This week’s column features a particularly fine and historically interesting rectangular Edwardian silver casket some seven inches long, weighing 31 ounces, hallmarked for 1903 and made by Lines, Bunn & Mason, silversmiths who were in Hockley Street in the heart of Birmingham’s jewellery quarter. The lid is decorated with five beautiful enamel appliqués of Skye Terriers from the Wolverley kennel of Mrs W J Hughes.
Mrs Hughes, a founder member of the Ladies Kennel Association, established her kennel in 1892 and with help from her two sisters, the Misses Greenwood, known affectionately as her ‘aides-de-camp’, rapidly built it into one of the most successful Skye Terrier kennels ever. Her arrival on the scene gave a great impetus to the breed and it was to the Wolverley kennel that one had to go if one wished to see what a Skye Terrier in show perfection was really like. It was at Mrs Hughes’ kennel that Lady Marcia Miles saw her first Skye and her Merrymount Kennel became a household word in the breed.
The Wolverley dogs were housed in luxurious kennels built to their owner’s specification, with tiled floors covered in linen carpeting to prevent any breakage to the coat. Three people were employed to look after the dogs and a fourth to keep the kennels clean.
The dogs on the box are, top left Ch Wolverley Laddie (b 1897), top right Ch Wolverley Roy (b 1897), bottom left Ch Wolverley Jock (b 1894), bottom right Ch Wolverley Duchess (b 1894), with Ch Wolverley Chummie (b 1899) in the centre.
Jock was out of one of her earliest Skyes, Wolverley Cronie and sired by Ch Laird Duncan. Jock in turn sired Roy (ex Wolverley Rosie) and both Laddie and Chummie (ex Wolverley Rosie). Duchess was by Wolverley Fitz ex Wolverley Bogie. Duchess and Chummie were two of Mrs Hughes most successful dogs.
Duchess won 15 CCs between 1895 and 1901 and was the first of a trio to win the Champion of Champions prize at the LKA which she did at the second show in 1896 (the other two were Roy and Jock). Although a consistent winner, she would have the occasional off day when she would show her dislike to the judge. Following the win, Mrs Hughes and Duchess were presented to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) and Mrs Hughes was very apprehensive of the way Duchess might respond to the royal caresses. A society paper of that time reported: "We could feel Mrs Hughes’ nervous apprehension lest the champion, who had already snapped at a judge, would bring disaster on the show and perhaps change the current of European history by biting the future Queen of England.”
At the LKA show in 1900 Mrs Hughes with her team were again presented to the Princess of Wales, this time ‘for special recognition as the owner of the most perfect kennel of Skyes in existence.’ At that show, ‘the Grand Mammoth championship show, open to all the World’, the Board of Agriculture issued special permission for dogs from the Continent and Ireland to be exhibited without the need for quarantine.
Chummie is regarded as one of the best Skyes ever bred. Even in 1990 he was mentioned in a poll for the greatest Skye Terrier ever. Depending on the source, and I am quoting from contemporaries Captain W Wilmer and Robert Leighton, his vital statistics were weight 27-and-a-half pounds, height nine-and-a-half inches at the shoulders and 44 inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. He was unbeaten and won 27 CCs, two at Crufts, the second in 1909 when he was almost ten years old. In 1907 Mrs Hughes sold Chummie to Miss E McCheane of the Adel kennel and after his death in 1910 she donated his body to the Natural History Museum where it can still be seen today at the Zoological Museum at Tring and is an example of how little the breed has changed over the years.
The silver casket was sold recently by Gorringes Auctioneers of East Sussex having come to auction from a private vendor with no relationship to Mrs Hughes. It had expectations of £400-£600 but sold for £800.