This week we had two answers from the V&A.
First answer was about the embroidery of the fisherman.
Thank you for the your enquiry and please accept our sincere apologies for the extended delay in replying. Unfortunately your email was automatically filed in the ‘Clutter’ folder and we have only just discovered it. We are very sorry for this technical mishap.
As you initially emailed us several months ago, we realise that we may be too late to help with your query. If you still wish us to look into your enquiry, please do let us know and we will ensure that you receive a reply promptly.
Of course we replied we like to know all there is to know ,so we are waiting
and the other one about the box.
I have been discussing your box with my colleagues at some length. The box appears to be decorated with veneered straw marquetry. Straw marquetry as a technique can be found in England from the 17th century, but is best know as prisoner-of-war work, as it was practised by many prisoners of war in the Napoleonic Wars to make some money while imprisoned. There is a large collection of straw work made by prisoners of war at Norman Cross in Peterborough Museum. Interestingly prisoner-of-war straw work for this period has also been associated with Chatham where your ancestors were prisoners-of-war.
I have also show a photograph of your box to our wallpaper specialist, who agrees it's definitely 19th century. Therefore your family story is certainly plausible, although much of the straw work we have from prisoners of war in the V&A collection is more intricate. I would suggest getting in touch with Peterborough Museum to see if they have any similar objects in their collection. Unfortunately there is only a small body of work published about straw work, but I have listed it below in case it's of interest:
de Caunes, Lison
and Baumgartner, Catherine La Marqueterie de Paille(Dourdan, 2004)
La Marqueterie de Paille, catalogue of an exhibition at Bibliotheqeu Forney, Hotel de Sens, Paris, Dec 1991 to Feb 1992.
Fitch, Barbara Decorative Straw Craft. Swiss Straw Work Embroidery & Marquetry (Tunbridge Wells, 1998)
Renton, Andrew ‘Straw marquetry made in Lubeck, Leiden and London by the Hering family’ in Furniture History 1999
Renton, Andrew Straw-work(forthcoming tbc)
Toller, Jane ‘French Prisoners of war work’, Antique Dealer and Collector’s Guide, July 1971
I hope this is of interest to you.