It has often been regretted that war has not only devastated countries, destroying much valuable property, but that it has directly and indirectly been the cause of the destruction of many interesting curios and antiques which have perished, never more to be replaced. Among these treasures have been much valuable plate-royal, civic, ecclesiastical and domestic. The thirst for revenge has sometimes led to the ruthless destruction of art treasures, and public and private possessions, full of old associations, especially those which like silver plate were obviously dear to their owners, have perished. At other times necessity, which knows no law, and overrides private desire, has caused the wholesale destruction of ancient plate, and what was at that time modern silver in common use. War has been a terrible antagonist to the arts of Peace, and the losses which the connoisseur of art has sustained in this way are typified by the Civil War in
Fig. 2.-FINE SILVER CHOCOLATE-POT. 1777-8. (In the Victoria and Albert Museum.)
The Calverley Toilet Service Hall marked 1683-4 (In the Victoria and Albert Museum.)
England when the good citizens of Oxford and the men of learning in the colleges brought out their plate of priceless value and cast it into the pot from whence came forth new coins for the use of the King's army. The loss to the old families who followed suit was equally great, and many indeed must have been the heartburnings and the sad feelings which outraged family traditions and pride. That was a time when the horrors of war were brought within our very gates ! There must have been some compensating advantages when after the Restoration new silver plate was produced, and the older families again rejoiced in the well-furnished table and its shining appointments. The antiquarian, however, deplores the loss which can never be replaced, and perhaps wishes that the good folks of that day had been a little less loyal, and had hidden their household goods as some did, to be recovered later. It is only fair to former owners to mention that some of the silver now old, bears marks of having had a much earlier origin. It was once a common practice to periodically remake silver goods, for there was a time when the antiquarian was in the minority and Dame Fashion had many devotees who preferred to own silver of the current type and pattern rather than of ancient design. It was not always necessary to melt down the metal, for the silversmith was clever at re-shaping vessels, and in doing so, either from design or carelessness, did not always remove the old hall-mark, indeed sometimes there are traces of older engraving under the newer pattern. The remaking of plate is frequently mentioned in old municipal records. Robbery and plunder cause the wholesale destruction of curios and more valuable relics of former generations. Those who steal are rarely experts, and the metal value of those things they take is to them the chief aim in their selection. It is well known that robbery has led to the wilful destruction of much old plate. Many have hidden their treasures in times of distress and riot to be recovered in after years, but the quantity restored to the world and to admirers of the antique must be very small compared with the plate which has perished. Fire and water have been very destructive elements, spoiling the handiwork of many years and often destroying entire collections of antiques. Fire has indeed been the terror of the lover of the antique, for however well the loss is covered by insurance the actual articles destroyed by fire cannot be restored. During the past quarter of a century much progress has been made in the methods of safeguarding treasures, and the possibilities of losses are lessened, but on the other hand the risk is more in that larger collections have been assembled together, and therefore, when a fire occurs the loss is the greater. If the full story could be told of the many priceless gems which have been destroyed by fire and by pillage and wanton destruction the world would be saddened, and would stand appalled at the losses to museums and private collections.