THE GREAT SILVER WINE CISTERN of THOMAS WENTWORTH, 3RD BARON RABY AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY TO BERLIN, 1706-1711, PHILIP ROLLOS SENIOR, LONDON, 1705/06
Thomas Wentworth, 3rd Baron Raby (created Earl of Strafford, 1711), ambassador extraordinary to the King of Prussia at Berlin, 1706-1711, and thence by descent to the present owner the Marquis of Lothian
'My dearest & Best of children,' wrote Isabella, Lady Wentworth on 14 May 1706 to her 33 year old son Lord Raby, '... What would I give for sum of the ffargss1 art to se & not be seen, that I might have the pleasure to se yr Exelency, in all yr splendor....' This rush of maternal pride was in response to events surrounding her child's recent promotion as one of Queen Anne's most important representatives abroad. A report in The London Gazette of 18 April had given the details:
Berlin, April 13. The Lord Raby, Ambassador Extraordinary from Her Majesty of Great Britain, made his publick Entry here the 7th Instant, from one of the King's [Frederick I of Prussia's] Houses near this City, called Belvedere. The Baron de Dankelman, the First Privy Councellor of State and War, now at Berlin, and the Great Master of Ceremonies, went thither to receive his Excellency, with three of the King's Coaches, followed by those of the Princes of the Royal Family, and of the Nobility and other Persons of Quality; and from thence through a Multitude of Spectators, whom the Magnificence of the Shew had drawn together; (his Excellency's numerous Retinue, his fine Coaches, and his Servants cloathed in rich Liveries, making a noble Appearance) conducted him to the House of Ambassadors; and his Excellency was saluted by a triple Discharge of 20 Pieces of Cannon, which had been placed on our Ramparts for that purpose. His Excellency being come to that House, received Compliments from his Majesty and the Prince Royal, and Visits from the Persons of Note that are in Town, and was splendidly entertained there, with the whole Retinue, till the 10th Instant, on which Day he had his Publick Audience of the King, and afterwards of the Prince Royal, the Margrave Albert, the Margravine, and the Margrave Christian Louis; at all which Audiences his excellency had all the Honour and Respects paid him that are due to his Character and his personal Merit.
Lady Wentworth went on in her letter to remind her son of the early promise he had shown, presumably as a page (richly attired) on some important occasion: 'When I hear of [your entry into Berlin] I can not but thinck of the sparkling pretty coat you see in my clossett, it has proved as I told you it did [and] to yr Grd father Apsley. I am sure you will Laugh at me....' 2 Her father Sir Allen Apsley3 had died in 1683 when Raby, aged ten, was plain Thomas Wentworth. Indeed, the latter went on at the age of 15 or 16 in 1687 to become a page of honour to James II's Queen Mary, while Lady Wentworth herself was one of that Queen's Women of the Bedchamber.
Thomas Wentworth, the second of the five sons of Sir William Wentworth (d. 1692) of Northgate Head, Wakefield, Yorkshire, was baptised at Wakefield on 17 September 1672. His paternal grandfather, Sir William Wentworth of Ashby Puerorum, Lincolnshire, was killed at the Battle of Marston Moor, 2 July 1644; and his paternal great uncle was the celebrated statesman and supporter of Charles I, Sir Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Bt of Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, Baron Wentworth (created 1628), 1st Baron Raby and 1st Earl of Strafford (created 1640), who was unjustly executed for treason at Tower Hill on 12 May 1641.
By the deaths respectively in 1693 and 1695 of his elder brother William, a captain in the army, and of his cousin William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford (who died without issue, when the earldom of Strafford became extinct), the younger Thomas Wentworth succeeded to the Barony of Raby, as well as to the baronetcy of Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, being heir male of his great-grandfather, Sir William Wentworth (1562-1614). But whereas he might in addition have expected to inherit his cousin's considerable fortune and estates, including that of Wentworth Woodhouse, they instead passed to the 2nd Earl's nephew, Thomas Watson (1665-1723), a son of Edward Watson, 2nd Baron Rockingham, who thereafter assumed the additional name of Wentworth to become Thomas Watson-Wentworth.
The new Lord Raby's disappointment at this outcome must have been profound; as M.J. Charlesworth has written, 'The sting of what he felt to be the unjust exclusion from the extensive fortune of the Great Strafford [i.e. the beheaded earl] seems to have remained with this man all his life.'4 That said, Raby had already shown himself to be both ambitious and capable; he flourished in his chosen career of the army and by his bravery at the Battle of Steenkerke (1692) he was promoted aide-de-camp to William III. He saw further action, notably at the Battle of Landen (1693) and at the Siege of Namur (1695), and was rewarded with further promotions, becoming a Colonel in the Royal Regiment of Dragoons (1697). Between 1695 and 1702 Raby was a Groom of the Bedchamber, and although he served under Marlborough in 1702, when his horse was shot from under him, and received yet more military promotions, he was only occasionally with the army after 1697, on the eve of commencing a diplomatic career.
In 1710 the 'fractious and gallant ' Lord Raby, as Winston Churchill has called him5, told the Duke of Marlborough that he repented quitting the army6, but the 12 years since he had seen regular action in the field had been busy by any standard. In 1698 he had his first taste of the diplomatic life when he was with the Duke of Portland's retinue in Paris. Three years later he was in Berlin, representing William III on the occasion of Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, becoming Frederick I, King of Prussia. This undertaking was so successful that Raby was made Envoy to Berlin in 1703, followed by his appointment there as Ambassador Extraordinary in 1706.
A 'large Cesterne Curiously wrought & enchaced'
Part of the preparations for this new post involved Lord Raby choosing his entitlement of plate from the Jewel Office, comprising the usual 5,893 oz of white and 1,066 oz of gilt.7 A list survives from about this time, headed 'Account of the Plate wch his Excell:cy would have sent from England' and 'Account of the Guilt plate,' which details specific items and their weights to the nearest ounce.8 This appears to be a working document, prepared in the office of a goldsmith (probably that of Charles Shales, goldsmith/banker at the sign of the Vine, Lombard Street, principal goldsmith to Queen Anne) for his lordship to approve. From his annotations to this list it is clear that Raby took an intense interest in the composition of his allowance. Adjacent to 'A Bason & Ewer 321[oz],' for instance, he has written 'wch should be the same fashion as that Williams [i.e. David Willaume]9 made me Last.' When completed, Lord Raby's indenture for Berlin did indeed include 'One larg Goodrooned bason & Ewer,' the weight of which was 331 oz.10
The bulk of his lordship's ambassadorial silver for this occasion, including 'Four Eight Squard Candlesticks,' 'One large fountaine Curiously Enchaced,' 'One gilt Bason & Ewer helmet fashion,' 'two [gilt] knurled Salvers' and 'one Sett of [gilt] Castors finely enchaced & wrought,' appears to have been delivered by 29 September 1705,11 well in advance of its leaving the country aboard the ship Margaret Elizabeth in November12 and Raby's subsequent arrival at Berlin the following April. What was missing from the shipment, however, was the most important item of all, which had been included as 'A Cistern 2000 [oz]' among the items listed in the 'Account of the Plate wch his Excell:cy would have sent from England.' In his accompanying note to the proposed list, Raby insisted that,
The Cistern cant be to big so all the plate that is Left out of the other things must be put in that to make up the full weight of the 5893 ounces allow'd
What his lordship appears to have meant by this is that he wanted his cistern to be as large, heavy and impressive as possible and that any shortfall in the weight of the lesser items should go towards achieving this aim; when finished it weighed considerably more than 2,000 oz. Its actual original weight of 2,514 oz 10 dwt outstripped the Jewel Office's willingness to pay for a cistern weighing any more than 2,366 oz, with the result that Lord Raby was obliged to pay £40 for the extra 148 oz 10 dwt himself. This transaction was recorded by the Jewel Office in the following entries, respectively of 9 and 10 May 1706,
Delivered in full one large Cesterne Curiously wrought & enchaced wt 2366=00
2514=10 My Ld Raaby paid ffourtye pounds
148=10 to the goldsmith for ye 148=10 [signed for by] Fra. Ellison
366 = =
Ld = Raaby May=the=10th  Recevd one large
Cesterne Cesterne Curiously Enchaced 1154=7=9
in full & knurled with lyons head
each End wt 2514oz=10dw paid in parte
p the Ld Raaby 40 at 9s-6d13
It is also confirmed under the date 10 May 1706 in the accounts of the said Francis Ellison,14 Lord Raby's agent in London:
pd [i.e. paid] Mr. [Charles] Shales as agreed on wch ye Master of ye Jewill Office in Consideration of 200 [sic] Ounces above ye Queens allowance £40
Ellison also specified (9 and 10 May 1706) further information about the finishing of the cistern, its movements and packing:
pd Davis ye Porter of ye Jeweill Office & one other porter going
into ye Citty for ye Cestern Case 2[s]
pd a porter to Mr Rolos [i.e. Philip Rollos] about orders of weighing it [i.e. the cistern] 3[d]
given Do [i.e. Rollos's] Men at finising ye Cestern to Drinke ym Helths 10[s]
pd Davis ye Porter for fetching ye Cestern and him and 4 more packing &
Casing ym & Carrying ym to ye Bote 7[s] 6[d]
pd [for] a pr of New Blankets for ye Cesteren 11[s] 3[d]15
Almost as Rollos's men were drinking their fill at having completed their great task and the cistern was on its belated way to Berlin, Lord Raby's mother wrote to him (14 May 1706), saying,
I writt Last time to you in such haste that I could not tell you how much I admired yr fyne Sestern but instead of the Queens Arms I wish yrs had been use upon it.... My dearest soul, Yr Moste infenit affectionate Mother IW16
'Thy large silver cistern would make a very good coach'
The reappearance now to public scrutiny of this otherwise unrecorded cistern after more than 300 years is little short of astonishing. Among the largest and most significant of late 17th/early 18th Century silversmiths' endeavours, the few surviving examples of cisterns (or wine coolers as they have been called in more recent times), numbering about 25, have always attracted the attention of scholars and laymen alike. The sheer size and by implication the skill required in their manufacture has long been appreciated. An early 19th Century foreign traveller in Lincolnshire, for instance, remarked that,
The finest vessel I have ever seen is a silver cistern at Lord Exeter's, at Burleigh: it weighs 3000 oz., is four feet long, three in width, and two and a half in height. It stands on golden feet, and is ornamented with two silver lions for handles.
Another overseas visitor to Burleigh in the 1830s, G.F. Waagen, Director of the Royal Gallery at Berlin, described the vessel with engaging enthusiasm as 'large as a small bathing-tub.'17 Like Lord Raby's, it was made in the workshops of Philip Rollos whereas another, equally arresting and well known, maker's mark of Ralph Leeke, London, 1681, weighing 1,979 oz, made an early impression in the banqueting room at Belvoir Castle (where it remains today) on the occasion of the 5th Duke of Rutland's birthday in 1835:
The gold and silver vessels on the tables and sideboards were arranged with consummate taste, and finely relieved with beautiful vases, containing the rarest flowers, while the immense mirrors at either end reflected fairy-like vistas of seemingly immeasurable extent. On a lofty pedestal, covered with scarlet drapery, appeared the famous antique wine-cooler...18
No survey of English cisterns, however brief, could fail to mention the Duke of Marlborough's, also from the Rollos workshops, London, 1701, weighing 1,944 oz. Arthur Grimwade discussed this in the wider context of the silver at Althorp, and was careful to remind his readers that Rollos was 'a considerable exponent of these largest of all silver vessels.' Little wonder that this huge object should have been chosen for the South Kensington Loan Exhibition of 1862 and was also included in a group of items representative of the 'History of Labour before 1800' in the British Section at the Paris 1867 Universal Exhibition.19
There can be little doubt that these random comments from the early 19th Century echo similar sentiments of awe and amazement which must have been expressed a hundred years before, when cisterns and other massive plate were at the very height of fashion. As we have seen, Lord Raby's mother was certainly impressed by his cistern. But in the best tradition of deprecating English humour these Brobdingnagian objects attracted their share of ridicule. A scene in Joseph Addison's comedy, The Drummer; or, The Haunted House, first produced at Drury Lane Theatre on 10 March 1716, illustrates the point. We find Lady Truman with Mr Tinsel, a visitor to her mansion, who asks,
Pr'ythee, widow, has thou any timber upon the estate?
Lady T. (Aside). The most impudent fellow I ever met with.
Tinsel. I take notice thou hast a great deal of old plate here in the house, widow.
Lady T. Mr. Tinsel, you are a very observing man.
Tinsel. Thy large silver cistern would make a very good coach: and half a dozen salvers that I saw on the sideboard, might be turned into six as pretty horses as any that appear in the ring.
Lady T. You have a very good fancy, Mr. Tinsel. – What pretty transformations you could make in my house. (Aside) But I'll see where 'twill end...20
On the other hand, to a man like Lord Raby, once described by Swift as being 'proud as Hell' and again as 'infinitely proud,'21 the possession of a great deal of plate was a necessary adjunct not only to his role as ambassador but also personally, lending dignity to his elevated place in society.22 The very notion of his cistern being put to use as a coach would have been to him both preposterous and an affront to his rank.
Meanwhile in Berlin between 1706 and 1711, although Raby was preoccupied with multifarious diplomatic duties he did not neglect his affairs at home in England. He owned a house on the riverside at Twickenham, to the west of London, called Mount Lebanon, which he rebuilt or enlarged at about this time, and where his mother lived in a neighbouring property for part of the year.23 He also successfully negotiated in 1708 to buy the estate of Stainborough Hall (later renamed Wentworth Castle) in Yorkshire, which he intended to improve and rival his detested cousin, Thomas Watson-Wentworth's property of Woodhouse Wentworth six miles away.24
If contemporary gossip is to be believed, the demands on Lord Raby's time and energy at the Prussian Court were relieved somewhat by the delightful company of Catharina, Countess Wartenberg (1674-1734), wife of King Frederick's Prime Minister.25 Whether this news reached his mother, Lady Wentworth's ears is not known, although it is unlikely that she was unaware of her son's predilection for a pretty face. She wrote to him on 21 February 1708 with the news that one of his Wentworth cousins was about to be married,
& as her man says that Livs with my Neaphew Bathhurst sais that she owned She Lyked you abov any man She ever see, but that before her face you kist a common hoar, at Tunbridg [i.e. Tunbridge Wells], & she coald never forgive that, she took it for a great affunt...
This comment was evidently part of Lady Wentworth's long-running campaign to find for her son a suitable wife. Towards the end of 1705 she told him, 'I dayly pray for the increes of yr family, I wish you had Sr John Johnsons Daughter She is a very handsom woman & a vast fortune...' and a year later, on 10 November she wrote, 'My Dearest dear & Best of children I wish you a Merry Crismas & Many happy New Years & a good Wife...'26 She later heard that the daughter of the much lamented Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650?-1707), who had perished with his entire ship's company off the Isles of Scilly, had been bequeathed a considerable fortune by her father, so 'pray make inqr after her...'27 But eventually in 1711, when Raby was 39 years old and had just been created Viscount Wentworth of Wentworth-Woodhouse and of Stainborough, and Earl of Strafford, it was announced that he was to marry Anne, the only daughter and heir of Sir Henry Johnson (1659?-1754) of Bradenham, Buckinghamshire, with further estates at Toddington, Bedforshire and Friston, Suffolk. The latter was a City merchant and a Director of the East India Copmany. Much of his wealth was derived from his family shipbuilding business at the Blackwall Yard near Poplar to the east of London. Negotiations between Sir Henry and his future son-in-law had been so private that even members of Strafford's family were taken by surprise by news of a marriage. As for Lady Wentworth she must have been delighted, particularly as Miss Johnson brought with her 'a vast fortune' of £60,000 and the promise of more to come. The couple were wed on 6 September 1711 at Bradenham Hall and a few days later Johnson wrote to Strafford,
Friston Hall Sept 19 1711
My Dear Lord
I reced wth great Satisfaction your Letter and I wish I was Capable of doing Ten times as much as I have done. I am sure itt was to little for your merritt butt I will be as good a Steward as I can for you & my Dear Daughter. I am positive a better woman never Liv'd. I am glad to finde that Mutuall agreement for nothing more can make me a happier man than yt Affection between you[;] it is all that I have in the Worlde to aime att.... Instead of your LdShips going to Harwich you may Embarke at Aldeburgh. It is not half an hour Sail difference & nothing out of the Ships way & no danger of your Lordship for a fair Wind for Holland makes our Shoar as Smooth as ye River Thames. I can ad no more then beggin your Lordship to give my Duty to my Dear Daughter & Accept ye Same your Self From
Your Most Entirely Devoted Father
& Humble Servant
A further allocation of ambassadorial plate
Some months before this Strafford had been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the States General of the United Provinces at The Hague. He was already attending conferences there by 23 October,29 but it is not known by which route he eventually travelled; Sir Henry's suggestion was helpful, however, because his seat at Friston Hall, near Saxmundham, Suffolk, was only 3 1/2 miles from Aldeburgh.30 As before, for his posting as Lord Raby to Berlin, Strafford took with him to The Hague the usual ambassador's issue of silver and silver-gilt. Given that he had been discharged by Privy Seal dated 16 October 1711 from returning his 1705/06 plate (including the great Philip Rollos cistern),31 a new warrant was issued whereby the Jewel Office was instructed to provide Strafford with a fresh allocation. The early history of this second group, supplied like the first through Charles Shales, Queen Anne's goldsmith, and made for the mostpart in the workshops of Philip Rollos, David Willaume and Thomas Farren, has been investigated by Helen Jacobsen, who shows that the new Countess of Strafford, remaining at home in London, influenced her absent husband's selection. Suffice to say that the Countess managed to engineer for herself from the allocation a silver-gilt toilet service weighing 536 oz 3 dwt; and that the new, smaller cistern, like its 1705/06 counterpart, was delivered late. Included in this new collection was a pair of Willaume wine coolers ('2 Ice Pales'), weighing 290 oz 10 dwt, which Lady Wentworth must have noted with satisfaction were engraved with the arms of Strafford impaling Johnson rather than the Queen's.32
On 15 November 1711 Strafford completed the purchase from Sir Richard Child, 3rd Bt of Wanstead (1679/80-1750) of a mansion in the North East corner of St. James's Square (numbered 5 from about 1760 to the present), an area which in 1720 was described as 'a large handsome Place, encompassed with Rails, and graced on all Sides with large Buildings. Inhabited chiefly by the Noblity, except on the South, which is the Back Part of the North Row of Buildings in the Pail Mail [i.e. Pall Mall].'33 Lady Strafford was so impatient to inhabit her new home that some of Sir Richard's furniture was still there when she moved in.34 A large collection of letters penned by her from this address to the Earl survives from this period in which it is clear that she became thoroughly engrossed in her new life and position, although in January 1712 she wrote to him saying that,
I fancy you & I could live so very prettily at Twittenham [i.e. Mount Lebanon, Twickenham] by our Selves in A rurall Romantick way. I must confess twould not be very much in ye modern way of living but that's noe matter as long as we like it.
This surely must have been a little joke, for in a following passage she remarks that Ellison had been in touch with David Willaume about ordering 1,000 oz of silver, which is hardly indicative of someone wishing to pursue the quiet life, adding that those people who had been shown her as yet unfinished silver-gilt toilet service 'Alow [it] to be the hansomest they ever see...'36 Her round of social engagements was only briefly interrupted when at the beginning of March the Countess presented her lord with a daughter, Anne. 'I have now my Dearest life don Lying in,' she wrote on 27th, '& goe to night to thank the Queen for being Godmothere...'35 The fantasy of a country idyll had evaporated and Lady Strafford's letters were now full of chatter about her social engagements and passing events; in February 1713 she wrote to the Earl,
I must tell you that I was Allow'd I had the most Jewells of any body [at Court] & the Queen told me I was very fine & my Cloths was very handsom (& I thought my Self very handsom...
She also declared that her diamond necklace of 32 brilliants, which the Earl had purchased for her from Denis Chirac the previous September, 'is now the first as well as my Earrings of any bodys in town.'36
While Lady Strafford was enjoying life in London, she constantly missed the company of the Earl who was busy in The Hague with peace negotiations leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht on 11 April 1713. During the summer of the previous year he had been appointed a Lord of the Admiralty and on 25 October 1712 he was made a Knight of the Garter. But following Queen Anne's death on 1 August 1714 and the succession to the throne of George I, Strafford attracted criticism at home from the incoming Whig administration over the decisions he had taken at The Hague. Although attempts were made to impeach him for 'separate, dishonourable, and destructive negotiations,' he having 'prostituted the honour of her majesty [and] grossly violated her powers and instructions,' all of which Strafford strenuously denied, the matter ultimately went no further. Thereafter he occasionally attended the House of Lords, where in 1735 Lord Hervey described him as 'a loquacious, rich, illiterate, cold, tedious, constant haranguer ... who spoke neither sense nor English...'37
Following his return from The Hague in December 1714, the Earl of Strafford largely retired from public life, devoting himself to improvements at his Wentworth Castle estate38 and to enjoying the delights of his growing family. The birth of his second and third daughters, Lady Lucy and Lady Henrietta (Harriott) Wentworth were followed in 1722 by that of his only, longed for son, William. All the available evidence suggests that the children were adored by their parents, particularly William to whom the Countess referred as a precious bloom in a letter to the Earl on 26 April 1734: '... nothing new has happen'd to write to yo my Dearest to Day but I thank God our Royal Rose & the Girls are perfectly well...' Notwithstanding their preference for Wentworth Castle and its beautiful gardens and their other country residences, the Straffords continued to spend part of each year in London and to enjoy its social gatherings. In March 1733, for instance, we learn that,
the Earl of Strafford came to his House in St. James's-Square, from his Seat [Friston Hall] in Suffolk, to be present at the celebrating of the Nuptials between Lady Anne Wentworth, his eldest daughter, and William Connolly [sic] Esq.39
Two years later, in April 1735:
London, April 10.
Alderman Perry's Feast on Tuesday at Drapers-Hall, was reckon'd one of the genteelest Entertainments that ever was known in this City; and was graced by the Countess of Strafford, Lady Anne Conolly, Lady Baltimore, Mr. Northey, and a great number of fine Ladies, very richly dress'd; also the Marquis of Lothian, Lord Viscount Wentworth, the Right Hon. The Speaker of the House of Commons [Arthur Onslow], and several of the Nobility and Gentry: The whole was conducted with that fine Regularity and Decorum, that it equalled the politest entertainment, and shew'd the elegant Taste of the Donor.40
The Earl of Strafford himself played host for several years running during the London season at an Assembly at his mansion in St. James's Square, 'for the Entertainment of Persons of Quality and Distinction.' The last of these was held in January 1738.41 We can only speculate as to how the house was furnished on these occasions but it seems very likely that some of the Earl's ambassadorial silver and silver-gilt was on display, including 'ye great Cisterne,' 'ye Fountain' and many other pieces which appear among 'The Plate left at London' in a 'List of ye Plate taken ye 25th of Aprile 1722.' The remainder of the collection, including 'ye little Cistern,' may well have been sent to Wentworth Castle.42
By this time, however, the Earl of Strafford was in failing health, as we learn from a letter he received on 18 October 1736 from his cousin, Lord Allen Bathurst
It gave me great satisfaction to find that your Lordship was so far recouver'd; but I tremble to think of the strange way of managing yourself, to bath in the sea contrary to the advise of your Phisitian, and when your blood was so much disorder'd that you found you wanted a fire when other people complain'd of heat; to travell about afterwards with a violent looseness upon you, to stop that all at once without any precaution; a thing which has kill'd a hundred men, and you come off with a fitt of the Gout for 24 hours. Indeed My Lord you have too good a Constitution to be thrown away at this rate. You want nothing but to rectifie your Blood after having been poison'd by Ward's Arsenick, and you have at least 10 Years to come of youth and Vigour...43
In the event, the Earl did not live another decade for he died of the stone at Wentworth Castle on 15 November 173944 and was buried in the Johnson family vault at Toddington. He left instructions that a brass plate should be affixed to his coffin 'with my Coat of arms deeply Engraved upon it or Embassed and under it the Titles I bore at the Death of Queen Anne that I was impeached the first Parliament of King George the First for Serving that Great and Good Queen and the Nation in the Peace at Utrecht that puting in my Answer Article by Article dropt the Impeachment since which time I lived a private Life keeping up the Dignity of my family and constantly attending the Service of my country in Parliament ...'
Descent of Lord Raby's great cistern to the present Lord Lothian
By his will, proved on 25 December 1739, the late Earl, acknowledging any restrictions placed upon him by the terms of the marriage settlement he had agreed with his father-in-law Sir Henry Johnson, bequeathed the residue of his estate to his only son, William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford (1722-1791) and the latter's eldest surviving legitimate son and his heirs male. In default of any such heirs the estate should be divided between his surviving daughters and their heirs. The Earl furthermore allowed that his widow should be given the opportunity to purchase such items of his plate that she chose.45 Unfortunately, the 2nd Earl, who in 1741 had married Anne (d. 1785), second daughter and co-heir of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, died on 10 March 1791 without issue, when all his titles passed to a cousin. By then only the 2nd Earl's eldest sister, Lady Anne Conolly, was still living. The terms of his will and its 13 sometimes contradictory codicils, however, which furthermore conflicted on certain points with his father's last wishes, were so imprecise that it encouraged Lady Anne and the remainder of his next of kin to seek legal advice. This gave rise to a series of lawsuits which ran on and off from 1792 until 1844, some 47 years after Lady Anne's death.46
It is not known which items of her late husband's plate, if any, which Anne, Dowager Countess of Strafford chose to keep for herself. But on her death it is probable that any such silver passed to her children.47 Thereafter, the precise descent of the ambassadorial plate amassed by Thomas Wentworth as Baron Raby in 1705/06 and as the Earl of Strafford in 1711/12 is not known for certain. But there can be no doubt that it was divided among members of the family, probably as a result of a judgement given at the close of one of the lawsuits. A significant group of silver and silver-gilt passed from Frederick Thomas Wentworth, 3rd Earl of Strafford (last of the 1711 creation, 1742-1799), grandson of the 1st Earl's brother Peter Wentworth (d. 1739), to his sister, Augusta Anne Kaye (d. 1802). From her it went to the Vernon-Wentworth family, descendants of the 1st Earl of Strafford's youngest daughter, Lady Henrietta Vernon (1719-1786). Five lots from this group were sold at Sotheby's, London, on 27 June 1963, when a note in the catalogue explained that they
have been deposited, in unopened boxes, at Glyn, Mills & Co., Lombard Street, for over 100 years. The Bank's records disclose that the boxes were first deposited in 1831, were withdrawn on three or four occasions for the period of the London 'Season' and were finally returned in 1859. The Bank's customer died shortly afterwards and his Executor arranged for his own name to be marked on the boxes. The Executor had no personal account with Glyn, Mills & Co., and died some years later without making any arrangements for the disposal of the boxes which as a result have remained in the Bank's vaults until this time. They were finally opened last year in the presence of the family Solicitors who had been traced and advised of their existence.
It is evident that all these pieces, made primarily for display in the first instance, even during the 18th Century received little use. As a result, the condition, relief decoration and engraving is virtually mint and the original gilding is remarkably well preserved.48