An Ashford (Derbyshire) black marble pen tray, of rectangular form with two pen trays and a small circular well centred under a bronze handle in the form entwined serpents, the pen trays decorated with inlaid pietra dura borders. English, circa 1850.
Ashford marble is a type of limestone which can be polished to a glossy black finish. It is quarried in only two sites in Derbyshire and has been used as a decorative building material since Bess of Hardwick commissioned a chimney piece of Ashford stone for Chatsworth. In the 18th century Henry Watson of Bakewell began to produce ornaments and William Spencer Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, (1790-1858) commissioned high quality pieces after admiring Florentine micro mosaics during his Grand Tour of Italy. By the 19th century Ashford marble was in vogue both for furniture and ornaments with numerous outstanding pieces being displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition by such manufacturers as J. Tomlinson, Thos. Woodruff (exhibited by HRH Prince Albert) and G Redfern (awarded a prize medal). See J M Tomlinson, Derbyshire Black Marble, Matlock, 1996, for further information.