A pocket watch with a remarkable story, and links to Welsh history is due to sell at Wilson 55's Fine Jewellery & Watches Sale taking place on 17th June.
Consigned from a Cheshire family, this eye-catching timepiece by J.W.Benson was commissioned by Sir Thomas Duncombe Love Jones-Parry, 1st Baronet for his sister. Love Jones-Parry was a colourful figure in Caernarfonshire, as both a landowner and the Liberal MP for the borough. Significantly, he was also one of the founders of the Welsh settlement at Patagonia, with Puerto Madryn named after his Welsh estate.
Perhaps counterintuitively, we will start with the case back of this eye-catching 18ct gold hunter pocket watch. This captivating piece features a beautifully enamelled coat of arms, with the Welsh script 'y ddraig goch a ddyry gychwyn' translating to 'the red dragon inspires action.' This well-known phrase was officially incorporated onto a royal badge in 1953, but originates from a 15th century poem by Deio ap leuan Ddu recounting a campaign waged against Edward IV by Jasper of Pembroke Castle circa 1456.
Atop the script is a red dragon, now a patriotic symbol that is synonymous with Wales and said to originate from the 12th century legend of Merlin, with a red and white dragon fighting, later seen as representative of Wales and England. The red dragon emerges victorious and became an undisputed symbol of Welsh prowess and pride throughout history. Surprisingly, the Welsh red dragon only became an official Welsh symbol in the 20th century. In 1901 the dragon became the official symbol for Wales, with the present day Welsh flag featuring at the investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales in 1911. It wasn't until 1959 that the famed red dragon became an official part of the Welsh flag.
Featuring a Welsh motto combined with a distinctly Welsh symbol to the top of a coat of arms, the back case of the watch provides clues to the original owner of the piece, pointing to a prominent Welsh figure from a significant family.
Indeed, the coat of arms to the back of the piece belongs to Sir Thomas Duncombe Love Jones-Parry (1832-1891). Love Jones-Parry was a major landowner in Wales, inheriting the Madryn estate from his late father, Sir Love Jones-Parry KH (1781-1853). Sir Thomas Duncombe Love Jones-Parry was a proud Welshman, and a prominent figure in eisteddfodic circles, where he had the bardic name "Elphin."
In 1862, Love Jones-Parry left for Patagonia with Lewis Jones in a small ship named Candelaria to assess whether it would be suitable for Welsh emigrants. Love Jones-Parry financed the bulk of the project, with the pair meeting the Argentinian Interior Minister Guillermo Rawson in Buenos Aires before travelling south. Following this trip, over one hundred and fifty Welsh emigrants departed for Patagonia in 1865, with the bay in which the ship initially stopped named Puerto Madryn.
Love Jones-Parry sprung into political prominence three years later in 1868 when he captured the Caernarvonshire seat for the Liberal party, playing a role in William Ewert Gladstone's election as Prime Minister that year. This fantastic piece, commissioned the very year that Love Jones-Parry achieved his breakthrough political move displays his pride in becoming a Member of Parliament, including his MP post nominal letters in the inscription. Love Jones-Parry was the first Liberal MP elected in Caernarvonshire for over thirty years, and was re-elected again in 1882 and 1885. He was made a baronet by Gladstone for his services to the Liberal party.
This wonderful pocket watch bears the date inscription 1868 and captures a moment of Welsh history perfectly, displaying the pride of Love Jones-Parry in securing the Caenarvonshire seat from the Conservative party in his first big political triumph.
The inside front cover bears a sentimental personal inscription, revealing the reason behind the commission of the watch:
"Sarah E M Jones Williams
From Her Brother
Love Jones Parry MP
26th Novr 1868"
As part of Love Jones-Parry's Madryn estate he owned Plas Glyn y Weddw, which was originally built in 1857 for his mother Elizabeth Jones-Parry. Love Jones-Parry was close with his sister Sarah E M Jones Williams to whom the watch was gifted, and upon his death he left Plas Glyn y Weddw for her to reside. Plas Glyn y Weddw is now a thriving arts centre that is open to the public.
Retailed by J.W. Benson, the inside back cover of the watch is engraved "J.W. Benson by special appointment to H.R.H The Prince of Wales 25, Old Bond St."
This unique and sentimental token was commissioned by J.W. Benson. J.W. Benson was one of the most prestigious retailers of clocks, watches and jewellery of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Formed in 1847 by brothers James William Benson and Samuel Suckley Benson, S.S.J.W. Benson manufactured their own pieces as well as retailing imported pieces from their Cornhill, London premesis. By 1855 the brothers split, and James William Benson continued the firm alone as J.W. Benson.
J.W. Benson opened their shop on 25 Old Bond Street in the mid 1860s, with the store front custom made for them. Significantly, the company obtained their Royal patronage in 1879, sadly a year after the death of James. His sons Arthur and Alfred continued the business and enjoyed great success as well as further patronages from the Prince of Wales, the King of Siam and the King of Denmark. Fittingly, J.W. Benson are known for their exceptional watches, with their pocket watches, wristwatches and clocks selling well at auction.
This fascinating pocket watch is a tangible piece of Welsh history with a wonderful provenance. The piece is offered with an estimate of £300-400 and is expected to attract interest from a number of collectors when it sells as part of Wilson 55's Fine Jewellery & Watches Sale on 17th June.
Our next Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction will take place on Thursday 17th June at 2pm.
The closing date for entries into this sale is 21st May, so contact our specialist Liz Bailey MA FGA DGA via firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about consignment.
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