William Newton

Title: Assistant Curator
Department: Furniture, Textiles and Fashion

Synthetics and saints

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Sledge; carved, painted and gilded; Netherlands, 1740-1800 (museum no. 980-1883) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Seasons Greetings from Furniture and Woodwork

Snow brings the snowman, not the other way round. Snow also brings eye injuries, excuses from railway companies and, most importantly, sledging. Behold this festive transport, replete with carved lion and child, and imagine flying out of it, pink-faced and giggling, catching on a stone at the bottom of a gentle hill covered in barely an […]

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T.13-1937, embroidered picture of St. Barbara, probably a 20th century forgery © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Barbara

Today, almost three weeks late, I present St. Barbara, another spurious Roman saint. She is said to have been born in the mid-3rd century, her father was wealthy, overbearing and pagan. He kept her locked in a tower to protect her from the world, but could not prevent her from secretly becoming a Christian and […]

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Eloi head

St. Eligius

Today’s Sanctus Ignotum, St. Eligius (ca. 588 – 660; known in French as Eloi), followed a successful first career as a goldsmith with a later one as a saint. The signs of his later holiness appear obvious to me (admittedly I am a smug, 21st century know-it-all). He miraculously made two golden thrones using the materials […]

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St Martin de Porres

Today on Sanctus Ignotum we have a case study in race relations, and our first South American saint. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a liberated black slave, Martin was initially apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. He joined the Dominican Order as a lay-helper, though his dedication to […]

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A.19-1945, Altarpiece, Saint Boniface, St Philip, St Otillia, St James the Less, St Wolfgang © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St Wolfgang of Regensburg

Aside from the annual devotionals to All Hallows, 31st October also marks the celebration of the feast of St Wolfgang, a 10th century monk and bishop born in Swabia, south-west Germany, in either 924 or 934. To give some idea of how holy Wolfgang was, he was known in his own time as Eleemosysnarius Major, […]

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Petka's head

St. Petka

This Orthodox saint’s proper name is Paraskeva of the Balkans, but she is also known alternatively as Petka. She was born on the shores of the Sea of Marmara at the start of the 11th century. She claimed that God spoke to her at the age of 10 while in church, quoting Jesus (and therefore […]

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Doublet-dealing

This morning we welcomed to Blythe House a visitor from the Emerald Isle, looking at a selection of 16th and 17th century objects; two caps, a doublet, embroidered sleeve and the famous Margaret Layton jacket, hoping to learn something about their construction.     Let’s take a closer look at that doublet, which is laying […]

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St. Bruno of Cologne

Today is a feast of St. Bruno (ca. 1030-1101), a very, very holy chap who was teacher to one of the most important figures of the middle ages: Pope Urban II, the instigator of the First Crusade. This 11th century eremitic scholar-man was also the founder of the Carthusian monastic order. If you’re wondering what […]

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St. Theresa of Lisieux

Today is the celebration of one of Catholicism’s less flamboyant but more popular saints, St. Theresa of Lisieux, commonly known as the ‘Little Flower of Jesus’. Her saintliness is not a result of holy pillows, levitations, stigmata or loyal animal friends, but rather it is because of the quiet, sweet and serious way that she […]

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St. Sergei of Radonezh

Today, like the BBC north of the M25, we look east, further east even than Norfolk. Give the globe a little twirl to your left and you’ll see there’s a big country which covers a lot of the top bit of it. This country is called Russia, and it’s very famous. Now if you look […]

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