A miniature marvel

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by Jeannie Swales

Anyone who regularly watches the Antiques Roadshow will be familiar with the term ‘apprentice piece’.

These were miniature pieces of furniture made by an apprentice to a trade, and could serve several purposes: to show off the apprentice’s growing skills; to act as samples for easy transportation by a travelling salesman; as ornaments; or simply as toys for children.

The apprentice piece’s counterpart is the ‘masterpiece’ – a final piece of work produced by an apprentice or journeyman in the guild system to demonstrate his fitness to become a master craftsman. This was judged partially on the strength of his masterpiece, and if he was successful, it was retained by the guild.

Whether or not today’s exhibit was an apprentice piece is open to debate – but it is certainly a miniature marvel, a model of an old-fashioned range measuring just 15 inches high.

And the plaque on it which gives the age of the maker tells us he was 18 – about the right age for an apprentice: Wrought Iron Range Designed and Made By Wm [William] Laurance In His 19th Year, it says. William’s initials also appear on the top left of the piece. The model has a fair few moving parts, all of which still work beautifully.

Apparently, one way of assessing the success of an apprentice piece is to show someone a photograph of it and see if they can judge the scale, and tell if it’s in miniature or not – so you can be the judge of how successful this piece is.

The range is part of the Scarborough Collections, which also includes a full-size oven, similar to that on the top right of the miniature version. Both will feature in the next store tour from Scarborough Museums Trust, A woman’s work… on Tuesday March4. Led by Collections Assis tant Julie Baxter, the tour will look at domestic implements from the last 200 years, demonstrating what a tough life women led in years gone by.

Collections tours are on the first Tuesday of each month. Each takes around an hour, and participants are asked to meet at Scarborough Art Gallery at 2pm before heading next door to Woodend Creative Workspace, where the Collections are housed in modern storage facilities in the basement.

Places on the tour cost £3 each, which then includes entry fee to both Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda Museum for a year. Places are limited, so booking is recommended. To book, or for further information, please call the Art Gallery on 01723 374753.