Antique English Silver Plated 3 Bottle Tantalus Martin Hall Arnold & Lewis 1880

GBP 825.00

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Object Description

This is a truly resplendent antique Victorian silver-plated three crystal cut bottle tantalus set, circa 1880 in date.

This magnificent tantalus set is by the renowned silversmiths Martin, Hall & Co of Sheffield, and retailed by the Manchester-based firm of top quality luxury items, Arnold & Lewis.

It is fitted with the three original brilliant crystal cut hobnail and lozenge decorated square decanters and stoppers and features a distinctive silver plated rectangular base which is beautifully pierced and decorated with garlands and floral motifs with an extra touch of finesse given by the beaded borders.

It is raised on four splendid matching pierced and foliate decorative feet.

The underside bears the makers’ marks ‘MH & Co’ for Martin, Hall & Co, and the retailers’ mark, ‘A&L M’ for Arnold Lewis.

The craftsmanship is second to none. Not only is this beautiful set highly decorative but is also very practical and would make a lovely gift.

In really excellent condition, please see photos for confirmation of condition.

Dimensions in cm:
Height 32 x Width 28 x Depth 10

Dimensions in inches:
Height 12.6 x Width 11.0 x Depth 3.9

Tantalus is a type of liquor decanter in which the bottle stoppers are locked down tightly by a metal bar. This was to prevent the theft of the contents by servants. Like the name suggests, the decanters themselves are visible, drawing temptation while unattainable. A key is required for entry.

The most common types of tantalus holds three bottles or decanters while there are also smaller types housing only two. There are many different forms of tantalus. Often the encasement has metal handles on both sides and ornately carved decor. Crystal and metal versions are also a beautiful option when choosing a tantalus.

Tantalus derived its name from the story of the mythological Greek king, Tantalus. To be tantalized is to be tempted with the unattainable, and the king, condemned to an eternity in Hades, was sorely tested. He was forced to stand forever in water that, when he bent to drink, would recede and to gaze upon foods he could only reach for and never grasp.

The 1800s saw our Victorian predecessors apply the King’s name to the lockable decanter.

Martin, Hall & Co –
the origin of the firm was in the partnership established in 1820 in Sheffield by Henry Wilkinson and John Roberts who traded as Wilkinson & Roberts. Wilkinson left the business and in 1846 John Roberts entered in partnership with Ebenezer Hall (his apprentice in 1836) under the style Roberts & Hall.

In 1854 Richard Martin (of Martin Brothers & Naylor) and Joshua Hall (brother of Ebenezer Hall) entered into the partnership under the style Martin, Hall & Co. In 1866 the firm was converted into a Ltd.

The factory was active at Shrewsbury Works, Broad Street Park, Sheffield with showrooms in London (where they were listed as manufacturing silversmiths and electroplated manufacturers, silver, plated and steel cutlers), Sydney, Birmingham and Glasgow.

The firm partecipated to the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Internation Exhibition (1862), the Sydney Exhibition (1879), the Melboune Exhibition (1881) and the 1915 British Industries Fair.

Besides its sterling silver and electroplated items the firm had a successful cheaper line of production on a patented white metal called “Martinoid”.

Items made by Martin, Hall & Co were retailed by Wordley & Co – Liverpool, Ball & Edwards – Birmingham, Henry Ellis & Son – Exeter, Charles Nephew & Co – Calcutta, West & Son – Dublin, Goldsmiths Alliance Ltd – Cornhill, Pearce & Co – Leeds, Mappin Brothers – London, George Edward & Sons – Glasgow, James Aitchinson – Edinburgh, Mackay & Chisholm – Edinburgh and many other firms.

After WWI and a brief association of interests with Gladwin Ltd the firm went in liquidation and was struck off the register in 1936 (according to another source the business was sold to Frank Cobb & Co in 1931/1932).


Active at 7 St. Ann’s Square, Manchester from c. 1875 until c. 1905. The firm succeeded to I. Simmons as retail jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, watch and clockmakers.

Our reference: 09928

Object Details

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