Robert & David Hennell, Henry Chawner George III Sterling Coffee and Tea Service, London 1795/96
This exquisite seven piece service consists of a large coffee pot, teapot on stand, creamer, cream basket, sugar bowl and tea caddy. It is so unusual to find a service with its original tea caddy and very rare cream basket. The elegant shapes of the bodies are beautifully executed and each piece is beautifully engraved. In 1924, a bespoke matching helmet-form cream jug was created by Thomas Bradbury & Sons and added to the service.
The tall coffee pot is quite striking with its shaped pedestal foot and large urn-shaped body. The foot is decorated with incised horizontal lines matching the top opening of the neck. The body, with it's highly reflective surface, is engraved on both sides with a lovely wreath. The wreath engravings consist of circular, greek-key design belts with bows along with wheat and floral designs.
Encircling the body above the wreath and again the next section above are exquisitely hand-engraved greek-key banding with the keys being textured. On both sides of the banding are two rows of extremely fine diamond-cut engravings.
The precise, detailed engravings and expert level of skill are evident on all the pieces.
The tea pot, as beautiful as the coffee pot, has an amazing, shaped spout consisting of six tapering lobes. Rarely does one find the original tea pot stands and this one is also beautifully decorated and raised on four feat featuring six reeds.
Both the sugar bowl and cream basket have swing-handles and gilt interiors. The cream basket is a very rare form and usually used with an (also rare) cream ladle.
The exceptional double-tea caddy comes from the important shop of Henry Chawner in London. It is a very elegant example with the same refined shapes and proportions. This large caddy features two separate interior compartments (one for 'India', the other for 'China' tea).
We do not have a key for the locking mechanism. Tea at this period was imported and very expensive. It was not uncommon to have these containers equipped with a lock so staff couldn't pinch the exotic and expensive contents.
The hinged, domed cover is also beautifully hand engraved to conform with the body. The finial is secured by being drilled through its center and secured with a nut on the inside of the cover. The actual finial is an ivory substitute hand-carved from the original. The canister has the same form and decoration as the other pieces in the service.
This very rare original service tells the story of London silversmiths working collaboratively at the end of the 18th century.
Both the Chawners and Hennells were long established silversmithing families whose shops were only a couple blocks from each other in the close-knit silversmithing neighborhood around St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Both shops would have been making pieces in the same shapes, this being a particularly elegant example.
Robert Hennell's nephew, also Robert, was a specialist silver engraver. Most likely the original purchaser went to one of the shops, told Hennell or Chawner the shape and pieces he wanted along with the style to decorate the pieces (possibly from a sample in the shop). The more engraving, the more expensive. The two shops worked together to create these pieces and then they were sent along to nephew Robert to stylishly engrave in the most up-to-date bright cut fashion.
All the pieces are marked underneath (except the aforementioned cream jug which is fully marked by the handle) with the lion passant, the sovereign head, the crowned lion and the 'U' date mark for 1795/96. The tea caddy, tea pot and stand are marked by Henry Chawner. The coffee pot and large sugar basket are marked by Robert & David Hennell. The cream basket does not bear a maker's mark. The swing handles are also stamped with the lion passant (sterling).
The coffee pot measures 11.5 inches high. The combined weight of the service is 79.90 troy ounces.
Condition: The service is in very good antique condition. The urn finial to the coffee pot is restored. The tea pot and caddy finials are replacement synthetic ivory carved from the originals. The surface of the pieces show remarkably little wear and none of the pieces have ever been monogrammed or engraved.