Napoleonic Wars (1793 – 1815)
The existence of Masonic activity in POW camps is well documented. (Please see links at the end of the article)
However there is a lack of documentary evidence linking specific Masonic items to individual makers, in particular camps, so the possibility remains of items being made at a later date or elsewhere.
The PoW’s produced items from the scrap materials found around them and would sell them to pay for food and clothing.
Materials used included bone, straw, human hair, paper and wood.
The Jewel on the left, albeit smaller (H 40mm D 32 mm) only has one column, the clasp is not rounded and the general finish is what one might expect from the available materials and conditions of internment.
The Jewel on the right (H 52mm D 40 mm) appears to be almost perfect in design – would one expect it to be so well finished in comparison to the other Jewel? Or do the two Jewels demonstrate the difference in materials available from one POW camp to another and / or the difference in skills of the craftsman?
According to correspondence my friend received from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Great Queen Street, it is likely the prisoners had certificates, aprons or even book frontispieces and copied elements of these which would lead to elements of similarity in design.
The number of French soldiers and sailors brought to England as Prisoner of War was significant and estimated to be in the region of 120,000.
From records held at the Library and Museum, Great Queen Street.
‘In some cases the quality of workmanship was such that it threatened the livelihood of the craftsmen in the towns. This happened in the case of the lace makers and the trade in lace by prisoners was banned as a result’.
For further information on the subject please follow the links below:
@Freemasonsareus Freemasons Are Us