The Maltese coffee pot that led the Woolley & Wallis auction at £24,000.

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The catalogue cover star lot at the latest silver and vertu auction staged by Woolley & Wallis (26/20% buyer’s premium) lived up to its billing.

A Maltese coffee pot from the Antonio Manoel de Vihena period (1722-36), it was part of a small, seven-lot private collection of silver from the island. Estimated at £8000-12,000, it doubled that top guide to take a hammer price of £24,000.

Dating from the second quarter of the 18th century, the pot carries the maker’s mark of FA, probably for Francesco Assenza.

Although the island supported a surprisingly large number of silversmiths in the 17th and 18th centuries (an estimated 600 from 1680-1820), relatively little silver from the period survived in situ.

The Silver of Malta (1995) by Alaine Apap Bologna records the treasure trove of secular and ecclesiastical gold and silver ransomed or melted down under Napoleon’s brief rule and countless other pieces that left the island before and after as maritime souvenirs. Today, when they occasionally come for sale on foreign soil, most are destined to return to the Maltese archipelago.

Italianate coffee pots are perhaps the most recognisable domestic forms in Maltese silver but this 29oz example is earlier than most that appear for sale. Such silver is typically categorised according to the ruler at the time – in this case de Vilhena, the Grand Master. A coffee pot of this form with the same chased and strapwork decoration is pictured in The Silver of Malta.

This is the latest in a recent series of strong prices for silver from Malta.

A 2ft 3in (68cm) high Oakes period lampier, c.1810, offered by Bonhams in October came by descent with an aristocratic provenance from the Barony of Benwarrad. One of the many old Maltese titles recognised and accepted by the British when invited to occupy Malta in the Napoleonic era, the Benwarrad lineage held many important posts in Malta, and still retain key positions today.

This doubtless added to its appeal as it sailed above hopes of £2000- 4000 to bring a hammer price of £16,000.

Large and varied

The auction in Salisbury was a typically large and varied two-day affair of over 700 lots.

A mix of material from various owners and individual collections, overall it encompassed most areas of antique and modern silver from quantities of flatware and collectable silver smallware to more substantial pieces of holloware.


Small 18th century silver pilgrim flask from the collection of Maltese silver, £3000 at Woolley & Wallis.

Nothing else in the collection came near the Maltest coffee pot in price although a small pilgrim flask, probably from the slightly later period of the reign of Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto, c.1750, which been estimated to make £600-800, realised a substantially higher £3000. This 2.7oz, 4½in (11.5cm) flask had elaborate chased decoration to the baluster body and dolphin handles to which the stopper chain was attached.

Spoon section


This matched set of Elizabethan lion sejant spoons marked for 1558 and 1578 made £11,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

A small section devoted to early 16th and 17th century spoons, another niche collecting field, provided the next highest prices of the auction. This is an area where Woolley & Wallis has built up a good reputation and demand remains strong for early examples in good condition.

Seventeen lots were on offer here. Ten came from a single private owner and provided the highest prices, with the rest from various owners.


Pair of inscribed Commonwealth period seal top spoons by Jeremy Johnson, £12,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

Topping the list at £12,000 was a fine example of a pair of Commonwealth period seal tops weighing 6oz and marked for London 1659 and for the maker Jeremy Johnson.

Both were inscribed, one reading William Walter bonre ye 20 novr 1647, the other Gabriel Walter ye 15 decr 1649, and both had typical prick dot initials to the finials reading W over GM and W over GD. The price was double the £5000-7000 guide and at this level overtook what had been expected to make the highest price, a matched 8.8oz set of six Elizabeth I silver lion sejant finialled spoons by Nicholas Bartholemew, five of them dated 1578 and one 1558. These came in £11,000, just under the lower end of their £12,000-18,000 guide.


The earliest and most expensive individual spoon was this Henry VIII period seal top by William Simpson which realised £6500 at Woolley & Wallis.

The most expensive single spoon was also the earliest in the collection: a 1.2oz Henry VIII seal top of 1529 marked for the specialist London spoon maker William Simpson which made a mid-estimate £6500.

Two single provincial examples were a 1.7oz apostle spoon with a St James the Less finial from York 1623, with an unidentified maker’s mark, and a 1.5oz William and Mary period trefid end spoon by Arthur Mangey of Leeds, c.1690. These sold for £4000 and £3200.

Private collection


One of a pair of small 5½in (14cm) high candlesticks from 1698 sold for £6000 at Woolley & Wallis.

Rounding off the sale was a 22-lot private collection that included some early, 17th century pieces and examples of provincial (Newcastle) silver. All bar one of the lots found buyers with two of the earliest pieces heading the list.


Charles I period wine cup, £4500 at Woolley & Wallis.

A pair of small 5½in (14cm) high baluster column candlesticks on canted corner square bases marked for the London maker Joseph Bird, 1698, 21.6oz and engraved with a crest of Viscount Molyneux, realised £6000, while a Charles I period 4½in (12cm) high, 2.6oz plain silver wine cup on a baluster knopped stem made £4500. The latter had a maker’s mark of DG flanking an anchor, probably for the London smith Daniel Gee and was dated to c.1630.


Newcastle silver beaker from 1690 engraved with two inscriptions, £4000 at Woolley & Wallis.

Best of the Newcastle pieces at £4000 was an early, c.1690, small 6oz 3½in (9.3cm) high mug by Augustin Floate. It was decorated with fluting to the lower half and had the bonus of two detailed inscriptions reading Ex dono Isabella Fenwicke Isabella Gemelia to the body and Born 1693, Married 1713 John Tatham of Guntsfield[?] died 1743 to the inside of the handle.

Made in the Channel Islands

Included among the quantities of flatware offered in this auction was a 23-lot offering of Channel Islands silver.

This was the first part of a collection formed by Dr William Gillham, an academic, child psychologist and author based in Rutland. An inveterate collector, his enthusiasm extended to English furniture, philately (Rutland Postal history and French ballon monte covers) as well as silver. Along with the first instalment of his substantial and representative ensemble of Channel Islands silver, this auction also had a 14-lot section devoted to Old Sheffield plated wine labels.

It is unusual to have this much Channel Islands material on offer and buyers took the opportunity with virtually all selling.

Much the most expensive was a small group of four spoons comprising a trefid end, marrow, salt and tablespoon of c.1720-50, 3.7oz total weight, which sold for £950 against predictions of £150-200. These were by one of the more sought-after Channel Islands smiths, Pierre Amiraux from Jersey.

“Silver by the maker has gained more interest in recent years”, noted Woolley & Wallis specialist Lucy Chalmers. Last year, for example, the auction house sold a small 5in (12.5cm) high 13oz mug by Amiraux for a treble-estimate £3000.

Word association

Later, 19th century, pieces also produced some notable prices including two for items with Victorian literary/journalistic associations.

Another of the designated private collections in the Woolley & Wallis auction was devoted almost entirely to small boxes (vinaigrettes and snuff boxes).


Small silver box by John Linnit with Dickensian scene, £7500 at Woolley & Wallis.

One of these, a 5.2oz silver gilt specimen by John Linnit proved particularly sought after. Linnit was a London silversmith who specialised in silver smallwork and snuff boxes in particular but what singled this example out was the decoration to the cover, not a topographical or classical subject or the popular pedlar figure that features on many of his boxes, but a scene of Mr Pickwick addressing the Pickwick Club.

The box was dated to 1837, the year in which Dickens’ Pickwick Papers was first published in book form following serialisation under the pseudonym Boz from 1836.

Woolley & Wallis had guided it at £800-1200 but there was enough competition on the day to send the hammer price to no less than £7500.


Victorian silver peg tankard made by Robert Harper 1865 sold for £3500 at Woolley & Wallis.

An impressive and substantial 79.5oz, 12¼in (31cm) high Victorian silver peg tankard made by Robert Harper 1865 which sold for £3500 at Woolley & Wallis had the bonus of a wealth of inscribed detail linking it to 19th and early 20th century journalism and print publication.

One inscription reads To Mark Lemon Editor of Punch on Completion of the Fiftieth Volume from The Proprietors, June 30 1866, while an inscription from half a century later reads Presented by Herbert Eccles F.C.S Briton Ferry to David Davies F.J.I Editor of the South Wales Daily Post June 1918 in Commemoration of the latter’s Mayoralty of Swansea 1916-17.

Punch, which was founded in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and Ebenezer Landells, was jointly edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon (1809-70).

David Percy Davies, (1891-1945) – from whom the tankard had passed down by descent to the vendor’s family – joined the Welch Regiment in 1910, and served with the XI Corps Cyclist Battalion during the First World War. He was editor of the South Wales Daily Press and went on to be the editor of The News of the World.