This magnificent ewer and dish, designed in the 'antique' manner, formed part of the ceremonial plate commissioned by Sir Thomas Watson-Wentworth, later 1st Marquess of Rockingham, K.B. to celebrate his achievement in being conferred a Knight of the Grand Cross of King George I's Order of the Knights of the Bath
In 1725 King George, with encouragement from Sir Robert Walpole, his first Prime Minister, revived this ancient military order, for those who had rendered distinguised service in the protection of the realm. Sir Thomas was amongst those granted the 'red riband' of the Order, and attended its auguration banquet at Westminister. The dubbing with water, as a symbol of cleansing, was part of the ceremony of knighthood, and no doubt explains the commissioning of this set, which served both as sideboard display plate and in the state apartment, for ceremonial ocacasions such as family christenings. Sir Thomas' coat-of-arms which is displayed on a scrolled escutcheon applied on the ewer and dish, is wreathed with the golden circle that formed part of the investiture insignia. This collar is indcribed 'Tria Juncta in Uno', being the modern version of the original James I inscription 'Tria in Unum', which was inscribed in the golden circle thast surrounded the 'three golden crowns' badge of the order and celebrated the Union of the Kingdoms of England, Soctland and Ireland.
Thomas Watson Wentworth (1693-1750) was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, he entered the college as a fellower-commoner on 15th May 1707. Perhaps one of his earliest purchses of plate was a pair of silver-gilt ewers and dishes engraved with his arms and those of the college by Samuel Wastrell, 1717. Watson Wentworth married Mary, daughter of Daniel Finch, 7th Earl of Winchelsea on 22nd September 1718. After their marriage his father moved out of Wentworth Woodhouse to Hooton Roberts and allowed his son to take up residence. His political career started in 1715 when he was returned for the famly seat of Malton, Wentworth, essentially a Whig he would however, often vote with the Tories. After becoming a prominant Yorkshire Whig he was elevated to the Lords as Baron Malton in 1728. He was made Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding in 1733 and created Earl of Malton, confirming his position as the foremost polical figure in Yorkshire. His pre-eminence was short lived for he lost one of his seats in 1734 and the other in 1741. Watson Wentworth was created the Marquess of Rockingham in 1746, supposedly to avoid giving him the Order of the Garter. He died in 1750, Walpole in a letter to Mann in December of that year states that the 'little Marquess' had died, 'drowned in claret'
The form of the 'helmet' shaped ewer derived from designs 'a la romaine' published by Jean Berain (d ), ornamentalist to King Louis XIV. The ornament which frames the medallions of heroes and heroines is derived from ancient 'grotesque' or 'arabesque' work. Daniel Marot, a Hugenot ornamentalist, popularised by his Works, published in the Hague, 1703 as 'Oeurves of Daniel Marot 'architect' to King William III of England (d.1702), engraved similar arabesque decoration, as can be seen in on of his later publications, 'Nouveau Livre d'ornaments', circa. 1710. This ceremonial ewer and dish would have been displayed in their London house as well as at Wentworth Woodhouse, their Yorkshire seat.
On the 9th June, 1948 Christie's sold Important Old English Silver, of the Rt. Hon. the Earl Fitzwilliam, D.S.C., removed from Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire. Although comprising only 143 lots the quality of the pieces were such that it was one of the outstanding post war sales. The earlier and more important pieces in the sale descended through the marriage in 1744 of Lady Anne Watson-Wentworth to William, 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam. She was the eldest daughter of Thomas, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, builder of Wentworth Woodhouse and sister and co-heir of Charles, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. In 1782, Charles became Prime Minister, but he died in the same year without issue, leaving the greater part of the Wentworth Estates to his nephew, William, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam. Lady Anne's grandfather, Thomas Watson, had similarly succeeded to the estates of his uncle, William Wentworth, Earl of Stafford, assuming at the same time the additional surname of Wentworth.
A glance at the 1948 sale indicates that much of the family fortune had been spent with the foremost goldsmiths of the day. David Willaume I, George Wickes, Paul Crespin, Nicholas Sprimont and Frederick Kandler were all in evidence. One of the more outstanding lots was a pair of two-handled soup tureens and covers, by George Wickes, 1737, which are applied with the same arms as the present ewer and basin with the exception of the an Earls coronet above the arms, indicating his elevation to the peerage as Earl Malton in 1734. One of the tureens was recently exhibited in Royal Goldsmiths, The Garrard Heritage, 1991, No.6
David Willaume I (1658-1741) was without doubt one of the leading goldsmiths of the early 18th century and much of his output can be compared most favourably with that of Paul de Lamerie. In fact the present ewer and dish are closely paralleled by the Anson ewer and sideboard dish, made by Paul de Lamerie in the same year, 1726, which is now in the Fowler Collection, University of California, Los Angeles. With the exception of the applied coat-of-arms the dishes are virtually indentical. The handles of the ewers were no doubt cast from the same mould. One must deduce therefore that the same modeller or at least workshop was used in the production of both sets. By the 1720's he had moved to St. James' Street where he also kept 'running cashes', that is to say engaged in banking. Arthur Grimwade, London Goldsmiths, 1697-1837, Their Marks and their Lives,1982, says of Willaume, "There can be no doubt,on the evidence of his surviving work, that Willaume enjoyed the patronage of the wealthiest clients in
England from the latter part of the reign of William III to the end of George I's reign. Among so many outstanding pieces it is difficult to select any pre-eminent masterpiece, when all display the highest
qualities of rich design and impecable execution." Grimwade goes on to list various works including the present lot. Willaume's success in
business enabled him to buy the country estate, Tingrith Manor in
Bedfordshire, to where he retired in 1728. The Rockingham ewer and basin of 1726, remarkable for their quality, size and exceptional condition, were probably the last major commission given to Willaume workshop before his retirement.
Wentworth Woodhouse had belonged to the Earls of Stafford until the 2nd Earl died childless in 1695. He left his estates to his nephews, the younger, Thomas, was left the Wentworth Estates. As a result he took the extra name of Wentworth, his son, also called Thomas, was later to be Earl of Malton and then 1st Marquess of Rockingham. Around the time the ewer and dish were commissioned enormous building work were being carried out. The kitchens, gardens and the West or Garden front were all executed aroud this time. From the 1720's to 1750 #82,500 was spent on the house and gardens. The broken pediment of the Baroque West Front has his coat-of-arms within the collar of the Order of the Bath commemorating his creation as a Knight of the Bath in 1726 as does the ewer and dish.
The ewer and dish appear in a number of documents from the Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments in Sheffield City Libraries. The inventory compiled by the executors on the death of the 1st Marquess of Rockingham, on 14th December 1750, lists "1 large Dish and Ewer". The inventory made on the death of his son in July 1782 lists all the plate at the London house, the centre house on the east side of Grosvenor Square. In this instance the description is more full. The list refers to "1 large chased sideboard dish 319ozs." and "1 large chas'd ewer to Do 116ozs 5dwts". An inventory for the plate of the Earl Fitzwilliam dated 1st November 1838 is divided up by coats-of-arms. In the section of plate bearing the arms of Thomas Wentworths arms is listed "A large Jug, 116ozs 5dwts" and "A dish, 319ozs". There was 1779ozs. 7dwts. of plate bearing the arms of Thomas Wentworth, 746ozs. 10dwts. with the arms of Baron Malton, 3393ozs. 8½dwts. with the arms of the Earl of Malton, 2632ozs. 4½dwts. with the arms of the Marquess of Rockingham and 3636ozs 18dwts with the Wentworth and Fitzwilliam arms.