Royal Navy - A Georgian Officer’s Jolly Boat Decanter Stand, 1800
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Length: 32cm (12.5in)
Silver on copper. A double decanter stand in the form of clinker-built jolly boat, inset with circular depressions for decanters and stoppers, fitted with a rope-ring attachment to the prow, the stern thwart fitted with a coiled line and miniature anchor. The underside fitted with an oak base housing four brass castors for ease of movement around the dining table.
This uniquely naval jolly boat coaster gives a glimpse into the shipboard dining customs of officers in Nelson’s navy. It was customary at the table after pouring wine or spirit from the decanter, to return it to the stand and push it along to the next officer. It is believed that the saying ‘to push the boat out’ has its origins in the custom as the officer paying for the wine was the first to start the jolly boat off round the table.
Jolly boat wine coasters were sometimes supplied with wheeled carriages, supposedly for use ashore. At sea, these were dispensed with giving the flat bottomed decanter stand stability aboard a rolling ship. The present jolly boat with its internal rollers has both a low centre of gravity and an ease of mobility that makes it suitable for dining at sea and ashore.
The earliest known jolly boat coasters that can be precisely dated bear the silver hallmark date of 1799 (Dawson, W. R., (1932) ‘The Nelson collection at Lloyd’s’). Of the few examples that are known nearly all are Sheffield plate (silver on copper) and thus unmarked. The National Maritime Museum refers to an example belonging to Captain George Murray, R.N. (d.1819) that can confidently be dated to his period of command of H.M.S. Edgar, 1801-1803. Examples sold by The Armoury include one made for Captain Frederick Maitland, R.N., who in July 1815 accepted the formal surrender of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on board H.M.S. Bellerophon; and a pair made for Captain Henry Blackwood, R.N., who with Captain Hardy of the Victory was witness to Nelson’s will in the hours before the Battle of Trafalgar.