Royal Exchange Wooden Relic Box
London: c. 1838
London Royal Exchange Wooden Relic Box detail: opened
detail detail
Royal Exchange Wooden Relic Box
London: c. 1838
Turned wood with central engraved ivory medallion
1 3/8 inches high, 3 7/8 inches diameter
1 5/8 inches diameter ivory medallion
$1,800

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A early Victorian small circular disc-form turned wooden box with lid -- probably stained oak -- made as a souvenir of wood from the ruins of the Royal Exchange, London. An inset ivory medallion in the lid is incised with a perspective view of the Royal Exchange on the front, and the inside of the lid is incised with the legend: "THIS BOX Is formed out of Wood taken from THE RUINS of the ROYAL EXCHANGE Built 1669. Destroy'd by Fire Jany 10th, 1838."

In 1565, Sir Thomas Gresham (c.1518/19-1579) persuaded the Corporation of the City of London and the Mercers' Company, guild of textile importers and exporters, to realize his idea of building of an Exchange in the City of London as a focal point for business dealings. The Exchange was built by Gresham on a site provided by the Corporation and the Mercers' Company. It was opened by Elizabeth I in 1570, and is credited with propelling London to becoming the center for international trade that it is today. The first building burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was replaced by a new one attributed to the architect Christopher Wren. On a cold January night in 1838, this building burned down, in one of the most spectacular fires of the 19th century. The blaze could be seen for miles around and the entire compound was devastated, but amazingly there was only one casualty.

Condition: Generally very good, the wood nicely patinated overall, with the usual wear, shrinkage, and minor chips. Shrinkage crack in ivory medallion.

References:

"Famous Mercers." Mercers' Company Archives. http://www.mercers.co.uk/mainsite/pages/c_famous2.html (4 March 2002).

"History of Fire Safety Legislation: Royal Exchange, London 1838." FireNet. http://www.fire.org.uk/fpact/exchange.htm (21 July 2003).