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The Garrard Ledgers, The Thynne Family Commissions
A remarkable insight into the collecting tastes of the first and second Marquesses of Bath is demonstrated by the fascinating record of their commissions, which can be found in the Gentlemen's Ledgers of the goldsmith Edward Wakelin, and his successors in the business, his son John Wakelin, William Taylor, John Parker and Robert Garrard.
The earliest commission for silver which is to be offered for sale is for two pairs of candlesticks, which can be found in Edward Wakelin's Gentlemen's Ledger for 1755. The third Viscount Weymouth's account for 24th November 1755 reads 'Two pr Nurled Candlesticks & nozils 121 oz 8 £48 8s'. We are able to discover the contemporary description of the silver, its weights and its costs, not because the invoice survives in the Longleat archives, but because of a chance meeting between the silver scholar Norman Penzer, and Garrard's company secretary, on the afternoon of a sale held by the company in 1952.
Penzer had bought a number of Royal Plate inventories in the sale. He was asked by the company secretary whether he would be interested in seeing a number of their old ledgers. The 'old ledgers' proved to be a unique run of company accounts dating from the time of the goldsmith George Wickes in 1735, through to the late 19th century. Penzer, Arthur Grimwade, Christie's Director of Silver, and John Hayward of the Victoria & Albert Museum, worked throughout the afternoon, sorting and stacking the books, which were then delivered to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Now available on microfiche, the ledgers are an unrivalled source of information, regarding the use, description and cost of all manner of silver and silver-gilt objects.
We can sense the importance that the Thynne family attached to their silver collection from these ledgers, as many of the entries relate to the refurbishment of old family plate. However, they were also great commissioners of new plate in the latest style. Lot 401 we know from the ledgers was described as a 'Fine chased fruit Bason and Stand', which cost the 3rd Viscount £87 10s. He paid a further 16s for the four engraved crests and coronets. It is in the new French neo-classical style, which was also chosen for the 'pr of Rich Chased candlesticks' with '3 light Branches', lot 443, which the 2nd Marquess of Bath bought some 19 years later. An interest in silver forms from an earlier period is evident in the first Marquess's choice of inkstand in 1792. The 'large plain Inkstand like Chesterfields', purchased on the 12th March 1792 is in the style of the 1730's, as was the second Marquess' inkstand, supplied by Robert Garrard in 1806. The following silver lots are a testament to the taste of the 1st and 2nd Marquesses and the skill of the succession of silversmiths, which became Garrard & Co.