December 3, 1853
In our metropolis there is an old piece of City-gossip – that, should a son be born to the Lord Mayor during his year in office, it is customary for the Corporation to present to the Lady Mayoress a silver cradle. A few years ago the course of events at the Mansion-house led to the searching of the City records for a precedent after this congratulatory gift, when, “the silver cradle” proved to be a myth; and, as the report says “the subject dropped.”
In Liverpool, however, a similar custom flourishes, upon a sort of legendary authority; and the piece of plate here engraved records its latest observance.
It forms a handsome massive table ornament, 24in. high, recording the birth, cradle, and progress of maritime commerce. This is represented by an ancient Briton and his wife, who, having crossed the broad and rapid Pool of the Sea (Mere-sea), in their coracle (the earliest form of boat, made of the branches of the withy tree plaited together, and then covered with the raw hide of a bull), are laying down the precious freight, their first offspring, on the shore of their future settlement. The child they dedicate to the genius of the place, who sits anxiously surveying their actions. In her hand she holds a wreath of laurel, in earnest of the eminence their children shall attain in commercial greatness, when the now wild shores of the Mersey shall be covered with stupendous docks, and ships shall resort thither from all parts of the world, and Liverpool be called the “mistress of commerce,” “the great city of ships.”
The group of figures is placed on an equilaterally-formed base, having three sides, with the acute angles cut off, and forming an accommodating space for the cameos, which carry on the story of progress. The first is in front, the chasing in relief showing the new settlers preparing for their sustenance, by the husband going out along the marshy ground, with his bow and arrows, to shoot the fowls which resorted to the banks of the Leverpool, whilst his helpmate was in the coracle ready to paddle after those birds which, being killed or wounded, might happen to drop into the water; and thus, and with the fish taken by the spear and dart, their daily food was procured.
In the second panel is given a view of a Phænician ship. The crew, having come to trade with the islanders, and barter the manufactures of their own country, are seen loading their ship with tin.
The third division represent the native ships, greatly improved under the Roman dominion in Britain, and under the direction of the Romano-British Admiral Allectus, paved the way for a secure step under the guidance of King Alfred the Great.
With the fourth relieve comes the encouragement of maritime discovery which, in the reign of Elizabeth, gave the country an unparalleled extension of commerce with whole regions of the world hitherto unexplored by British ships, and founded that lasting greatness of English enterprise until the present time, when, as shown in the fifth and last panel, the wonderful elasticity of British energy, and the power of British genius, by the improvements made in naval architecture, exemplified in the yacht, the clipper ship, and the steam-boat.
The minor details consist of marine emblems joined with commercial, as indicated by the trident, caduceus, dolphin, and corallines, which are introduced in pure white silver, as a contrast to the highly-polished and massy sides of the pedestal; and the ships, costumes, &c., are depicted with as much truthfulness as the best authorities could furnish.
On the base, just under the group of figures, is engraved in old English characters, the ancient legend on which the presentation of the cradle is founded: –
YE SPIRIY OF YE LEGENDE.
Gif Leverpooles good maior sd everre bee
Made fatherre inne hys yerre off maioraltee
Thenne sal bee giften bye ye townemenne free
A ne silverre cradle too hys faire ladye.
And underneath the first sculptured panel follows this dedication: –
“To Julia, wife of Thomas Littledale, Esq., Mayor of Liverpool, this work of art, emblematical of the cradle and the growth of Commerce, is presented by a number of inhabitants of the borough, to commemorate, in fulfilment of an ancient legend, the birth of Clement St. George Royds, on the 8th December, 1851, during his father’s mayoralty, and on the day on which his worship opened St. George’s Hall for judicial business. With the gift is also offered to the happy wife and mother this record of the universal esteem in which her husband is held for his character as a man and a British merchant; his example for promoting manly pursuits as commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club; his triumphant humanity and bravery in rescuing numbers of valuable lives from the burning wreck of the Ocean Monarch, at sea, on the 24th August, 1848; and his courteous dignity, hospitality, and benevolence, as chief magistrate of this great community, in a year which will ever be historically distinguished by his inauguration of the great assize courts and the free public library.”
This elegant work has been executed by Mr. Joseph Mayer, Lord-street.
(Source: Illustrated London News: December 3, 1853)
Testimonial presented to Mrs. Thomas Littledale, of Liverpool.