Ornamental turning was a popular pastime amongst royalty, aristocracy and the gentry.
By the beginning of the 19th century John Jacob Holtzapffel had established his workshop in London and built a reputation as a maker of high-class lathes and tools. Many of his customers were among the monarchs and nobility of Europe and England became the world centre for the pastime of ornamental turning. The Holtzapffel firm continued to make lathes until 1927 by which time they had produced a total of 2557, serially numbered, many of which were equipped for ornamental turning. Other engineers copied or varied his designs but none were so prolific in their manufacture.
The hobby of ornamental turning declined rapidly following the invention of the motor-car which, by the end of the First World War, had become the fashionable pastime of the mechanically-minded amateur, and the lathes with their complex equipment were abandoned.