Have you often seen small boxes and other items made of an ochre-coloured wood decorated with scenes of tourist sites while browsing through antique malls? Have you noticed the price of these items? Whew! Stratospheric – especially for their small size. What you’ve been seeing is known as Mauchline (pronounced Moch’lin) Ware, a form of souvenir ware made by the Smith family of Mauchline, Ayrshire, now Strathclyde, Scotland, and favoured by affluent Victorians travelling abroad.
Adorned with transfer ware scenes of landmarks, this Scottish wooden ware dates from about 1880 to 1900. Though it was sold throughout the United Kingdom, great quantities were also exported to many parts of North America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere.
Mauchline, located 11 miles inland from the Scottish coastal resort of Ayr, was the centre of the Mauchline Ware industry, which at its peak in the 1860’s, employed over 400 people in the manufacture of small, but always beautifully made and invariably useful wooden souvenirs and gift ware. If it weren’t for the town’s association with Robert Burns, it would be difficult to find any present-day connection with the industry. Similar products were also made in Lanark, but because of the contribution of its originators, W. & A. Smith of Mauchline, the vast number of souvenirs produced in southwest Scotland from the early 19th century to the 1930’s is now referred to by the generic name of “Mauchline Ware”.