The wine cistern was the grandest part of the display plate which would have displayed on the great buffet. Cisterns of this size would have held water used for the rinsing of glasses and for cooling the glasses prior to them being refilled with wine. In some instances a wine fountain accompanies the cistern, which would have acted as a reservoir for the water. The glasses would have been rinsed beneath the tap and the water collected in the cistern beneath. Cisterns were also used for the cooling of wine flasks or bottles in water or ice. In rare instances such as the Macclesfield suite a fountain and small cistern were accompanied by a larger cistern which would have rested on the floor and was for the cooling of wine.
The use of a cistern for dining dates back to the 15th century as illustrated by Dr. N.M. Penzer in his article, Apollo, The Great Wine-Coolers I, November 1955, p. 3, with a woodcut from Michael Wolgmuth, Schatzbehalter oder Schrein der wahren Reichtümer des Heils und ewiger Seligkeit, Nuremberg, 1491. Samuel Pepys records the purchase of a wine cistern in his diary on 14 March 1667. Cisterns were often of pewter but also of other materials such as pottery as with a16th century example in the Victoria and Albert Museum with dolphin mask and drop ring handles. These early examples were oval in shape and often on four feet formed as lion paws, as shown in a painting from 1616 of Ladies and Gentleman Carousing, by Dirk Hals.
The huge quantity of silver used in the manufacture of a silver wine cistern made it an attractive prospect for melting. Changes in fashion and the demands placed on Royal and aristocratic plate collections, for economic reasons or war, has meant no pre-Commonwealth English examples survive. A few extant 16th century plate inventories show that cisterns were a part of grand plate collections. The inventory of Queen Elizabeth I's plate conducted in 1574 lists ‘Oone great Sesterne of siluer to serve for a cupbourd poiz VcXXVdim.’ The weight of this cistern was 525 ½ ozs. It was also intended to stand on a cupboard of estate or buffet, rather than the floor. Further contemporary accounts record that it was in the care of the Groom Porter whose job it was to organise furnishings for the Royal Lodgings, therefore it must be assumed the cistern was seen as silver furniture rather than plate, which came under the control of the Master of the Jewel House. Wine cisterns were used by the Jacobean court as shown by Dr. N. M. Penzer, op. cit., p. 39, in the second of his two articles on wine coolers. He illustrates a painting of the King and Queen of Bohemia dining at Whitehall, by Gerard Houckgeest, 1634, where an oval cistern on four claw feet stands in the foreground. This huge cistern is likely to have been similar to a vast example of some 1,000 ozs. granted by Royal Warrant in 1672 to King Charles' mistress Louise Renée de Kéroualle. The end of the 17th century saw some of the most massive cisterns being commissioned, with the return to prosperity and political stability after the succession of William and Mary. The Earl of Devonshire was supplied with a cistern weighing some 3,496ozs. in 1687 and later, during the reign of Queen Anne in 1710, a cistern of 3,444ozs. was supplied to the Duke of Newcastle. These huge examples would almost certainly have followed the earlier form of a relatively shallow oval basin on three paw or scroll feet such as that supplied by Philip Rollos to the Duke of Marlborough in 1701, illustrated in A Loan Exhibition of Old English Plate, London, 1929, Exhibition Catalogue, no. 389, now in the collection of Earl Spencer, or another of 1682 from the collection of the Dukes of Portland, illustrated in C. Jackson, History of Old English Plate, London, 1911, pl. LXXXV.
Towards the end of the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century the paw or scroll feet are replaced in many instances by an oval foot and with the addition of scroll handles, with either grotesque masks or crest terminals, as with the Turton cistern. One of the earliest examples with a single oval foot is that by the Huguenot silversmith Pierre Harache of 1697, later presented by Queen Anne to the Surgeons' Company. The oval foot and short stem allowed greater use of the fashionable French cut-card work, the earlier cisterns having been lobed or chased with foliage. This change of form might also have been related to the change of use of cisterns with greater numbers being placed on a sideboard or buffet rather than being stood directly on the floor. The magnificent Macclesfield suite of wine fountain, small cistern and large cooler commissioned by the 1st Earl of Macclesfield in 1719 is a unique survival. Its sale to the Victoria and Albert Museum was recently negotiated by Christie's and it was the subject of an article by Philippa Glanville, Keeper of Metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, (see Christie's International Magazine, Dining in Splendour, March, 1998, p.42.). The two cisterns or coolers illustrate a division of use not normally seen. Macclesfield's wealth, and his wish to impress, led him to commission two cisterns. The largest (1,552 ozs., 43 ½ in. long) would have been used to cool the wine and the smaller (357ozs., 25.½in. long) would have been used in conjunction with the fountain for rinsing glasses. The present example is of a scale similar to the smaller of the two cisterns and can also be compared to the Hoptoun cistern by William Lukin, London, 1707 which, together with its fountain, is currently on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Coat of Arms
The later arms are those of Turton. It is not possible to identify the individual for whom the arms were engraved, however, there are two likely candidates. The first is Bishop Thomas Turton (1780–1864), Bishop of Ely and a collector of note who owned works by Canaletto, Titian, Poussin, Rubens, Velázquez, Constable, and Reynolds. The second candidate is Edmund Turton (1796-1857), M.P. for Hedon. His great grandson Robert Hugh Turton sold silver at Sotheby’s on 20 June 1935, however the cistern was not included in the sale. It is perhaps more than a coincidence that the cistern appears in Commander’s How’s catalogue two years later, perhaps having been sold privately by R.H. Turton. Either instance demonstrates the rise of interest in antique silver in the 19th century and an antiquarian approach to such pieces, with them being seen as embodying the antiquity of the family, even if their provenance was more varied. The fashion slowing changing from the need to commission new silver in the current style to venerating the old.