This ceremonial cup and cover derives from the medieval 'standing' or 'wassail' cup and, with its rippled ribbon mouldings, relates to the Cockayne family's celebrated 'King Charles' cup (P. Thornton and S. Jervis, 'King Charles's Wassail Table', The Connoisseur, June 1976, pp. 137-140).
The 'Wassail' is first recorded in Anglo-Saxon times circa 450 AD when the Saxon Prince Hengist threw a banquet in honour of the Briton Prince Vortigern. Hengist's daughter Rowena is reputed to have entered declaring 'Waes hael hlaford cyning' or 'Be of health Lord King'. Vortigern fell in love with Rowena and through this union, the Saxons were given the sub-kingdom of Ceint (Kent). This was one of the first of several Saxon appropriations of land from the Britons under Vortigern.
The Saxon term 'Waes hael' subsequently passed into common parlance as 'Wassail' and by the 16th century, the ceremony of wassailing was associated with merriment and celebration. The large cups were decorated with ribbons and rosemary and filled with a warmed mixture of ale or cider, roasted apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and other spices and egg whites. This latter ingredient may have been responsible for the name of 'lamb's wool' given to the decoction imbibed from such festive vessels.
The Wassailing ceremony was usually held on several dates throughout the year including Christmas and New Year's eves, Twelfth Night, Shrove Tuesday, Hallowe'en and All Saint's Day. The decorated bowl was generally carried by poor maidens from house to house singing a 'A caroll for a wassel bowl', prior to the giving of alms (W. Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, London, 1833, p. 50.)
The most elaborate wassailing suite is that formerly owned by Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Comprising a lignum vitae engine-turned bowl and cover and four 'dipper' cups together with a side table and a pair of candlestands, which are probably later additions. It has been suggested that the wassail bowl and four dipper cups were presented by Charles I after the Battle of Naseby in 1645, and the table and candlestands were added to embellish an already famous wassailing suite (E. H. Pinto, Treen and other Wooden Bygones, 1969, pp. 48-52, figs. 35-36).
A similiar eighteen inch bowl was sold anonymously Christie's, South Kensington, 10 March, 2005, Lot 0162.
In Elkins shipping notes, it is noted that the bowl had been acquired from Christie's, London, 5 March 1927, lot 110 but records do not exist for such a sale or any other during this month.