The Battle of Waterloo

Souvenirs and commemorative objects

Objects from the Leeds Museums and Galleries collections reveal the long-lasting legacy of the Battle of Waterloo. We might think of souvenirs as a modern trend, but canny 19th Century businesses created everything from decorated pencil boxes to prints and picture books. 

Pencil box:
This sliding box of 'slate pencils' illustrates two key battles during the Napoleonic Wars: Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 and Waterloo on 18 June 1815. The box was designed in England and made in Germany.

Picture book:
Waterloo, a 12-page book illustrated by WH Ellam was published in 1891 by Castell Brothers. The cover is shaped around an image of two flags, a helmet, breastplate and swords. Even 76 years afterwards there was still a keen interest in the battle.

Rolling pin:
This wooden rolling pin has a silver plaque attached to it, inscribed ‘ROLLING PIN / USED IN THE / BATTLE OF WATERLOO / BY THE GIRL OF / THE REGIMENT’. This suggests that it may have belonged to a woman who accompanied the British Army to Belgium, perhaps a soldier’s wife or girlfriend. At this time women commonly followed armies and often acted as unofficial laundresses, cooks and nurses. It is almost impossible now to find out exactly where the rolling pin came from or who it belonged to, so it remains an intriguing mystery.

Glossary:

Breastplate – piece of armour covering the chest
Canny – clever, especially in business
Inscribe – to write, carve, print or engrave words on a surface
Intriguing – someone or something that is interesting
Laundress – a woman who earns a living by washing clothing
Legacy – something left over or passed on
Plaque – small flat surface usually inscribed with words to remember someone or something linked to a place
Souvenir – something bought or kept that reminds the owner of a place or time 

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Museum Discovery Centre |  Royal Armouries Museum | 

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