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George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington, was an important albeit eccentric patron of the leading silversmiths of his day, and his vast and well-documented collection provides us with a fascinating portrait not only of the Earl’s personality but also of the use of silver in a great English country house of the first half of the 18th century.
On his succession in 1693, the 2nd Earl inherited his father's title, but also his prodigious debts. A strategic but ultimately unhappy marriage to Mary Oldbury, the daughter of a rich London merchant, brought him a dowry of land at Dunham Massey. Aside from improving its park--it was said that he planted over 100,000 trees--the 2nd Earl devoted himself to building an immense silver collection.
The Warrington Plate is distinguished by its uniformly high quality, exceptionally heavy gauge, and its conservative taste, as the Earl favored the plain and massive fashions of the early 18th century, and never updated the style of his pieces. His near obsession with expanding the collection at Dunham Massey is underscored by the existence of a lengthy inventory written in his own hand, titled "The Particular of my Plate & its Weight." The seventeen-page document, dated 1750 and amended by the Earl in 1754, records over 25,000 ounces of silver objects.
The Earl's only child, Mary, married Harry (Grey), 4th Earl of Stamford in 1736, and after Warrington's death in 1758, Dunham Massey passed to them and subsequently descended in the Grey family. A significant portion of the Warrington Plate was sold by their heirs at Christie's in two sales, on April 20, 1921, and February 25, 1931.
The present plates are listed among the "12 douzen of Plates" in the Earl's inventory, all made by Peter Archambo in 1728. Typical of Warrington's silver, these plates are extrordinarily heavy, each weighing about two ounces more than the usual plate of this size and period. Also characteristic is the virtuoso engraving, displaying the Earl's full heraldic achievement. This unusual "oatmeal" box is one of three listed in the Earl of Warrington's inventory "For the rooms" of Dunham Massey. The two other oatmeal boxes, which sold in the 1921 Foley Grey auction at Christie's, have now returned to the ancestral home of the Earl of Warrington.
Important Silver Including The Stuart Collection of Magnificent Regency Silver
19 Oct 2010
New York, Rockefeller Plaza
Silver & Objects of Vertu