver souvenir thimbles of the Pier (below).
Other tourist destinations for the travelling Victorians included Dover Castle, Windsor Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Exeter Cathedral, Lichfield Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, Newstead and Tintern Abbeys, Abbotsford House and an unknown cathedral (probably Winchester, all of which are represented on silver souvenir thimbles which were made during the earlier part of the Queens reign.
Unknown cathedral (probably Winchester)
The thimble depicting Kenilworth Castle has a maker's mark -"T & P"- for Taylor and Perry of Birmingham. It is thought to have been made in the 1840s. The thimble with a picture of Exeter Cathedral has "Comb Martin Silver" inscribed around its rim. The silver and lead mines at Combe Martin were very old but had to close in 1848. It is known that items made prior to closure were marked in this way (reference 3). There is no other marking on the thimble.
Two further souvenir thimbles (above), made in the same two-part way depict the Waterloo Bridge and an
unknown "sea wall". The makers of these thimbles are unknown.
Less elaborate souvenir thimbles were made for Victorian travellers towards the end of the 19th century.
These thimbles simply had a person's name or a place name applied to the ribbed border (below, top row)
in contrast to later souvenir thimbles where the place name was stamped or milled into the border (below, bottom).
A rather curious example of one of these souvenir thimbles is the "Mona" thimble (below). Made by John
Thompson of London in 1897, the thimble has "Mona" in letters on one side of the border whilst on the other side there is the three-legged symbol (triskellion) of the Isle of Man. Mona is the name given to the island of Anglesey and not the Isle of Man so it would seem that Thompson had his islands mixed up!
Other Victorian place souvenir thimbles were made in both brass and porcelain.
The maker of the brass thimble is unknown (above, left). The porcelain, souvenir of Worcester, transfer printed, thimble (above, right) was made by Locke and Co. of Worcester between 1870 and 1890.
In about 1880 William Pursall of Birmingham patented a simple brass souvenir thimble with a "peep" in the top (above, left). Peeps (above, center and right) made in France by Dagron & Cie, and imported by McKee of Dublin, were incorporated into plain brass thimbles, but whether Pursall actually made the thimble illustrated above remains in doubt (reference 4). The Fourth Bridge, built and opened during the reign of Queen Victoria, was a very popular theme. Some pictures are now sharper than others!
During the reign of Queen Victoria there were three major International Expositions held within the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
"The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations" or Great Exhibition (Crystal Palace Exhibition)
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations was held in Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 15 October 1851 in a specially constructed glass and cast iron building. It became known as the Crystal Palace (two images below) and was designed by Joseph Caxton. The Great Exhibition was the first of a series of World Exhibitions of industry and culture to become a popular 19th century feature. Prince Albert helped to organize and promote the exhibition and it was a celebration of industrial design and technology from all over the commonwealth and the rest of the world. There were over 13,000 exhibits and approximately 6,200,000 visitors attended the exhibition.
Several thimbles were made to commemorate the exhibition. In particular Alfred Taylor of Great Howard
Street, Birmingham registered (design number 73871) a design which shows the Crystal Palace (below, top row left) and has the text "Exhibition of All Nations 1851" above the pictorial border. The thimble bears the diamond registration mark and from this and the registration document the name of the maker can be ascertained (reference 5). Taylor did not add his own registered mark to this thimble (below, top row right).
Another thimble commemorating the exhibition (above, bottom row) has "Great Exhibition Hyde Park 1851" stamped on the rim. The maker is unknown.
After the exhibition closed the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill in South London and another
thimble was made to commemorate the move (below). In addition to an image of the Crystal Palace the rim is inscribed "Crystal Palace Sydenham".
One further thimble may be associated with the Great Exhibition. The Ionian Islands were under the
protection of the British Crown and the Governor, Lord Seaton, exhibited a thimble at the Great Exhibition in 1851. This thimble had a plain dimpled top with an applied border that depicted the arms of the seven islands of the Ionian group (below).
On November 30th 1936 the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire.
Great Industrial Exhibition 1853
The Great Industrial Exhibition of 1853 was held in Dublin, Ireland. It was the largest exhibition to have
been held in Ireland and was funded by William Dargan, an engineer and "father of the Irish railways". It was hoped that through the exhibition the industrial revolution could be brought to Ireland but the people of Ireland seemed not to be able to relate to much of the technology on display (overall attendance 1,156,232). The exhibition thus made a big financial loss and ruined Dargan. Visitors to the exhibition were more impressed by the building than the exhibits contained therein (below).
A thimble was made to commemorate this exhibition by an unknown maker. It depicted the exhibition
building around the border and was imprinted "Dublin 1853" on the rim (below).
The International of 1862, or Great London Exposition
The exhibition was held from May 1st to November 1st beside the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in
South Kensington, London. The main fašade was along Cromwell Road (below) and like the 1851 exhibition
celebrated industry, technology and the fine arts. The site is now occupied by the Natural History and
Science Museums but little of the original building remains. Over six million people attended the exhibition
and unlike the Dublin Exhibition the London exhibition made a good profit.
Peyton and Iles exhibited at the exhibition (reference 6) in the Birmingham Court (above) where they showed hooks and eyes and enamel-lined thimbles. It is probable that they sold inexpensive souvenir thimbles too (below, left).
This souvenir set contained a silver cased thimble, complete with the Iles mark (above, center), and an "ivorine" finger guard (above, right).
Two silver thimbles are associated with the 1862 exhibition (reference 4). One was made by Henry Griffith of Birmingham although it does not bear his mark. The design (139132) was registered on the 26.3.1861. The thimble depicts the Cromwell Road fašade (see above) and bears the inscription "International Exhibition 1862" (below). It does not bear the diamond mark but is the same as the thimble shown in the original design document.
The second thimble does bear a design diamond mark and corresponds to the design (143397) registered by George Cartwright and Horace Woodward of Birmingham on the 12.9.1861 (below). The border is decorated with an image of the exhibition hall, which seems more like the Crystal Palace than the Cromwell
Road building, but bears the words "International Exhibition 1862" around the rim.
The death of the Duke of Wellington (below) in 1852 was commemorated by the production of a silver
thimble. The thimble (below) is made in the same way as the early Victorian pictorial thimbles and shows
the Duke riding on his horse above the inscription "Wellington born May 1 1769 died Sept 14 1852".
The Crimean War (below, The thin Red Line) which took place between October 1853 and February 1856 was a conflict
between the Russian Empire under Tsar Nicholas I and an alliance of the French, British and Ottoman
Empires, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. It took place on the Crimean Peninsula.
Two inexpensive brass thimbles (below) were made to commemorate the brave of the war. One has
"Honour the Brave" on the border and the other has "Heroes of the Crimea" in a similar position.
A thimble made in 1899 has a daisy top and border with an applied British soldier carrying a rifle. The rim is
plain and flat and bears the size number (14), the maker's mark (HG & S Ltd) and the hallmark. It was
made to commemorate Boer War by Henry Griffiths and Sons Limited of Birmingham (below).
The design is from a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, "A gentleman in kaki" which was to illustrate Rudyard Kipling's poem.
We have discovered an advertising thimble (below) which depicts the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich and
advertises the firm of TP Birts, of Powis Street, Woolwich. Birts were watchmakers, jewellers and opticians
and sold second hand guns and revolvers. The thimble is in the style of the later Victorian pictorial thimbles
and in inscribed "Birt, Nr Royal Arsenal Woolwich" (reference 7). The company was still in operation as a pawnbroker in 1990.
A second plain brass thimble (below) has "Garibaldi" stamped into the ribbed border. It is thought that this thimble might be advertising the Garibaldi biscuit, really a currant sandwich, which was first manufactured by the Bermondsey biscuit company, Peek Freans, in 1861. Garibaldi did make a visit to Tynemouth in 1854 but it seems to be unlikely that such an inexpensive thimble would have been made to commemorate the visit.
In 1896 Henry Griffith and Sons of Birmingham made a thimble to advertise the "Peoples Friend" magazine (below). The magazine was founded in 1869 and was aimed primarily at older women and contained short stories, serials and various factual articles. It is currently published by D.C. Thompson and Co.
The Victorians were prolific potters and in addition a wide selection of porcelain wares and the occasional
souvenir thimble, they made decorative thimbles, some of which were actually used by the ladies of the day for sewing. Many of these early English porcelain thimbles were unmarked so that it is often difficult to be certain which manufactory actually made the thimble. The first Worcester porcelain factory (1751-1783)
seems to have developed as a result of experiments made by Dr John Wall and apothecary William Davis
who attempted to find the secret of fine porcelain in about 1750. Soon they were making the finest blue
and white porcelain that money could buy. A decorator at the first factory, Robert Chamberlain left to form
his own company (1783-1850) and in 1801 one of his apprentices, Thomas Grainger, left to found his own
company (1801-1902). Richard Binns and William Kerr took over the management of Chamberlain and Co.
in 1852 and some ten years later the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company was founded. It became,
arguably, the biggest producer of English porcelain thimbles but, Chamberlain's, Grainger and Co., Kerr and Binns, Coalport China, and Crown Derby (King Street), and Stevenson & Hancock (Osmaston Rd), both of Derby, all probably made thimbles too.
Royal Worcester Porcelain Company thimbles
Grainger and Co. thimbles
Crown Derby (King Street), and Stevenson & Hancock (Osmaston Rd) thimbles
The Victorian era was the golden age of British thimble making although many of the pictorial thimbles
themselves were made in small numbers. At no other time in the history of British thimble making were
there so many beautiful and decorative thimbles made. Collectors now have to search very diligently to find
these miniature works of art. In more recent times thimbles have been made in greater numbers but the
beauty and craftsmanship of the old Victorian thimbles has not been bettered.
Clearly there are some Victorian thimbles which have not been included in this paper because no images are available. A "full" list of Victorian thimbles was created by Friend (reference 8) in 1987 and updated by Gowan (reference 9) in 2012.
1. Spicer N. James Fenton Silversmith and Thimble Maker etc. 1994. pp. 27.
2. Aldridge E. Thoughts on Thimbles. Thimble Collectors International, 1983. pp. 49.
3. Holmes EF. Thimble Notes and Queries. 1990; 7: 19.
4. Scott J. The Mystery of the "Pursall" Thimble. In "Stanhopes - a closer view". J Scott, 2003. pp. 58-60.
5. Spicer N, Burn DP. British Registered Design Thimbles. 2003: pp. 5-6.
6. Spicer N. Iles- A family of thimble makers. pp. 7-8
7. Holmes EF. Thimble Notes and Queries. 1990; 8: 18.
8. Friend D. British Commemorative and Souvenir thimbles. Thimble Collectors International, 1987.
9. Gowan S. Queen Victoria Commemoratives at:
We would like to thank TSL for permission to use Lincoln Cathedral image.
Holmes: "Commemorative Thimbles" pp. 173, "Souvenir Thimbles" pp. 182.
Magdalena and William Isbister - 2018 -
Researched and published in 2002/14
Copyright@2014. All Rights Reserved Magdalena and William Isbister, Moosbach, Germany