This magnificent silver dinner service, commissioned by the people of Liverpool from Paul Storr, was presented to Sir John Gladstone (1764-1851) on Monday 18 October 1824, by the townspeople of Liverpool, to celebrate his role in the promotion of the trade and commerce of the city.
The son of a prosperous Leith merchant, John Gladstone bought corn from the Baltic for the Edinburgh market and went on to exploit the new Atlantic trade route. After having learned the business from his father, Gladstone moved to Liverpool in 1786, entering into a partnership with Edward Corries of Liverpool. The pair invested in American grain and tobacco, sending the first convoy of merchantmen to the United States after the War of Independence. In 1801, the two men parted ways and John set up business with his five brothers, investing in shipping insurance, ships, and Liverpool real estate. Advantageously positioned geographically, and making the most of new trade opportunities with America and France directly after their respective wars, Gladstone's business flourished.
A relative newcomer amongst the great seaports of Northern Europe, Liverpool expanded rapidly, growing with the profits made by pioneering businessmen such as Gladstone. The effect of his success was widely felt; by mechanizing the Liverpool Corn Exchange, Gladstone stabilized the grain provision for the whole of Lancashire, enabling and spurring on the early part of the Industrial Revolution. His legacy lives on today. Liverpool's two greatest docks, the Gladstone (Headquarters of the Royal Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic) and the Seaforth (which now handles more tonnage than all of the old docks combined) owe their names to him. By the time Sir John Gladstone retired, Liverpool was the second richest town in the world, with more millionaires than anywhere except London.
Gladstone also made Liverpool his home. His estate, Seaforth, was built on 100 acres of Litherland, four miles north-northwest of Liverpool. It was described by J. P. Neale in Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, 1824, as a house 'not large, but particularly commodious in the disposition of the apartments, with a pleasing exterior'. Although no contemporary descriptions of the interiors survive, Anne Gladstone, in a letter to her brother Tom in October 1817, reported that her father was spending so much time on altering the house that it should be now called 'Guttling Hall' - with alterations to the library and the picture gallery, as well as the construction of a further wing.
It is of little surprise then, in light of Gladstone's role in the city's growth, that the people of Liverpool subscribed and commissioned an ornate silver dinner service, mostly made by the leading silversmith of the period, Paul Storr (1771-1884). The Liverpool Mercury, of Friday 22 October 1824, records the event:
'The magnificent present to Mr. Gladstone, for which the inhabitants of Liverpool, some time ago, subscribed, was exposed last week, in Mr. Jones's shop, Castle-street. All the pieces, with the exception of the candelabra, have this inscription:
TO JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ. M.P.
HIS FELLOW TOWNSMEN AND FRIENDS.
Mr. Gladstone's arms is also on all these. [...] On one side of the triangular base [of the candelabra] is Mr. Gladstone's arms, on the other the Liver, and on the third this inscription:-
JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ. M.P.
This Service of Plate was presented, Feb. MDCCCXXIV. by his Fellow-townsmen and Friends, to mark their high sense of his successful exertions, for the promotion of Trade and Commerce, and in acknowledgement of his most important Services, rendered to the Town of Liverpool.'
Neither is it surprising that Paul Storr was the silversmith chosen to produce this extraordinary service, which remains in its original pair of enormous steel-bound oak chests, also supplied by Storr & Mortimer. One of the most versatile and celebrated silversmiths of the early 19th century, Storr had been apprenticed to silversmith Andrew Fogelberg, before working for Royal goldsmiths Rundell and Bridge in 1807, finally setting up with John Mortimer in 1822, from which period this service dates.
The service has remained in the family, passed down from Sir John Gladstone to his eldest son, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt. (1804-1889) and may have been kept, for some time at least, at Fasque, the family seat in Scotland, which Sir John had purchased from Sir Alexander Ramsey, Bt. in 1829 for £80,000. With Fasque secured, he leased Seaforth to the Paulet family in 1830 and brought a house-full of possessions from Liverpool, probably including this service, but purchased the majority of furnishings new during the 1830s. Gladstone went on to become an MP for Lancaster (1818-1820), Woodstock (1820-1826), and Berwick-upon-Tweed (1826-1827), the first of four generations of politicians. His fourth son, William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) went on to serve as Prime Minister on four separate occasions (1868-1874, 1880-1885, February-July 1886 and 1892-1894).
THE GLADSTONE DINNER-SERVICE A GEORGE IV SILVER DINNER-SERVICE
Paul Storr, early 19th Century, dinner services, All other categories of objects, decorative tableware & centre pieces, table services, silver, England, Georgian, Regency
EUROPEAN FURNITURE & WORKS OF ART
27¼ in. (69.2 cm) high 429 oz. 18 dwt. (13,370 gr.) 15 3/8 in. (39 cm.) wide over handles 343 oz. 18 dwt. (10,697 gr.) the stands 14¼ in. (36 cm.) wide over handles the stands 13½ in. (34 cm.) wide over handles 232 oz. 18 dwt. (7,244 gr.) 9¾ in. (25 cm.) high 13 in. wide over handles 511 oz. 2 dwt. (16,209 gr.) The salt-cellars 3½ in. (9 cm.) diam. and slightly smaller 56 oz. 6 dwt. (1,753 gr.) 8¼ in. (21 cm.) wide over handles 153 oz. 8 dwt. (4,772 gr.) 17 in. (43 cm.) diam. 132 oz. 16 dwt. (4,130 gr.) one 23¼ in.(59.8 cm.) wide one 22¼ in. (56.5 cm.) wide two 20 in.(51 cm.) wide two 18¼ in. (46.4 cm.) wide two 16¼ in. (41 cm.) wide two 15 in. (38 cm.) wide 706 oz. 2 dwt. (21,963 gr.) 23¾ in. (60.4 cm.) diam. 329 oz. 14 dwt. (10,254 gr.) the coffee-pot, stand and lamp 12½ in. (31.7 cm.) high gross weight 190 oz. 12 dwt.(5,928 gr.) gross weight 3,349 oz. 3 dwt. (104,078 gr.)
'Varieties', The Liverpool Mercury, 22 October 1824
Presented to Sir John Gladstone (1764-1851) on Monday, 18 October 1824, following a public subscription raised by the people of Liverpool, thence by descent.
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