Two of the castle top card cases. Left: King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, marked for Nathaniel Mills, Birmingham 1846, estimated at £1000-£2000 and, right, St George’s Hall, Liverpool, marked for Frederick Mason, Birmingham 1849, estimated at £800-£1600.

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The Dorchester auctioneers are offering a collection of castle top card cases and vinaigrettes on the first of a two day auction held on November 27-28.

Silver smallwork of this type was a speciality of the Birmingham goldsmiths in the 19th century, who were part of a huge industry turning out silver toys and accessories for the burgeoning middle classes.

Many were conceived as souvenirs of a particular place, and the so-called castle-top format, which features a well-known landmark such as a cathedral, castle or other topographical scene, was a popular form of memento for which firms such as Nathanial Mills and Joseph Willmore soon built up a reputation.

Duke's collection, formed over more than 25 years by a now-retired West Sussex couple, is notable for the additional research undertaken by the vendors who put together a photographic archive to help identify less familiar buildings.

There will be around 50 examples, the majority by Birmingham makers, on offer at Duke's.

Highlights from the collection are also on show this week at Partridge Fine Art in New Bond Street on Monday and Tuesday November 3 and 4.

By Anne Crane