A Buff Terracotta Keystone in the Form of a Maiden by George Jennings c.1870

Origin: English
Period: Mid-Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870
Width: 8.75”
Height: 12.5”
Depth: 8” (all at extremities)

The attractive buff terracotta keystone, the facing side in the form of a maiden with flowing hair and wearing a jewel, having an impress stamp to the base for George Jennings, Poole, Dorset, and surviving from the third quarter nineteenth century England.

The keystone is in sound overall condition with some losses to the extremities, i.e. the nose and chin, and wear throughout commensurate with age and weathering as photographed.

A keystone sits at the apex of a masonry arch or at the apex of a vault. In both cases it is the final piece placed during construction and locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch or vault to bear weight.

Enterprising, inventive and hard-working, George Jennings was the quintessential Victorian self-made man. He originated from Hampshire but it was in London that he had started his business and earned his reputation as an innovator. In 1851, he had supplied the sanitation arrangements for the Great Exhibition when over 800,000 visitors paid a penny to use his ‘monkey closets’ in the retiring rooms of the Crystal Palace’ (the first use of the phrase ‘to spend a penny’). Jennings was at the forefront of improvements in drainage and sanitation. He won a series of contracts to supply water and drainage systems to towns and institutions in Britain and on the outbreak of the Crimean War, was given the job of constructing the sanitary fittings for the hospitals at Varus and Scutari. In the next few decades, the South Western Pottery extended their range of products to include bricks, chimney pots, stone and terra-cotta ware besides a wide range of drainage pipes and fittings. Their products were exported all over the world and at its height, the pottery had 12 kilns and 6 chimneys. He died on 17th April 1882 at the age of 71, as the result of a carriage accident in London with the pottery continuing under the Jennings name for many years until 1967 when it was finally sold off for housing development.

A real decorative gem of architectural sculpture.