Alfred Waggett: A craftsman

A resident of Clarence Street, Alfred James Waggett (1842-1919) was an artist of unequalled talent in the area of ivory carving. An article in the Brighton Herald, November 15, 1919, described him as follows:

‘Though he was connected with the pianoforte trade all his life, Mr Waggett’s inventive genius and skill in craftmanship were constantly finding other channels for his energies. During the last few years he developed a marvellous skill in ivory carving, inlaying and metalwork. In respect of the ivory carving, he was probably unique in England. His last two figures, ivory statuettes of female figures, were the work of an artistic genius … He has frequently exhibited, and won prizes for his beautiful work at various guilds all over the country and was a yearly exhibitor at the Brighton Arts and Crafts Guild of which he was a member.’

In addition to ivory carving and metalwork, he also made graceful, elegant and delicate furniture pieces, such as knitting tables with suspended holders for storing wool. These pieces also showcased the beautiful inlay work for which he was justly famed. His work included jewellery making and model ship building. He crafted each item of the ship from raw wood, using ivory for fittings and metal to make handcrafted nails.

It seems that this artistic genius has gone largely unrecognized, not only in the community where he lived his life, but in the community of British art.

This man was my maternal great grandfather and I have recently come into possession of a few items created by him, including one of the statuettes mentioned above. I am keenly interested to know if any of his work has survived and is being displayed anywhere. I have no knowledge of any of his survivors or their whereabouts. Neither do I know whether or not any of his work has remained in the family.

Comments about this page

  • Alfred James Waggett was also a photographer. His father, James Waggett (c. 1819-1888) of 193 Western Road, was a pianoforte tuner and an early photographer in Brighton between 1856 and 1859. His son, Alfred James Waggett, operated his own photographic studio from the same address in the 1860s. By 1871 he was employed by the famous photographer J.J.E. Mayall as a photographer’s assistant” at Mayall’s studio at 91 Kings Road Brighton.

    By David Simkin (18/03/2003)
  • Alfred James Waggett was my G-G-Grandfather and the family remained in the Brighton area up to the 1930s. The surname is unfortunately no longer carried on (changing to Casely, then Frisby). However, many of the artefacts he carved do still remain in the family possession and also an old photograph of Alfred himself. I would welcome hearing from either Douglas Badger or David Simkin if they are interested to know more.

    By Alistair Frisby (06/02/2010)
  • I too am a descendant of Alfred Waggett, he was my G G Grandfather. I am the granddaughter of Kathleen Casely and sister of Alistair Frisby. I would be very interested to hear from either David Simkin or Douglas Badger. I too have an item of furniture made by Alfred, a sewing/knitting stand,?which I have had restored.

    By Clare Frisby (08/11/2023)

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