The Fivemiletown Class

The Fivemiletown class was established in 1892 in the village of Fivemiletown in County Tyrone, Ireland by Mary Montgomery of Blessingbourne.

Prior to the setting up of the class under the HAIA she had previously ran embroidery and sewing classes since 1876. Mary Montgomery was trained in metal repousse by the HAIA in London, and together with a local bank manager taught the local village lads.

Early designs for the class were provided by Mary's husband Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery. Later John Williams who had been one of the principal metalworkers at the Guild of Handicraft (and later art teacher at Surrey County Council) visited the Class on numerous occassions and provided training as well as designs.

In 1899 the Studio said of John Williams: 'In designing for pewter and for somewhat heavier applications of brass and copper, John Williams is still the tutelary genius of Fivemiletown. The designs of so able and judicious an artist must be invaluable alike to the native and the more advanced craftsman, for they have a breadth and dignity of line which cannot fail to react well upon the growing style of the executant'.

 The Class first exhibited at the HAIA annual exhibition in 1893. Production was mainly copper and brass, and occasionally pewter. Silver was made from 1906. Common design motifs included peacocks, owls and squirrels.

As far as I am aware work was not stamped or signed. Queen Victoria, The Princess of Wales and The Duke of York are known to have purchased Fivemiletown metalware. The Class is thought to have ceased production in 1913.

The following comments were made of the Fivemiletown Class in the Studio review of the 1907 HAIA annual exhibition: 'The metal repousse work established here some years ago as a cottage industry has attained a degree of artistic excellence which seems to prove that the Irish have not altogether lost their ancient skill in metal working'.

Known Craftsmen:

Thomas Adars, Robert Armstrong, Henry Bisby, Samuel Carruth, Thomas Curran, Mathew Reid, Robert Reid, Frank Roche, Patrick Roche, John Wilson, John Hugh Wilson, Malcolm Wilson.

Further Reading:

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Ireland by Paul Larmour, Friar�s Bush Press, Belfast, 1992.