Box, Jewellery

A wooden jewellery box decorated with fine marquetry work. The box is shaped like a small chest with a hinged lid. The lid features an intricate 20 pointed star at the centre, and two bands of repeating diamond designs running across it and down onto the base. The base features two smaller 15 pointed stars on the front and an identical pair of stars on the back. A fine horizontal border edged the box. The underside of the lid features different intricate stars and " A L W " is inlaid in paua shell, with stars and chequerboard designs on either side. A compartmentalised tray, lined with red, blue, green and crimson velvet lifts out to reveal the larger space underneath, which is lined with floral wallpaper. A lock is visible on the front, and the original key is included.
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This jewellery box was crafted and decorated by Robert Wallath, who entered Taranaki folklore during the early 1890s as the Highwayman. Donning a bizarre, pseudo-military disguise, the Highwayman terrorised New Plymouth during a series of armed hold-ups over the course of a year, before his dramatic capture during a bungled robbery attempt at the Criterion Hotel on 20 July 1893. Wallath received a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes, and according to information passed down the family, he crafted this jewellery box for his sister, Annie Louise Wellington (nee Wallath), while he was in gaol. He gifted it to her as a wedding present. Wallath was released from prison after four and half years, after petitions from New Plymouth citizens for his early release and returned home to lead a quiet and productive life as a builder and cabinetmaker. The box was gifted to Puke Ariki in October 2012 by Annie's granddaughter Beverley Talbot.
Mrs Talbot said when her grandmother died in 1967 she left the jewellery box to her mother, Kathleen Pittams, and when she died in 2007, it ended up in her hands.
Talking about the donation in the Taranaki Daily News, Mrs Talbot said the family wanted to preserve the history of the box for future generations. " The main reason of bringing it here is once our generation is gone, where would it go next? We didn't want the story or the box to be lost." Mrs Talbot said. Read more about the escapades of the Highwayman in A Folk Hero or a 'Luny' ?: The Highwayman in Moffat, A. Flashback: Tales and Treasures of Taranaki. Wellington, Huia, 2012, pp.270-273. 
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