This magnificent antique Victorian sterling silver tea tray has an oval shaped form. The surface of the tray is encircled with exceptional bright cut engraved decoration depicting volute scrolling leaf designs accented with central floral motifs suspending simplified leaf garlands, all conjoined with a foliate decorated festoon.
This broad leaf decorated border incorporates four impressive eagles displayed, acting as a further anchor point to the aforementioned leaf garland.
The decoration to the surface of this Mappin and Webb tray forms a shaped cartouche to the centre, embellished with the contemporary engraved inscription 'Presented to Mr Emerson Crawford Herdman and Miss Olive Herdman, by the Employees of Sion Mills on the occasion of their Marriage, September 1895'*.
The cast raised rounded border of the tray features exceptional circular medallions encircling a figural mask and bordered with horns overflowing with fruit and vine ornamentation, incorporating presentation bowl motifs flanked with lionesses passant and entwined with collared bead designs.
The rim of the tray is embellished with a paralleling foliate festoon decorated border; this border encases the rim and continues to the underside.
This exceptional example of antique silverware is fitted with two large cast sterling handles realistically modelled in the form of intertwined snakes.
This magnificent tray was crafted by the London silversmith John Newton Mappin of Mappin & Webb and bears the retailer's mark 'Mappin & Webb, London' to the underside.
This magnificent tea tray is the finest example of its type you could hope to acquire.
* Sir Emerson Crawford Herdman KBE (1869-1949) was a unionist politician before he became the director of the family's linen company. He later served as Lord Lieutenant of Donegal and was knighted in 1921.
Olive Mary Herdman, born in 1873 in County Tyrone, was the daughter of Emerson Tennant Herdman and mothered a daughter Frances Mary and son John Patrick, to her 1st cousin and husband Emerson Herdman.
The Herdman family gained great standing in Belfast before the three brothers James, John and George took to rural County Tyrone, Ireland in 1835 to acquire and convert an old flour mill to expand their flax-spinning business. They developed the mill village Sion Mills to which the family showed dedication and allegiance with each passing generation. The Herdman's developed a reputation for excellence not only in the finest linen-yarn but also for the way in which they enhanced the quality of life of the employees and their families.