This weekâs Treasure of the Week is a silver bread basket by the Matthew Boulton & Plate Co, which was the company that succeeded Boulton & Fothergill after John Fothergillâs death in 1782.
The basket dates from 1788 and was hallmarked in Birmingham. It stands 29 cm high and is made from heavy-gauge silver wire. It is a particularly fine example of wirework, which Matthew Boulton considered to be one of the specialities of the Soho Manufactory, and utilised machinery in its production.
This bread basket is consistently one of the most admired objects in the silver collection at the Birmingham Assay Office. Our visitors praise its elegance, its simplicity and its modernism â with many commenting that it looks more like a piece from the early 20th century than the late 18th century. Unlike some other early Boulton silver pieces, which can be a riot of rococo swirls and foliage, this design is much more restrained. Although not visible in this photograph, inside the base there is an engraved coat of arms.
Some of Matthew Boultonâs pattern books for silver have survived and a number of baskets such as this one are illustrated in these books. For example, a half-scale drawing for a basket of this type appears in Pattern Book 1. These baskets were produced at Soho in both silver and Sheffield plate.