A historical house, a famous owner, a bygone maker — for me, this pot hits the trifecta.
- Type: Tin-lined saucepan in gently hammered finish with iron handle and brass helper handle attached with three copper rivets; lid with iron handle attached with three copper rivets
- Dimensions: 34cm diameter by 21cm tall (13.4 by 8.3 inches)
- Thickness: 2.8mm at rim
- Weight: 8982g (19.8 lbs); 11718g (25.8 lbs) with lid
- Stampings: “JONES BROS. 4 DOWN ST. W.”; “E.C”; “MOULTON PADDOCKS”; “20”; “34”
- Maker and age estimate: Jones Brothers; 1880s-1890
- Source: Vintage Chuck
It’s so rare to find a piece of copper with stamps that tell a story. This pot has three and for me this really is like winning the copper history jackpot.
Win: Moulton Paddocks
The first stamp, “Moulton Paddocks,” is for a horseracing stables in Newmarket, England with history back to the 18th century.
The town of Newmarket in England is the “birthplace and global center of thoroughbred horse racing” since James I completed the construction of Palace House in 1610, transforming this market town into a horse racing resort. Moulton Paddocks is one of several training stables: “Additional thousands of acres of cut grasslands, with gallops that aim to simulate the racecourse environment and facilitate the honing of the slightly older young horses up to what’s hopefully the pinnacle of their racing careers,” according to Newmarket Shops History.
The property lies northeast of Newmarket town, bounded by Moulton Road to the south, Well Bottom Road to the north, and the settlement of Moulton to the east. In the 18th century it was a 70-acre “smallholding” owned by famous jockey Samuel Chifney (1753-1807), a “stud-farm perfect of its kind, and situated about a mile and a quarter from the town, at the extremity of the Buryhill gallop.” He named it “Fidget Farm” in honor of the sire of the colt that carried his son Sam Junior (1786-1854) at his first public race in 1800 when the boy was 14.
The fortunes of the Chifney family ended in bankruptcy in 1836. Samuel’s sons William and Sam Jr. sold Fidget Farm and its residence, Fidget Hall, and the property changed hands several times over the following few decades. It was in 1842 that then-owner William Webber (1800-1875) changed its name to “Moulton Paddocks.” Webber also expanded the grounds to 313 acres and added a training yard. The Fryer family bought Moulton Paddocks in 1859 and held it for 26 years, increasing its acreage and renovating the buildings. In 1885, the Fryers sold it to Lord Gerard — I suspect this was William Cansfield Gerard (1851-1902), the second Baron Gerard — who bred horses for a few years. In 1892, Gerard sold Moulton Paddocks to George Alexander Baird (1861-1893), heir to the Baird industrial fortune.
George Baird was quite the character. He was not only a racehorse owner and breeder but also an amateur jockey — a “gentleman rider” — who used the racing alias “Mr. Abington” to escape the attention of his wealthy family’s anxious trustees. He was intensely competitive; he was taller and heavier than most jockeys and so would undertake strenuous diets to try to make weight for his races. He was often victorious, though his aggressive riding techniques earned him censure — he was completely “warned off” the racing circuit from 1892 to 1894. He also engaged in multiple scandalous affairs, most notably a passionate and violent relationship with the beautiful actress Lilly Langtry. They met at a horserace in 1889 where Baird taught her how to bet and then gave her a racehorse.
By 1892, George’s interest in racing horses (and the self-discipline required to ride them competitively) had begun to wane, and he shifted his focus to prize-fighting. In 1893 he took an ill-fated trip to New Orleans where he funded the winning purse for the world title bout between “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and John L. Sullivan. After the match he went out with friends and got so drunk that he passed out in the street and caught pneumonia. He could not fight off the infection in his dissolute physical condition and despite heroic efforts by multiple doctors he died in New York City.
The executors of his estate leased Moulton Paddocks for a few years until finally arranging its auction in October 1898. The buyer was Ernest Cassel, and it was he who ushered the property into its golden age.
Place: Ernest Cassel
The second stamp on the pot is “E.C” for The Right Honorable Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel (1852-1921) who owned Moulton Paddocks from 1899 until his death in 1921.
He was the perfect owner at the perfect time: an intelligent and very wealthy self-made man, close friends with the King of England, and magnanimous with his fortune. He was born in Cologne, then part of Prussia; his parents owned a small bank, and at age 14 he was apprenticed to another bank to learn the trade. He left Prussia at age 17 for Liverpool, England, and joined a grain merchant. From this penniless start he worked his way to managing banking deals in Paris, and then to London and ultimately his own profitable investments in mining, infrastructure, and industry.
Cassel’s most important social connection was the most prominent possible — the Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VII of England — and it arose from their shared love of racing and horses. In 1892, Prince Edward moved his stables to Newmarket and visited frequently to enjoy the horse races, making Newmarket a playground for English society. In 1897, Cassel purchased his own Newmarket pied à terre from the estate of his friend Baron Maurice de Hirsch: Grafton House, a beautiful grand house at 144 High Street with its own training yard. Cassel and the Prince met at a race that year and the acquaintanceship quickly became a close friendship. Cassel became the Prince’s financial advisor and was knighted in 1899, and upon Edward’s ascension to the throne in 1902 was elevated to the King’s Privy Council.
This proximity to the center of political and social power in England brought with it intense obligations to entertain lavishly, and Cassel had the temperament and financial resources to meet them. The auction of Moulton Paddocks in 1898 no doubt presented a strategic social investment opportunity for Cassel: it not only served Cassel’s own interests in horses but was also an ideal location to entertain the King and his retinue when they were in town. Cassel was 47 years old when he purchased the property and he set about converting the professional racing stables into a “sporting estate.”
Cassel maintained Moulton Paddock’s stables but competitive racing was no longer the sole focus of the enterprise. He expanded the property to 1300 acres, the better to host weekend hunting and shooting parties, and employed an estate staff of 100 men to maintain the gardens and grounds.
He also expanded Paddocks House. It became Cassel’s primary residence in Newcastle in 1904 when he sold Grafton House to King Edward (the King found the royal family’s centuries-old Palace House too small and archaic for his needs). Paddocks House’s ten guest bedrooms were inadequate and so Cassel added a new wing “with [a] big dining hall, eight bedrooms and main kitchen, which had a stone floor, large coal fired range and collection of copper utensils.” An additional large household staff kept the house running year-round and ready for visits and parties.
And oh, the parties. This was England’s belle époque: the Edwardian era, named for and inspired by the bon vivant Edward VII. And according to Nancy Parrish in The Downton Era, Cassel was likely well attuned to the aura of social permissiveness that hung about the Prince of Wales: “In 1899, [Prince Edward] snubbed the 80-year-old Duke of Richmond [for a visit] because the Duke would not include in the party two of the Prince’s favorite lovers. He instead stayed at nearby Moulton Paddocks because ‘it had a croquet lawn, excellent partridge shooting’ and a cook who prepared Edward’s favorite meals” — and, reading between the lines, a greater tolerance for irregularities in the Prince’s intimate circle. (One of these lovers may well have been Lilly Langtry, one of Edward’s paramours, who likely knew Moulton Paddocks well from her previous relationship with George Baird; it would seem that both men shared an eye for fillies who ran in fast circles.)
Ernest Cassel passed away in 1921 at age 69. Moulton Paddocks was bought by Solomon “Solly” Joel, a wealthy Englishman who made a fortune in South African diamonds. After Solly’s death in 1931 his son Dudley continued to run it for some time, though not in the same style as Cassel. Dudley passed away in 1941 and the house remained in the family’s estate.
But World War II marked the end of Paddocks House. According to the timeline at SantonDownham.org:
During the war [Paddocks House] was requisitioned and became Eastern Command and 35 Tank Brigade HQ, with the house and grounds used to billet soldiers. What furniture was left was stored in locked rooms and the nursery stables. Later the house was used to billet Canadian soldiers. The houses suffered during these years and remained unoccupied after the war. Even so several men were employed on the estate farm. As mechanisation increased, the number has gradually been reduced. The house was then demolished in 1950, with items being sold in lots. Some of the house parts even ended up in the USA.
Moulton Paddocks would remain a world-class horse racing facility to this day, but the time of the great Paddocks House — the heart of the “sporting estate” — was at an end, another casualty of time and change. But I am heartened that certain of the “house parts” survived in the hands of people who perhaps felt a connection with the beautiful objects of that bygone era, long after their maker had passed away.
And that brings us to our third stamp.
Show: Jones Bros.
The third stamp is a maker’s mark reading “JONES BROS. 4 DOWN ST. W” for Jones Brothers, a coppersmith on Down Street in the Piccadilly area of London from the mid-19th century until the early 20th.
If you search online you will see the oft-repeated phrase that Jones Bros. existed “from 1832 to 1900” but I’m not so sure about this. I went spelunking through old London telephone directories from the first half of the 19th century looking for evidence of this company (and it was rough going given just how common the name Jones is). The earliest affirmative entry I can find is in 1884: “Jones Bros. ironmongers, 4 & 5 Down Street Piccadilly and 1 Carrington Mews Mayfair.” I can pluck a slender thread in 1852 (“Jones Bros., ironfounders, 29 Allen Street, Goswell Road”) and perhaps follow it as far back as 1841 (“Jones, James & William, ironfounders, 9 Brick Lane, St Luke’s”), but there were many other Joneses in metalworking and they, too, could be the correct antecedents. In any case, while I know that Jones Bros. were extant in 1884, I can neither confirm nor deny that the enterprise began in 1832.
But I can state with certainty that the business did not end in 1900: telephone directory listings for the firm continue to 1914, and I found an invoice dated 1918. The proprietors are three: R. H. Jones, C. E. Jones, and P. W. Jones. The death notice for Percy Walter Jones of Jones Bros. is in November 1936; a genealogical search for him turned up the London census of 1881 with an entry for Frederick (“grocer”) and Clara Jones at 570 Bow Street with sons Harry, age 6, and Percival W., age 1. (If I am keeping up with the correct Joneses here, perhaps C.E. was still on the way in 1881.) These gentlemen would have been a successive generation to the Jones Bros. of 1884 but I haven’t been able to identify the Joneses senior (Frederick the grocer seems an unlikely fit).
But I was able to discover some information of unambiguous value: there are at least two Jones Bros. stamps and I have a theory as to when they changed. As I mention above, the 1884 listing for Jones Bros. shows them at 4 & 5 Down Street but the next available listing in 1891 shows them at 13 & 14 Down Street. Now take a close look at the two Jones Bros. stamp examples below, one from my pot and another from an online listing:
The stamp on the left reads “4 Down St W” while the stamp on the right reads simply “Down St W.” I suggest that the firm’s stamp was “4 Down Street” until the move to 13 & 14 Down Street and then simply “Down Street” thereafter. If this is the case, then copper items with the “4 Down St W” stamp are likely prior to 1890, while items with the “Down St W” stamp are from 1891 until the firm’s closure sometime after 1918.
If you have more information about Jones Bros. I would love to include it here — please let me know!
And now, finally, to the cup — or rather, the pot. Based on its stamps and my research above, it was made by Jones Bros. sometime prior to 1890 and used at Moulton Paddocks while Ernest Cassel was in residence from 1899 to 1921. It’s a lovely thing indeed.
And large! At 34cm, it’s over a foot in diameter. It’s also got a lot of metal: it’s a solid 2.8mm at the rim and the pot by itself weighs almost 20 pounds. (At reader Sus’s suggestion, I’m including a wine bottle for scale.)
Multiple qualities immediately mark this pot as English, starting with the band of tin around the outside of the rim. It’s quite dark and there looks to be more than one layer. This is a stylistic element peculiar to English pots that also serves a pragmatic purpose: it saves the tinner the work of cleaning away tin that has slopped over the edge of the pot. Val Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning did the restoration work on this pot and she and I agreed immediately to preserve the band during the restoration.
That tin is also covering the stamp “34,” the pot’s diameter in centimeters. I’m a little surprised to see a metric notation on an English pan, as others I’ve seen are marked in imperial inches or sometimes fractional quart measurements. In my opinion the stamps and hardware on this pot foreclose the possibility that it could be French; more likely to me is the possibility that Jones Bros. added metric notations to its copper for the benefit of potential European customers who would expect to see an item’s size marked thus.
Another distinctively English element is the arrow shape of the iron baseplates. This shape is usually a sign of English work, but not always — I’ve seen a few Gaillard bain marie pots with a similar baseplate, so it’s not a hard and fast rule. But in general this is an English style along with the un-tapered handle shaft and keyhole-shaped hanging loop.
But perhaps the most beautiful expression of this pot’s English DNA is the brass helper handle. I see this split baseplate style with the twin hourglass-shaped brackets on many different English pans and I think it’s gorgeous. This particular pot has been treated gently enough that the edges and contours of the brackets are still apparent, adding an elegant flair to what is already to my eye a beautiful functional element.
I’m not certain that this style is exclusive to Jones Bros. as I see a virtually identical handles on pots stamped for Temple & Crook and other English makers. (At least, I think they’re distinct makers — I freely admit that my knowledge of the English copper industry is quite shallow at this point in time.) It could be that the English coppersmiths sourced their brass handles from the same few suppliers (as I suspect the French may have done with their handles as well) who adopted the same distinct English look.
The rivets are set virtually flush to the inner surface. They are not as extravagantly large as those I see on French pots of similar scale, but are still proportional to the pot’s burly hardware.
The lid weighs 2736g (6 lbs), making it a substantial piece of metal on its own. It has a nice inset drop so that it settles neatly onto the pot. Its handle is similar to the pot’s with the same straight shaft and keyhole hanging loop, but it is set in a flat plane with no vertical rake.
I have already discussed the stamps substantively but I’d like to revisit them in order to consider an important question. I’ve been back and forth a bit in my head: Was this pot already at Moulton Paddocks when Ernest Cassel moved in, or did he bring it with him? Take a good close look at the stamps and then I’ll lay out my thoughts.
Ernest Cassel, man of substantial means, would have the resources to replace everything in Paddocks House with the best available furnishings. We know that he expanded the house to add a new “main kitchen, which had a stone floor, large coal fired range and collection of copper utensils.” This pot would have lined up nicely at spot “20” on the kitchen shelf among a full set of brand new coppers for grand entertaining.
But on the other hand, the “Moulton Paddocks” and “E.C” marks do not appear contemporaneous to my eye, as the initials are in a different style and strike depth than the lettering. In addition, if my proposed timeline of Jones Bros. stamps is correct, this pot was produced between 1880 and 1890, ten years before Cassel purchased Moulton Paddocks. Could this stolid pot with its lovely lid have withstood three owners — the Fryers, the Gerards, and then George Baird — before Ernest Cassel saw fit to mark it with his own name? I honestly don’t know and I’d love to know what you think.
Finally, this pot comes to me through the hands of two lovely people I’d like to recognize. I bought it from Vintage Chuck, an antiques dealer in Los Angeles, who told me a bit about its history.
This saucepan used to be decorative pieces that would hang from a rack in my mother and father’s English country kitchen when I was growing up in England (I’m half English/half American). My dad (the original Vintage Chuck!) was a full-time antique dealer back in the 60s, 70s and 80s and he no doubt would have discovered this piece at some old antique store in the Cotswolds (west England). Decades later my family relocated to California which is how the saucepan got here.
It sounds to me that this was in one of the lots of Paddocks House furnishings that was scattered to the winds when the house was demolished in 1950. How lucky I am that it found its way to Chuck’s family, and then to me! I imagine I’ve said this already somewhere in another post, but I really do believe that copper pots have a strange charisma about them, and people hang onto them for that reason. My experience is that people may not know exactly what a copper pot is worth but they know it has to be worth something. I am so glad that even as Paddocks House was torn down and its contents sold off, someone bought and kept this pan, and I hope its cousins out there — numbers 1 through 19, perhaps — have found homes as well.
The second person I have to thank is Valerie Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning who did the restoration work. She prides herself on using gentle techniques that don’t strip a pot of its character, and this delicacy was important to me to preserve this pot’s tin band. She did a beautiful job to clean away tarnish and residue from the exterior, polish it without erasing its surface texture, and line it with a lovely coat of new tin.
This has been a fun post to write — thanks for sticking with me all the way to the finish line. I hope this inspires you to get interested in the history of your pots. This is an unusually verbose one, so to speak, but I think all these pots have a story to tell.