'The Bingley Cups', by Philip Rollos, about 1714
These covered cups and salvers were presented to Baron Bingley by the Royal Jewel House for use in his role as Ambassador to the Court of Spain 1713-14. These splendid and weighty objects are probably the only set of silver cups, covers and salvers of this period to survive intact, and are some of the finest examples of display silver for a buffet. Their original scratch weights are visible on the bases of the salvers and the cups. The archives of the Jewel House indicate that their making and materials of 490 ounces cost just under £400. An ambassador's silver, set out at official functions, symbolized his status and that of the English monarch that he represented. These cups and salvers are engraved with the Royal Arms of Queen Anne with her initials on the covers. Robert Benson, 1st Baron Bingley (about 1676-1731), lived at Braham Park, Yorkshire. A politician, businessman and diplomat, he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to Spain in December 1713 when he was granted 5893 ounces of silver and 1066 ounces of gilt plate. He never visited Spain and returned most of the silver and silver-gilt including this set to the Jewel House in June 1725.
It is unusual to find a pair of cups and covers which retain their matching salvers. Salvers were used from the 1620s as footed plates for desert and as ecclesiastical standing patens. As stands for glasses in serving wine, they prevented drips from staining the table linen. By 1700, such salvers had acquired an additional ceremonial status, advertising court office. In this case, their association has ensured their preservation as a set. They have a distinguished provenance. They were acquired by Ernst Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (1771-1851) and descended in his family to the Crown Prince of Hanover (1887-1953) who sold them by 1924 when they were recorded with the dealers Crichton Brothers. They were acquired by Sir Phillip Sassoon (1888-1939) and included in the sale of Works of Art from Houghton, Christie's London, December 1994, when they were bought privately. They were accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2008.
Philip Rollos was one of the leading goldsmiths working in London in the early 18th century. Recorded as a freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company in 1697, he was appointed to the Livery the following year. His workshop was at Bull Inn Court, The Strand. He served as Subordinate Goldsmith to William III and to Anne. Of foreign birth, Rollos is usually described as of Huguenot origin, but his place and date of birth and even his date of death are unrecorded. He was succeeded by his son of the same name. His brother, John Rollos, was a distinguished seal engraver whose portrait was drawn by the artist Marcellus Laroon.