After two years in Spittal Street, the internationally important Neish Collection of British Pewter will be displayed in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
, later this year. Shown here is a small item from it, a baby rattle dating to the 1540s. The rattle opens into a ball shape with 4 copper alloy bells attached. Under this there is a long stem which ends in a whistle. At the whistle end are the pewterer’s initials cast as part of the design – A.B. or A.I.B. The whole object is covered in cross hatching except the ball which has an Elizabethan-style design around it.
This type of rattle was common, until the end of the 18th century, but with one difference: the hard ‘teething’ piece, on which the baby could cut its first teeth was usually a piece of coral, imported from Africa or the southern Mediterranean. The ‘teething’ piece here is the canine tooth of a wolf, which the baby could press to its gums, to relieve the pain. The rattle will feature in the book The Tudor Child: Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625
, by Jane Huggett, Jane Malcolm-Davies, Ninya Mikhaila, and Perry Michael, published this month.