THE SWINTON PARK SIDEBOARD DISH
Following Samuel Cunliffe-Lister’s death his granddaughter Mary Boynton and her husband Philip Lloyd-Greame came to live at Swinton in 1924 and adopted the Cunliffe-Lister surname. Philip, who held various positions in the Conservative government including Secretary of State for the Air and the Colonies, was created Viscount Swinton in 1935 and the 1st Earl of Swinton in 1955.
As the gilding of the dish appears to have been executed in the early 19th century it is more likely it was acquired by Samuel second-hand from one of the leading retailer silversmiths of the period, rather than inherited from the previous owners of Swinton Park. The nature and use of these dishes, sometimes referred to as Layette baskets, relates strongly to Samuel’s involvement in the textile industry. An imported concept from Holland in the mid-17th century, such baskets were used to deliver linen to a newborn child.
The design and workmanship of this basket is typical of English Restoration silver at its most flamboyant. After years of austerity under Cromwell, the arrival in England of Charles II in 1660 provoked an unprecedented period of activity in the fine and decorative arts. The transition from grave severity to extravagant luxury was swift and emphatic. In the field of precious metals, the banker goldsmiths of London and the working silversmiths who supplied them were called upon by the King, his court and the wealthy fashion-conscious to produce some of the most remarkable pieces of plate ever made in this country.
This basket, while it does not compare with Charles’s suites of silver furniture and the like, nevertheless was made to reflect its original owner’s wealth and sophistication. It no doubt formed part of a collection of such silver objects, made to decorate, to dazzle on a candle-lit buffet or sideboard: the perfect accompaniment to a host’s generosity in entertaining. In fact, the biblical scene at the centre of the basket is an allegory: the essential theme of the story of Lot is one of hospitality and the honouring of guests. This particular scene takes after a German engraving by Heinrich Aldegrever in 1555. (Fig. 1)
For the attribution of this maker's mark to William Wakefield, see David M. Mitchell, Silversmiths in Elizabethan and Stuart London, London, 2017, pp. 603-605. Dr. Mitchell lists a number of other items bearing Wakefield's mark, hallmarked between 1666 and 1678, including the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths' bell of 1666/67. The latter, which was presented to the Company by Sir Robert Vyner (1631-1688), the banker goldsmith, for which Paul de Lamerie was commissioned in 1741 to furnish an inkstand.
Although no firm date for William Wakefield's death has been established, Dr. Mitchell suggests that he may have died about 1677, his widow, Frances being described as his 'relict and administratrix' on 21 February that year (Mitchell, p. 605). The only London burial discovered so far for a William Wakefield about this date is one in 1676 in the Bedlam Burial Ground, the site of which now lies under Liverpool Street Station.
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