Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Pantechnetheca: Repository for the Arts

Trade card for the Pantechnetheca, 1824. BA.

The Pantechnetheca was Birmingham's last grand toy-shop, the only one to be custom built, and it was built in an extravagant fashion - the idea was for it to display all of Birmingham's manufactures.* Construction began in 1823 under the direction of the silversmith, Charles Jones, utilising the skills of architect Thomas Stedman Whitwell. It was open a year later selling 'Jewellery, Papier Mache, Cut Glass, Sheffield Plate, Lustres, Or Moulu, Cups, Cutlery, [...] Swords and Buttons' and much more. These articles were displayed in three grand showrooms, each specialising in different products, and you would approach the upstairs showrooms via 'a spacious and gracefully-turned staircase', which was fitted 'in a style of classical elegance, richness of decoration and tasteful attention to commodiousness'.* The interiors may have been designed by Richard Hicks Bridgens, who produced ornate candelabra which stood outside, but was also known for his interior design.

Inside the Pantechnetheca, New Street. BA.

The name 'Pantechnetheca' (which was written across the front of the shop in Greek letters) seems to have been invented to inspire a sense of classical taste. The exterior was classically inspired and part of the Greek Revival in architecture. The ground floor was decorated with a 'Grecian Doric colonnade, supporting [another] of the Ionic order', all this was 'surmounted by a handsome balustrade with projecting pedestals' and sitting on these were sculpted figures and urns.* The sculptures were of four muses used to illustrate the fine arts, and Jones called his emporium the 'Repository for the Arts', reflecting how he wanted local manufactures to be seen. Later, he also opened a gallery and sold 'a succession of paintings by the most able ancient and modern masters'.

New Street, Birmingham, c.1825, drawn by Henry Harris on stone
and printed by C. Hullmandel. BA.
Showing Charles Jones's Pantechnetheca in the middle of the row of
buildings on the right. The closer building with the large Corinthian
columns was Sarah Bedford's glass maunufactory.

It was an opulent project, perhaps too opulent, as by 1836 Jones was selling off all the fittings and fixtures and in early 1837 he was bankrupt; the building was sold off by auction in 1839 and bought by Samuel Hyam (a tailor) [see below].

Sale of the Pantechnetheca, from The London Gazette.
Jones's bankruptcy appeared in February 1837.

No comments:

Post a Comment