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Cross, Anthony. By the Banks of the Neva

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Cross, A. (1996). 'By the Banks of the Neva': Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Available online at these locations:

  • Cross, A. (1996). 'By the Banks of the Neva': Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bottom, pp. 230 - 231

The tale of the two Scotts is matched from virtually the same period by that of the two Bottoms, father and son and both named Joseph. The elder Bottom was recruited into the Russian navy in 1703, although no details of his career are recorded; his name also appears in the list of the British congregation in Moscow after 1705. By 1723 he and his wife Catherine were certainly established in St Petersburg, when the first of a succession of entries in the church register records the baptism of a daughter and the last, the burial of Joseph himself in October 1753. Bottom junior, who was born in 1720, has his acknowledged place in eighteenth-century Russian history as “Lapidary to the Empress”, the master craftsman (granil'nyi master) who was head of the Lapidary Works at Peterhof for thirty years until his death in February 1778. It was Peter I who, in 1725, had established a watermill for the cutting, preparation and polishing of marble and semi-precious stones (Shlifoval'naia mel'nitsa) near his Marly Palace in the Lower Park at Peterhof, but he did not live to see the use of such stones in the decoration of his palace rooms. The original mill burnt down in 1731 (when it had been hired by the British merchant William Elmsall) and was replaced with a temporary building until 1734, when a new mill was built. In 1748 the Swiss lapidary Bruckner was replaced by Bottom, who had previously worked as an instrument-maker at the Academy of Sciences. Receiving a salary of 1,200 rubles, Bottom undertook “to polish diamonds (almazy brillantirovat') and cut every kind of coloured stones”; he also redesigned the lapidary works and introduced new machines for polishing and faceting as well as establishing a stone-sawing workshop. The mill's activities greatly expanded during Catherine's reign and Bottom was responsible for preparing quantities of stone brought from various parts of Russia, but from the Urals in particular, where the empress had sent an expedition early in her reign to search for “agate and other sorts of coloured stones”. In 1774 Bottom and the director of Peterhof Skripitsyn were ordered to prepare a plan and estimates for a new stone mill. Work began in 1777 to a design by Iurii Fel'ten and was completed just before Bottom's death. It was at the new mill, a few years later, that the jasper was cut for two rooms in the Cold Bath suite that Charles Cameron was preparing for Catherine at Tsarskoe Selo.

Joseph Bottom's eldest son, Alexander, served initially in the College of Foreign Affairs, but petitioned successfully in 1794 for the post formerly held by his father, citing his “sufficient knowledge both in the cutting and preparation of gemstones and in mechanics”; he was to occupy the post until 1815. Another son, John, became a clockmaker and had a shop from the early 1770s at No. 48 Bol'shaia Millionaia. He was one of several British clockmakers active in Catherine's Petersburg, where the skills of British horologists were highly valued.


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