The Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships
Life assurance in England had its genesis in the mid 18th century when increases in manufacture and trade led to greater prosperity and a need to provide annuities to perpetuate the improved standard of life. The founder of The Equitable Life Assurance Society, James Dodson (d.1757), was admitted to the freedom of the Merchant Taylors' Company by patrimony in 1733, although there is no evidence he was ever a tailor. Evidence suggests he was a writing-master before devoting himself to mathematics, teaching and 'accomptancy' and eventually as consultant to businessmen on the value of annuities. Becoming better known, he published The Mathematical Repository in three volumes between 1748 and 1755, on the strength of which he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1756 he inserted an advertisement in the Daily Advertiser inviting anyone interested in establishing a proper basis for scientific life assurance to meet him at the Queen's Head, Paternoster Row, on March 2, 1756. This meeting, and subsequent weekly ones, led to the formation of the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships, initially in the form of a tontine, the charter for which was petitioned under the patronage of Lord Willoughby of Parham, and presented to the Privy Council on April 20, 1757. Though James Dodson died on 23 November of that year, and the petition was refused and re-drafted several times, the company was finally established as a voluntary partnership and then as a Society. Its first offices were in Nicholas Lane in the City of London, where a plaque commemorates 'where Scientific Life Assurance Began in 1762'.
Sir Charles Gould
Sir Charles Gould was the son of army agent King Gould (b. circa 1688- 1756), deputy judge advocate, and his wife Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of Charles Shaw (d.1666) of Besthorpe, Norfolk and his wife Elizabeth Harbord. Charles was born on 25 April 1726 at Pitshanger Manor, Ealing, Middlesex and was baptised on 29 April in St Margaret's, Westminster. He was a scholar of Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1750 and in 1771 was appointed judge advocate general. He is said to have found great favour with King George III and was further created chancellor of Salisbury in 1772 and chamberlain of Brecon, Radnor, and Glamorgan. He was knighted on 5 May 1779 and made a baronet on 15 November 1792.
He married on 18 February 1758, Jane, eldest daughter of Thomas Morgan, lord-lieutenant of Monmouth and Brecon, in Little Berkhampstead, Herts. Jane Morgan was born on 10 June 1731 in Tredegar, and died 14 February 1797 in Ealing, Middlesex where she was buried. On inheriting the property of his wife's family Sir Charles added by royal license the surname and arms of Morgan to his own. They had three sons and two daughters; the second son, John, died in naval action at sea in the year of the presentation of this cup, 1782. Sir Charles died at Tredegar 7 December 1806, and his eldest son, Charles (1760-1846), succeeded his father as 2nd Baronet.
Sir Charles Gould's association with Equitable Assurances included a short term as Actuary. His legal background afforded him the opportunity to serve as advisor and arbitrator, even upon occasion lending money to the Society. On 11 May 1773 he was unanimously elected President of the Society; his immediate concern was to purchase new premises. During his tenure the Society prospered and in 1782 he was asked to accept a service of plate to the value of £500 'as a testimony of their gratitude and the high approbation they wish to express for his conduct in the direction and management of their affairs, which are now in so flourishing a situation.' (M.E. Ogborn, Equitable Assurances, London, 1962, p.112). He chose the present gold cup as his testimonial presentation, to be made by Gabriel Wirgman for Pickett and Rundell. The Society also commissioned a portrait of Sir Charles by Thomas Gainsborough, to be hung in the Great Court Room of the Society.
The goldsmith Gabriel Wirgman (1735-1791) entered his mark at Goldsmiths' Hall as a smallworker in 1772 at 14 Red Lion Street, Clerkenwell, though he had been working for at least some five years previously; of Swedish extraction, there is no record of his apprenticeship or freedom. From 1776-78 he was in partnership with James Morisset at 11 Denmark Street, after which he also appears as goldsmith, jeweller and enameller. His second mark as a goldworker was recorded at the same address in 1785. Connoisseur, op.cit. records the Society accounts that on 17 January 1782: 'It was moved and seconded, in pursuance of a Resolution... that Mr. Pickett, Silversmith of Ludgate Hill, do wait upon Sir Charles Gould... and that Mr. Pickett be Ordered to carry the same into execution with all convenient speed.' The accounts further note on 30 October 1782 the sum of £528. 3.- to be paid to Pickett & Rundell upon completion. The firm Pickett and Rundell, originally Thread and Pickett at the Golden Salmon, 32 Ludgate Hill, founded circa 1758, became Pickett and Rundell in 1777 at the same address. William Pickett became Lord Mayor of London in 1789. Upon his death the firm became Rundell and Bridge and from 1805, it was the celebrated Rundell, Bridge and Rundell.