Some 45 pieces of hollowware pre-dated 1700, comprising the best selection of early English silver the auction house had offered since the How sale in 2007.
Much of the group offered on April 27-28 was put together from the early 1980s until around 2017 with the guidance of Godalming dealer Alastair Dickenson.
Although unmarked, a 5in (12cm) Elizabeth I provincial silver communion cup forms part of a small group of ecclesiastical vessels made in Sussex c.1570. It was probably made by Thomas Wood I, one of small number of silversmiths working in the Chichester area at the time. His name appeared in the London Goldsmiths’ Company records of 1569 when he was investigated to ensure his wares – typically smallwork such as rings and spoons – were sterling standard.
When the cup was discussed in Country Life magazine in 1977 as part of an exhibition titled Silver Treasures from Sussex, Church Plate at Chichester Cathedral it prompted a response from Keith Spence (author of The Companion Guide to Kent and Sussex) who suggested that the inscription Eren Lia Ndal Man Ingt references two adjoining parishes on the Selsey peninsula: Earnley and Almodington. The curious spelling probably reflects local pronunciation.
A number of similar cups of this size, form and engraving, are pictured and discussed in Sussex Silver and its Makers by Timothy Kent (2002).
One in particular, the so-called West Itchenor Cup with an inscription Ech Ene R Pariese, is very closely matched.
Kent suggested that they may all have been made by Thomas Wood, c.1570-80, in a period when dioceses in the region came under pressure to replace any remaining Catholic chalices with Protestant communion cups.
Chichester and its environs remained committed to the old rites long after the Reformation and had been slow to make the required changes.
The Earnley and Almodington cup was last sold at auction as part of the Noble family holdings of antique silver dispersed by Christie’s in the 1960s.
In this latest Woolley & Wallis sale in Salisbury it was estimated at £6000-8000 but sold at £12,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) to a specialist London dealer.