Or rather an elaborate 16in (41cm) tall 1818 silver gilt presentation cup that was sold at Cheffins’ (24.5% buyer’s premium) best sale to date of silver, jewellery and watches, on April 6.
Made by London smith William Burwash in 1818, it was engraved to one side with the arms of De Grelley, the medieval lords of Manchester, which were used by the local authorities at the time.
To the other side it was inscribed: To Thomas Scholes Withington Esq., One Of The Constables Of Manchester In The Year MDCCCXVII, The Principal Inhabitants Present This Cup, In Testimony Of The Grateful Sense They Entertain Of The Indefatigable Zeal And Intrepidity With Which He Discharged The Duties Of That Arduous And Responsible Situation In A Season Of Extraordinary Difficulty And Danger.
Or, as it immediately became known, The Peterloo Massacre.
Withington was a captain of the rag-tag Manchester & Salford Yeomanry mounted militia – the 1817 date on the cup refers to his appointment.
On August 16, 1819, his troop was ordered by magistrates to break up the tens of thousands of people at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester listening to Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt calling for franchise reform.
The militia’s charge killed a child and injured a woman. The 15th Hussars were then ordered in, sabres-drawn, killing between nine and 17 people and injuring between 400-700. One of the injured, a weaver, unsuccessfully sued Withington in the civil court.
Lawyer and prolific collector
The 144oz cup was a magnificent reminder of a terrible day and it doubled top expectations, selling to a Midlands collector at £12,000.
The cup was among a consignment from senior lawyer and prolific collector Barry Lock (1934-2021).
Top bid of the day was a string of 71 natural saltwater pearls with an old-cut diamond clasp. Pitched at £10,000-5000, they sold to a London dealer at £58,000.