Barton, Thomas (1862-1911)
48 The Pantiles (Parade) and Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, Kent; Tunbridge ware manufacturer (fl. 1862-c. 1911)
Thomas Barton was born in 1820 in Clerkenwell, London. By c.1836 he had moved to Tunbridge Wells and was employed by the Tunbridge-ware maker, Edmund Nye. Nye exhibited a book-stand and two tables at the 1851 Great Exhibition; the two tables were probably designed by Thomas Barton. See Edmund Nye: https://bifmo.history.ac.uk/entry/nye-edmund-1818-40
Barton's position by the 1850s was described as 'Foreman'. In his will, Nye gave Barton the option of inheriting the business, which included leases and goodwill for £400, plus stock and tools at valuation. Barton took over the business at Nye's death in 1862 and maintained his manufactory and home on Mount Ephraim and his shop and showrooms on the Parade.
In September 1864 he was awarded the first prize for skilled workmanship at an Industrial Exhibition in the town for an image of Battle Abbey Gatehouse. Business prospered and by 1871 he was employing 14 workmen. His production included work boxes, tea caddies and chests, stationery cabinets, card boxes, chess boards, watch stands, blotter covers, thermometers, compasses and a wide range of pin cushions, tape measures, stamp boxes, etc. He also produced furniture such as work and occasional tables.
Barton favoured using dark wood veneers, particularly coromandel and ebony, and green wood (a fungus infected oak collected locally from the Eridge Castle estates). His decorative designs included bandings of geometrical, floral, and leaf subjects; central mosaic panels of flowers inlaid into holly panels; and perspective cube parquetry. He also employed tile designs to decorate some of his boxes. Many of his wares were either stamped or included a rectangular or circular paper label, these initially indicating that the business was formerly operated by Nye.
His customers included David Salomons of Broomhill, Southborough, for whom in 1895 he made a games table.
In March 1891 he gave up the lease of his showrooms at 48 The Pantiles (Parade) and concentrated work at the Mount Ephraim premises. In 1901 he suffered from a paralytic seizure and died two years later [England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915, (Registration quarter, Jul-Sep, 1903), aged 83]. The business was continued by his two nieces, but on a reduced scale, finally closing c. 1911. His stocks of veneers and bandings were transferred to Boyce, Brown & Kemp, then the sole remaining commercial maker. See: https://bifmo.history.ac.uk/entry/boyce-brown-kemp-1873-1916
Barton was also active in local government and friendly societies.
Source: Austen, B., Tunbridge Ware (3rd ed., 2001); 1891 Census; piece 676, f. 86: Thomas Barton, Head of household, Rusthall New Town, Speldhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Born 1820, Clerkenwell, London. (aged 71).