My Victorian Drinking Glass Find & Its Fascinating Social, Political & Artistic Connection

Favourite Finds News


A very warm and happy 'Blog Post Monday' to you all!

Whilst out on my treasure hunt this week I found a rather interesting item from one of my most reliable sources.  I'm not normally one for buying antique glassware, mainly because I don't feel I know enough about it.  I still enjoy and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that goes into some of the pieces though.  This week, however, a rather fascinating piece of glassware caught my eye, so I bought it.  I had initially thought it was a memorial piece.  A piece of glassware to commemorate the passing of a loved one.  That was until I started researching deeper and deeper.  This week's post is about this find and what I might have found out about it.

So, as always, get that kettle on, make yourselves comfortable and let me tell you about my early victorian glass tumbler find and its possible social, political and artistic connection...


Image:  The glass 


So, you'll see, from the picture above, why this glass caught my eye.  It is decorated with a series of fun and interesting engravings, consisting of a few skeletons, some flowers, a globe, some fun wording and a date of January 1842.  Because of the skeletons and the date, I had assumed that it was a kind of Memento Mori themed glass and this is how I began my research.


Image:  The glass 


I searched the usual ancestry sites with the name and the date I had, but I kept hitting dead ends (no pun intended!).  Then, on closer inspection, I found another name near the base of the glass.  It read "WP Cocks" along with the wording "Des et sculpo".  I began researching "Des et sculpo" and quickly learnt that "Sculpo" is latin and means to carve or to engrave, so it was safe to assume that the glass was the work of an artist named "WP Cocks".

So, I turned my attention to finding out who "Cocks" was and this is where it started to get very interesting indeed.  I found a 'William Pennington Cocks' (1791-1878).  He was an avid naturalist in Cornwall, who trained as a surgeon, but retired from medicine due to ill health.  While still a medical man his drawings were used for Professor Cooper's 'Dictionary of Surgery' as well as in works by other leading medical men.  However, with his artistic skill, coupled with a fine sense of humour, he later found an outlet in political cartoons.  


Image:  The glass 


I discovered that William's work is included in the Haddon Collection in the Horniman Museum and thanks to the internet, I was able to find some examples of his naturalist sketches.  They show that William would place sea anemones into jars, or tumblers, of sea water to facilitate observation and sketch them accordingly.

Noting the floral theme of the glass engravings, the fact that William would sketch sea anemones in tumblers, along with the overall humour of the engravings on the glass, I was becoming more confident that this was the artist I was looking for.


Image:  Sketches by William Pennington Cocks


I turned my attention to finding "T.S. Cooper Esq."  I subsequently found a 'Thomas Cooper' (1805-1892).  He was an English writer whose political epic 'The Purgatory of Suicides' (1845) promoted the principles of Chartism, for which Cooper worked and suffered imprisonment. 

Finding this, combined with the fact that 'William Pennington Cocks' was a political cartoonist, got me thinking about a possible link between Cocks and Cooper.  So, I dug deeper into this Thomas Cooper.


Image: Thomas Cooper - By J. Cochran - Engraving of photograph, Life of Thomas Cooper.


My research showed that while working as a shoemaker, Cooper read widely, and in 1827 he became a schoolmaster and in 1829 a Methodist preacher.  In 1836 he became a journalist, working on newspapers in Lincoln, London, and Leicester, until his embrace of Chartism led to his dismissal in 1841.  He then began to edit various Chartist weeklies. 


Image:  A Chartism Rally By William Edward Kilburn (1818 - 1891)


Chartism was a working class movement, which emerged in 1836 and was most active between 1838 and 1848.  The aim of the movement was to gain political rights and influence for working classes.  Its name came from the 'People's Charter', which listed six main goals of the movement.  In 1842 (the date on my glass), Thomas Cooper apparently toured potteries to urge support for a general strike.  This was the year in which more energy was hurled against the authorities than in any other of the 19th century.  A second petition, of over three million signatures, was presented to the House of Commons, and was yet again rejected by Parliament.  This led to waves of strikes and protests.  In the West Riding of Yorkshire and south Wales, anger went even deeper, and underground preparations for a rising were made.  Cooper was subsequently convicted of sedition in 1843 and spent two years in a Stafford jail, where he wrote 'The Purgatory of Suicides' (from Wikipedia).

Again, this all got me thinking.  Both Cocks and Cooper had turned their attentions to a political cause, so was there a possible link between the two.  Might Cocks have contributed to Cooper's "Chartist Weeklies" with his satirical political sketches...?


Image:  The glass


Studying the imagery on the glass, I suppose it really is open to interpretation.  However, the more I research, the more I feel like my findings are adding up.  There are so many nods to the dates and the events of the Chartist movement, suggesting that I do have the correct Thomas Cooper.  The Welsh wording, "Yfyn Duw, A Fydd", which translates as "what god willeth will be", suggests a nod to the south Wales Valleys, which were a particular Chartism stronghold.


Image:  The glass


The levels on either side of the glass represent a comical element to the piece.  First you have what looks like a sunflower, with a series of level increments, with the words; Comfortable, Fresh, Glorious, Uproarious and Somniferous.  And, on the other side, the level increments have the words; Strangers, Acquaintances, Relations and Friends.  I think these may well suggest it was given as a gift to someone.  Who knows, maybe it was given as a gift to Thomas Cooper.

I intend to continue my research, determined to find a link between Cocks and Cooper, so that I can perhaps add some real provenance to this piece.  This has definitely been one of my most interesting finds to date.  It went from being a quirky drinking glass, to something that potentially, could hold some significant social interest and value.  I will update you all as and when developments happen. 


Image:  The Six Points of the People's Charter 


That's it for this week folks.  I hope you have enjoyed this exciting instalment.  It's finds like these that really do make this the dream job!  I absolutely love it!  As always, please do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, particularly if you think you can assist with my research.

If you enjoy my posts and want to stay update with new releases, please show your support by subscribing to my blog which you can do here or via the 'Home' page.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




Owner Source Vintage

Shop from Source Vintage here 

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment