John Edwards (III) - The Collins Family Rare and Fine English Regency Sterling Silver Punch Bowl, London 1804/05, bearing armorials for John Raw Collins of Hatch Court, Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset
A rare form of English Regency silver, this punch bowl features wonderful cast and applied strap work. Of demi-spherical form, it rests on a stepped foot and is beautifully gilt inside. The bold applied strap work decoration is in a late baroque style with bell flowers and scrolling volutes. It is similar to decoration found on silver made in London by important Huguenot silversmiths a century earlier. The quality of the work and heaviness of gauge are similar to the wonderful pieces produced by Paul Storr's shop. On the foot is the finely engraved motto and crest of John Raw Collins.
Interestingly, very few punch bowls were made in London during this period. Some that survive were presentation pieces. We have seen covered two-handled cups with original ladles that were used for toddy and other drink during this period. Porcelain examples were also commonly used. The opportunity to purchase a fine English Regency silver punch bowl does not come along every day.
This outstanding piece of Regency silver measures nearly 11 inches in diameter and nearly 7 inches high. It weighs a very impressive 66 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.
John Edwards (III) is a relatively unknown, but very fine London maker of the Regency period. He apprenticed under and entered his first mark in partnership with William Frisbee, another very fine Georgian maker. The understated Arthur Grimwade notes of Edwards: "The surviving work bearing any of his marks shows a high standard of design and execution…As a partner with Frisbee for a short time he must have traveled in the circle which included the young Paul Storr." (1)
The associations with Storr continued: Edward's silver was sold by the royal jeweler, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell to members of the English royal family. His silver remains in the Royal collection today, including a lovely and rare silver-gilt egg boiler with serpent handles and a timer given to His Majesty King George III by his five youngest daughters, Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia and Amelia for his 66th birthday, 4 June 1804. (2)
John Raw Collins was the grandson of John Collins, a wealthy and entrepreneurial wool merchant and textile manufacturer from Ilminster (near Taunton) in the county of Somerset, England. John Collins sent his son, also John Collins, to Oxford (the first member of his family to matriculate) and purchased large tracts of land in Hatch Beauchamp (also near Taunton).
In 1755, John Collins (II), having inherited the business and land from his father, retained local gentleman and amateur architect Thomas Prowse to design his country estate 'Hatch Court'. The results were extremely pleasing: both the loggia and bifurcated circular staircase and landing are notable achievements of English architecture. Built of Bath stone, a lovely light honey-colored limestone from the Bath area, this fine mid-Georgian Palladian country house still stands today. (3)
When John Collins (II) died in 1792 he left a sizable estate, including Hatch Court, to his eldest son John Raw Collins. He also left more homes for his other two sons and widow. None of his children had sons so the family name, and apparently their paper records, were lost. (4)
Even so, we know that in the late 18th and early 19th century Hatch Court was a very prosperous home. Beyond building additional homes, the Collins's were buying silver of this quality. Also, the two curving wings of Hatch Court were added in the early 19th century. Although the family name may not have survived, his progeny married very well. His daughter and heiress Jane married Robert Harvey, son of Sir Robert Bateson-Harvey, Bt., and their daughter Caroline married Sir Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville and became the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos.
Arthur Grimwade, London Goldsmiths 1697-1837: Their Marks and Lives, p. 501.
Jane Robert, ed., George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collection and Court Taste (London: Royal Collection Enterprises, Ltd., 2004), pp. 332-3.
Mark Girouard, "Hatch Court, Somerset – I: the home of Mrs. A. Hamilton Gault" in Country Life 136 (22 October 1964), pp. 1034-5.
Mark Girouard, "Hatch Court, Somerset – II: the home of Mrs. A. Hamilton Gault" in Country Life 136 (29 October 1964), pp. 1141-2.
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