A rare item of memorabilia of one of the important families and houses in the county came back to Clackmannanshire on Friday.
An impressive George III silver soup tureen, which was presented by Clackmannanshire Yeomanry Cavalry to Craufurd Tait of Harviestoun in 1811, has been acquired by the Council's Museum and Heritage Service. The tureen cost £13,000 and was purchased with the assistance of the National Fund for Acquisitions administered with Government funds by the National Museums of Scotland, the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of Clackmannanshire Museum and Heritage Service.
The saga of the tureen began when it came up for auction at Phillips in Edinburgh in August, but it was not possible for the Museum and Heritage Service to bid for it at the time. Nonetheless, Michael Rix, a museum consultant and antique dealer, purchased the tureen, then offered it to the Museum. Susan Mills, Museum and Heritage Officer, said,
"Michael Rix has been extremely helpful, by giving me time to apply for grants to enable us to purchase the tureen from him. It cost £13,000 and we have been successful in obtaining grants totalling £12,200, without which we would never have been able to buy it. We are very grateful to all the grant awarding bodies for their support."
" It seems a long time since we started trying to acquire the tureen and it was wonderful when it finally arrived on Friday. Apart from being a superb example of the art of the silversmith, this piece is of considerable interest to the history of Clackmannanshire. It will enhance the Museum's collection and shed light on the story of Craufurd Tait and his activities".
The tureen is rectangular and rests on four paw feet. The body is partly lobed and applied with a shell, acanthus and gadrooned border, with reeded handles springing from satyr masks. The domed cover is partly lobed and has a reeded scroll handle. The lid is engraved with a scene of Castle Campbell, Dollar.
The tureen is engraved with a presentation inscription, as follows:
By THE CLACKMANNAN SHIRE YEOMANRY CAVALRY TO Craufurd Tait Esqr. of Harvieston Their Captain Commandant. In Testimony of the grateful sense they entertain of his Zeal, Ability and ExertionsAS AN OFFICER,And of their high respect for and warm attachment to Him AS A GENTLEMAN 20th July 1811.
The maker's mark is 'Mackay', likely to be for J Mackay, Edinburgh 1810.
This object is typical of the pieces of plate which members of the yeomanry cavalry were wont to present to each other for 'esteemed service'. The shape and design of this piece, particularly the satyr masks, are, however, unusual.
Craufurd Tait inherited the estate of Harviestoun near Tillicoultry from his father John Tait in 1800. He made considerable improvements, rebuilding the mansion house in the latest Italianate style, constructing a splendid new home farm, coach house and walled garden, and even moving the main road to Dollar half a mile to the south so that visitors could admire the parkland. He also invented a number of ingenious labour-saving agricultural and domestic devices. He led the Clackmannanshire Yeomanry, a regiment which was formed, like many others, during the Napoleonic Wars, in exercises, and also kept a caravan prepared so that he could evacuate his large family in the event of a French invasion. By 1822, however, Craufurd Tait was in financial difficulty; he placed Harviestoun on the market, but it remained unsold. He died in 1832 and was buried in the private family graveyard, now known as Tait's Tomb, which lies to the south of the road to Dollar. Harviestoun was eventually demolished in 1970.
The tureen is now on display in the Museum's exhibition gallery in the Speirs Centre, which is open to visitors from Tuesday - Friday 1.30 - 5.00pm.