Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #8 - February 2012
Two weeks ago we had a foot of snow here in Kent, but as I write this February Newsletter the temperature outside is approaching 16 degrees centigrade, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it feels like spring has sprung. There have also been some "green shoots" beginning to emerge on the business side after a fairly quiet start to 2012. Let's hope things are really starting to bloom by the time we open for the British Antique Dealers' Association Fair at the Duke of York Square in London on Wednesday 21st March (See details below).

Click on the images above to view them in more detail

I have decided to use this months "Featured Item" to tell a story, the moral of which is certainly "Caveat Emptor" or buyer beware. It is prompted by the acquisition of two Georgian silver Decanter Labels, that along with others, formed a small but generally well-chosen group of labels from the period c1750-1840. The two labels in question and their hallmarks are illustrated above. The first is a George III rounded rectangular Wine label with triple domed surmount engraved with foliate scrolls surrounding a vacant circular cartouche. It has a distinctive hob-nail type border surrounding the plain title area which is incised for SHERRY. The marks appear to be those of the maker: '?R' of London 1814. The second is a charming little George IV Sauce label of plain cut-cornered rectangular form with single reeded border, incised for SOY. It bears the marks of a maker 'TR' of London 1821? Or does it?

Wine Label aficionados will already know that both of these labels are probably from the hand of the infamous 'THOMAS LEATHWICK ROBINSON'. The hallmarks are spurious and the labels are unfortunately complete fakes. If you look at the marks closely you can see that they are blurred and poorly struck. The spacing and positioning of the marks is also at odds with the use of a hallmark stub that would have placed the marks in a straighter line and more evenly spaced out.

The story of the conviction of Thomas Robinson on 11th September 1822 for feloniously selling four silver bottle labels with forged and counterfeit marks is an interesting one, and I make no excuses for reproducing the court records of the Old Bailey, the central London criminal court, here: -

1146. THOMAS LEATHWICK ROBINSON was indicated for feloniously selling four silver bottle labels and chains having forged and counterfeit marks, stamps, and impressions in imitation of the resembling certain marks and stamps used by the Company of Goldsmiths in London, he well knowing them to be forged, with intent to defraud the said Company.

The prisoner pleaded

Transformed for Fourteen Years
Before Mr Reader
1147. THOMAS LEATHWICK ROBINSON was again indicated for a like offence, with intent to defraud our Lord the King.

Mr. Bolland declined offering any Evidence
First Middlesex Jury, before Mr Baron Graham

He pleaded guilty to the first charge, and he was sentenced to be transported for fourteen years. Transpiration meant sending convicted criminals overseas to serve their sentence; and transportation for fourteen years was a pretty severe punishment, and the maximum the law allowed for this offence. It was seen as a more serious punishment than imprisonment as it involved exile to a distant land, at this time to Australia. Although there was some idea that transportation might lead to the reformation of the offender, the primary motivations behind this punishment were deterrence and the exile of the criminal.

The Times newspaper reported the trial the next day, on the 12th September 1822. That report stated that, following Thomas Robinson's conviction on the first charge,
"He was then indicted capitally on the charge of selling other marks &c. Mr Bolland, for the prosecution, stated that it was not the intention of the Government to offer any evidence, inasmuch as the prisoner had put the prosecution in possession of a deal of valuable information: therefore he was considered, from the reparation he had made, as a fit object for mercy. Mr Barton Graham directed his acquittal: consequently the prisoner is only subject to seven years' transportation".

Whether he was transported for seven or fourteen years, Thomas Robinson's time as a London silversmith had ended.

In the archives of the Goldsmith's Company is the bill for this prosecution, which shows it cost the Goldsmith's Company the considerable sum of £61-15010 (sixty one pounds, fifteen shillings and ten pence, or sixty one pounds and seventy six pence in decimal terms). The bill indicated that 'information' he provided was the names of persons to whom he had sold goods, presumably items bearing counterfeit marks.

It seems beyond the bounds of chance that the unusual marks on wine labels with the TR mark were not connected with the Thomas Robinson who around this time was convicted of selling labels with spurious marks. It should however be stated that no conclusive indication has been found that Thomas Robinson I and Thomas Leathwick Robinson were one and the same person but it looks highly probable.

(My gratitude goes to Mr Bruce Jones for allowing me to reproduce some of his text above)

These spurious Georgian silver Wine Labels by THOMAS LEATHWICK ROBINSON do come onto the market from time to time and they have 'tripped up' more than one collector and several auction room "experts". Apart from the vague marks, they are generally of the domed rectangular design with the distinctive hob-nail border, although at least one other design is known. They also tend to have the date letter punches for either 1814, 15 or 16. The Sauce Label for SOY, illustrated above is however a new discovery from Robinson and is dated for 1821/22 the year of his conviction!

Derby reticulated Bottle Vases Worcester spiral moulded Cream Jug Worcester 'Beckoning Chinaman' Mug Worcester blue & white Waste Bowl
Hunting Scene Vesta Case Novelty Silver Toddy Ladles Novelty Parcel Gilt Hand Pencil Vinaigrette depicting Litchfield Cathedral

I have been busy acquiring new stock in time for the BADA Fair and I am pleased to be able to give readers a sneak preview here. Recent finds include the best enamelled Hunting Scene Vesta Case that I have ever seen, a rare pair of Derby reticulated Bottle Vases painted with exotic birds, a fine set of 6 Victorian Novelty Silver Toddy Ladles depicting characters from Charles Dickens 'Pickwick Papers', an early Worcester spiral moulded Cream Jug, a rare early Victorian Novelty Parcel Gilt Hand Pencil, a fine early Worcester 'Beckoning Chinaman' Mug, an extremely rare Victorian silver Vinaigrette depicting Litchfield Cathedral, a good early Worcester blue & white Waste Bowl, a small collection of mainly Provincial silver Marrow Scoops and several additions to our Pens / Pencils and Writing equipment category.

As I mentioned at the start of this newsletter, we are now preparing for the annual British Antique Dealers' Association Fair (21-27 March 2012). Now considered Britain's most prestigious national fair, collectors and art enthusiasts all eagerly await its opening and the opportunity to browse the fine works of art for sale under one roof.

The BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair opens on Wednesday 21 March 2012 and, for just one week, visitors will be able to buy top quality art and antiques from the UK's leading experts.

British experts offer quality and choice
100 members of the prestigious British Antique Dealers' Association offer for sale fine furniture, paintings, glittering silver, jewellery, ceramics, textiles and beautiful works of art. From Chippendale to Cartier, Tompion to Turner, there is something for all discerning individuals who share a passion for quality. All exhibitors are knowledgeable experts in their chosen specialisation and for many the BADA Fair is their annual showcase in London giving visitors a rare opportunity to select from a wealth of quality stock not usually available together under one roof.

A unique venue in a unique setting
The BADA Fair's unique venue, a purpose-built pavilion standing on the Duke of York Square, in the heart of Chelsea, provides the perfect setting for both browsers and buyers. Visitors enjoy facilities which are synonymous with the quality of the exhibits for sale: an a la carte lunch menu is offered by top caterers in the Fair's own Cellini Restaurant with more sparkling refreshment available from the Taittinger Champagne Bar. Shippers are available to advise, pack and ship purchases to anywhere in the world.

We look forward to welcoming you to the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair at the Duke of York Square, by Sloane Square, London.

If you are not already on our mailing list please be in contact should you require complimentary tickets for the BADA Fair.

I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques