Rothbury, U3A

The site of the battle of Flodden.
The site of the battle of Flodden.

What links a small town in Ayrshire, Flodden and Ford/Etal?

The connection was given in a fascinating talk entitled Mauchline Ware – Souvenirs From The Battle of Flodden, by Jane Bowen at the Coquetdale U3A open meeting.

Mauchline Ware, pronounced ‘mocklin’, was originally produced in the town of Mauchline in Ayrshire. William and Andrew Smith’s factory made prize-winning snuff boxes and they were granted a Royal Warrant by William IV.

The secret to their success was the knuckle join for the lid, which made the box airtight. These sycamore boxes were individually decorated, engraved or painted. From 1840 tartan decoration became fashionable.

During this period, railway travel began to grow and day trips were popular. Such trippers sought souvenirs, but could not afford hand-painted boxes. As a result, transfer ware was introduced – the pattern was printed on tough tissue paper and transferred to the box. These boxes and other Mauchline Ware items were sold throughout the world.

An interest in Relic Wood Souvenirs developed. They were made from wood retrieved from places of interest, such as rafters from Robert Burn’s cottage (he lived for a time in Mauchline), castles and bridges.

In 1862, retailers Andrew and Robert Robb commissioned up to 60 different items of Mauchline Ware to be made from Flodden wood to sell in their shop in Coldstream.

The owner of Flodden Field, Lady Waterford of Ford, became interested and transfer printed boxes of scenes of Ford and Etal were produced.

In August 1867, Queen Victoria visited Kelso and went shopping for Mauchline Ware. The Robbs presented her with a special copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion – A Tale Of Flodden, with a Mauchline Ware cover.

The Smiths’ factory continued production, but business declined in the 1890s due to competition from foreign manufactures who used cheaper pinewood. The First World War caused a shortage of labour, and in 1933 the factory burnt down.

Throughout Jane’s entertaining talk there were illustrations and a fine display of examples.

The next meeting is on April 24, at 10.30am, in Rothbury Jubilee Institute. This is the AGM, followed by talks by interest groups. Non-members welcome by donation.