A Fine and Rare Set of 4 George III Silver Based Coasters

Michael Plummer
1 5/8 x 4 7/8 in, (4.1 x 12.2 cm)

Each circular with silver bases laid over a wooden support. The sides beautifully pierced with scrolling foliage and flower heads, partly bright-engraved and with wrigglework lines above and below, the rims reeded.

15000 GBP

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The best coasters generally have silver rather than wooden bases, the most desirable being the silver-gilt regency examples by Paul Storr or Benjamin Smith. It is quite rare, however, to find 18th century coasters of this type as probably over 90% have turned wooden bases. Although unmarked, the earliest pair date from circa 1735 and are recorded as having been made by Charles Kandler, otherwise coasters do not really appear till the late 1750’s. By 1780 they had become very popular and an essential item for the dining table or sideboard. The sides were usually pierced and often adorned with the fashionable neo-classical features of the time such as ram’s heads, swags and festoons, paterae or occasionally “Tassie” style medallions.

These coasters are of superb quality being made by Michael Plummer. Not only are they silver based but there are 4 of them each engraved with an important crest and with beautifully pierced and engraved sides. The latter are “bright-engraved” with wrigglework lines, a technique popularized by Hester Bateman who had retired just 2 years before these were made ( 1792). Michael Plummer was the son of William Plummer who was probably the greatest exponent of piercing in the 18th century so it is not surprising that the standard of work on these coasters is very high.

The crest is that of Garrow, engraved in the Scottish style with the motto above. It is quite possible these belonged to Sir William Garrow, one of the greatest legal figures in British law. He married Sarah Dore on 17th March 1793 but as the date letter changed on St. Dunstan’s Day, 19th May of each year any new silver commissioned or presented would have had the 1792 date letter so these may have been a wedding present.

The Garrow family descended from the Garriochs of Kinstair, a royal Scottish line. William was born in England in 1760 and went to his father’s school in Monken Hadley, Hertfordshire, until the age of 15. Following this he was articled to Thomas Southouse, an attorney in Cheapside. He showed such promise that after 2 years Southouse recommended him to join Mr Richard Crompton to learn the specialised art of pleading in court. In November, 1778, Garrow was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, aged 18 and called to the bar on 27th November 1783 . Almost immediately he began as a criminal defence barrister at the Old Bailey, his first case being on 14th January 1784.

By 1793 he was made a King’s Counsel by which time he was one of the busiest lawyers in London. He is attributed to have coined the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” and was largely instrumental in developing the adversarial system in court. His glittering legal career included some hugely important appointments: Solicitor General for England and Wales, 1812-13, Attorney General for England and Wales 1813-17, Baron of the Exchequer, 1817-32. Following his resignation from this last post he was made a Privy Councillor.

Garrow also had a political career becoming M.P for Gatton in 1805 for the Whigs. He campaigned against slavery and prosecuted Sir Thomas Picton, Governor of Trinidad, for torturing a young mulatto girl. Although Picton was initially found guilty , the jury at a retrial found him innocent. One of his other passions was to try to introduce legislation against animal cruelty, an indication that he was years ahead of his time.

He died on 24th September 1840, aged 90.