Sir Robert Walpole’s Silver
by Christopher Hartop
Sir Robert Walpole’s collection of Old Masters, and the building and furnishing of Houghton, the great Palladian house he built in Norfolk, have been the focus of extensive study in recent years, but his silver has not received the same attention. However, the discovery of inventories in the National Archives has allowed a picture to be built up of the sheer scale of Walpole’s silver holdings, which were, like everything else about the man, larger than life. What silver that survives includes some of the most celebrated pieces of Georgian silver, such as the square seal salver made by Paul de Lamerie and engraved by William Hogarth.
Walpole probably had more silver than any of his contemporaries with the exception of the king, and the scale of his entertaining—at court, in Downing Street and at Houghton—was gargantuan.