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Presentation cup: The Cawthorn cup

Presentation cup: The Cawthorn cup

c. 1835

Joseph Forrester (1805–c. 1860)

metal (silver)

13 h x 8.5 w x 8.5 d cm

Presented by L Robinson in memory of her grandmother Minna Macquarie Robinson, 2000



The donor, Letitia Robinson, inherited the Cawthorn cup from her grandmother, Minna Macquarie Robinson (nee Barker), who migrated to New Zealand in 1895. The cup had passed to Minna from her grandmother, Elizabeth Macquarie Barker (1873–1940), the eldest daughter of John Henry Cawthorn (1794–1850). Miss L Robinson donated the cup to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 2000.


The Cawthorn cup is the second-oldest documented example of Tasmanian colonial silver and the earliest known extant agricultural prize awarded in the colony. Tasmania’s first agricultural society, the Van Deimen’s Land Agricultural Society, was founded in 1821 with a view to the scientific improvement of agricultural practice in the colony. The Southern Agricultural Society (SAS) was founded at a meeting in the Wool Pack Inn, Macquarie Plains, on 17 July 1835 to ‘foster and encourage agriculture and to promote improvements in breeding and feeding stock’. This cup was one of nine First Class Prizes awarded at the first general meeting of the SAS.

The first general meeting for the exhibition of stock was held on 10 December 1835. John Henry Cawthorn was one of the founding members of the association and was awarded this cup for the best cart mare. Cawthorn migrated to the colony from Surrey, England in 1818 and was granted 1000 acres (404.7 hectares) of land at Macquarie Plains north-west of Hobart, which he called Arundel. Cawthorn was entrepreneurial and operated a ferry across the River Derwent near New Norfolk, brewed beer and was appointed Chief Constable of the Macquarie District in 1820. He also grew tobacco and flax. Cawthorn died as a result of a shooting accident in 1850.

The Cawthorn cup is attributed to the convict silversmith, Joseph Forrester, working for the Hobart jeweller and watchmaker, David Barclay (1804–84). Forrester was born in Perth, Scotland, in 1805 and trained in Scotland as a silversmith, jeweller and watchcase maker. He arrived in Hobart aboard the Thames on 20 November 1829 and was assigned to David Barclay, a fellow Scot who arrived in 1830 and established a very successful business in Hobart Town. Forrester worked for Barclay for eight years and was able to work for himself from 1840 to 1846. He received a conditional pardon on 21 October 1845 and in early 1846 left Tasmania for Port Phillip (Melbourne) where he continued to work as a silversmith.

Forrester’s work was part of a brief flourishing of Tasmanian-made silver produced in the 1830s and 1840s and is characterised by robust and slightly naive decoration.


A small silver presentation cup in goblet form. The bowl of the cup is waisted with a wide, flared lip. There is a band of fine repeated and formalised leaf pattern at the centre of the bowl dividing the decoration into two horizontal registers. The upper register has a pattern of ogee motifs; above this the bowl has a plain polished surface bearing part of the inscription. The lower register consists of three roses alternating with thistles amid scrolling tendrils and leaves, all set against a finely punched ground. A pattern of anthemion motifs decorates the lowest part of the bowl, at the junction with the stem.

The stem is convex and polished; immediately below its junction with the bowl is a ring of projecting acanthus leaves. The decoration of the foot repeats the formalised leaf and anthemion patterns found on the bowl. The foot is polished and engraved.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. Many of the objects in this collection are similar to contemporaneous objects made in Britain, but can be distinguished by an idiosyncratic inflection derived from the colonial context of their production.

Tasmanian colonial silver represents a unique moment in the history of material culture in Australia. It is the product of a rapidly expanding colony, a booming economy and the availability of skilled convict labour. The colonists’ aspirations to the material improvement of their adopted home were reflected in the production of articles such as the Cawthorn cup. Their wealth meant that the skills of convict craftsmen such as Joseph Forrester were in demand. In the colonial setting, artisans such as Forrester were called upon to make objects that were either more ambitious than their previous experience or outside their original specialisation. This often lent objects a naive, robust quality absent in the more professional and predictable productions from Britain.


Engraved on upper part of bowl: ‘To Mr J H Cawthorn’ and on the foot: ‘Southern Agricultural Association FIRST CLASS PRIZE 1835’.

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© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 21 December, 2010