As I have mentioned several times before I love the history mourning jewels can hint at. Researching particular dedications can provide amazing insights into a world long since passed.
Here, we have a stunning example of a mourning band in excellent condition. It is of Neo Gothic design, a hugely popular art movement that emerged in the 1850s in countenance to the liberal and free thinking Neo Classical movement that preceded it. It is important to consider the world in which this ring was made. Society was experiencing considerable changes, the industrial revolution was at his height and the ideas of the regimented class hierarchies were shifting.
The Neo Gothic art movement was born of a perceived necessity to return to a simpler way of life. A revival of medieval values proved popular in jewellery design and we can still see its influence in jewellery styles today.
This ring is a great example of the aforementioned design influences, it features a central black enamel band upon which the words "In Memory Of" can clearly be read in bold gothic lettering. The central band is flanked by two further bands of gold, highly patterned, again in gothic design. Given its age the ring is in superb condition, with no chips to the enamel and no wear to the ring in general.
The hallmark is beautifully preserved, reading;
TA - For the makers mark.
A crown with the numbers 18 - Stating the purity of the gold, in this case 18ct.
An anchor - For the Birmingham Assay Office, where this piece was hallmarked.
A letter F - The date letter, in this case 1854.
And finally an image of the head of Queen Victoria - Known as a duty stamp to indicate the correct taxes had been paid on the item.
The dedication is exquisitely engraved in flowing script around the inside of the band. It reads;
"Thomas Bloom, Obt, Jan 11, 1861, at. 38."
From this simple dedication we can discover an array of information portraying to this certain individual. We have his name, date of death and also a rough idea of his year of birth. With a little research we can begin to build a fair portrait of this mans life.
It is also interesting to note the lapse in time between when the ring was made and hallmarked, 1854, and when it was dedicated in 1861. We will never know why, exactly, but there are several possibilities; it could be that the ring had simply been in stock at the jewellers for that length of time. It could be that a grave illness was suffered by Thomas Bloom in 1854 and the ring was purchased as a precaution or it could be the ring was purchased for somebody else but never used and so was recycled for Thomas Bloom. In truth we will never know but it adds another facet to the intrigue of this ring.
The internet gives us the ability to research many resources quickly and succinctly. Entering the above details on Ancestry.co.uk provides some wonderful results.
Firstly, as we have the date of death, the most logical records to research with the hopes of finding more information would be that of wills and probate. Due to the unusual surname we get only one hit for a Thomas Bloom, the details as follows;
Thomas Bloom, 11 Jan 1861, Norfolk England.
Probate date 1st June 1861.
Effects under £3000.
The will of Thomas Bloom late of Great Melton in the county of Norfolk, farmer deceased who died 11 January 1861 at Great Melton aforesaid was proved at Norwich by the oaths of Mary Ann Bloom of Great Melton aforesaid widow the relict and John Bloom of Hockering in the said county farmer and David Bloom of Great Melton aforesaid farmer the brothers the executors.
This extract from the probate records provides us with key information;
The locality in which Thomas Bloom lived; Great Melton.
His occupation; Farmer
His wife's' name: Mary Ann.
And two of his brothers names; John and David.
We can also summarise that as his effects are stated as under £3000 he was of some standing within his local community. £3000 was a considerable amount of money at this time, this is further confirmed by the mourning ring itself. A ring of this carat and quality would have only been obtainable by those from a moneyed background.
We can now enter these new details in to our search perimeters. Culminating in the following information;
1851 England Census record;
Name; Thomas Bloom
Spouse; Maryann (Mary Ann)
Born; Forncett, Norfolk
Civil Parish; Melton Magna
Occupation; Farmer of 86 acres employing 6 labourers
Registration district: Henstead
Sub-registration district; Humbleyard
Household schedule; 9
Members; Thomas Bloom 27 (as above)
Maryann 24 Wife, born East Harling
Emma Jane 1 month Daughter, born Melton Magna
David 14 Brother, born Bawburgh
Upon reading the original document, rather than relying purely on the transcript, we find that he in fact also lived with his older brother John Bloom, aged 28, who was, according to the document, stated as the head of the household. This ties in wonderfully with the information we have already gathered from Thomas Blooms' probate records.
From researching Thomas Blooms’ occupation we can conclude he was indeed a man of good standing, to be a farmer of 86 arces was in itself a good achievement but to also employ 6 labourers shows the farm would have been successful, it is likely Thomas Bloom would have well known and hopefully respected in his local area.
We can trace Thomas Bloom back to his family home 10years beforehand;
1841 England Census;
Name; Thomas Bloom
Estimated Birth Year; abt 1826 (although this is at odds with other information researched it is not unusual for mistakes to be present on census documents.)
Born; Norfolk, England
Civil Parish; Melton Magna
County/ Island; Norfolk
Registration district; Henstead
Sub-registration district; Humbleyard
Members; John 70 Father, occupation farmer
Mary 40 Mother
Thomas 15 (as above)
Mary 15 Sister
Susanna 13 Sister
Sarah 10 Sister
Elizabeth 6 Sister
David 4 Brother
It is vital to mention here that the original document of the 1841 census simply states John (70) as the household head and Mary (40) is simply listed after him. It is only in the transcribed records that Mary is listed as Johns’ wife. It is possible that they were indeed husband and wife but the 30year age gap does pose questions, as I have stated it’s not impossible. It could also be that Mary was John’s daughter with whom he lived, or John could have been a lodger which was not unusual for the time. Again it is something we can only theorise at and without more in-depth research the answers continue to evade us.
There is also a possibility that we can match Thomas Bloom to a marriage record;
Jul-Aug-Sep 1843, Bloom, Thomas, Norwich Norfolk, aged 20
However that is as much information as what the records give us, the name, date , area and age all fit but it is important not to get swept up in the moment. This information cannot be substantiated but I have still included the details here as I feel it adds to Thomas Blooms story. We know from his probate records that he left behind a widow, Mary Ann, so there will be a marriage record for them somewhere even if this is not it.
These records go some way to build a substantial image of Thomas Blooms' life, his family, where he lived and what he did in this life.
Employing the locations mentioned in the records we can search further and take a look at the areas Thomas Bloom lived;
An early map of Great Melton where Thomas Bloom and his family lived according to the 1851 census and Thomas Blooms’ probate records.
This is a modern day photograph of All Saints church in Great Melton, built in the 19th century, on the site of a ruined 15th century church; it was a fully functioning church by the 1850s. It is highly likely that as the parish church the Bloom family would have visited here many times.
Another photograph showing the farm land that still surrounds Great Melton, typical of the Norfolk country side and not far removed from what Thomas Bloom may have seen in his day.
This photograph shows the local public house named The Green Man, as an established pub in the 1850s it is possible Thomas Bloom may have frequented this venue, I like to think so anyway!
All these snippets of information come together to weave an elaborate web of a life lived in the beautiful Norfolk countryside, for me personally, the extent and the detail of the information that can be gleaned from what on the surface appears to a simple dedication to a lost loved one is truly amazing. It is proof that these mourning jewels afford a certain level of immortality to the individuals commemorated. I would like to think that when I leave this realm of being that there is something left of me by way to remember.