Lacebark Whip from Jamaica

I bought one of these whips years ago at the sale of the contents of Dr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It was an extraordinary sale, full of natural history specimens and ethnographic objects from around the world as well as bizarre taxidermy tableaus – read more & see images here or here

Lacebark whip

Old label on whip

The whip had an intriguing half-label attached. It read “Lace T… Bark and remaining ….. whip”. I spent a while trying to research it, but could not find much infomation.

A website visitor told me that the fibres were produced by “ponding” – the soaking and punding of the wood in water, which sounded reasonable.

I had almost forgotten about it until I saw another example at auction a little while ago. This one was in better condition with a lace-like ruff surviving at its top.

Lacebark whip
After some more reading I found that the full name of the wood is Lacebark. Wikipedia tells us that “The lace-bark tree is a tree native to Jamaica, known botanically as Lagetta lintearia, from its native name lagetto. The inner bark consists of numerous concentric layers of interlacing fibers resembling in appearance lace. collars and other articles of apparel have been made of the fiber, which is also used in the manufacture of whips”.

There is also an interesting paper about the plant from Kew Gardens here

The “ruff” is quite soft and does look convincingly lace-like .

Lacebark wood

 

Lacebark lace from wood

I have seen other examples of lacebark items including more whips, collars and slippers in a few online museum collections. There is also an old report from The Advertiser Late Evelyn Observer

“June 3rd 1938 in State Library of Victoria

YARRAMIBAT Gifts Mrs. 1W. Le Francke, of Yarrambat, presented a whip made from the lace tree of Jamaica-a valuable gift-for the school museum. Other gifts are: Mrs. Warren, cross-section of motor – tyre showing construction; Mr. H. Allen, beautiful pieces of coral and many shells; Mr. Carter, many pictures of overseas towns; Mr. D. Claude Robert son (Melbourne), six new tennis balls for children’s tennis.” I find myself imagining a somewhat bemused reaction to this selection of gifts…..

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