Engraved twice with the arms of Mahon impaling Moore on a flat ground, ribbed between chased vitruvian scrolls, matting and cast flowers interrupted by beaded acanthus, bead and ropework handles, acorn finial at the domed cover similarly girdled by beading and flowers
This cup is in such exceptionally good condition that between August 1790 when it was weighed by Wakelin & Tayler and today, it has lost only 1 pennyweight or 1/20th of an ounce
The Wakelin & Tayler Gentleman's ledger records the transaction under the account for Maurice Mahon Esq of 25 August 1790 (see fig. 1):
To a very large fine Chased Cup to Draw.g. 144 12/- 86.18
To Gilding all Over in one colour 3/6 Eng.r Coat & Crest in Orn.t (ornament) on both sides the body 16/- Case 23/- 27.3
To King's Duty 3.12
This shows how the cup was charged to Mahon at 12 shillings an ounce, costing £86-18 shillings. There were additional charges for gilding at 3 shillings and 6 pence an ounce, engraving armorials at 16 shillings and making a case at 23 shillings adding in all another £27 and 3 shillings. The invoice goes on to record that the cup, with its own case were packed in another case. These were added to all the other purchases made on that date, when the whole group was put into one further large packing case for shipment to Ireland. At 12 shillings an ounce, the cup should have cost £86 and 8 shillings not £86 and 18 shillings as recorded in the invoice. This 10 shilling difference might be a clerical error, or might include the cost of the drawing mentioned. At any rate 12 shillings an ounce not including a further charge for the gilding is at the expensive end of prices for that time. Put in perspective the Wakelin & Tayler invoiced silver of March 1789 made to celebrate the recovery to health of the King, and used at a ball and supper at Windsor in May of the same year which `exceeded anything of the kind ever given in this Kingdom', cost more only for the tureens at 13/6 shillings an ounce, a figure apparently including the cost of gilding, which the Mahon cup does not1. This level of cost and reference to a drawing which is unusual, suggests the cup was a special commission2.
The cup relies for much of its ornament on a Boulton & Fothergill pattern and two silver jugs made after the pattern by that company in 1775 and 17763. All the main elements of the cup, the ribbed and flat sections, vitruvian scroll, bead and ropework handles of antique form, the distinct flower border interrupted by pinched foliage, even the ribbon-tied pendants around the armorials are present in the pattern and jugs.
Mathew Boulton, one of the prime figures of the Industrial Revolution, through his development of a successful steam engine with James Watt, was a business man with a wide range of interests, one of the earlier being a silver, silver-plate (Sheffield plate) and ormolu manufacturer of the highest order at his Soho manufactory near Birmingham. Boulton & Fothergill had been a supplier of Parker & Wakelin (from whom Wakelin & Tayler, Goldsmiths and Jewellers to the King, succeeded) as early as 1771, when they were in dispute over the levels of trade discount on lion-faced candlesticks which Boulton made and had supplied them4. By the 1780s Boulton was selling almost exclusively to trade customers `such as John Wise of Bristol or the London firm of Wakelin & Tayler'5, and they were still supplying the company in 1798, by then called Wakelin & Garrard. In 1783 the Matthew Boulton Plate Company appointed a new agent in London, Richard Chippindall who remained in this position until 1809 when he became manager of the company. `up to 1809 Chippindall was the Plate Co's agent in London and he very significantly raised sales in the capital helping the firm to keep its designs up to date and harassed the manager John Hodges over delivery and staffing....' 6. It seems quite possible therefore, that the Mathew Boulton Plate Company as the visual evidence suggests, supplied this cup to Wakelin & Tayler.
Maurice Mahon Esq was in possession of around 30,000 acres of land in Co Roscommon, Ireland, where the family had dominated the history of the area since the 17th century. The family house at Strokestown, was built by Richard Cassels (1690-1751) one of the finest architects in Ireland. Mahon was an ambitious and improving landlowner, planning the town with the widest street in Europe, along the lines he considered suitable to the rising status of the family7. A traveller records on a visit to Strokestown around 1776, how `Mr Mahon's woods are all of his own planting...the generality of the plantations are from 17 to 30 years old and are for that age, I think the finest woods I ever saw'. 8
He married Catherine Moore (1742-1833) daughter of Ist Viscount Mountcashellin 1765. Mahon who was M.P, Sheriff and Governor of Roscommon, is recorded formerly asking for a peerage in 1784, an elevation granted on 31 July 1800 when he was created Baron Hartland of Strokestown, a reward for supporting the Act of Union from which came the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 9.
Strokestown was later witness to one of the most publicised murders in Ireland of the 19th century. At the time of the land evictions and migrations to America, Maurice Mahon's distant cousin and heir, Major Dennis Mahon, was ambushed on his way home to Strokestown by a number of his furious tenants and shot. Major Mahon was a relation of Prince Albert's private secretary Colonel Phipps and Queen Victoria recorded the event in her diary
` A shocking murder has again taken place in Ireland. An uncle by marriage of Mrs Phipps, Major Mahon... was shot when driving home in his carriage. Really they are a terrible people, and there is no civilised country anywhere, which is in such a dreadful state and where such crimes are perpetuated! It is a constant source of anxiety and annoyance.10'
The Famine Museum of Ireland commemorating the potato blight of 1845-50 and its terrible effect, is housed at Strokestown House using many documents which were in the house when it was purchased from the Mahon family in 1979.
1. Luke Schrager, 'The royal and aristocratic patronage of Wakelin & Tayler, 1776-1792', Silver Studies, The Journal of the Silver Society, no. 21, 2006, pp. 89, 101 and note 23.
2. Luke Schrager records Wakelin & Tayler's orders in 1786 from the Earl of Aylesford which were supplied `...to drawing'. He considers that these `display an unusual concern with design on the part of the patron' p. 92.
3. Robert Rowe, Adam silver, 1765-1795, London, 1965, pls 40-42.
4. Kenneth Quickenden, `"Lyon faced" candlesticks and candelabra', Silver Studies, The Journal of the Silver Society, no. 11, 1999, p 205.
5. Kenneth Quickenden, `Silver, "plated" and silvered products from the Soho Manufactory, 1780', Silver Studies, The Journal of the Silver Society, no. 10, 1998, p. 78.
6. Kenneth Quickenden, `Richard Chippindall and the Boultons', Silver Studies, The Journal of the Silver Society, no. 22, 2007, p. 59.
7. Robert Scally, The Hidden Ireland, Rebellion, Famine and Emigration, New York, 1995, p.44.
8. Arthur Young's Tour in Ireland, 1776-79, London 1892, pp. 215-219.
9. The Complete Peerage, London, 1926, p. 337.
10. James H. Murphy, Abject Loyalty: Nationalism and Monarchy in Ireland During the Reign of Queen Victoria, The Catholic University of America Press, 2001, p. 66.
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