The Art Fund helps Ayscoughfee Hall Museum bring 18th century silver cup home

  • 16 January 2009

An important Queen Anne silver-gilt cup and cover, purchased at auction on 23rd November 2008 by the Ayscoughfee Hall Museum in Spalding, Lincolnshire, is now on permanent display. The piece was acquired with a full grant of £19,500 from The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity - its first ever grant to the museum.

The purchase is highly significant to the Museum and surrounding area, as it links back to the Johnson family who once owned the Hall and made a significant contribution to Lincolnshire’s public life.

Dated 1712, the work was made by French-born goldsmith Pierre Platel. It is engraved with the coat of arms of the Johnson and Moore families, and may have been a wedding gift to Theophilus Fairfax Johnson (1790 – 1853), who was born in Ayscoughfee Hall, and his wife Millicent Anne Moore (1800 – 1881). The two were married in 1821.

Councillor Nick Worth, Portfolio holder for Rural Services, said: "This is fantastic news for the Museum. Ayscoughfee Hall is clearly the most appropriate place for this cup, and we’re delighted to have acquired something with such close links to the town and the Johnson family. The Museum’s staff are to be commended for their work on this project. I’d also like to say a big thank you to The Art Fund for working with us and allowing us to bring the cup home."

Andrew Macdonald, Deputy Director of The Art Fund, said: "We are delighted to have given our first ever grant to Ayscoughfee Hall Museum, helping bring this important wedding cup back to its original home. The Johnson family’s association with the area is still visible – the local hospital still bears their name, and their connection to Ayscoughfee is well known."

Set up in 1987, Ayscoughfee Hall is a relatively young museum, housed within this important 15th century Grade II* listed building. The newly acquired cup and cover now takes pride of place within its collections.

Theophilus Fairfax Johnson (1790 – 1853) was the third son of the Reverend Maurice Johnson (1756-1834), the fourth of that name to own Ayscoughfee Hall. T.F. Johnson grew up at the Hall, before later moving to Holland House, situated nearby. During his life he made a significant contribution to the Lincolnshire community, holding the post of High Sheriff in 1847 and captain in the South Holland Yeomanry Cavalry. He was also Lincolnshire’s Deputy Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace.

Theophilus and Millicent lived in Holland House for many years, and the cup may have been on display there.

Pierre Platel was born in Lille in 1664, and trained as a goldsmith in France. He moved to England in 1688 and was naturalised in 1697. Two years later, he obtained the freedom of the Goldsmiths’ Company, London, and went on to a successful career. Other important works by Platel are housed in Chatsworth, Derbyshire and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.


Notes to editors:

1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.

2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.

3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK; and helping to save Rubens’ sketch for the ceiling at Banqueting House, Whitehall, for Tate in October 2008 with a grant of £600,000.

4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174