The catalogue entry for the coquilla nut snuff flask sold at Gorringe’s in 2010.

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Does any ATG reader know of the whereabouts of the item described below which sold at a UK auction in 2010?

It is a carved coquilla nut, with ‘bugbear’, a legendary creature or hobgoblin, depicted as the end of the flask, the stopper in the form of a tongue and the painted bone eyes appear to be missing.

An inscription reads In the West Indies, I did grow upon a tree so high a negro come and cut me down a soldger…did me buy.., H. Neal, 35, Royal Sussex.

The 3½in (9cm) item sold as lot 89 at Gorringe’s [Lewes] on March 24. 2010.

The accurate dating of this, the only known documentary coquilla nut flask, will be finally unravelled by inspection of the inscription: the regiment only became ‘Royal’ on June 15, 1832. I suggest that the word ‘Royal’ was inserted before Sussex by the soldier scrimshander after 1832.

Waterloo Ball

In 1787 Charles Lennox, subsequently 4th Duke of Richmond, whose wife’s glittering celebration became famous as the Waterloo Ball, purchased a commission in the 25th (Sussex) Regiment of Foot of which his father was colonel.

He exchanged to the Coldstream Guards then to the 35th after a duel with its colonel, the Duke of York, on Wimbledon Common on May 26, 1789. As Colonel Lennox he took the 35th to Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Domingo in the West Indies between 1793-94.

On return to England, Lennox raised the strength of the regiment by means of volunteers from the Sussex Militia, and in 1799 a second battalion was constituted.

In 1804 as colonel of the 35th (then Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot, he obtained royal permission for the county title ‘Sussex’ to be transferred to the 35th as he was recruiting from the family estates surrounding Goodwood in Sussex. Both battalions fought in Europe during the Napoleonic wars as The 35th (Sussex Regiment).

After those wars the regiment again served in the West Indies from November 1820-32 with headquarters in Barbados, as evidenced by their efforts to help the local population in the hurricane of 1831.

On return home it was announced in the London Gazette on June 15, 1832, that the regiment would be permitted to bear the appellation Royal, and would in future be styled The Royal Sussex Regiment and that the facings should be accordingly changed from orange to blue.

I think that the flask was carved and shaped in the French manner during the second tour of duty in Barbados c.1825, then inscribed by the owner. It is possibly the last of the earlier French ‘bugbears’, many of which were superbly carved in the 1790s.

I suggest that the word ‘Royal’ was added to the bugbear after the regiment’s return to England but to prove this I need to locate the flask and obtain good images.

JB Hawkins

Hawkins Antiques, Tasmania