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Silver sword in Yarmouth auction

PUBLISHED: 09:24 30 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 03 July 2010

He grew up in the poor and crowded environs of Great Yarmouth's rows in the former Popinjay pub that had been converted into a boot and shoemakers.

But in a story unravelled by the chairman of Yarmouth Archaeological Society, Andrew Fakes, George Gooch did rather better than his tradesman father, George Gooch senior, quickly leaving Quay Austin Row behind him.

He grew up in the poor and crowded environs of Great Yarmouth's rows in the former Popinjay pub that had been converted into a boot and shoemakers.

But in a story unravelled by the chairman of Yarmouth Archaeological Society, Andrew Fakes, George Gooch did rather better than his tradesman father, George Gooch senior, quickly leaving Quay Austin Row behind him.

The rags to riches rise of the 1700s social climber, traced by Mr Fakes through the pages of the 19th century historical work, The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth by C J Palmer, is symbolised by the sale next month of one of his prized possessions,

an exquisite, enamelled silver

sword.

Now in the hands of a European collector, it is expected to fetch between £35,000 and £50,000 at the arms, armour and militaria sale by specialist London auctioneers Thomas Del Mar on December 9.

The auction catalogue describes how the ornate weapon, thought to have originally cost the prize sum of 50 guineas, was presented to Mr Gooch by the underwriters of the vessel Princess Charlotte, which was part of a small convoy of East Indiamen when it ran aground on rocks off the Isle of Wight in 1796.

It is believed that Mr Gooch, who by then had risen to the rank of captain in the East India Company's maritime service, played a troubleshooting role in saving the ship, the beleaguered pilot of

which was reported to be suffering “mental derangement”, and bringing her back to Portsmouth for

repairs.

The sword, inscribed “Presented by the Underwriters of the Princess Charlotte East Indn to Captain Gooch”, is part of a collection of 15 highly decorated small swords described in the auction as representing “the height of the steel chiseller's art in Paris and equally the work of some of the finest gold and silversmiths”.

Researching the story behind the sword, Mr Fakes discovered in the work of CJ Palmer - a member of the family which founded the department store in the town - that Mr Gooch Junior “an intelligent-looking lad, was standing on the quay watching the unmooring of a pleasure boat.

“Mr Kerrich, of Geldestone (sic), to whom it belonged, wanting some assistance, asked the lad to come on board 'to lend a hand' and was so pleased with his quickness and usefulness that he invited him to remain for a day's amusement on the river.

“Still more pleased with his youthful acquaintance, Mr Kerrich obtained a berth on board an East Indiaman, where he displayed so much steadiness and ability as at length to obtain the command”.

CJ Palmer recounts how Captain Gooch went on to make a large fortune in the East India trade and married Mr Kerrich's daughter.

As one of the elder brethren in the Trinity House, it is reported he even got to dine at the Palace with King Willian 1V.

The auction, at Thomas Del Mar's saleroom in Blythe Road W14, will see Captain Gooch's sword sold alongside pieces from many of the most influential Noble families in European history.

Thomas Del Mar said: “This is the most distinguished sale I have had for many years. I am delighted to be offering so many pieces of such exceptional quality.”

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