GLASGOW TYCOON AND BARONET: Sir Matthew Arthurs freedom casket to be sold at Bonhams

A remarkable silver presentation ‘Freedom’ casket made in Glasgow in 1902 for Sir Matthew Arthur is one of the highlights of Bonhams’ annual Scottish Sale, which this year will be held in Edinburgh between 22 – 24 August 2007. It was made by Edward & Sons, and is embossed with scenes of Glasgow. It is expected to fetch between £1,000 – 1,500.

Freedom Caskets were very popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were usually produced in silver or silver plate. They were given to individuals in recognition of a good deed or generous donation, and contained a gold replica of the key to the city gates – therefore awarding the recipient the ‘freedom of the city.’ In addition to this the caskets often contained elaborate and sometimes illuminated presentation scrolls, and featured decorated and embossed panels on the sides.

The casket to be sold at Bonhams, which measures 34 cm wide and 29 cm high, was given to celebrate the occasion of Matthew Arthur being made a Baronet. In 1918 he was raised to the peerage as the first Baron Glenarthur of Carlung in Ayrshire. Arthur, who was born in Paisley in 1952 and educated at Glasgow University, was the chairman of his family’s wholesale clothing business, Arthur & Company Ltd, as well as the Lochgelly Iron and Coal Company, and of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company. Among charitable enterprises he was Chairman of the Western Infirmary and, taking a strong interest in politics, was Chairman of the West of Scotland Liberal Unionist Association. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of the Royal Company of Archers, and Past Provincial Grand Master of the Ayrshire Freemasons.

The casket’s decoration reflects the business and leisure interests of Sir Matthew, featuring Celtic knot work borders and scenes of Glasgow, including the University, Kelingrove Museum and Art Gallery, and sporting scenes, and the handle is formed as a central globe surmounted by a sailing ship flanked by cast figures representing the arts and industry. The interior of the lid is engraved with a presentation inscription to Sir Matthew.