Estimated at £1200-1500, the set comprised a teapot and two handled sugar bowl and cover by Philip Rundell, London 1821, as well as a cream jug by John Tapley, London 1837. Maker’s marks appeared on the handle of the teapot as well as the finial and cover.
The form of the teaset was inspired by Chinese red stoneware teapots from Yixing. It was similar in design to an un-engraved tea set that belonged to the legendary Victorian collector William Beckford (now in the National Museums of Scotland). Another engraved tea set made by Philip Rundell in 1821 is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.
There is suggestion that this particular silver design may have originated with John Page whose shop was just around the corner from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. While Page may have supplied their workshops, John S Tapley certainly did.
Trading with his sons as John Tapley & Company, they made the impressive silver-gilt model of Eton College chapel for Rundell & Co in 1834 (which was presented to the school by King William IV). The following year, Tapley moved to an adjacent workshop to Rundell in Ludgate Hill.
Given the small size of these teasets, it appears that they were designed for drinking alone or with a companion. William Beckford took most of his collection of exotic tea wares with him to Bath and, in 1838, Henry Venn Lansdown remarked on seeing “two cabinets, containing curious china, and small golden vessels… occasionally used at tea-time” when visiting Beckford’s home in Lansdown Crescent.
Among the other pieces of silver in demand at the Sworders sale was a fine Victorian centrepiece by Messrs Barnard & Co, London 1845. An ornate design, it was formed as a detachable bowl above two figures and a horse – modelled as an Arab selling his steed to a Persian beneath a palm tree.
Measuring 18.75in (47.5cm) high, it weighed approximately 154oz.
It carried an interesting inscription relating to the shipping industry: “Presented to Thomas Boumphrey Esq., London Manager of The National Steamship Company Limited, by his staff on his acceptance of the post of General Manager of the Cunard Steamship Company Limited.”
Estimated at £1800-2000, bidders were tempted by the pitch and overlooked a few condition issues, including minor dents to the bowl and a few small splits to leaves on the palm tree. After a strong competition, it was finally knocked down at £7100.
Also selling over estimate at the same sale was a small Maltese silver jar and cover that overtook a £400-600 pitch and was knocked down at £1900.
Probably dating from the first half of the 18th century, the 5in (13cm) high piece was engraved with the arms of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons – a cavalry regiment in the British Army, first raised in 1689.