We have just managed to buy a pair of urn-shaped cutlery boxes for Chirk Castle, near Wrexham, Wales, that may have been designed by Robert Adam. The urns were originally made for Bowood House, in Wiltshire, the country house of the first Marquess of Lansdowne, which Adam helped to build and decorate.
The boxes came to Chirk Castle in the twentieth century through Lady Margaret Nairne, who had connections with the Lansdowne family and who married Lieutenant-Colonel Ririd Myddelton of Chirk in 1931. They were sold by the Myddelton family in 2004, and we bought them back at auction at Christie’s in New York on 14 April.
Chirk Castle still clearly shows it medieval origins. It was built around 1300 as part of a string of castles consolidating the Welsh conquests of the English King Edward I. In 1595 Chirk was purchased by the Elizabethan merchant adventurer Thomas Myddelton, whose descendants inhabited it for the next four hundred years.
The State Dining Room at Chirk, where the cutlery boxes will soon be put back, was redecorated in the neo-classical manner for Richard Myddelton, MP, in the late 1770s. This late eighteenth-century layer of taste at Chirk was followed by a Victorian phase of decoration, designed by A.W. Pugin.
The reacquired cutlery urns, in turn, represent the era of Lieutenant-Colonel Ririd Myddelton and his wife Lady Margaret, who cared for the castle after the Second World War. In 1978 they sold Chirk to the government, which conveyed it to the National Trust in 1981.