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A Vauxhall Glass Garter Star
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A Vauxhall Glass Garter Star

Circa 1775

Measurements: 13.3cm (5in) x 13.3cm (5in)



Clear and coloured faceted mirror glass on bronze backing, the reverse fitted with loop at 12 o’clock. Cased.

The present ‘Garter Star’ is set with ‘glass jewels’ bearing the characteristics of those produced by the glass manufacturers Dawson, Bowles & Company at their factory south of the Thames in Vauxhall between 1770 and 1780. Vauxhall glass jewellery was noted for the combination of exceptionally fine quality glass ‘stones’ produced from tiny moulds, that were rich in colour and possessed a uniquely luminous reflective quality derived from individual silver backing. Dawson Bowles’ main business, however, was the production of plate and mirror glass that had originated with the monopoly granted to George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham in the 17th century. When Buckingham was locked up in the Tower of London and lost his patents in 1667, John Dawson took over the business and later went into partnership with glassmaker John Bowles.

The glassworks of Dawson Bowles & Company operated until the late 1780s and were located near Vauxhall Gardens, which, for almost 200 years, provided large crowds and three successive Princes of Wales with diverse forms of entertainment. The size and outline of the present Garter Star conforms with the preferred style of the late Georgian and Regency periods. Its reflective qualities and simplistic form further suggest it was made for display at a distance, perhaps at a special theatrical event or one of the illuminated ‘fetes’ performed at Astley's Amphitheatre or nearby Vauxhall Gardens. Such entertainments were often held in celebration of British military and naval victories, during and after the Napoleonic Wars. In 1827, for example, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted in the presence of the Duke of Wellington in Vauxhall Gardens, in a two hour show commencing 10pm and concluding at midnight with 1,000 soldiers participating.