Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Bt., and all aspects of his patronage of Robert Adam have been closely examined in recent years. In particular, his purchases of plate and his use of Adam as a designer of silver have been the subject of extensive research by Oliver Fairclough, curator of the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, whose findings were published in The Burlington Magazine in June 1995. ('Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn and Robert Adam: Commission for Silver 1768-80', pp. 376-386).
It is clear that from an early age Sir Watkin was determined to patronize the leading artists and craftsmen of his day. Having succeeded to the title and the extensive family estates in north Wales and England at the age of six months, he enjoyed an unprecedented income, some £27,000 annually, on attaining his majority in 1770. At first Sir Watkin patronized the Royal silversmith, Thomas Heming, spending nearly £2,000 with him between 1765 and 1773. Among his purchases from Heming were the magnificent silver-gilt toilet service commissioned for his first wife Lady Henrietta Somerset, in 1769, and the well-known silver-gilt punch bowl designed by Robert Adam and made in 1771, both of which are now in the National Museum of Wales.
About this time Sir Watkin engaged the Adam brothers to design a town house for him in the purest neo-classical style at 20 St. James's Square, London. Over the course of the next five years the brothers provided a wealth of designs not merely for the architecture and decoration of the house, but also for its furniture and fittings including over twenty designs for silver. These drawings, together with approximately eighty others, are in the collection of the Sir John Soane Museum, London, and have recently been the subject of extensive study by Michael Snodin. The St. James's Square silver designs together form an entire dinner service in the mature Adam style, containing elements of the overall decorative scheme of the house. This "Great Table Service" comprised two pairs of soup tureens, candelabra, salt cellars, sauce boats, dishes and plates, much of it with the same ram's heads and decorative medallions that appear on the furniture and plasterwork designed for the "eating room".
The present pair of meat-dishes, as well as most of the rest of the service, is struck with the maker's mark IC which has traditionally been attributed to John Carter, though as the mark would have appeared in the volume of largeworker's marks entered at Goldsmiths' Hall between 1758-1773 which is missing, making a positive attribution impossible. Research by Oliver Fairclough into Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn's papers, preserved in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, has shown that the "Great Table Service" was supplied by Joseph Creswell, described as a "toyman" who was one of the first tenants of the Adam brothers' Adelphi. Cresswell is recorded by Grimwade as having entered a mark as a smallworker in 1767, while Heal refers to him as a 'goldsmith, corner of Adelphi, Strand' and the Parliamentary Report of 1773 refers to him as 'a goldworker'. William Wynn's poor paying habits resulted in Creswell becoming bankrupt shortly after the completion of the commission.