The 12 pieces came from Bixley Manor, the estate of businessman Sir Timothy James Alan Colman (1929-2021). He was the great-grandson of Jeremiah James Colman (1830-98), the man who turned Colman’s Mustard into an international brand.
Collecting East Anglian works of art ran in the family. His grandfather Russell James Colman (1861-1946) assembled the collection of Norwich School paintings, watercolours and drawings that now hangs in Norwich Castle Museum.
Many of the pieces of silver in the sale had formed part of an exhibition of East Anglian silver held at the museum in 1966.
Sought after origin
Norwich silver is particularly sought after as the city’s Assay Office closed in 1702. While some ecclesiastical wares such as communion cups and patens were preserved in Norfolk’s old churches, relatively few secular silver objects bearing the city’s mark survived.
Seven pieces in the Colman collection carried the mark EH for the remarkable Elizabeth Haselwood (1644-1715). A member of the Haselwood family of silversmiths that prospered for three generations from around 1625-1740, she took over the workshop when her husband Arthur Haselwood II died in 1684.
Then aged around 40, she ran the business – a large concern – until her death in 1715, probably hiring other smiths to complete the work.
As the only woman silversmith registered in Norwich in the 17th century, Elizabeth’s work features in both the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Royal Collection.
On offer here were five trefid spoons with marks ranging from 1675 to 1697. Estimated at £500-800 each, they sold at prices between £600 and £2200.
Two plain beakers marked for 1688 and 1697 were guided at £2500-3500 apiece. The example from the reign of James II went to a London trade buyer at £3800. That from the reign of William III went to a private buyer from Norfolk at £4800.
Typically only a small handful of pieces by Elizabeth appear on the market each decade. In March a William and Mary mug by the maker struck for Norwich 1696 took £5800 at Surrey firm John Nicholson’s. Back in 2007 Sworders sold a cannon-handled basting spoon, Norwich, 1697, for £4600.
Post civil war rarity
Norwich silver made before the English Civil War is even harder to find. So much English silver was melted down for coin during this period that spoons – relatively lightweight and the most personal of possessions – are the only survivors available to commerce.
A Charles I silver seal top spoon by Elizabeth’s father-in-law Arthur Haselwood I had the date letter for 1641 and the pricked initials N B TB to the seal top. It was the best-selling lot in the Colman collection at £7500, again to a Norfolk buyer.
A one-time mayor of Norwich, Thomas Havers (c.1647-1732) was the maker of a handsome William and Mary tankard marked for Norwich 1691 that carried expectations of £4000-6000 and went to a London trade buyer at its top estimate.