According to legend, during the English Civil War, a Royalist descendant of Sir Christopher Harris (c.1553-1625) of Radford, Devon, hid the family silver in a cave before fleeing, fearing for his life.
The silver was lost for almost two centuries but was discovered
by farm labourers in 1827 and returned to the Harris family.
Among the hoard was the so-called Armada Service, a set of 31
Elizabethan silver parcel gilt dishes of varying sizes engraved on
the rim with the arms of Sir Christopher Harris.
The dishes were purportedly made from New World silver captured
from Spanish treasure ships.
This theory is unproven, but Sir Christopher did work for Sir
Walter Raleigh in Devon and Cornwall as an Admiralty official
during the clashes with Spain from 1585 to 1604.
Judging by their hallmarks, Sir Christopher is thought to have
acquired these dishes with the profits of office between 1581 and
Some 60 years later, having fallen on hard times, the Harris
family were forced to sell the dishes but only 26 were sold, five
were missing. The new owners sold the 26 again in 1911 at
Christie's for £11,500 and they are now in the British Museum.
But now two of the missing five Armada Service dishes have
surfaced and willl be sold by Lawrences of
Crewkerne on October 15.
The 8in (20cm) diameter dishes are hallmarked London 1601 and
estimated at £50,000-70,000 for the pair.
Lawrences silver specialist, Alex Butcher, said: "It is still a
mystery why these dishes were separated from the original set of
The vendor believes that they were purchased in an estate sale
somewhere in the Southern states of America.
"It would be great to reunite them with the other dishes and be
fantastic if the missing three should come to light."
He added: "It's extremely rare that any domestic plate made
before 1640 survives. It was almost all melted down during the
Contact Lawrences on 01460 73041.
By Anna Brady
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