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.
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.
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.
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 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.