The arms on the enclosed figure are those of Sandys, probably for Sir Edwin Sandys (1561-1629), second son of zealous Protestant reformer Archbishop Edwin Sandys by his second wife, Cicely, sister of Sir Thomas Wilford.
Sir Edwin Sandys was a prominent Jacobean statesman and member of Parliament. He was actively involved in founding the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 and was elected as its Treasurer in 1619. However, Sandys was suspected of "harbouring designs to establish a republican and puritan state in America." King James viewed the Jamestown colony as a "seminary for a seditious parliament," and demanded a new treasurer be chosen, declaring "Choose the devil if you will, but not Sir Edwin Sandys."
Sandys was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London before the Crown assumed control of the government of Jamestown in 1624. The precedents of government established by Sandys became the model for other American colonies. Sandys continued his parliamentary career and devoted his last years to the affairs of the East India Company (Theodore K. Rabb, Jacobean Gentleman, Sir Edwin Sandys, 1998; Dictionary of National Biography).
It is possible that the salt descended through the Ponsonby family from Henry Ponsonby who married Dorothy Sandys (relation of Edwin Sandys) in 1605.
The most striking feature of the salt is the silver-gilt figure encased in rock crystal. It is quite likely that the enclosed figure is from an earlier Tudor period salt and was preserved in this unusual fashion due to some personal significance for the Sandys family. The fact that it is engraved "Heir Loome" supports this theory. The figure is virtually identical to figural finials on late-sixteenth century standing salts. A standing salt with a related finial formed as a boy holding a shield and a staff, dated London 1554, is at Corpus Christi College in Oxford. This salt and several other examples dating between 1554 and 1577 are illustrated in Jackson, An Illustrated History of English Plate, vol. 2. The extant examples place both the Sandys silver-gilt figure and the rock crystal stem to this same 20-year period of the 16th century. A silver-gilt salt, dating to 1577-78, with rock crystal stem enclosing a figure sold Christie's, London, December 11, 1902, lot 62 and is illustrated in Jackson, vol. 2, p. 551.
Sir Edwin Sandys, Graythwaite Hall
Courtesy Mr. M. Sandys
Detail of figure with Sandys coat-of-arms