The large and interesting silver gilt trophy of Captain George Welstead, purchased with prize money from the East India Company, 1805,The large and interesting silver gilt trophy of Captain George Welstead, purchased with prize money from the East India Company, 1805,

The large and interesting silver gilt trophy of Captain George Welstead, purchased with prize money from the East India Company, 1805

£ 18,500.00






Height: 17 ¾ inches Width: 12 ½ inches Weight: 93.43 oz. troy.

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The large and interesting silver gilt trophy of Captain George Welstead, purchased with prize money from the East India Company, 1805, in the form of a footed cup with a separate cover, with two arched scrolling acanthus handles, incised and chased with a band of scrolling vines and a continuous thick garland of flowers suspended by two tied bows around two cartouches, one with a later applied panel showing the coat of arms of the East India Company (a shield surmounted by a helmet, flanked by lion supporters each holding a British standard, motto ‘Auspicio Regis et Senatus Angliæ’), the other with six putti driving a cart pulled by a pair of lionesses, the cover with a collar of pointed leaves and the Welstead family crest (a hind trippant), the foot with an inscription stating ‘A remembrance of the East India Company’s Present, to Captn G. Welstead, of four hundred guineas. June 11, 1805′.  Assay marks for WH, London, 1795.  English.

Condition: repairs to old damage on the stem.

Provenance: The collection of Carl De Santis, sold at Christie’s, 17th March 1999, lot 91

Sold subsequently at Sotheby’s 4th November 2011, lot 253

This is a fascinating documentary item.  It is not, in itself, a presentation piece of plate.  The wording makes it clear that Welstead was presented with money so he must have chosen to buy this piece with some of his prize to remember his success in the future.  This also explains why the vase, probably bought second hand, predates the inscription by 10 years and has a later panel with the East India Coat of Arms applied to one side.

Unfortunately, the precise reason for the award of 400 Guineas to Welstead in 1805 is not recorded.  At this point he was captain of the East Indiaman Euphrates and it is recorded in Shipbuilding & Shipping Record: A Journal of Shipbuilding, Marine Engineering, Dock, Harbours & Shipping, Vol. 68, pp. 134 & 162, that Lloyds of London presented him with a “silver tureen” for successfully refloating the vessel when she had run aground in the Hooghli river.  It is quite likely the HEIC rewarded him for this same event.

Welstead received several gifts of silver during the course of his incredibly successful career, including having a bespoke presentation centrepiece commissioned for him through a subscription by the grateful officers on his ship circa 1825.  A superb design drawing for an extraordinary chinoiserie silver centrepiece, made by the firm of Green, Ward & Co-rivals to Rundell Bridge and Rundell at the very height of the London market, survives in a private collection.

The Career of George Welstead

Welstead was born in 1771 and seems to have lived for most of his life in Wormley in Hertfordshire.  He was captain of the General Harris for many years and a log book relating to the ship and its voyages was sold at Christie’s in the past (whereabouts currently unknown).  It has been possible to find an advert placed in the Government Gazette in India on the 21st of June 1821 which relates in extraordinary detail the cargo of Welstead’s ship.  It was nothing less than a floating department store, bringing beers, wines, all sorts of food, watches, cutlery, musical instruments and even guns to London.  The Lowe Papers in the British Library refer to Welstead visiting St Helena on the 29th November 1820 and some screens, presumably of lacquer, were purchased from Welstead for the captive Napoleon Bonaparte who was “well pleased” and thought them “remarkable handsome”.  A series of journals kept by Welstead, while on General Harris, demonstrate how dangerous international travel was at this time.

On a voyage to China and Penang in 1819, the ship was struck by lightning which caused a catastrophic fire and led to the death of 5 men and horrific injuries to another.  There was also widespread sickness on board which made the voyage home extremely perilous due to reduced crew numbers.

The second voyage in 1821, which lasted two years, had an outbreak of cholera when the vessel reached Madras.  The ship was then struck by a typhoon in the Malacca Straits which reduced it to “bare poles”.

The 1824 voyage was plagued by gales, a tornado and a collision and there is also a mention of ill-discipline on board.  The London Morning Herald, 30th July 1825, an article detailing Welstead’s court case relating to profit shares he felt he was owed by fellow owners of General Harris says “We understand that the plaintiff (Welstead) was chiefly instrumental in settling the difference which subsisted some time back, between the Chinese Government and the agents of the East India Company, and that as a mark of his services on that important occasion, he was presented with a valuable piece of plate”.  Welstead was the Senior Commander of the China Ships in this particular season.

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