Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

For lovers of antique silver and true crime, a George III silver mug may hold special appeal. It is offered by Schredds at the Petersfield Antiques Fair in Hampshire running from March 8-10.

The piece relates to ‘The Tichborne Claimant’ (a tale recently adapted in Zadie Smith’s novel The Fraud), which started with the disappearance of Roger Tichborne (b.1829).

Brought up in an aristocratic family in Hampshire, he met with scandal when he fell in love with his cousin Katherine. The families objected to the match, and in 1854 Tichborne left for a tour of South America and Mexico to ease his broken heart, but the ship disappeared en route and was never found.


Schredds brings to the Petersfield Antiques Fair this George III period silver mug relating to the Tichborne Claimant priced at £3500.

Refusing to believe her son was dead, Lady Tichborne advertised in papers both in South America and Australia appealing for information. Years later she received an answer.

The letter purported to be written by Roger himself, saying that he was working as a butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia, under the name Tomas Castro.

Lady Tichborne paid for passage to Europe and when the man arrived, despite being apparently shorter and larger than her son, she welcomed him as her own.

Trial of length

After her death the family rejected Castro, but in 1871 he brought a civil case to claim the Tichborne lands. Two ensuing trials lasted nearly 300 days together and was followed avidly by the British and Australian public.

Finally, evidence emerged that he was Arthur Orton from Wapping who had travelled to Australia as a boy and became a member of a cattle-rustling gang. Castro (or Orton or possibly Tichborne) was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

After his release he confessed to The People newspaper, later recanted, opened a tobacconist’s in Islington and died destitute in 1898.

The mug on offer at Petersfield is inscribed Shot for at Egham and won by RCD Tichborne Bt 20th March 1871, includes the Tichborne crest and is available for £3500. It suggests that in 1871, despite facing bankruptcy and court proceedings, Castro continued to live on happily as the heir to a large estate.

“It’s an amazing story,” Luke Schrager of Schredds tells ATG.

The firm will include other works related to the case but the mug “appears to be the only physical object associated with him. There are a lot of objects relating to the claimant but nothing that was owned by him.”

Schrager is particularly pleased to be offering the mug in Hampshire. He adds: “It’s nice that we can show it back in the local area.”

Half century passed

Now in its 51st year, the Petersfield event is run by Penman Antiques Fairs and hosts nearly 40 exhibitors at this edition.

Newcomers are John Robertson Fine Paintings and Glass of All Ages, while Keith Ellis Fine Art returns after several years away. Regular exhibitors include The Petersfield Bookshop, Julia Harrington, Shapiro & Co and Frodsham Clocks.