OMAR RAMSDEN: The Messel presentation silver rose water dish,
The dish appears in the Ramsden work books as Dish 1381, page 116 of 'Book I, Work Book: Cups, Trays Bowls and Large Dishes,' the description is for: 'a Plain "Messel" type rose water dish 1930, 24/5/30 diameter 22 7/8 inches' and is accompanied by a rough sketch. Details also appear in Portfolio B for the inscription: Linley Francis Messel of 21st, 31 August 1920. Family history does not relate why the gift was made 10 years after the event.
Recent History of the Messel family:
Ludwig Messel [1847-1915] of Nymans Leonard Messel [1872-1953] of Nymans. Linley Messel [1899-1971] Then by direct descent.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the Messel family were a well established banking family from Hesse Darmstadt in Germany. Following the early death of his father [Simon Messel] Ludwig settled in England, marrying Anne Cussans and established the stock broking house of L. Messel & Co in the City of London in 1873.
Both Ludwig and his son Leonard were men of eclectic interests, sharing passions for gardening and for collecting. The great gardens at Nymans in West Sussex were laid out by Ludwig shortly after purchasing the property in 1890. He extended the gardens over an area of 30 acres whilst landscaping and planting the park and woodland surrounding it. At this time, he re-modelled the house using designs submitted by his brother Alfred Messel, architect to the Kaiser in Berlin, best known for his Kaufhause Wertheim on Leipzigestrasse and the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.
In 1898, Leonard Messel married Maud Sambourne, the daughter of Linley Sambourne, illustrator and Chief Political Cartoonist for Punch magazine. Her ancestors were the musically talented Linley family, whose most celebrated members were the composers Thomas Linley, senior and junior, and Elizabeth, "the Nightingale of Bath" who, in 1772, eloped with and married the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Leonard inherited Nymans on his father's death and, with great reluctance, moved from Balcombe House. He was persuaded to do so by the appeal of the garden and his dream of creating a magnificent mansion in the West Country Medieval and Tudor taste. This was accomplished throughout the 1920's, aided by the architects Walter Tapper and Norman Evill. From the start Leonard and Maud were enthusiastic collectors, travelling each year to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and France, followed months later by vans disgorging the carefully wrapped spoils of these tours: furniture, textiles, early continental glass, ceramics, musical instrument, jewellery, and porcelain. In addition to this, European and Eastern fans were collected in high seriousness, this collection now The Messel Rosse Collection is at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The other great collection was Leonard's vast library of herbal manuscripts, some dating from the 13th century. All these treasures were housed both at Nymans and at the rather more classically formal house in London, 104 Lancaster Gate. They had 3 children, Linley  Anne,  and Oliver,  who were brought up in their parent's rarefied and exotic world, surrounded by beautiful furniture, paintings and objects in a society cultivated by artists, collectors, connoisseurs and scholars. This influence was to be significant on them, with Linley destined to a career in L. Messel & Co and commanding the Middlesex Yeomanry, while Anne and Oliver were freer to pursue their artistic gene.
Anne, regarded as one of the great beauties of her time, an arbiter of fashion and highly respected gardener married, firstly, the Barrister Ronald Armstrong-Jones, having a son Antony , Earl of Snowdon and a daughter Susan, Viscountess De Vesci. Her second marriage to Michael, Earl of Rosse, was one of enduring happiness, based at Birr Castle in Eire, Womersley Park in Yorkshire and Stafford Terrace (Linley Sambourne House) in London. In later years, after the death of Michael, she settled more fully at Nymans, where her guiding eye still retained its influence on both house and garden.
Oliver became a portrait painter and commissions for theatre work soon followed, beginning with his designing the masks for a London production of Serge Diaghilev's ballet Zephyr et Flore (1925). Subsequently, he created masks, costumes, and sets for a large number of films, plays, ballets and operas many of which have been preserved by the Theatre Museum in London. During the Second World War he was employed as a camouflage officer. He went on to design many of the houses on the Caribbean island of Mustique, including that of his Royal wife of his nephew, Princess Margaret.
In the winter of 1947, a fire at Nymans destroyed most of the house and contents, which was partially rebuilt by Leonard and Maud, but on his death in 1953 he gave the entire property and estate to the National Trust. Today, the gardens attract over 200,000 visitors a year.