Scottish ‘Volunteers’ presentation silver and parcel gilt table snuff box – £4200 at Woolley & Wallis.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Assembled with a discerning eye over several years, the collection was distilled to include only the most interesting, rare and varied of antique British silver boxes, many of them with crossover interest in other collecting arenas.

A further 78 lots from the collection had been offered by Lawrences of Crewkerne in January 2019.


George III silver triple spice box by Phipps and Robinson, London 1791 – £2800 at Woolley & Wallis.

Scottish volunteers

Some of the most desirable boxes offered in Salisbury on July 13-14 are pictured here, including a parcel gilt table snuff box box by Alexander Gardner and Co, Edinburgh 1802 (shown top).

Alongside an armorial is a presentation inscription reading Presented by the Western Abernethy Company of Volunteers to James Grant Esq. of Birchfield their Captain.

The unit was among those raised during the Napoleonic Wars. Grant, who in 1793 had created a regiment of Fencibles almost exclusively from his own tenantry, raised the Strathspey Battalion of Volunteers in 1798. In Abernethy there were two companies, the eastern and the western, the latter with 80 men.

This box, bought at Christie’s South Kensington in 2006, was estimated at £2000-3000 and sold at £4200.


Scottish snuff box by by William Clarke, Greenock, c.1800 – £3000 at Woolley & Wallis.

Another charming Scottish box, this one by William Clarke, Greenock, c.1800, was inscribed to the cover Auriculars 1799 and Carnations 1800, and to the underside Given as a Premium to Mr J McLachlan by The Greenock Florists Society for Auriculars and Carnations 1799 and 1800.

On the rarity scale for Scottish provincial hallmarks, Greenock is somewhere in the middle but hollowwares are scarce. A cream jug similarly presented by the Greenock Florists Society as a prize for tulips in 1796 is known. This box (the engraving a little soft) had sold for £5200 at Christie’s South Kensington in 2002 but here took a more modest £3000.


George III silver-mounted cowrie shell snuff box with Masonic engraving, James Keating, Dublin c.1798 – £4500 at Woolley & Wallis.

Cushioned impact

A silver-mounted agate cushion form snuff box sold at £4500 (estimate £3000-4000) was remarkable for its inscription to the underside and interior listing the names and death dates of participants in a tontine (a form of life insurance designed to raise capital).

These investment plans, named after the 17th century Neapolitan banker Lorenzo de Tonti, were relatively widespread in the 18th century, and a number of them were recorded in this way on English plate.

This particular box dated to c.1755 was the subject of an article by Gale Glynn in the Silver Society Journal (No 8, autumn 1996) in which she explores the family and business connections between individuals named in the inscriptions.


Early 18th century silver double snuff box, unmarked, c.1725 – £4200 at Woolley & Wallis.