Sir Robert Eyre was the eldest son of Sir Samuel Eyre of Newhouse, Redlynch, near Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was M.P. for Salisbury from 1698 to 1710 and was knighted in the latter year. Upon the accession of George I he was appointed Chancellor to the Prince of Wales. Sir Robert then became Lord Chief Baron in 1723 and Lord Chief Justice to the Common Pleas in 1725. He was an intimate friend of the Duke of Marlborough, Sir Robert Walpole and others. In 1694 he married Elizabeth (d. 1724), daughter of Edward Rudge of Warley Place, Essex and Abbey Manor, Evesham, by whom he had a son, also Robert, who died without living issue in 1752. The Eyre estates passed to Sir Robert’s brother, Kingsmill Eyre (1682-1743) and thence by descent to John St. Leger Eyre Matcham (1890-1975) of Redlynch, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
On 10 June 1965 Mr. Eyre Matcham sold at Sotheby’s (lot 172), his ancestor, Sir Robert Eyre’s two finely engraved silver seal salvers (one Edward Vincent, the other maker’s mark IL, a mullet above, ascribed to John Liger, both London, respectively 1728 and 1735), the engraving of which has also been attributed to Charles Gardner. (See Sotheby’s, London, 5 July 2017, lot 23). The attribution of the engraving on these salvers as well as the reading glass in this present lot is based on its similarity to the engraving on the seal salver of Lord Chancellor Peter King (1669-1734), maker’s mark of John White, London, 1728, signed ‘C Gardner Sculpt,’ which was sold at Sotheby’s, London on 8 June 1995, lot 122.
The engraver, ‘the late celebrated Mr. Charles Gardner’ (The Public Advertiser, London, Thursday, 12 July 1770, p. 1a), who, according to Charles Oman, ‘was probably the most prosperous of the silver-engravers who were free of the [Goldsmiths’] Company,’ was born about 1690 (English Engraved Silver, 1150-1900, London, 1978, p. 98). His father, John, Citizen and Cardmaker of London, was dead by the time he was apprenticed on 17 September 1705 to William Starling, Citizen and Goldsmith of London. Gaining his freedom in 1714 and elevated to the Livery of the Company in 1721, Gardner appears to have lived and worked for most of his life (from 1718 until his death [Rate books, Farringdon Without]) in premises at the upper end of Wine Office Court, Fleet Street. From 1714 to 1744 he took on eleven apprentices, three of whom appear to have been with him at any one time. Very few examples of Gardner’s engraving are signed but it is clear that he was commissioned by some of the best goldsmiths in London as well as the Goldsmiths’ Company itself. In addition to his work as an engraver, Gardner was elected in 1741 to the Common Council of Farringdon Ward Without. In 1745 he was appointed Professor of Music at Gresham College where he regularly gave lectures until his death on 29 December 1762. For further comment, see Philippa Glanville, Silver in England, London, 1987, p. 216; and Sotheby’s, London, 23 November 2004, lot 92. Charles Gardner’s will, signed on 28 December 1762 was proved on the 7 January following. (National Archives, Kew, PROB 11/883)
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