This assessment of the age of the engraved coat-of-arms by the foremost authority on old spoons contradicts the opinion expressed in Christie’s 1954 catalogue, that both the arms and the initials are of a slightly later date. Christie's suggested that the initials NC may have belonged to one of the following:
a) Neil Campbell, Parson of Kilmartin and Inverary, Bishop of Argyll from 1606 until 1608, when he resigned in favour of his son, John. He died between January 1613 and July 1627.
b) Neil (1590?-1643/47?), son of the above and Bishop of the Isles from 1634 to 1638.
c) Ninian Campbell (1599?-1657), educated at Glasgow University, he graduated in 1619 and was subsequently appointed Professor of Eloquence at the University of Saumur, France. He was in Scotland by 1630 where he became Minister of Kilmalcolm and Roseneath.
d) Niall Campbell (d. 1692) of Duntroon Castle, Provost of Inverary. He was also Sheriff Deputy of Argyll in 1671.
Not only is the present set unique, its lion sejant terminals with shields differ from most other recorded lion sejant spoons; the latter are usually modelled without a shield.
The mark C or a crescent enclosing R, unknown to Sir Charles Jackson, has not yet been ascribed to any particular maker. For comment, see Piers Percival, 'The ''C'' enclosing ''R'' mark - An Elizabethan Rarity,' The Finial, London March/April, 2004, vol. 14/4, p. 20
Rare as it is to find any surviving 16th century London-made silver lion sejant spoons, it is rarer still to find pairs or groups, let alone this present, unique set of twelve. Norman Gask, in his 1929 book, Old Silver Spoons of England, A Practical Guide for Collectors, drew attention to this fact, writing that, ‘the essence of a Lion Sejant to many private collectors, lies in the knop, frequently a little masterpiece of the ancient silversmith’s art’ (p. 143). He also mentions that one of the earliest references to lion sejant spoons is to be found in the will of Sir Roger Le Strange of Hunstanton, Norfolk, which was signed on 7 October 1505 and proved on 12 February following:
‘I bequeath to my wife [Amy] all her apparel and all such plate as given her by her father also I give to her a basin with a ewer of silver a gilt bowl with the cover two of my best salts with covers a goblet parcel gilt with the cover a dozen spoons with lions all the gilt spoons and the residue of my plate. . . .’ (National Archives, Kew, PROB 11/15)
Of other surviving Lion Sejants, a noteworthy group (without shields) is the six bearing the maker’s mark a crescent enclosing a mullet, London, one 1558, five 1578, which were engraved after 1813 with the arms of Bowyer-Smyth impaling Weyland for the Rev. Sir Edward Bowyer-Smyth (1785-1850), 10th Bt. of Hill Hall, Essex, sometime Chaplain to George IV. These were sold for £1,100 at Christie’s, London on 3 December 1969 (lot 31). The succeeding five lots were all London-made lion sejant spoons (again without shields): four maker’s mark C enclosing W (William Cawdell), two 1589, the others 1603 and 1607; one maker’s mark a crescent enclosing I (James Cluatt), 1611; and one (to make up a ‘set’ of twelve), J., H. & Charles Lias, 1825.
Another churchman whose antiquarian interests included collecting old spoons was the Rev. Thomas Staniforth (1807-1887) who latterly resided at Storrs Hall, Windermere and who is chiefly remembered for his captaincy of the Oxford crew at the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1829. Among his collection were many interesting examples including three lion sejants (all without shields): one, marker’s mark an escallop, London, 1585; and two, maker’s mark C enclosing W (William Cawdell), London, 1595 and 1609.
How (English and Scottish Silver Spoons, London, 1952, vol. I, ch. II, section VIII, pp.254-267) illustrates and discusses several London and provincial lion sejants, dating from the 15th to the middle of the 17th century. Only one of these, London, 1595, is a lion sejant with shield (pp. 262-263) of which the authors state: ‘the Lion Sejant sometimes holds a shield below the chest, and in many cases, as here, the shield actually replaces the forelegs.’ Another with a similar lion sejant and shield terminal, maker’s mark a mullet and pellet, London, circa 1590 or 1602, was in the Dunn-Gardener sale at Christie’s on 30 April 1902 (lot 234) having been exhibited before at the Victoria and Albert Museum; for an illustration, see Norman Gask, ‘Silver spoons in Tudor times Seen in Nine Typical Examples,’ The Connoisseur, London, June 1940, p. 245, no. VIII.
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