An Exceptional Royal Yacht Squadron Schooner Cup Trophy in the Form of a Silver Reduction of the Warwick Vase. Presented to the Owner of Miranda, George C. Lampson, in 1877 and Made by the Fine London Silversmiths Stephen Smith and Son

12th September 2023

An Exceptional Royal Yacht Squadron Schooner Cup Trophy in the Form of a Silver Reduction of the Warwick Vase. Presented to the Owner of Miranda, George C. Lampson, in 1877 and Made by the Fine London Silversmiths Stephen Smith and Son


Presented to George C. Lampson in 1877

A distinguished American private collection

This quite wonderful trophy is patterned after the Warwick vase-a classical Roman vase that was removed from the emperor Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli in the 18th century and brought to England under the auspices of the artist and art dealer Gavin Hamilton. The vase itself caused something of a sensation in Europe at the time, spawning countless imitations in silver, bronze and ceramic materials. This particular example, though made over 100 years after the vase’s introduction to Britain, is of quite superlative quality. We invite you to look particularly at the finishing of the bacchic masks and the vine swags around the rim and, most importantly of all, the incredible chased textural detail on the main body of the vase which is better than on any other example we have seen to date.

When presented on the 10th of August 1877, this trophy was said to have a value of £100-a high value for a presentation cup. It was presented by the Royal Yacht Squadron-referred to in the inscription on the piece as simply the Royal Squadron-to the winning schooner in what was known as the Squadron Cup race. Five yachts started the race with Miranda by far the lightest-giving over 30 tons in weight to her nearest competitor the Corinne. According to the race report in the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette published on the 11th of August 1877 “The course was from Cowes to the Nab, then round a mark boat off Lymington, and back”. Miranda finished second, 43 seconds behind Corinne, but won the race by virtue of her time allowance. Miranda won the Vice Commodore’s prize at the Royal Victoria Regatta the very next week after this success and our trophy is an early example of a prize awarded to what would quickly become a legendary racing yacht.

Miranda and her many successes

Built in Wivenhoe, Essex, and with a home port of Colchester, when completed in 1876 Miranda had a tonnage of just 85 tons. This was increased through a series of improvements over time and by the time of the Squadron Cup in 1877 she was described in the newspaper report as weighing 133 tons. She was owned from the very start by George C. Lampson, the son of an Anglo-American tycoon who earned his fortune as deputy-chairman of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Sir George became a prominent society figure, serving as Justice of the Peace in Surrey and Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex amongst other roles. His passion was for sailing and Miranda was a success on an almost unprecedented scale. When she was finally retired in 1887 she had won a small fortune in prize money-£1,415 in 1882 alone for example. 

Between 1880 and 1884, Lampson employed Lemon Cranfield as skipper and this led to a remarkable period of success, leading to widespread celebrity for both skipper and vessel. There is an excellent website dedicated to the maritime successes of vessels built or connected in some way to East Donyland or Rowhedge-where Lemon Cranfield lived-and the authors of the site have studied Cranfield’s connection with the Miranda in great detail. They estimate that between them, skipper and yacht won over 100 prizes in this short four year period including the Prince of Wales Cup in 1882. They also have a remarkable series of photographs of her at various stages in her career.

Miranda is pictured and described in Frederick Schiller Cozzens’ Yachts and Yachting of 1887. Cozzens recounts the story of the decline of the schooner as the primary racing yacht class-being replaced by the cutter-and says that Miranda was the last of her class to compete in first class matches in the year in which the book was published. A remarkable testament to the longevity of a truly legendary vessel.

Stephen Smith and Sons silversmiths c.1865-1887

We are delighted that we have been able to add detail to the biography of the makers of this exceptional trophy. Although works by the firm have been sought after by dealers and collectors, little was known about them other than their first mark being registered in 1865 and that they were based in King Street, Covent Garden. The firm descended from Smith, Nicholson and Co-Stephen Smith in partnership with William Nicholson-and Stephen Smith wrote passionately in defence of the system of hallmarking, bemoaning the potential weakening of the system in order to allow for the sale of Indian silver of lower fineness. 

In 1875 the firm was one of two chosen to supply prizes for the Staines Amateur Regatta. A report in the Surrey Advertiser, dated the 31st of July of that year, mentions that the “prizes were both elegant and useful, and were exhibited in a tent, where they attracted much attention. They were supplied by Messrs Stephen Smith and Son, of 33 King Street, Covent Garden…”

Other important commissions that we have discovered in the newspaper archives include the Royal Cambridge Challenge Shield-presented by the Duke of Cambridge to the winning cavalry officers in a military competition. This prestigious commission was awarded to Stephen Smith and Son, and their chief designer Mr Harry Barrett, after a personal selection from the royal family. The Naval and Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service, 29th of June 1881, stated that the winning design by Smith and Son was “selected by their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge from amongst a number submitted for approval by some of the most eminent silversmiths in London”. The firm’s versatility is also demonstrated by a report in the Hampshire Advertiser, 6th of August 1881, referring to a project to make a copy of “the staff, bequeathed by William, of Wykeham, to New College, Oxford, in the 14th century”. The 14th century original is considered to be “the finest specimen of English work of this class” and Stephen Smith and Son’s copy was described by the reporter as “one of the most elaborate specimens of the goldsmith’s art that we ever saw”. It took two whole years to complete and the firm was described as “Stephen Smith and Sons, of King Street, Covent Garden, the well-known silversmiths”.

The final reference to the firm in the newspapers occured on the 12th of March 1887, the Army and Navy Gazette mentioning the sad news that “the well-known firm of Stephen Smith and Sons, manufacturing silversmiths and electroplaters, has been taken over by Messrs. Mappin and Webb”.

View further information on this cup here

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