The Irish prize at Lawrences of Crewkerne, however, was a work with everything going for it.
It was a marrow scoop – an item which has been popular among collectors for some years and a relatively early example at c.1730. Most importantly, it carried the marks for the small Co Cork town of Kinsale by either or both William and/or Joseph Wall.
Kinsale is only about 15 miles from Cork city (second only to Dublin as a source of Irish silver) and the output was small. All that is known about the Walls – even their relationship is unconfirmed – is that they remained in the small town producing high-quality material in the early 18th century.
At Lawrences’ auction the 8½in (21.5cm) long Wall marrow scoop, engraved with a crest below another crest and a baron’s coronet, was guided at £2500-3500 but sold to a UK collector at £8000.
Two years ago, a c.1712 trefid spoon by the same maker took €11,000 (£9600) at Adam’s Dublin sale of the Jimmy Weldon Collection.
The best of the Irish silver at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on April 16 was from almost two centuries later, but equally rare.
A baluster form cream jug, it was one of the 54 known pieces produced by William Egan and Sons during the months in 1922 when Republican Cork was cut off from Free State Dublin during the Irish Civil War.
Unable to send their work for assay in the capital between July and September, the Egans cut two new dies: one a castle, the other a two-masted ship (the old Cork ship mark has three masts).
After communications were restored and the Egans could send their silver to Dublin the punches were destroyed. This 7oz jug with scroll handle and punch bead and fluted decoration was marked WE, with a castle, ship and castle. Pitched at £1500-2000, it sold to a trade buyer at £4400.
Earlier echoes of Ireland’s troubled history were etched in silver in the tray offered by Co Kilkenny auction house Fonsie Mealy (23% buyer’s premium) on April 16.
The 2ft (61cm) diameter, 230oz tray made by Dublin smiths Edward Powell & Twycross c.1822 was lavishly decorated and considered a fine example of Irish craftsmanship of the period. Its historical significance lay in a tribute signed by 32 Co Wicklow worthies from the Earl of Aldborough to local clergy praising landowner and magistrate Thomas Straford Dennis for his conspicuous Zeal and active intrepidity …and for his successful exertions in repressing the spirit of insubordination and contempt for the Laws which prevailed along the borders of the Counties of Wicklow Carlow & Kildare in the year 1822.
It made no mention of the economic slump and disastrous failure of the potato crop. Indeed, one of the engraved decorations, alongside a local landscape vignette and Irish harp, was a horn of plenty.
Also impressed with the arms of Dennis impaling the arms of Saunders (those of his wife’s family), the Dennis tray attracted wide interest in the sale held at Tullow, Co Carlow, before it sold to a private Irish buyer at a top-estimate €12,000 (£10,440).