Speaker John Smith and the Smith Service
John Smith (1655-1723), was the son of John Smith of South Tidworth or Tedworth, Hampshire. He served as a Whig politician under both King William III and Queen Anne, having matriculated at St John's College, Oxford, in 1672. Although he was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1674 he chose instead to enter politics, variously sitting as MP for Ludgershall, Wiltshire; Bere Alston, Devon; Andover, Hampshire and East Looe, Cornwall. As well as serving as an MP Smith, who was renowned as a good orator and conversationalist, filled several government posts including Chancellor of the Exchequer, first from 1699 to 1701 and again from 1708 to 1710. Between those two periods he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons on 24 October 1705 having also been made, in 1706, one of the Commissioners for arranging the union with Scotland. In 1683 he married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Strickland, MP, for Boynton in Yorkshire, and had with her four sons and three daughters.
When John Smith was named Speaker of the House of Commons in 1706, he received 4,000 ounces of perquisite plate from the Jewel House. After his death in 1723, his son Captain William Smith (d.1773) seems to have have had the Royal plate remade, some in a more fashionable style employing a number of makers including David Willaume, Anne Tanqueray, and others. The ten-sided dishes by Willaume (lot 51) follow contemporary French fashion, as evidenced by the ten-sided dishes by Nicolas Besnier, 1723, acquired by William Bateman, 1st Viscount Bateman, and his wife Lady Anne Spencer, now in the Puiforcat Collection displayed in the Louvre. However, the new forms continued the Britannia standard of the original Royal perquisite and were also engraved with the Royal arms of Queen Anne in memory of the Speaker.
Captain William Smith died childless in 1773, his estates and property passing to his nephew Thomas Assheton, later Assheton Smith (1725-1774), son of his sister Harriet Theodosia (d.1773) and her husband Sir Thomas Assheton (1678-1759) of Ashley, Cheshire. The Smith Service was extended with pieces by Augustin Le Sage and Thomas Heming in sterling standard but similarly engraved with the arms of Queen Anne and the crest of Smith. His son Thomas II (1752-1828) succeeded his father on the latter's death in 1775. Thomas II was High Sheriff of Carnarvonshire in 1783-84 and MP for the county 1774-80, and was MP for Andover 1797-1821. He fostered the development of slate quarrying on his Welsh lands, one of the first to do so. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Watkins Wynn of Voelas; their son Thomas III (1776-1858) was a well-known hunter, cricketer, and sportsman. He married Matilda (d.1859), daughter of William Weber, in 1827. They commissioned further pieces for the service from Robert Garrard (lot 48). After Thomas III's widow's death the estates and the service passed to their great-nephew George William Duff, later Duff Assheton Smith (1848-1904).
The Jewel House
The Jewel House in the first half of the 18th century, under the Master of the Jewel House, was the place of safe keeping for the crown jewels, including the regalia used at the coronation and the royal plate. It also provided silver for use in the Royal palaces and issued plate, either as gifts in the case of christening cups and race cups, or as 'indenture plate', to ambassadors and officers of state as a perquisite of office. In the study of the Jewel House records made by James Lomax and published in The Silver Society Journal 'Royalty and Silver: The Role of the Jewel House in the Eighteenth Century', vol. 11, 1999, pp. 133-139, it was estimated that the Jewel House cost between £4,000 and £8,000 per annum to run. The meticulous ledgers kept by the Jewel House staff made such a study possible as they created a record of each individual grant of plate and their cost. The records were kept by the five officers of the Jewel House, the master, two yeoman, a clerk and the groom. They also supervised the repairs and cleaning of the existing plate. It was from here that the 5,000 ounces of plate issued to John Smith on his election to the role of Speaker of the House of Commons would have come. In theory the Indenture plate, such as that given to Speaker Smith, was intended to be returned on demand, usually at the end of the tenure of the office or role but in practice this was rarely the case. By the early 18th century the expectation was that the official or ambassador would be awarded the plate in recognition of their work. In some instances the plate was purposely withheld to highlight a disagreement with the crown - long and costly litigation could ensue. If the plate was to be given to the holder and the requirement to return the plate to the Jewel House cancelled it would be discharged by order of the Privy Seal and recorded in the same series of warrant books.
Many of the records of the Jewel House relate to the mundane use of plate in the Royal households, the jugs and bowls issued to the milkwoman, the cutlery and plates issued to the pantry. There are also the rarer entries for silver trumpets for the King's trumpeters, badges for the King's waterman, and numerous circular seal boxes to encase the 'Broad seal' or Great Seal attached to documents of State. There are also records for inkstands for clerks and royal christening presents to the King's godchildren. However, the longest entries and therefore, not surprisingly, the most costly expenses were the grants of 'Indenture Plate' to senior civil servants, the officers of state and the King's ambassadors. The normal allowance of plate was 1,000 ounces, however Speakers, such as Speaker Smith, were entitled to 5,000 ounces and ambassadors received the largest grant of 5,893 ounces of white plate and 1,066 ounces of gilt plate, plate meaning wrought silver or silver vessels. These grants or warrants were recorded in a series of Warrant Books.