Rare Pair of George III Chestnut Urns


in the form of shield-shaped urns decorated with beehives and classical figures below a frieze of swags in shades of blue on a cream coloured ground. Each with gilt lion mask handles and gilt finials to the trumpet shaped covers. The use beehive decoration is a particularly unusual and charming feature, as is the light colour palette- most chestnut urns tended to be on a black, dark green or red ground.

Height 34 cm (13.25 inches)
Width 17 cm (6.75 inches)
Depth 12 cm (4.75 inches)
Usk or Pontypool, Wales or Low Countries. Circa 1790

In the late 18th Century, boiled and roasted Spanish chestnuts were popular in Britain as a dessert. Such hot chestnut urns were fashionable in late 18th and early 19th Century. These urns were for carrying the hot chestnuts from the hearth to the dining table. Usually made in a distinctive Neo-classical style, they were kept on the sideboard so that, when not in use, they formed an attractive addition to the furnishings of a dining room.

In ‘Pontypool and Usk Wares’, W.D. John and Anne Simcox illustrate a number of Chestnut Urns, commenting that: ‘The metal urns used for carrying hot chestnuts from the open hearth to the dining table, were of French origin and designs, and considerable numbers were produced in tôle peinte…, often highly embellished with pastoral scenes on richly coloured grounds of pale blue, mustard-yellow, red and green japan.’ (W.D. John and Anne Simcox, ‘Pontypool and Usk Wares’ (The Ceramic Book Company, Newport, 1966), page 62).

The beehives may have some masonic significance, especially as the two together are shown with seven bees, the masonic ideal number for a community. The beehives seem to be backed by the rays of the all-seeing eye, another symbol in freemasonry

Bibliography: W.D. John and Anne Simcox, ‘Pontypool and Usk Wares’ (The Ceramic Book Company, Newport, 1966).