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Late Victorian Mahogany & Brass Campaign Decanter Set - Naval Provenance to the Second Boer War


A late Victorian Mahogany Campaign Decanter Set with Brass inlay and inset handle.

The box contains four decanters complete with stoppers which fit snugly within its original four sectioned green baize interior.

Intended for naval use, this set also retains two contemporary paper labels that suspend around the bottles with the names of Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour dated 17/04/99 and that of Captain CE Fitzroy Drake-Brockman, Royal Marine Light Infantry dated 17/02/1900. Also accompanying the set is a simple glass with naïve etching to commemorate the commencement of war in the Transvaal in 1899 (the second Boer War).

Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour – Royal Navy

Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, third Baronet was the grandson of Admiral Sir Michael Seymour who original achieved the Baronetcy for his capture of the French Frigates Thetis and Niemen during the Napoleonic Wars. Rather than following his father’s calling to the church, Sir Michael saw service from 1850 in both the Second Burmese War and the Crimean War.

Following the war in the Crimea, Culme-Seymour saw service in China as Flag Lieutenant and was present for the Second Opium War where he was commended in a dispatch for his part in capturing abandoned field artillery at Taku in 1858.

Having risen to the rank of Captain by late 1865, Culme-Seymour went on to half pay for five years. Four years after his return, he was appointed as Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty. Numerous commands followed including the newly built battleship Temeraire in the 1870’s until he was appointed Naval Aide de Camp to Queen Victoria in January 1879. He also achieved his Baronetcy in 1880 upon the death of his Father.

The 1880s saw Culme-Seymour’s rise from Rear-Admiral to Commander in Chief on the Pacific Station and Vice Admiral commanding the Channel Squadron by 1890. Finally achieving the rank of Admiral in 1893, Sir Michael went on to be honoured at Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and became first & principal Naval Aide de Camp to Queen Victoria in 1899

On the date of the paper label bearing his name (17/04/99) Culme-Seymour had been appointed as Commander in Chief and was based in Portsmouth

Captain Charles Edward Fitzroy Drake-Brockman – Royal Marine Light Infantry

According to his service record, Drake-Brockman was also serving in the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marine Light Infantry at the same time as Culme-Seymour’s time as Navy Commander in Chief. Unlike Culme-Seymour, Drake-Brockman seems to have had a somewhat difficult rise through the ranks. His early record is peppered with beautifully Victorian comments such as “he has a slight impediment in his aspects”, however he seems to have grown into an effective and reliable Captain by the time the paper label was added to the decanter (17/02/1900). His records contain a statement from a Colonel which outline Drake-Brockman’s usefulness as acting Staff Officer so it is likely that he would have come into contact with Culme-Seymour by virtue of this position. He is listed as having received the South Africa medal so he must also have left for the Transvaal at some point shortly after this period.

Suffering from a “depressed mental state” in the mid 1890’s Drake-Brockman was disembarked from HMS Pembroke which had previously been the ship commanded by Culme-Seymour so there seems to have been some close association between these characters. The Royal Marine Light Infantry had seen service during the Crimea and during the Second Opium War which Culme-Seymour had also been present. It is likely that he was familiar with the RMLI as an effective fighting arm.

Drake-Brockman achieved his Majority in 1906 and died in 1922 as a Lieutenant-Colonel. He was brought to the notice of the Admiralty for valuable service in the prosecution of the (First World) War in 1919.

This decanter set is an untouched survivor from the final days of Empire and has tangible and significant naval provenance. Late Victorian campaign pieces are not in themselves an enormous rarity but they are seldom placed with specific individuals and even less often with those of such seniority.

The set is lacking a key but I would suspect that the lock is not in serviceable condition owing to the latches that were added to the front of the box. It also bears similar marks to the side where further latches may have been present at some point during its service. I have not attempted to rectify this and ruin its authenticity.

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