An interesting George II cast and sheet brass tobacco box, dated 1742
Lot 395
An interesting George II cast and sheet brass tobacco box, dated 1742
Sold for £687 (US$ 1,078) inc. premium

Lot Details
An interesting George II cast and sheet brass tobacco box, dated 1742
An interesting George II cast and sheet brass tobacco box, dated 1742
Of elongated hexagonal form, the hinged lid with reeded edge and engraved 'Thos. Gilbert / Gent of Cotton / STAFFORDSHIRE / 1742', all within a garland hung and urn-topped cartouche, 13cm wide, 9cm deep, 2.5cm high (5in wide, 3 1/2in deep, 0 1/2in high)

Footnotes

  • This interesting box was probably acquired by, or given to, Thomas Gilbert [1719/1720 - 1798] on his assumption of the family estates in Staffordshire on the death of his father, another Thomas, in 1742.

    Thomas Gilbert the younger was an important figure in his county and in Parliament. He was Lord Gower's land agent, and through the influence of Granville, 2nd Earl Gower of Trentham, was brought into Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme, and subsequently Lichfield. Earl Gower also procured him a place as Comptroller of the Great Wardrobe.

    As an MP, he early began the work which was to become the main interest of his career. His first Poor Law bill, which grouped parishes into unions, passed the Commons in April 1765 but was rejected by the Lords. Further attempts to improve the poor law followed, and in 1776 he was responsible for an Act requiring overseers to make returns of sums raised by the poor rates. On 22 May 1781, Gilbert proposed another bill 'for the better relief and employment of the poor', the well known 'Gilbert Act' of 1782. This gave parishes increased power to combine to build workhouses for the support of children and those unable to work, and sanctioned the practise of giving outdoor relief to the able-bodied. One commentator has noted that it was 'the most carefully devised, the most elaborate and perhaps the most influential, for both good and evil, of... poor law statutes between 1601 and 1834'. On 9th May 1787, Sir Gregory Page Turner said in the Commons that Gilbert 'ought to have his name written in letters of gold, for the uncommon pains he had taken to assist the poor'.

    He and his brother John Gilbert [1724 - 1795] were extremely close to Bridgewater, the eponymous 'Canal Duke'. Thomas was his General Land Agent, his chief legal advisor, friend and personal assistant, writing much of his personal correspondence. Thomas Gilbert's interest in industry both for its own sake and because it provided opportunities for employment, made him instrumental in encouraging Bridgewater's canal building plans. In addition, he and his brother helped to bring industry to the Churnet Valley, developed the Cauldon Low quarries and the graphite mines of Borrowdale, and had interests in the Ecton copper mines. This industrial interest was reflected in another Act, that of 1773, which consolidated the law relating to turnpikes, now regarded as a landmark in the history of English highway administration.

    Thomas Gilbert married twice. First, Ann Philips of Heath House in Tean, Staffordshire, whom he married in 1762 when he was forty-two years old. She was of the same family as his mother. Upon their engagement he presented his fiancee with a lottery ticket, which won the enormous prize of £10,000. After her death in 1770 he married Mary Crauford, the only daughter of Lt. Colonel George Crauford of the 53rd Regiment. He was granted a coat-of-arms in 1759.

    He died at Cotton Hall in 1798.

    John Gilbert, Thomas' brother, was apprenticed to Matthew Boulton of Birmingham at the age of thirteen. During his service he became friends with Matthew's son, another Matthew, who would later go on to co-found, with James Watt, the world-famous firm of Boulton and Watt, steam engine manufacturers.

    [See H. Malet, Bridgewater, the Canal Duke, 1736 - 1803 (1977)].
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