With the French occupation and exploration of Egypt in 1798 (Napoleon was seeking to cut off British interests in India) a mania for all things Pharonic came into vogue. The Battle of the Nile, in August, 1798, allowed the British to gain an advantage, and by 1801 they were in the process of taking over French positions and possessions. One of these acquisitions was the recently discovered Rosetta Stone (discovered in 1799 and on display at the British Museum since 1802) which would prove to be the key to unlocking the ancient hieroglyphics which decorated many of the temples and royal tombs that were being discovered.
Egyptian style architecture and furniture were in high demand, and as ever, the enterprising among Britain’s populace were keen to take their share. No one was more prepared to do this than William Bullock.
Bullock was the son of William Bullock and his wife Elizabeth (née Smallwood) proprietors of a travelling waxworks. He began as a goldsmith and jeweller in Birmingham. By 1795 Bullock was in Liverpool, where he founded a Museum of Natural Curiosities at 24 Lord Street. While still trading as a jeweller and goldsmith, in 1801 he published a descriptive catalogue of the works of art, armoury, objects of natural history, and other curiosities in the collection, some of which had been brought back by members of James Cook’s expeditions.