Archive for the ‘Silver’ Category

Mixing your drinks

January 29, 2013
Silver wine cooler, from a set of four, by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

Silver wine cooler, from a set of four, by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

Wine and milk don’t really mix. Nevertheless, the design of these silver wine coolers, from a set of four at Knole, was inspired by the appearance of milk pails. They were made by Aaron Lestourgeon in 1776, at a time when there was an increasing taste for idealised country life.

The Dairy at Uppark, West Sussex, c. 1800 or 1810. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Dairy at Uppark, West Sussex, c. 1800 or 1810. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

As Meredith Martin has described in here recent book Dairy Queens, this period saw the building of model farms and pleasure dairies, such as the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles and the Bergerie Royale at Rambouillet, where aristocratic ladies could channel their inner milkmaid.

with gilt liners by Paul Storr, 1813.

One of a set of four silver wine coolers by Aaron Lestourgeon, London, 1776, with a gilt liner by Paul Storr, 1813. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole, 2012. ©National Trust Collections

There was a serious philosophical and moral undertone to this, as both milk and country life in general were praised as healthy, wholesome and socially regenerative.

The Dairy at Berrington Hall, Shropshire, by Henry Holland, 1780s. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Dairy at Berrington Hall, Shropshire, by Henry Holland, 1780s. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Perhaps it is an indication of the pervasiveness of that trend that even a relatively hedonistic object like a wine cooler was given ‘dairy’ styling.

The Dairy at Ham House, Surrey, c. 1800. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel.

The Dairy at Ham House, Surrey, c. 1800. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel.

This set of wine coolers, together with another set of four, was recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Knole.

Recycling in the grand manner

October 9, 2012

Silver basin by Anthony Nelme, 1692, subsequently engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh, 1st Bt, and his wife Sarah Lethieullier. ©Christopher Hartop

Recycling and retrofitting is nothing new. We have just acquired a silver basin with a connection to Uppark, West Sussex, from Christopher Hartop. This luxurious item was originally most likely used in the bedchamber, then became a christening bowl, and finally reverted to being a bedroom hand basin.

The Saloon at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The bowl was made by London silversmith Anthony Nelme in 1692, and may have been commissioned by Sir Heneage Fetherstone, 1st Baronet (d. 1717). It was later inherited by Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, 1st Baronet (1714-1774),  and engraved with his an his wife Sarah’s arms.

The Althorp christening bowl, by Paul de Lamerie, 1723-1724. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © V&A Images

Originally it may have bee intended for the washing of hands, for shaving, or perhaps as a punch bowl. In 1754, with the birth of Sir Matthew and Sarah’s son Harry, later the 2nd Baronet, it was used for his christening, which took place in the Saloon at Uppark.

Pair of silver salvers by William Peaston, 1746, purchased for Uppark at auction in 2010 with funds from gifts and bequests to the National Trust and with a contribution from a fund set up by the late Simon Sainsbury. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

During the Commonwealth baptismal fonts in churches were considered to be among the trappings of ‘Popery’, and grander families began to hold christening ceremonies discreetly at home. The practice persisted in some quarters even after the Restoration, but surviving christening bowls (like the Althorp Christening bowl in the Gilbert collection) are very rare .

Late 19th-century photograph showing Miss Frances Bullock-Fetherstonhaugh sitting on the south steps at Uppark surrounded by friends. ©National Trust

Both the 1st and the 2nd Baronet acquired silver for Uppark. Most of these pieces were dispersed during the twentieth century, although the National Trust has been able to repatriate a few in recent years.

The Tapestry Bedroom at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

By the late 19th century, Sir Harry’s sister-in-law, Miss Frances Bullock-Fetherstonhaugh, was once again using the silver basin in her bedroom for washing her hands. It has now been placed in the Tapestry Bedroom to evoke that everyday use.

This acquisition was made possible by a grant from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Tea with Molly

March 15, 2012

Portrait of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey, in old age, attributed to Johann Zoffany (inv. no. 54443). ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

We have just purchased a silver tea kettle stand with a connection to Ickworth, in Suffolk, from silver dealer and expert Christopher Hartop.

Silver tea kettle stand by Frederick Kandler engraved with the arms of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey. ©Christopher Hartop

The stand is by Frederick Kandler and is dated 1764. It is engraved with the arms of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey (1696-1768).

Pastel portrait of Molly Lepel, Lady Hervey, as a young woman by George Knapton after Sir Godfrey Kneller (inv. no. 66470). ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

Mary (informally known as Molly), Lady Hervey, was a maid of honour to Queen Caroline and married John, Lord Hervey (1696-1743), the heir to the 1st Earl of Bristol. In spite of Lord Hervey’s ambivalent sexuality (he inspired the quip that there were three species of human, ‘men, women and Herveys’) the marriage was a love match which resulted in eight children. Lady Hervey was praised by contemporaries for her ‘cheerful elegance’, wit and beauty.

Portrait of John, Lord Hervey, holding his purse of office as Lord Privy Seal, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo, 1741 (inv. no. 13016). ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

Stands like this one supported silver tripod burners which in turn supported silver tea kettles. Such luxurious tea-making equipment would have been used by the lady of the house to serve tea to her guests.

Following the relatively early death of her husband Lady Hervey spent most of her time at Ickworth. National Trust curator and silver expert James Rothwell notes that she would have presided over the tea table there while her father-in-law was still alive, and would have continued doing so after her eldest son (who remained unmarried) succeeded as the 2nd Earl.

Silver tea kettle set by Paul Crespin and Frederick Kandler, 1745, engraved with the arms of the 1st Earl of Bristol (inv. no. 852071). ©National Trust/Sue James

Another, complete tea kettle set engraved with the arms of the 1st Earl survives at Ickworth. The discovery of this additional stand indicates that there was more than one tea kettle in use at Ickworth at the same time. James Rothwell remarks that this seems to have been the case in other country houses too, for instance at Dunham Massey, where the Earl of Warrington had three silver tea kettles.

Some of the Hervey silver at Ickworth. ©National Trust

This acquisition has been funded by the Chelmsford and District National Trust Centre and the North Hertfordshire Association of the National Trust.

As it happens, Christopher Hartop will be sharing his expertise at a three-day course on collecting antique silver at Ardgowan, Renfrewshire, from the 21st to the 23rd of April 2012. The programme will include a discussion of styles and trends, handling silver pieces, identifying marks, spotting fakes, and a vist to the magnificant silver collection at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. For more information contact Sally Gibson at Ardgowan on +44 (0)1475 521656 or

Masculine chinoiserie

January 27, 2012

Silver monteith at Erddig, Wrexham, maker's mark TA or IA in monogram, London, 1689. ©National Trust/Susanne Gronnow

I have just been having an interesting conversation with Courtney Barnes over at Style Court about issues of femininity and masculinity in design and decoration. Courtney made the perceptive comment that, at least in recent times, chinoiserie or Chinese-style decoration has been seen as ‘feminine’, whereas japonisme or the taste for Japanese design is considered more something ‘for the guys’.

Detail of a chinoiserie motif on the Erddig monteith. ©National Trust/Susanne Gronnow

I am fascinated by how the meaning of certain motifs and styles changes over time, and indeed how feminine and masculine identity is expressed in different periods.

Detail of a chinoiserie motif on the Erddig monteith. ©National Trust/Susanne Gronnow

Shown here is an example of ‘masculine’ chinoiserie, a silver monteith at Erddig, Wrexham, with chased decoration in the pseudo-Chinese style popular in Britain in the 1680s. Monteiths were used as punchbowls or to cool glasses and as such were an accoutrement of male conviviality. In Restoration-period Britain chinoiserie seems to have been ‘for the guys’ as well as for the ladies.

Precious commodities

November 3, 2011

Pair of silver tea caddies engraved with the arms of Featherstonhaugh impaling Lehtieullier, 1767. ©Sotheby's

I am delighted to be able to announce that we purchased this pair of silver tea caddies at auction at Sotheby’s in London yesterday. They are engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah, who lived at Uppark in West Sussex, and are dated to 1767.

The purchase was supported by a fund set up by the late Simon Sainsbury as well as by other gifts and bequests to the National Trust.

Pair of silver salvers similarly engraved with the Featherstonhaugh and Lethieullier arms, 1746, acquired by the National Trust for Uppark in 2010. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The shape of the caddies – almost like milk churns – is unusual. The very obvious locks are testament to the still relatively high value of tea at that time. Presumably the keys would have been carried by Lady Featherstonhaugh herself, as she would have presided over the serving of tea to her guests.

The dining room in the Uppark late-1730s doll's house, which includes a miniature silver porringer and monteith, both hallmarked. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Just last year we managed to buy a pair of silver salvers that had also belonged to Sir Matthew and his wife. Some more silver can be glimpsed in the dining room of Sarah’s grand and beautifully made dolls house, which was originally created in the late 1730s.

Queen Victoria’s milk jug stolen

May 20, 2011

The stolen milk jug, which is part of a tea service given to Disraeli by Queen Victoria.

A silver milk jug has recently been stolen from the Drawing Room at Hughenden Manor. It is part of a silver tea set given by Queen Victoria to Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, in 1876.

Bronze statuette of Queen Victoria by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, at Hughenden Manor. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Disraeli had become Prime Minster for the second time in 1874 (his first brief period in office was in 1869) and his relationship with the monarch was extremely cordial. The Queen was charmed by his judicious flattery and approved of his imperialist policies.

Cartoon in Punch magazine entitled 'New crowns for old ones (Aladdin adapted)', 1876, referring to Disraeli's 'oriental' (Jewish) origins and Victoria's crowning as Empress of India. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Disraeli made Victoria Empress of India in 1876, and the following year she visited him at Hughenden, a clear mark of favour.

Bronzed plaster statue of Benjamin Disraeli at the time of the 1878 Congress of Berlin by Lord Ronald Gower, at Hughenden Manor. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The jug has a London hallmark and has the Beaconsfield arms engraved on its base. We urge anyone with any knowledge of its whereabouts to contact the Hughenden Estate Office on 01494 755573 or email (all calls and messages will be treated in confidence).

The locket and the coffer

February 28, 2011

Silver locket with a portrait in gold of Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester (1640-1660). ©Holloway's

Last week we managed to purchase two seventeenth-century objects with a connection to Ham House, Surrey. The locket and the strongbox were being sold in an auction at Holloway’s, Banbury, and have a provenance from the Tollemache family, who descended from Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart and Duchess of Lauderdale (1628-1698).

Strong-box dating from the 1670s, with a provenance from the Tollemache family. ©Holloway's

The locket commemorates the death of Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the short-lived youngest son of King Charles I, and may originally have contained a lock of his hair. During the Civil War Henry was captured by the Parliamentarian forces and for a while he was brought up by guardians appointed by Parliament. Partly as a result of this he became a staunch Protestant.

Walnut strong-box mounted in brass, c. 1675, on a c. 1730 stand, in the Duchess's Bedchamber at Ham. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Henry returned to London when his eldest brother Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, but he died of smallpox shortly afterwards. It was later remarked that, had he lived, he would have been an acceptable alternative as king to his brother, the Catholic James II, who was ousted in 1688.

The Duchess's Bedchamber at Ham, showing another strongbox next to the fireplace. ©NTPL/John Hammond

William Murray, the first Earl of Dysart, who remodelled the interiors of Ham in the late 1630s, had grown up with Charles I and was an influential member of his court. His daughter Elizabeth stayed loyal to the Stuarts during the Interregnum, secretly conspiring for the return of Charles II. The locket may have belonged to her, but its precise significance is not yet clear.

The Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, by Sir Peter Lely. ©NTPL/John Bethell

After Elizabeth married the Duke of Lauderdale in 1672 more enlargements and refurbishments were put in train at Ham. The strongbox purchased last week is very similar to one still at Ham House and recorded as being in the Duchess’s Bedchamber in the 1683 inventory.

©NTPL/John Hammond

These strongboxes fulfilled an important function in keeping money, valuables and important documents secure in seventeenth-century houses where there was very little privacy.  The locket and the coffer are rather potent objects, both for what they contained and for what they symbolised.

Bringing on the bling

July 14, 2010

Inkstand by William Plummer, 1786, engraved with the Chute and Barrett-Lennard (Dacre) arms. Image: Bonhams

We purchased this delicate boat-shaped inkstand at Bonhams in London on 30 June. It was once owned by Thomas Chute (1721-1790) of The Vyne, Hampshire, and it will now go back on display there.

View of The Vyne by Johann Heinrich Muntz (1727-98), c 1755. The view is slightly idealised, reflecting John Chute's plans for the house as well as the reality. ©NTPL

The Vyne was orinially a Tudor house owned by the Sandys family. In 1653 it was bought by Chaloner Chute (c 1595-1659), Speaker of the House of Commons. He employed the architect John Webb, a pupil of Inigo Jones,  to add the portico to the north front in the 1650s, the first of its kind on an English country house.

Bench designed by Mark Brazier-Jones on display on the staircase landing at The Vyne. Its shape and detailing seem to echo the silver inkwell shown above. ©National Trust

His descendant John Chute (1701-1776) was a friend of the collector Horace Walpole, and he was a member of the ‘Committee of Taste’ that helped to design Walpole’s famous Gothick villa at Twickenham, Strawberry Hill.

Baroque? Rococo? Neo-classical? Pieces by Mark Brazier-Jones in the setting of John Chute's staircase. ©National Trust

The Strawberry Hill circle was in the vanguard of the new antiquarian taste. At The Vyne John Chute refurbished some rooms in the Gothick style, while in others he employed a neo-classical idiom. The staircase, in particular, is a neo-classical tour de force.

You can probably spot the Brazier-Jones by now. ©National Trust

John Chute bequeathed The Vyne to the above-mentioned Thomas Chute, a distant cousin originally called Lobb who assumed the Chute name upon coming into his inheritance.

A chair combining the traditions of stamped leather, metalwork and horsemanship in the Oak Gallery. ©National Trust

The Vyne is currently hosting an exhibition by designer Mark Brazier-Jones (until 1 August), showing his avant-garde pieces in the context of John Chute’s radical eighteenth-century interiors. 

Fruitful symbolism

May 3, 2010

Pair of silver salvers by William Peaston, London, 1744, engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh (1714-1774). Image courtesy of Sotheby's

We have just managed to buy at auction a pair of silver salvers with a connection to Uppark, West Sussex. They were purchased at Sotheby’s in London on 27 April for £6,250, with funds originally donated by the late Simon Sainsbury and from various other gifts and bequests.

The Red Drawing Room at Uppark.

Salvers were developed from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards as a kind of tray used to bring in drinks, but they could also be used for display on a sideboard. The silversmith William Peaston specialised in salvers, but National Trust silver expert James Rothwell says that the vine-leaf border seen on these examples is unusual. It fits in well with the decorative scheme at Uppark, as we shall see below.

Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh (1714-1774), first Baronet, by Pompeo Batoni. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The arms engraved on the salvers are of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh (pronounced Featherston-hoar) and his wife Sara, née Lethieullier. Sir Matthew descended from an ancient Northumbrian family who had made their fortune in coal and wine. Sarah was the great-granddaughter of a Huguenot who emigrated to England and became a prominent London merchant.

Apollo mask, sunburst and garlands of fruit on the ceiling of the Little Drawing Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Soon after marrying Sarah in 1746, Sir Matthew bought and began to remodel Uppark, probably using James Paine as his architect. Paine was close to the St Martin’s Lane Academy circle, a group of artists and architects who were instrumental in spreading the Rococo style in England. 

Sarah, Lady Featherstonhaugh (1722-1788), by Pompeo Batoni.

In 1749 Sir Matthew and his wife went on a two-year tour of Italy, taking in Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. They brought back a subtantial number of pictures, including portraits of themselves wreathed in fruits by Pompeo Batoni.

Carved-wood head of Bacchus on the Little Parlour chimneypiece. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The asymmetrical foliage, flower and fruit motifs typical of the Rococo are clearly in evidence in the decoration at Uppark associated with Paine.

Deatil of the ceiling plasterwork in the Red Drawing Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Bunches of grapes obviously referred to wine and to the pleasures of the table. More generally, fruits were auspicious as symbols of bounty. Perhaps all this symbolism was too reassuring, suggesting limitless resources: Sir Matthew’s son Sir Harry became a spendthrift Regency rake - but that’s another story.

The gilded age at Kedleston

February 24, 2010


©NTPL/John Hammond

We recently managed to purchase a set of twelve silver-gilt plates that was made for Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. It was part of a dinner service commissioned by Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 5th Baronet and later 1st Baron Scarsdale, in 1756.

Sir Nathaniel and Lady Caroline Curzon, by Arthur Devis. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Curzon fortune, partly derived from coal mines, enabled Sir Nathaniel and his wife Caroline to embellish Kedleston on a grand scale. They were both very keen on ancient Greece and Rome, and employed a succession of architects to remodel the house in neo-classical style. Everything was harmonised, down to the doornknobs and the plate warmers.

The south front of Kedleston Hall. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

James ‘Athenian’ Stuart is thought to have designed the silver service, but it was Robert Adam who provided the setting for it in the Dining Room.

Design by Robert Adam for the Dining Room at Kedleston. Note the similarities with the south facade shown above. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Adam’s designs survive, showing how he integrated the silver with the architecture. National Trust silver guru James Rothwell told me that the practice of showing of one’s plate in this way was stimulated by the improved means of travel at this time and the increased opportunities to visit country houses. The Curzons must have attracted a fair degree of interior design envy.

The Dining Room at Kedleston. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The designs have been used to recreate the look of the Dining Room as accurately as possible. The silver service remained intact at Kedleston until the middle of the twentieth century. Since 1987 the National Trust has been able to reacquire much of the table silver.

This set of plates was purchased at auction at Christie’s in London on 25 November 2008, with generous support from The Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

The Adam drawing illustrated above will be shown in the exhibition L’Antiquité retrouvée at the Louvre in Paris during the winter of 2010/11.


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