Ship's Cabin Washstand, Circa. 1868
This extremely rare mahogany washstand dates from 1868*. The latched central panel of the cabinet swings down to access a Glasgow Pottery white glazed earthenware wash basin. At the top is a 38.5 x 27.5 cm mirror with a shelf above and below. The silvered backing of the mirror has deteriorated significantly, but this is consistent with it's age of 140 years.
The top cupboard of the cabinet would have been used to keep a water jug, and the bottom cupboard would have housed the waste water bucket.
After completing one's ablutions, the wash basin would be raised and the waste water would empty into the bucket below via the funnel shaped drain inside the back of the cabinet. The drain is still intact and is made from lead sheet.
Apart from the mirror, the condition of the cabinet is fantastic. And although it is not apparent from the detailed photos, on close inspection a few very fine crazing lines can be seen in the bottom of the wash basin.
The dimensions (WxDxH) of the cabinet are 51.5 x 24.0 x 161.3 cm (not including the handles or latch).
* The complete washstand, including the earthenware basin, was manufactured by The Glasgow Pottery (J. & M.P. Bell & Co.), Scotland. This history has be determined from the impress mark on the underside of the basin, which is a bell with the letters JB inside (see note 1). The pottery began supplying these "cabinet stands" to ship builder William Denny & Bros., Dumbarton, Scotland in June 1868 (see note 2), for ships built at Denny's shipyard, situated on the River Clyde (at the mouth of the River Leven).
By the 1860's, steam ship construction was a boom industry on the River Clyde and Denny's was responsible for building a great number of passenger & cargo vessels for shipping lines like the British India Steam Navigation Company (Glasgow & London), the Austrian Lloyd Steam Navigation Company (Trieste), the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. (Cunard from July 1878), to name a few.
One notable ship completed at Denny's yard was the Cutty Sark. In 1869, after the liquidation of her contracted builders, Scott & Linton, an arrangement was made for Denny's to take over the contract and complete the ship, which was finally launched on 22 November 1869. The ship was moved to Denny's yard to have her masts fitted and then, on 20 December, she was towed downriver to Greenock to have her running rigging installed.
Dennys was also credited with building the world's first commercial example of a (model) ship testing tank in 1883.
Over 1500 ships were built at Denny's between 1844 and its closure in 1963.
1) The J. & M.P. Bell & Co. impress mark of a bell with the letters JB inside would probably have been used up until the death of John Bell in 1880.
2) Source: The Glasgow Pottery of John and Matthew Perston Bell, by Henry E. Kelly
3) Other sources include Wikipedia and www.clydesite.co.uk
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