A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms
Lot 148
A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660
Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms
Sold for £ 8,750 (US$ 12,293) inc. premium

Lot Details
A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660 Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms
A large, fine and impressive mid-17th century turned lignum vitae wassail bowl and cover, English, circa 1660
Painted in gilt, possibly later, with the Royal Arms
Topped by a turned and moulded cover, fitted to the centre with a vestigial baluster-turned finial, its threaded end once fitted with a spice cup now lacking, the bowl with a pair of slender ring-turnings between which painted the Royal Arms of the House of Stuart with mantling in gilt, raised on a short stem with annular knop, and a moulded and spreading circular foot, the bowl 32cm (12.5in) diameter; 44.5cm (17.5in) high including vestigial stem to cover, together with two later turned lignum vitae dipper cups, one possibly of laburnum and slightly tapering, 6.5cm diameter x 5.5cm high, the other slightly waisted and with a ring turning, 7cm diameter x 6.5cm high, raised on a Victorian silver-mounted and ebonised stand, the top fitted with a pair of stands for the dipper cups, with evidence of two more now lacking, and having a square top and concave sides mounted with brass beading, and bearing a silver plaque to the front, with maker's mark 'F. K. G.' in a rectangle, hallmarks for London, and an indistinct date letter, probably for the 1870s/1880s, and reading 'Copy of / BOWL Presented to URSULA, sister of / COLONEL GUNTER by KING CHARLES IInd / For aiding his escape from England, / after the BATTLE of WORCESTER, 1651.', the stand 50.5cm wide x 50cm deep x 26.5cm high, damages, (5 including cover, bowl, dipper cups and stand)


  • Recent provenance:

    1. Colonel Sir Robert Gunter [1831 – 1905], of Earl's Court, London and Wetherby Grange, Yorkshire, created 1st Baronet of Wetherby Grange in 1901 in turn the grandson of James Gunter [1745 – 1819] proprietor of Gunter's Confectioners, Berkeley Square, London and founding purchaser of The Gunter Estate in Kensington and Earl's Court, London
    2. Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Benyon Nevill Gunter [1871 – 1917], 2nd Baronet of Wetherby Grange
    3. Sir Ronald Vernon Gunter [1904 – 1980], 3rd Baronet of Wetherby Grange
    4. Thence by descent to the current vendor

    The Wetherby Grange Wassail Bowl:

    The date at which the Gunters of Wetherby Grange acquired this wassail bowl is not known, but it has been in their possession for at least 130 years, since 1887, when Colonel Sir Robert Gunter included it, amongst other possessions, in a Jubilee Exhibition at Knaresborough, not far from Wetherby. In 1917, when Sir Ronald Vernon Gunter, 3rd Baronet, assumed the baronetcy on the death of his father, the family's wassail bowl merited mention in the local newspaper report which covered the event. The Evening Dispatch of 22nd August commented that the 'thirteen year-old baronet became the owner...of the historic Yorkshire Estate, Wetherby Grange. The grey old grange...contains many famous pictures and curios. Among them is the quaintly designed punch bowl which Charles the Second presented to Ursula [Symonds], sister of Colonel Gunter, for aiding his escape after the Battle of Worcester.'

    The reporter - perhaps assuming erroneously that Robert Gunter of Wetherby Grange was a direct descendant of the Colonel Gunter, brother to Ursula Symonds, mentioned on the plaque - describes the bowl as one and the same as the gift of Charles II. So too did the newspaper which covered the 1887 Jubilee Exhibition at Knaresborough, reporting 'here...are the punch bowl and cups which were given by King Charles II to Ursula, sister of Colonel Gunter...in the year 1651.'

    However, the inscription on the stand which accompanies this bowl, which has been with this wassail bowl for as long as the vendor can remember, states that this is a 'Copy of' the Ursula Symonds bowl. It is not known either when the stand was commissioned, or by whom. The silver plaque bears London hallmarks and the duty mark used between 1838 and 1890 and, although the date letter is somewhat worn, appears to be a mark of the 1870s or 1880s. Intriguingly, the words 'Copy of' are rendered in smaller letters, and a dent covering them suggests that at some point an attempt has been made to hammer them out.

    The wassail bowl reputedly gifted to Ursula Symonds to which the plaque refers is illustrated in a number of late 19th and early 20th century accounts of the King's flight from England in 1651. The illustration first appeared in 1871, in an article by Reverend F. H. Arnold in Volume XXIII of the Sussex Archaeological Collections relating to the History and Antiquities of the Country [p. 12]. This article, expanded upon by subsequent discussions of the bowl by local historians and antiquarians, reveals the whereabouts of the illustrated bowl in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arnold's article stated – erroneously as it would turn out – that the bowl was then in the possession of Henry Percival Hart of Beddingham, a descendant of the Harts of Lullingstone Castle, Kent, who in turn were descended from Ursula Symonds. The next publication to discuss and illustrate the bowl - Allan Fea's 1897 The Flight of the King – corrects this, noting that 'the relic descended to the Blackman family of West Sussex through the marriage of Mary Symonds...with Wynn Blackman of Chichester, whose grandson Henry Blackman, dying unmarried in 1856, willed the bowl to his niece Mary Shergold (98 years old in 1896)...with the desire that it should descend as an heirloom in the Blackman family' [p. 174 - 5] In a footnote it is then observed 'the punch-bowl is now [i.e. 1897] in the possession of T. H. Blackman Esq...we may mention by the way that the text which accompanied the plate relative to the ownership of the bowl was incorrect. This, the late Mr H. P. Hart was desirous we should notify, and that only he had care of the relic.' Colonel Robert Gunter M.P. is amongst those listed in the acknowledgements to this work.

    The bowl illustrated by Arnold and Fea is next mentioned in the summer of 1910, in auction reports in the London Times. The 17th June edition reads:

    'an interesting and remarkable mazer bowl will be sold on July 6 by Messrs. Robinson, Fisher and Co. at Willis's Rooms, King St., St. James' Square, by direction of Mr Edward Blackman, of Chichester. This bowl was presented by Charles II to Thomas Symons and his wife Ursula, in recognition of their hospitality after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The bowl is of lignum vitae, and is of large size, probably, indeed, one of the largest in existence, its height being 24in. and its diameter nearly 13in. It is decorated with the Stuart Royal Arms in gold, is surmounted by a turned lid, bearing a cup and cover composed of the same material, and stands upon a short turned stem with a large round foot. There are five tumbler cups en suite and two wooden punch ladles. The present was made to Mr and Mrs Symons soon after the Restoration, and its history is well-authenticated. It has remained up to the present in the possession of the descendants of Mr and Mrs Symons, and is illustrated in Allan Fea's 'The Flight of the King'.'

    The day after the sale the same paper reported, 'the mazer or punch bowl, described in The Times of June 10th was sold at Messrs. Robinson, Fisher, and Co. yesterday for 41 guineas to Captain Butler.'

    Accordingly, when the bowl was mentioned in print again, in A. M. Broadley's 1912 The Royal Miracle, it was noted that 'as regards the...illustrated article by the Rev. Fred H. Arnold, LL.D, published in Vol. XXIII of the Sussex Archaeological Collections [1871]. Amongst the illustrations given is one of the punchbowl presented by Charles to Mrs. Symonds after the Restoration, and for a long time in possession of her descendants...The Symonds bowl now belongs to Captain T. D. Butler' [pp. 43 – 44].

    Genealogical evidence found in parish registers, as well as in wills, supports the account provided by 19th century historians of the relationship between the Symonds, the Blackmans and the illustrated wassail bowl, eventually sold out of the Symonds family in 1910.

    The Gunters of Earl's Court & Wetherby Grange:

    Sir Robert Gunter of Wetherby Grange and his brother, Major General James Gunter, were the sons of Robert Gunter [1783 – 1852], in turn the son of James Gunter [1745 – 1819], famous confectioner and, by 1799, sole proprietor of Gunter's Confectioners at 7 - 8 Berkeley Square, one of the most fashionable establishments for the ton in Georgian London. Their success as makers of confectionery, ices and cakes continued in the 19th century, and Gunter's made the wedding cake for the marriage of Queen Victoria's grand-daughter Princess Louise of Wales in 1889. When Queen Victoria conferred a baronetcy on Robert Gunter in 1901, it is said to have been 'one of the last public acts of her sixty-four years as Queen', and a tribute to the maker of the 'sweetmeats and cakes she had eaten in her childhood at Kensington Palace' [see E. David, Harvest of the Cold Months].

    It was the first James Gunter who purchased land in Earl's Court to cultivate as nursery and market gardens, and thus instituted a period of property development and building which would span the 19th century and make his family a fortune. His grandsons, Robert and James Gunter, having both served in the Army (Robert was nursed by Florence Nightingale at Scutari Hospital), inherited over sixty acres of land in West London in 1852, which came to be known as 'The Gunter Estate'. Robert Gunter's share was sold at the death of his son, Robert Benyon Neville Gunter, in 1917, but the legacy of Gunter ownership remains in the names of streets and squares such as Gunter Grove and Edith Grove, the latter named for Robert Gunter's daughter, who died of scarlet fever when only eight.

    Colonel Robert Gunter was more than just a successful property developer. He pursued a career as M.P., serving for Barkston Ash from 1885 until his death twenty years later. He managed and farmed over six hundred acres on his estate at Wetherby and in agricultural circles was the renowned owner of a famous herd of Shorthorn cattle, several of his Duchess breed selling for enormous sums of money. Also adept at country sports and an active member of both the Bramham Moor Hunt and the York and Ainsty Hounds, Sir Robert was also noted for being a fine shot. He married Jane Margaret Benyon, daughter of Thomas Benyon of Gledhow Hall, Leeds, and they had eight surviving children. He was granted the Baronetcy of Wetherby Grange in April 1901.

    Before acquiring this honour, however, his background in trade and property perhaps prompted him to cultivate connections with more gentle, landowning classes. If Sir Robert was the Gunter who acquired this bowl – and that has not yet been established – he perhaps did so to link his name to an extremely important moment in the history and survival of royalty in England. It is revealing that he named one of his daughters Ursula, and christened one of his sons George 'Gounter' Gunter [Gounter was a common variant of the name Gunter in the 17th century], self-consciously forging links between his branch of the Gunters and the Gunter/Gounters of 17th century Sussex. Interestingly, the plaque's inscription doesn't mention the surname Symonds at all.

    When Robert Gunter died in 1905, his estate was valued at the enormous sum of £648,622, 10s., 7d. In 1908, his brother James' at £544,770 1s., 4d. The latter was the same Major General James Gunter who stormed the Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860, bringing back Chinese treasures which were sold at auction in England in 2011.

    Wassail Bowls:

    O. Evan-Thomas, Domestic Utensils of Wood (1992), pp. 9 - 12, and Plates 4 - 11. See ibid., Plate 13, for dipper cups. A similar bowl, with widely-spaced ring-turnings to its exterior, is on the left of Plate 9. A footnote on p. 12 states, 'In over one hundred specimens of wassail bowls that have passed through my hands I have not found two alike or with similar mouldings, showing that the wassail bowl was never made for commercial purposes.'

    See a similar bowl sold Sotheby's, 20th April 2006, London, Lot 12 [£9000].

    J. Levi, Treen for the Table (1998), pp. 17 - 27.

    E. H. Pinto, Treen & Other Wooden Bygones (1985), pp. 37 - 38 for dipper cups, and Plate 21. For wassail bowls, see pp. 48 - 52 and Plates 31 - 36 and 40.
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