A late eighteenth century Napoleonic period leather bound and studded campaign trunk by Thomas Griffith of Marylebone Street, Golden Square, London.
In absolutely superb condition, this rare travelling trunk has all of its original leather, decorative brass studwork and protective ironwork straps. The pine carcase comes complete with its original paper lining with the trade card of Thomas Griffiths attached to the lid. It states:
“Griffith Trunk Maker, Marylebone, Golden Square, London. All sorts of cases for liquor canteens, portmantues, vallees, strong cases for plate, china and glasses, Campain and leatherwork at the lowest prices.”
Griffith’s business was first announced in the Public Advertiser in 1753 where he seems to have taken over the business of Steven James to whom he was apprenticed. He also took over the sign of the acorn which can be seen in an another of his trade cards (image provided). Griffith died in 1772 leaving his estate to his wife Elizabeth.
The top of the chest has a brass plaque stating ownership to David Thomas Esquire, Paymaster General with a further travelling card stating: “June 1st 1833, ED Thomas Esq, Railway Station, Ludlow, Shropshire.”
David Thomas’s death was announced in many of the Gentleman’s magazines of the period in 1814 stating that he was for many years Accountant General to the Army Pay Office, Whitehall. Thomas was part of the landed gentry (descending from the Thomas of Llywn Madoc family) and resided at Wellfield House in Radnorshire, Wales which he built in 1787. It was described in Lewis’s 1833 “Topographical Dictionary of Wales” as a “spacious and handsome mansion, with a portico of the Tuscan order, finely situated on a lofty eminence, and embosomed in flourishing plantations. The grounds embraced a fine view of the rivers Wye and Irvon winding through their respective vales.”
According to records held at The National Archive it would seem that Thomas was deeply involved in army accounting during the high cost period of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1804, letters exist from Thomas stating the payments (or non-payments) received from Counties of England in contribution for the war effort. Wellington’s efforts in the Peninsula Wars were continually dogged by severe lack of funding and this is evidence of the issues that the Army faced. Thomas’s job would have been a tremendously difficult post to execute but he seems to have continued in his role as he is further recorded in The House of Commons records as being resident accountant at Horse Guards and providing evidence of sums of moneys issued to Army Agents during 1805 & 1806 to the sum of £6.5 million.
His early career is somewhat shadowy but there is reference to a David Thomas in the 1770’s being an accountant to the army in New York. It would suggest that he travelled with the British Army during The American War of Independence but research so far has not uncovered any further definitive links. Wholesale research on Thomas would be required to learn more on this interesting character of the Napoleonic period.
Following Thomas’s death, his nephew Edward David Thomas took over the estate and continued use of the travelling luggage can be evidenced by the travel card to the top of the trunk.
A fabulous trunk with a great history and in super condition. A very rare piece.