Sir Edward Carson’s silver claret jugs snapped up by mystery buyer for well over estimate price

A mystery buyer has snapped up a pair of silver claret jugs previously owned by Sir Edward Carson, for some £2,500 over the asking price.

By Philip Bradfield
Friday, 30th July 2021, 6:30 am

The lawyer and politician, who died in 1935, is renowned for leading unionist resistance to the British government’s attempts to introduce Home Rule for Ireland.

His most notable legal case was his 1895 cross-examination of Oscar Wilde, which largely secured the Irish writer’s conviction for homosexuality.

His influence is still seen at Stormont, where his iconic statue stands at Parliament Buildings.

Sir Edward Carson's Victorian Irish silver Armada pattern claret jugs were formerly owned by lord mayor of Dublin Sir George Moyers

The Victorian Irish silver Armada pattern claret jugs were formerly owned by lord mayor of Dublin Sir George Moyers, an architect, engineer and building contractor who was also a brother-in-law to Carson’s father, Edward Henry Carson. The family said they were handed over to Carson – or his father – in payment for a debt.

Last month the News Letter reported that a grandson of Carson was putting the jugs up for sale after being held for 140 years by the family.

James Nicholson, deputy chairman of the jewellery, silver and watches department at Berkshire auctioneers, Dreweatts, said the News Letter story had prompted interest from a range of Irish media.

“The pair of Irish Armada jugs sold to a British private collector for £7500, including Buyers Premium,” he told the News Letter.

Sir Edward Carson.

They were only estimated to fetch £3,000-£5,000 when they went up for auction earlier this month.

However like any good professional, Mr Nicholson drew a veil of confidentiality over the identity of the new owner.

“I am only prepared to say in order to protect the buyer’s confidentiality is that the buyer was a British private buyer,” he said.

Pressed further he confirmed that the silver remains outside of the island of Ireland - and is staying on “the mainland”.

However he was pleased with the prices the items sold for - some £2,500 above the highest estimate. 

“The current antique silver market is extremely strong, with most pieces being very well contested at auction, especially if they have interesting provenance - so we were pleased that they exceeded our pre-sale estimate,” he told the News Letter.

As to the back stories of the bidders, he said the internet has added an extra layer of mystique to an already romantic world.

“In the world of on-line and internet bidding, we have much less direct communication with buyers, and it is now very difficult to get much direct feedback from bidders before the auction - they like to keep their powder dry and be discrete in their bidding!” he added.

A grandson of Sir Edward Carson, who lives in England and preferred not to be named, previously told the News Letter that the jugs were used by Sir Edward at his home in Kent for dinner parties.

”These claret jugs came down via the estate of my grandfather Sir Edward Carson,” he said.

“His father, my great-grandfather Edward Henry Carson, (the Dublin architect) employed Moyers over a seven-year apprenticeship. We believe that they were given to either my grandfather or my great grandfather in lieu of a debt but we have no idea why or how. Anyway after nearly 140 years the family have decided to sell them.

“Paradoxically Moyers who became lord mayor of Dublin in 1881, was also my great grandfather’s brother-in-law via the Lambert family in Athenry so became part of the family.”

The jugs bear the inscription: ‘Presented to the Rt Hon George Moyers LL.D. Lord Mayor of Dublin by Lodge No XXV the Royal Arch Chapter & Preceptory of High Knights Templar connected there with 11th Febry. 1881’.

Mr Nicholson said previously that he was surprised at the back story to the jugs.

“It has been fascinating to discover the history behind these important Irish silver Armada pattern claret jugs, which have connections to many different parts of Ireland, and bring them into open view.”


A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.