This richly embossed escutcheon of a native 'wild man' mask, exotically plumed in the George I 'India' manner, was almost certainly executed as part of the magnificent forecourt gatescreen by Robert and John Davies of Croes Foel, Bersham. A masterpiece of the Welsh ironsmith's art which displays closely related masks amongst its heraldic celebrations, combining both wrought and cast-iron, this screen was commissioned by Robert Myddelton (d.1733) and the original entries in his account books record:-
'1719 July 28 Pd Robert Davies, Smith in full of what he and his Brothr did at ye Iron Gates from ye 14 Octob 1717 to ye 21 December following..10.16.9'
1721 Aug 15 Pd Mr Robert Davies, Smith ye remaindr of all due to him and his Brother John for workeing ye Iron Gates before ye ffront of ye Castle....12.13.06
(M. Ayrton, 'Two Welsh Gatesmiths -1', Country Life, 5 September 1914, pp.330-334).
In 1764, the Park was relandscaped by William Emes, a pupil of Capability Brown, and in 1770, the spectacular wrought-iron forecourt and gatescreen was moved to the New Hall entrance of the Park, before being resited again in 1888 to their curent location. In their resitings, it is believed that some of the original elements of the screen became redundant, including the pair of gates into the Garden and this mask.
As part of the upheaval in 1770, the figures of Hercules and Mars were 'driven out of their Court and turned Back to Back, the former dragged to his Place of Residence up near the Deer Barn in the Lower Park, and the latter into the Plantations in the Upper Park, they have been very near Neighbours to each other upwards of fifty Years, and have not in all that Time had an angry Word with one another, a rare instance of Friendship indeed (the Steward)'.
Their Courtyard gate design, like this mask, is indebted to the engraved oeuvres of William III's French-born blacksmith Jean Tijou (d.1712), whose work was published in 1683 in 'A New Book of Draw ings inventored and designed by Jean Tijou'. Such 'India' masks are also carved on the stands supplied for marble-inlaid Italian cabinet, depicting Orpheus, that is thought to have been acquired by Robert Myddelton.