Sevenoaks-based auctioneers, Ibbett Mosely, will be offering a unique piece of social history at their auction on Wednesday 19th October 2016 – a brooch that once belonged to Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The brooch, which is silver and gold plated, was presented to the Baroness in 1872 when she was given the freedom of the Company, by the Worshipful Company of Turners.
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, born Angela Georgina Burdett, remains one of the most extraordinary people from the nineteenth century. Friend to Charles Dickens and the Duke of Wellington, whom she proposed marriage to despite the differences in their ages, she was described by King Edward VII as, “the most remarkable woman in the kingdom,” after his mother, Queen Victoria.
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, inherited most of her grandfather’s fortune – Thomas Coutts, one of the original founders of Coutts Bank – when she was just 23. Her inheritance, estimated to be around £1.8 million, made her the richest woman in England and she became renowned as a philanthropist. One of her earliest acts was to co-found, with Charles Dickens, a home for young women who had “turned to a life of immorality”, known as Urania Cottage. Her philanthropy was driven by social concerns, including poverty, medical and educational issues, as well as a genuine concern for improving the condition of indigenous Africans. She was also a confident of Queen Victoria, who tried to talk her out of her, what she called, “mad marriage” to a man much younger than herself. It was also Queen Victoria who raised her to Baroness, making her the first female member of the House of Lords.
The brooch commemorates the day the Baroness was presented with the Freedom of the Turners’ Company, and a few days afterwards the Freedom of the City of London. The Worshipful Company of Turners are one of the oldest Livery Companies in London, receiving their Royal Charter from Kings James I in 1604. After being given the Freedom, the Baroness proved, according to Roland Champness, “to be a very generous and grateful friend to the Company… and was proud of being a Turner”. Her association and closeness to the Livery Company was later demonstrated, in 1878, when she donated four of the twelve new bells of St Paul’s jointly in her name and that of the Company. Her husband was later twice Master of the Company.
The brooch is expected to realise between £300 and £500 when it goes under the hammer on Wednesday 19th October at the Ibbett Mosely Auction Rooms in Sevenoaks.