Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #66 - February 2017

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"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" said Queen Victoria of Osborne House, her palatial holiday home on the Isle of Wight.

Illustrated above are four Victorian silver "Castle-Top" Card Cases, all depicting views of Osborne House, but all slightly different, and made by four different Birmingham silversmiths over a ten-year period. The details are as follows:-

A rare Victorian silver Castle-Top Card Case of shaped rectangular form with chased and embossed foliate scroll decoration, the front with a scene depicting Osborne House in high relief. The reverse with a vacant shaped cartouche. By George Unite, Birmingham, 1863.

An extremely rare Victorian Castle-Top Card Case of shaped rectangular form with chased and embossed foliate scroll decoration, the front with a scene depicting Osborne House from the Shrubbery in high relief. The reverse with a vacant shaped cartouche. By David Pettifer, Birmingham, 1851.

A rare Victorian silver Castle-Top Card Case of shaped rectangular form with chased and embossed foliate scroll decoration, the front with a scene depicting Osborne House in high relief. The reverse with a vacant shield shaped cartouche. By Aston & Sons, Birmingham, 1859.

A rare Victorian Castle-Top Card Case of shaped rectangular form with chased and embossed foliate scroll decoration, the front with a scene depicting Osborne House in high relief. The reverse with a vacant shaped cartouche. By Edward Smith, Birmingham, 1852.

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It is believed that the inspiration for the subject matter on these Victorian Castle-Top Boxes was taken from contemporary prints or engravings and it might well be possible that David Pettifer's unusual version was inspired by Alfred Brannon's Steel Engraving of 1849: -

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Osborne House from the Shrubbery
Steel engraving by Alfred Brannon June 15th 1849
Printed on border: "To His Royal Highness the Prince Albert, this view of Osborne (Isle of Wight), is, by His Royal Highness's most gracious permission, respectfully dedicated by his obliged and grateful servant, Alfred Brannon." "Drawn from nature & eng'd by A. Brannon" "Published as the act directs, by George Brannon & Son, Wooton, I.W., June 15, 1849." "Brannons vectis scenery."

Similarly, the hand coloured engraving by T.A.Prior illustrated below may have inspired George Unite and Edward Smith.

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Osborne House
Engraved by T.A.Prior after a picture by Thomas Cubitt.


The original house was bought by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from Lady Isabella Blachford for £26,000 in 1845 with an estate of about 1,000 acres and a private beach. They had stayed there in 1844 and the visit had convinced Victoria that they had found what they were seeking. In her own words "a place of one's own, quiet, and retired".

A new house was designed in the Italianate style by Prince Albert in collaboration with Thomas Cubitt the builder of Belgravia. They were there in June 1845 to see the first stone of the Pavilion wing laid on the 23rd. They were able to take up residence in September 1846 although the house was far from complete, the two Eastern wings not being finished until 1851.

From Royal Palaces by Owen Hedley – The productive climate and wonderful outlook across the Solent were basic reasons for choosing an Italianate style and as the Prince had been in Italy and profoundly admired its art and architecture the new palace reflected his memories. Tall towers like campaniles, colonnades, terrace gardens descending to the sea, parterres, fountains and statures, all created a composition which influenced taste as far away as the United States.

For the Queen and Prince themselves it was a summer residence, a house of sunshine and colour and a setting for the pictures and sculptures which they were continually buying or commissioning. Furthermore it illustrated Prince Albert's attention to practical details. Like the castellated Palace at Kew fifty years earlier, it was designed to withstand fire and is one of the first surviving houses to be so built.

After Prince Albert's death in 1861 Osborne was kept exactly as it was in his lifetime, nothing Victoria told her children must ever be changed the house was sacred to his memory. She did however build the "Durbar Room" in 1891. This Indian hall was elaborately decorated by Indian craftsmen under the direction of Bhai Ram Singh and reflected the Queen's pride in her title of Empress of India. The imperial throne at one end of the room gave an impression of Oriental splendour and it was lit by electric lamps concealed in enormous blue vases given to her by a group of Indian merchants at the time of her Golden Jubilee. No "Durbar" was ever held in this room, but it did enable Victoria to entertain all her relations simultaneously and provide a state banquet for royalty and other distinguished guests during Cowes Week.

It was at Osborne that she died on January 11 1901. The widow who had worn nothing but black for fifty years had years before given instructions that the Dining Room where she was to lie in state was to be hung in white, her body dressed in white and her face covered by her own wedding veil of Honiton lace.

To Edward VII Osborne seemed like a mausoleum. He gave most of the estate to the nation, opened the state apartments with the exception of his mother's private suite and turned the rest of the house into a convalescent home for officers of the armed forces and civil service. In 1954 the Queen opened her great-great Grandmother's suite to the public. It exists to-day with the furniture, soft furnishings, the pincushions, china ornaments, family groups and miniatures in their profusion, which set the standard of taste for living-rooms throughout the land, epitomizing the spirit of mid-Victorian England.

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An extremely rare Edwardian Sterling Silver Game Keepers, Cyclists, Fireman's, Maritime, Railway or Hunting "SIGNAL HORN" by Daniel & George Keat, London 1907. Engraved with the date June 1907.

The "Signal Horn" was originally made by KOHLER & SON, Musical Instrument makers of Covent Garden and subsequently Piccadilly in London. It is most often seen in brass or nikel silver. It appears to be a "multi-purpose item" with several possible uses. It has a mouthpiece similar to a whistle and the body is slightly curved as it opens out into a flattened oval bell shaped mouth, half way along the barrel is a vertical cylindrical chamber with finger stop piston plunger similar to that on a trumpet, a suspension ring is located on the lower portion of the chamber for attachment to a lanyard or similar. It produces two distinct different notes.

The date (1907) of this solid silver example made by Daniel & George Keat (Henry Keat & Sons, Musical Instrument Makers and suppliers of Hunting Horns etc to Swaine & Adeney, Whip Manufacturers of Piccadilly, London) is interesting and perhaps significant.

The English company Kohler & Son, originally founded by John Nicholas Kohler, was a maker of fine horns and musical instruments for over a century from 1780 to 1907. In 1801 they received royal appointment. In 1907 they were acquired by Swaine and Adeney after John Buxton Kohler, the fifth-generation Kohler to run his family's military wind instruments company, tragically committed suicide at the age of 39.

The following open letters in "The Coach-Horn: What to Blow and How to Blow it", one from "Köhler & Son" and one from "Swaine & Adeny", dated February 2nd 1907 document the sale: -

Bromley, Kent,
February 2nd, 1907.
We beg to announce that we have disposed of our entire business to Messrs. Swaine & Adeney of 185, Piccadilly, London, W., the well-known Whip Manufacturers. We should like to thank our numerous customers for their kind patronage for so many years, and trust that the same will be extended to our successors who will keep a large stock of all our specialities.
Yours faithfully,
185, Piccadilly, London, W.
February 2nd, 1907
We beg to announce that as stated on the opposite side we have purchased the old- established business of Messrs. J. Köhler & Son, Bromley, Kent, Hunting, Coaching and, Signal-horn Manufacturers.
The factory will be retained as before, and customers can therefore rely on obtaining the unique tone and excellent qualities that have made their specialties so famous for over a century.
All orders and communications should be addressed to 185, Piccadilly, London, W., where customers wishing to choose a Horn personally will find a great variety of all the well-known patterns; also of all other of Messrs. J. Köhler & Son's specialties.
We are,
Your obedient Servants,

The death of John Buxton Kohler on Thursday, 12 December 1907, was reported in The Beckenham & Penge Advertiser: -

"According to the report, a local shepherd had found the body two days earlier, at about eight o'clock in the morning, in Lloyd's Park, Ham Farm, Beckenham, Kent. A revolver, from which two cartridges had been discharged, was found lying on the chest of the deceased, and, from various papers in his possession, the dead man was identified as John Buxton Köhler, 39, a musical instrument maker, of 62 Belmont Road, Beckenham, Kent. He had committed suicide.

John Buxton Köhler was the fifth generation of his family to specialize in the manufacture of military wind instruments, his death marking the end of a dynasty that spanned some twelve decades. For some years prior to Köhler's death, the output of ‘Köhler & Son' had been limited to hunting, coach, and signal horns.

His widow, Gertrude, testified at the inquest into her husband's death that, following the sale to Swaine Adeney, "he gave way to drink." Apparently Köhler was unable to find further employment and was in financial difficulties, yet it is also worth noting that he had twice married into families connected with the alcohol trade: Cecilia Stewart was the daughter of a brewer; Gertrude Hughes was the daughter of a wine merchant. He may also have been suffering from mental illness, since the newspaper reports of the Coroner's Inquest also show that he had previously threatened to shoot his wife on more than one occasion. The Coroner stated that "it was a clear case of suicide" and the jury returned a verdict of "Suicide while of unsound mind."

Swaine & Adeney had been using the very successful firm of Henry Keat & Sons (Daniel & George Keat), Silversmiths and Musical Instrument Makers to supply them with Hunting & Coaching Horns for several years prior to the demise of Kohler & Son, and it seems more than a coincidence that this particular sterling silver "Signal Horn" was made and dated by them in June 1907, just 4 months after Swaine & Adeney had acquired Kohler & Son and just 6 months before the death of John Buxton Kohler. It appears to be quite unusual in solid sterling silver.

Victorian Antique Silver Dublin Law Courts Vinaigrette Edwardian Silver & Enamel Vintage Car Vesta Case Victorian Novelty Silver Shot Gun Cartridge Vesta Case George III Silver Fret Domed Rectangular Wine Label 'White (comma) Wine'
Large Pair Victorian German Silver Menu Stands Fisherman & Fisherwomen Prince of Wales Royal Presentation Gold Diamond Ruby Emerald & Enamel Sliding Propelling Pencil Cased Pair Mid 20th Century Silver Napkin Rings Early Victorian Provincial York Silver Toast Rack

Once again I am pleased to be able to update the site this month with over 30 new items of stock and some highlights include; a rare Victorian silver Dublin Law Courts Vinaigrette, an Edwardian silver and enamel Vintage Car Vesta Case, a Victorian Novelty Silver Shot Gun Cartridge Vesta Case, a George III Silver Fret Domed Rectangular Wine Label 'White (comma) Wine', a large pair Victorian German Silver Menu Stands depicting a Fisherman & Fisherwomen, a Royal Presentation gold, diamond, ruby, emerald and enamel Sliding Propelling Pencil, a cased pair of 20th century silver Napkin Rings by R.E.Stone and a rare Victorian York silver Toast Rack.

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