Rare 18th century Irish officer's silver gorget to be offered at Bonhams

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Rare 18th century Irish officer's silver gorget to be offered at Bonhams
A Very Rare Irish Silver Gorget Of An Officer In The National Army Of Ireland. Estimate: 1,800 - 2,200. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A very rare Irish silver gorget that once belonged to an officer of The National Army Of Ireland will be sold by Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department in Knightsbridge on November 25th.

The gorget – an item of clothing that covers the throat - bears the makers mark of Matthew West, Circa 1780 and bears an engraved figure of the Maid of Erin holding a cornucopia and a spear supporting a Phrygian cap, within an oval border inscribed 'Loughbrickland Volunteers' against martial arms. It is 10.5cm in size and is estimated to sell for £1,200-1,500.

The Loughbrickland Volunteers was one of four named units raised in Loughbrickland, County Down, during the late 18th century under the overall command of the Earl of Charlemont. Forces of this type were raised throughout Ireland at the time in response to the increased threat of French and Spanish invasion whilst British soldiers were being withdrawn from Ireland to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

The Volunteers were independent of the Irish Parliament and Dublin Castle, yet their existence was justified by claims that Ireland was particularly vulnerable to attack. The Volunteers were also known for their liberal political views, with many opposing English governmental interference in Ireland. Under Henry Grattan, they formed a pressure group which succeeded in gaining legislative independence in 1782.

The movement incorporated Anglican Protestants, Presbyterians and Catholics, and its members exerted considerable pressure on the British government to ease the Penal Laws on Catholics. The Volunteers became less influential following the end of the war in America in 1783. Internal divisions of opinion regarding political affairs weakened the movement, and the revolutionary and republican sentiments of some members were disapproved of by others, particularly in northern areas. By 1785 the National Army was in decline and the cause was lost.

Silversmith and later Goldsmith, Matthew West (1747-1806), was apprenticed to Bartholemew Mosse, Master Silversmith of Dublin in 1762. He later occupied premises on Skinner's Row, now Christ Church Place. In 1783 he was elected Master of the Company of Goldsmiths.

David Williams, Director of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department, comments: “This is a fascinating piece of Irish military history that is also of interest as a surviving silver artifact from the 18th century.”

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