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30 November 2014
Auction News





Sale is in Cardiff on Friday December 5 2014


An antique Charles II oak chest made to commemorate the marriage in 1671 of Sir Nathaniel Curzon of Kedleston in Derbyshire and Sarah Penn, daughter of William Penn, who founded the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, will be sold in a sale at leading South Wales auctioneers Rogers Jones Co. The sale is on Friday December 5.


Marriages chests are also known as hope or dowry chests. In medieval times they were traditionally commissioned from the local or estate carpenter by the bridegroom, usually in pairs, as part of a marriage contract. Later, they were gifts from perhaps the couple’s parents, siblings or friends to a bride, both as a lasting memento of the occasion and as a place to keep her prize possessions safe.


Making the chests was considered a privilege for the carpenter tasked with the commission and great pride went into their construction. Similarly, the more important – and rich – the couple, the more grandiose the chests became.


The example to be sold at Rogers Jones is a tour de force of the wood carver’s skill. How it left Curzon family ownership is not known, but it was once owned by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel (1809-1904). He married into the present owner’s family, who live near Cardiff and it has been in their possession ever since. The chest is estimated conservatively at £700-1,000, but could sell for more.


The heavy oak carcase is embellished on all sides and its lid with romantic and religious symbolism. The profuse carving includes two pairs of confronting dragons and hearts, Christian crosses and anchors representing Faith, Hope and Charity on the pair of panels on the façade, while the lid is decorated with a trio of panelled rosettes.


Among a number of inscriptions is one across the front, flanked by the date 1687, which reads ‘We Once Were Two – We Two Made One / We No More Two – Through Life Bee One’. Above and below the panelled rosettes in the lid is an inscription which reads: ‘Comfort One Another And My House Will Serve The Lord’.


The couple had a productive marriage, Sarah bearing Curzon five sons and four daughters.


The Curzons take their name from the French town of Notre-Dame-de-Courson in Normandy from where they originated. They arrived in Britain at the time of William the Conqueror, and have lived at Kedleston probably since 1150. 


Their position was established in Derbyshire by gradually adding to the estate and by serving as MP for the county from the mid 16th century. A large expansion was driven by Sir John Curzon (1598-1686) who grew the estate to more than 10,000 acres and who also raised the family's status by being created a Baronet in 1641.


His son, Sir Nathaniel Curzon (2nd Baronet) built the previous Kedleston House around 1700. It was of brick construction with nine bays surrounded by earlier outbuildings and high-walled enclosures. Nathaniel's son, Sir John Curzon (3rd Baronet), inherited the estate in 1719 but died in 1727 while out riding in the park.


The Quaker William Penn (1644-1718) son of Admiral Sir William Penn, inherited a tract of land around what is now Pennsylvania and Delaware that had been given to his father by Charles II in 1681 to repay a large loan. Penn set sail for America immediately and called the area first ‘New Wales’ and then ‘Sylvania’, Latin for forests. Charles II later changed this to Pennsylvania in honour of Penn’s father.


Penn subsequently founded Philadelphia and introduced laws and democratic principles that inspired the United States Constitution.


Kedleston House and park were given to the National Trust in 1987, but the Curzon family still live in the North East family wing. In 2008, it was used as a location for the film ‘The Duchess’, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes.


The marriage chest will be on view alongside almost 400 lots of antiques and collectors’ items at Rogers Jones Co’s saleroom in Penarth Road, Cardiff on Thursday December 4 from 10am to 7pm and on the morning of the sale, which starts at 11am. The sale will also be broadcast on the Internet at www.the-saleroom.com, which will permit live on-line bidding.


For further information, please contact the auctioneers, telephone 02920 708125 or cardiffinfo@rogersjones.co.uk.


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