The origins of the small decorated enamel box go way back to the mid 18th Century. One of the first enamel ware manufactories was was started in Bilston near Wolverhampton in 1745 by Huguenot refugees. Then one in Battersea London was started by Steven Jansenn in 1753.
Despite the generic name for this enamelware was to become 'Battersea Enamels' the Battersea factory only lasted until to 1756 when Jansenn was made bankrupt.
Thoughout second half ot the 18th century and into the early 19th century the small enamel boxes were highly popular. Often given as gifts either as a token of love or as a souvenir with mottos and enamelled scenes of places visited. Another purpose was a sign of mourning, these are often decorated with a willow tree and an urn, sometimes with a weeping woman standing beside.
These decoative little boxes were also carried for vanity and practical purposes. The taking of snuff required a gentleman to carry a tiny box to carry it . And as smallpox was prevelant throughout the period they were also used to carry small novelty shaped black patches in order to cover the scars that were left on peoples faces. The inside of the lid often with a small oval mirror to aid application. These patches became so fashionable that it became common for Ladies and Gentlemen to wear just as fashion accessories. This is the reason for the popular use of the term 'patch' boxes.
The decline of the enamel industry in Britiain began with the advent of the industrial revolution and the mass production of cheaper products. It can be said that any genuine antique pieces date prior to around 1830. We have a large selection of 18th and early 19th century enamel 'patch' boxes currently on our web sight.
A revival came in the mid 20th century with Halcyon Days, and production has recommenced in the Midlands.