For sale, a Victorian Second Boer war oak campaign spirit decanter set by Richard Attenborough Silversmith of Piccadilly owned by Major AW Parsons DSO CMG of The Queens Alexandra’s Own 19th Royal Hussars.
Comprised of a stout oak case with brass carrying handles and blank brass plaque to the lid, the exterior is wonderfully emblazoned with a painted regimental elephant symbol of The 19th Royal Hussars and also bears numerous original shipping labels throughout.
The sectioned interior retains its original pink silk velvet covering and a paper trade label for, “Richard Attenborough, Silversmith & Jeweller of 19 Piccadilly, London”. The same maker’s name is also reflected on an engraved brass plaque affixed to the front edge next to the lock and key.
The case further retains its two original cane-cut glass spirit or whisky decanters complete with stoppers, both of which fit very snugly between the sectioned base and the cushioned velvet lined lid. Without the additional painted detail to the exterior, this case may seem rather plain but the design of both the exterior and the interior are perfectly conceived to assure an officer of his refreshments remaining intact upon arrival at camp.
The maker of this case is perhaps less well known as a provider of campaign accoutrements but was certainly capable of providing practical solutions to travelling officers. Richard Attenborough (1822 – 1901) obtained his freedom of The Spectacle Maker’s Guild in 1844 and moved from Fleet Street to 19 Piccadilly towards the end of the same decade. A skilled silversmith, he exhibited at both the 1851 Great Exhibition and the 1862 Exhibition where his work received numerous accolades. His wealth was somewhat marred in later years by unwise investments in Welsh mining speculation but his reputation endured.
The owner of the case, Alfred Woods Parsons was born in Oxford, son of John Parsons an Oxford Banker. Educated at Rugby and then The Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he joined the 19th (Queen Alexandra’s Own) Hussars on the 7th May 1898 as a Second Lieutenant. He served with his regiment in South Africa (1899-1902), during the Siege of Ladysmith and throughout the campaign.
He took part in:
The operations in Natal, 1899, including actions at Rietfontein and Lombard’s Kop
The Defence of Ladysmith, including the sortie of 7th Dec 1899 and the action of 6th Jan 1900.
Natal (March to June, 1900), including action at Laing’s Nek
The Transvaal, east of Pretoria, July to 29 Nov 1900, including actions at Belfast and Lydenberg
Orange River Colony (May to 29 Nov 1900)
Again in the Transvaal, 30th Nov 1900 to 31st May 1902 and again during operations in Orange River Colony, May, 1902
He was mentioned in both Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener’s Despatches in The London Gazette on the 10th Sept 1901 and 29th July, 1902 respectively.
Parsons was awarded the Queen’s Medal with four clasps, and King’s Medal with two clasps and became Lieutenant in June, 1900, Captain in January 1905 and was promoted to Major in January 1912, finally achieving the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in October 1918. (The attached image shows Parson’s during his time as Major of the regiment).
He served throughout World War One, was mentioned in Despatches five times, awarded the Legion d’Honneur (Croix de Chevalier), created a C.M.G. and a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [London Gazette, 18 Feb. 1915]: “Alfred Woods Parsons, Major, 19th Hussar. In recognition of services in connection with operations in the field.”
A super campaign piece owned by a distinguished Second Boer War officer. The exact dating of the case is slightly troublesome as the maker, Attenborough is considered to have finished trading at 19 Piccadilly in 1870. I would suggest that this is probably incorrect owing to the age of the decanters which came into general fashion towards the end of century (popularised by Betjemann’s tantaluses) although they must have been purchased prior to 1901 and the death of Attenborough.
The regimental painting although obviously completed after the original purchase would likely to have taken place between 1902 when the regiment was retitled, Princess of Wales Own and 1908 when it was renamed Queen Alexandra Own. The PWO being the obvious indicator underneath the elephant motif. The most reasonable explanation is that Parsons purchased this set to complement his equipage for travel to Africa. The subsequent shipping labels are likely to have been a result of travels to India between his service in Africa and the onset of the First World War given that he achieved the rank of Major in 1912.