Wing Commander Arthur Golding Barrett (1904-76) – known to everyone as ‘G-B’ – was a well-known figure in the mid-20th century antiques trade and built up the impressive collection of 17th century furniture and objects sold at Tennants in 1986.
Some exceptional items appeared in this small group owned by a descendant, including three inscribed and dated pieces of Stuart metalware.
The earliest nutcrackers are believed to have been of the lever type – hence ‘a pair of nutcrackers’ – but by the 17th century the screw-based nutcracker had arrived.
European brass nutcrackers from this period have survived in small numbers but a lot here included a Charles II example named for Ruth Gifford and dated 1676. The thumb piece is in the form of an arched crown.
Nutcrackers (mentioned by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales) are traditionally thought to have been given as love tokens, to mark an engagement or a marriage, or as keepsakes to bring good luck.
However, the identity of Gifford, married in either 1676 or 1677, is yet to be traced. Offered together with a smaller English or Dutch screw-action nutcracker c.1700 with a pierced heart thumbpiece and a seal matrix to the base, it sold at £7000 (estimate £500-700).
This runaway bidding battle, won like most lots in the sale by a private collector, was followed by the multi-estimate performance of a Charles II copper alloy gallon measure, finely engraved with the royal arms and garter beneath a crown and the initials C2d R (denoting ‘second’) and the date 1663. It was stamped with two checkerboard exchequer marks and in exceptional condition. Estimated at £2000- 3000, it took £15,000.
Measures from this period seldom appear for sale. A 17th century bushel measure sold for £7500 at CSK back in 2012 belonged in a different sub category – those produced for ecclesiastical or manorial jurisdictions.
It was applied with bronze lettering reading Sr Bolstead Whitlocke of Henly Vpon Thames in Ye Covnty of Oxon 1671.
Documentary pieces are the benchmark in this market. “Demand for rare, named and dated items remains high,” said senior specialist David Houlson.
Sold at £2600 was a rare floral engraved Commonwealth brass combined pastry wheel and crimper, with a heartshaped terminal dated 1652, while from the family of the late Ernest Hopwell was a James I brass and iron warming pan engraved to the cover with the legend 1617 God Save Our Prince Charles. The previous year Prince Charles, later Charles I, was created Prince of Wales. It sold at £4500.
A similar warming pan in poorer condition dated 1618, sold at Sotheby’s in 2003 for £960 and was subsequently resold at Tennants in 2015 when it took £320 as part of the Seeger collection.