A MAGNIFICENT George V Gold Freedom Casket enamelled with the arms of the County Borough of Newport (Wales) will highlight Matthew Barton Ltd’s auction of Silver, Works of Art and Objects of Vertu. The sale will take place on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 in West Kensington at 25 Blythe Road, W14. It is estimated at £18,000-22,000.

Made by S. Blanckensee & Son Ltd of Birmingham and dated 1924, the rectangular casket is decorated with Newport views of St. Paul’s National School, Commercial Street and Newport Harbour, while the rear has panels of St. Paul’s Church and the G.W.R. Chepstow Castle steam locomotive. The interior has crushed cream satin lining and presentation plaque, also containing the scroll pronouncing ‘The Right Honourable James Henry Thomas’ an ‘Honourary Freeman of the County Borough of Newport’, underside inscribed ‘SUPPLIED BY HOSKIN NEWPORT MON.’. The presentation inscription reads: Presented to the Right Honourable James Henry Thomas M.P., His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, by a few friends on his being made an Honourable Freeman of his native town of Newport, Mon., on May 8th 1924.

J.H. Thomas, in spite of leaving school at 12 years, had a remarkable career as a Trade Unionist and Labour politician. By the age of 15 he was an engine cleaner on the Great Western Railways, passing his fireman’s exams three years later. He became an official of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants and in 1913 helped organize the National Union of Railwaymen becoming its general secretary in 1917 and presiding over the successful rail strike of 1919. With Union backing, he had been elected to Parliament in 1910 as MP for Derby. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies in the incoming Labour government of 1924 under Ramsay MacDonald. In the second Labour government of 1929 Thomas was made Lord Privy Seal with special responsibility for employment. Appointed Secretary of State for the Dominions in 1930, retaining the position in Ramsay MacDonald’s controversial National Government (1931-1935): as a result he was expelled from the Labour Party and the NUR, although the electors of Derby remained faithful when he stood as an independent candidate. Thomas served as Secretary of State for the Colonies again from 1935 until May 1936, when he was forced to resign from politics because he had been implicated in leaks to friends about the forthcoming Budget. Retiring from public life to his home on the Sussex coast, he published his autobiography ‘My Story’ the following year. According to his obituary in The Times (22nd January 1949, p.6) he was ‘always effective on the platform, he had a special gift for after-dinner speaking and succeeded in translating his homeliness into an asset. Members of all parties liked him for his humour, courage and broad humanity…’ The G.W.R.’s 4-6-0 Castle class locomotive featured on the back of the casket had only just been completed, in February of 1924. Ironically the Chepstow Castle’s life also ended in Newport when scrapped at Cashmore’s, having been withdrawn from service in 1962.

Also included in the sale is a large Edwardian Silver Presentation Pilgrim Flask, dating from 1906, which was presented two years later by the Prince of Wales to G. Cecil Whitaker after his A Class yacht Cicely won the Regatta at The Royal Harwich Yacht club. The Regatta, in the 19th century had established itself as the opening event of the season for the big yacht class. Most of the famous racing yachts sailed there, including Britannia owned by Edward VII and his son, the Prince of Wales (later George V) had been the club’s commodore since 1895. To win in 1908 Cicely beat the German Emperor’s Meteor among others. The flask is estimated at £4,000-6,000.

Following the success of Oriental Works of Art in previous sales; an oval Sawasa ware Tobacco box, dating from the early 18th century decorated with panels of blossom, birds and pavilions on a granulated gilt ground with a gilt interior is estimated at £500-700, while a finely carved Chinese ivory casket carries expectations in excess of £4000.

A lovely pair of George III silver square tea caddies by Lewis Pantin (London, 1772) are estimated at £5,000-7,000, while a rare Irish rococo silver basket, probably by Thomas Lynch of Galway carries an estimate of £4,000-6,000.

Elsewhere in the sale is a group of 17 ‘Billy & Charley’ figures from the Anthony North Collection. Born in Blackpool in 1942, North, became a curator in the Metalwork Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1964. He worked closely with the Keeper, Claude Blair, and remained there until he retired in 2002. Billies and Charlies, otherwise known as Shadwell Dock Forgeries, were produced in the mid 19th century in variety of forms, often as badges, but also as figures, vases, vessels etc., the majority made by the labourers or navigators (navvies) Billy Smith and Charley Eaton. An example from 1860 of a knight in armour and a model of a Bishop Saint, are being sold together and carry an estimate of £200-400

Among the 20th century pieces is a rare Danish Toast Rack designed by Oscar Gundlach-Perdersen for Georg Jensen, 1933-4, which is estimated at £700-1,000; while a set of four Edwardian silver novelty menu holders, by Levi & Salaman of Birmingham, 1909 – each finely modelled as a seated Roosevelt bear is expected to fetch £400-600.

The sale also includes glass and Scandinavian design continues to be evident. A Swedish oval glass vase designed in 1955 by Vicke Lindstrand for Kosta Glasbruk decorated with two black trees shedding their leaves is expected to fetch £1,000-1,500, while an opalescent ‘Ceylan’ vase by Lalique decorated with budgerigars is estimated at £4,000-6,000.

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