Billy & Charley’s Reliquaries
Courtesy of Philip Mernick, here are more of the wonderful zany works of Billy & Charley, the celebrated East End mudlarks-turned-forgers who created thousands of fake antiquities known as ‘Shadwell Shams,’ that successfully fooled the archaeological establishment in the nineteenth century.
There is a extra level of irony to these reliquaries, once produced to contain sacred relics, such as pieces of the’ true cross’ or body parts of saints which were believed to convey special powers to the owner, since they were always fakes produced to exploit the credulous and thus Billy & Charley were manufacturing fakes of fakes.
This is a fake Billy & Charley medallion given away with a women’s magazine in the nineteen-fifties – can anyone tell us which magazine?
These are plates of medieval pilgrim badges from Charles Roach Smith’s Collectanea Antiqua, Volume II, 1848, that Billy & Charley may have used as the basis for their own designs
Plate from The Antiquaries Journal 1846
One of Billy & Charley’s ‘Shadwell Shams’ perhaps inspired by the historical engraving above
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