John Bridgeman’s Snuff Box

Tasked with cataloguing a collection of military and personal items, perhaps the most intriguing piece was a steel snuff box dated 1757, donated to the museum by the Viscount Bridgeman in 1984.  The box, made of white metal, presumably steel, is inscribed ‘John Bridgeman of Little Stretton 1757’.  Carved above the writing is a man smoking a pipe beneath a tree.


Initially the box was considered broken as the button one assumed opened it failed to function.  On further inspection it was discovered that on its acquisition it was described as a ‘trick’ snuff box.  Assuming therefore, that there was a less obvious method of opening the item, detailed observation was conducted.  However, as a unique hand crafted piece, finding anything remotely similar on the internet was impossibility.  Luckily, careful observation of the object revealed that within the intricate hinge there is a hidden catch and the box was finally opened, presenting a elegant mechanism attached to the under side of the lid utilising a hand made spring similar in appearance to a treble cleff.


The history of the snuff box is one relatively unknown, indeed the Bridgeman family had acquired it by chance.  Bearing their name it was sent in  the belief that it belonged to a member of their family. Alongside the snuff box the museum received a series of letters from Ernest Bridgeman to William Bridgeman and after deciphering the hand writing it was found that they were discussing the likelihood of ‘John Bridgeman’ being a member of their family tree.


The challenges that this, on first appearances, simple task has presented has made the work particularly interesting and somewhat Indiana



Charlie Foxhall






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