An important James I silver shell-form spice or sugar box, maker's mark TI star below, possibly Thomas Jemson, London 1620-21,

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Lot 260
An important James I silver shell-form spice or sugar box,
maker's mark TI star below, possibly Thomas Jemson, London 1620-21,

Sold for £ 78,000 (US$ 107,519) inc. premium
An important James I silver shell-form spice or sugar box,
maker's mark TI star below, possibly Thomas Jemson, London 1620-21,
the cover realistically formed as a scallop shell with alternate plain and finely engraved bands, cover opening to reveal a twin compartment and applied to the front of cover is a small hinged shell-shaped clasp, plain sides and egg-and-dart borders throughout, raised on four cast shell feet, height 9cm, length 13.4cm, weight 9.23oz.


  • Provenance:

    By repute the gift of James, Duke of Monmouth (1649 - 1685), illegitimate son of Charles II to Henrietta Mainwaring (1682 - 1688), youngest daughter of George Mainwaring (1642 - 1695), Mayor of Chester and MP for Chester in 1689 and thence by descent to -
    James Mainwaring (1673 - 1749) of Bromborough
    Charles Mainwaring (1723 - 1781)
    Reverend Charles Mainwaring (1768 - 1807) of Oteley Park Shropshire
    Townshend Mainwaring (1807 - 1883), second son of Reverend Charles Mainwaring, of Marchwiel Hall, Denbighshire
    Colonel Charles Salusbury Mainwaring (1845 - 1920)
    Thence by decent to the present vendor

    Mainwaring family tradition holds that the present lot was the gift of James, Duke of Monmouth, to Henrietta Mainwaring, the daughter of the Mayor for Chester in 1681 - 1682. On a tour of Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, it is believed that the Duke stayed with the mayor at his house on Watergate Street in the City of Chester on the night of the 9th September 1682 and stood godfather to the mayor's newborn daughter, Henrietta, at a service at Chester Cathedral on the afternoon of Sunday 10th September. Two days later, having run in - and won - a horse race at nearby Wallasey, the Duke sent back his winnings - including this spice box - as a gift to his godchild.

    Monmouth's tour of Worcestshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire in the autumn of 1682 is well-documented, not least because it was considered by the government as an attempt on the part of the Duke to gain support for his claim to the throne in opposition to Charles II's Catholic brother - and heir - James, Duke of York. As such, it was part of what has become known as the Exclusion Crisis, and it occasioned a number of examinations and arrests - including that of Monmouth himself - in its immediate aftermath. The result is a rich survival of depositions and examinations which describe, in great detail, the Duke's actions whilst in Chester and the surrounding area.

    A letter written by Sir Peter Shakerley, Governor of Chester Castle, confirms that 'at the entrance of ye Town Mr Henery Booth and Lord Brandon ushered his Grace...his Grace lighted at Mr Mayor's without any entertainment in the streets as hee passed except a few Bells...' and that the Duke dined at the Plume of Feathers Inn on Bridge Street, 'being attended by Mr Mayor...' (J. P. Earwaker, 'The Progress of the Duke of Monmouth in Cheshire', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, New Series, Vol. IX, (1894), 80). A letter written by Mathhew Fowler, Reverend of Whitchurch, reported to the Secretary of State that, '...the Duke of Monmouth lay at the Mayor's house on Saturday night, was Godfather to his daughter, to whom he gave a Princely name, Henrietta...' (ibid., 90). Henrietta's baptism on the 10th September is recorded in the registers of Holy Trinity, Chester, and although Monmouth is not mentioned as Henrietta's sponsor, Peter Shakerley wrote that having attended 'ye Quire' in the morning, the Duke returned to the Cathedral for an afternoon sermon (ibid., 80).

    Having left Chester on the 10th, Monmouth then attended a two-day horse race at Wallasey, in which he took part. An anonymous letter to Robert, Earl of Yarmouth states that he '...won the plate of 60 pounds, which he presented to his goddaughter the mayor's child' and Matthew Fowler also noted that ' is sayd hee gave the plate which hee won at Wallacey...' to Henrietta.

    'Articles' or rules for a race held at Crosby in August of 1682 state that every entrant in the race had to contribute to the 'plate' or 'cup' and that, 'a piece of silver plate, or plate consisting of sundry pieces of silver, shall be there exposed upon the Sloop, commonly called 'The Chair' where the horse race on Crosby March doth usually begin and end...' (R. D. Radcliffe, 'An Old Racing Stable at Wallasey', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, New Series 1893, Vol. IX, 155), and so it is possible that the present lot formed part of these winnings.

    In the 19th Century, Charles Salusbury Mainwaring believed that 'inasmuch...that this box was sixty-one years old when the Duke won the race at Wallasey, it was probably added by him out of his personal belongings to the money prize, as an enduring memento of his visit to Chester...' (ibid.). If this spice box did form part of Monmouth's personal baggage during his visit, there remains the tantalising possibility that it originated at the court of his great-grandfather King James I, thereby suggesting a Jacobean royal connection. However, this suggestion cannot be supported by documentary evidence. Nor has it been possible, thus far, to find written evidence which proves the Duke of Monmouth's ownership prior to September 1682.


    "Jackson's Silver & Gold marks of England, Scotland & Ireland" Antiques Collectors' club, published 1989. It is interesting to note that the mark recorded on page 107, last entry, is for an earlier spice box, 1610 - 11, by this silversmith.

    For similar example by the same maker, see "British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean Museum", by Timothy Schroder, Volume 2, section 9, pp 504 - 505, number 193. published by The Ashmolean Museum, Publications dept, 2009. Schroder discusses at length how these boxes were described in inventories of the day. "In the 1612 inventory of Robert Cecil's plate at Hatfield for example, includes a "'sugar box and spoone in the form of a scollapp' weighing 27ounces and another of the same Fashion without a spoone wayinge 17 1/2oz""(1) and Glanville quotes the 1660 will of Dame Elizabeth Courthoppe in which she leaves her daughter a 'Scallop shell sugar box'(2)"

    Lot Notes

    These expensive and exotic imported spices and sugar expressed wealth, and status required a box to display these precious spices. Although they date from the late 1500's to circa 1627, there are only 20 known examples, and one of the finest and earliest survivals is the silver-gilt example in the Middle Temple, hallmarked 1598.

    There are many accounts and comments on the taste for sugar and they document how sugar was a third option for sweetening wine. And one of note is that of Samuel Pepys who makes frequent references to taking sugar with wine, this strange predilection was of some concern to the Spanish Ambassadors in 1604.

    (1) Unpublished manuscript, Hatfield House House Archives
    (2) Phillipa Glanville, "Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England", published 1990 page 366.

    Similar boxes by the same maker have been offered for sale from the Collections of the "Rothschild collection at Mentmore", Sotheby's 18th May 1979, and from "Important silver from a New England Collection" 16th April, 1999, Christie's New York. The former is now exhibited at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham.
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