Discover the story of man behind the silver at 10 Downing Street

Silver Trust: Lord Chancellor's Residence, House of Lords

Silver Trust: Lord Chancellor's Residence, House of Lords

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It took a visit from then US president Ronald Reagan for 10 Downing Street in London to have its own table silver.

Previously the UK prime minister had no silver to call its own, and had to rely on silver administered by Government Hospitality.

Christopher English of The Silver Trust for story about silver used at 10 Downing Street London.

Christopher English of The Silver Trust for story about silver used at 10 Downing Street London.

The anomaly was addressed through the launch of The Silver Trust in 1985.

The charitable trust promotes contemporary British silversmiths by the commissioning of silver for use at 10 Downing Street for government and state occasions.

Colby resident Christopher English has been the secretary to the trustees since it was established.

The role sees him exhibiting the collection around the world each summer.

And last month, he gave a talk to the island branch of the University of the Third Age.

For 11 months of the year the silver is on loan to 10 Downing Street.

And then during the summer recess the collection is returned for exhibition.

They alternate between a venue in the UK, and one abroad. Around the world, the collection has been on public display in places including New York, Denmark, Finland and South Africa.

This year Mr English will take the collection – which weighs more than a tonne – to Christie’s in King Street, London.

He said: ‘We get enormous coverage when we go abroad with our work.’

And he said that the collection was always very well received.

In total, there are more than 300 pieces in the collection, and one to two items are added each year.

The collection is housed at Number 10 and used variously depending on the requirements of the prime minister’s diary.

Mr English wouldn’t reveal how much the collection was worth as the trust received an ‘exceptionally generous gift’ in 1990 with the condition the benefactor remained anonymous.

He didn’t want to reveal the value of the collection so the size of the gift would not be revealed.

The trust was established by Rupert Hambro, Lady Falkender, Lady Henderson and Jean Muir.

The first commission was in 1987, a cruet set from Malcolm Appleby.

In 1992 there was a competition offering artists and designers the opportunity to design one of 72 plates for the collection.

Many of the winners, who were each presented with a special Silver Trust medal, were amateurs or students.

Mr English said that the plates, with their individual designs, often proved to be a great conversation starter.

By 1993 there was sufficient silver to present the collection to then prime minister John Major.

It includes chased coffee sets by Robert Welch and the St George Centrepiece by Kevin Coates, which is inlaid with lapis lazuli, coral, amber and mother-of-pearl.

Meanwhile, Mr English said the trust held a meeting earlier this month on what items they should commission next.

‘The trustees were trying to decide whether there should be more decorative pieces to go into the house or more pieces to go on to the table,’ he said.

‘It’s something we are still considering. I think probably we need a tremendous amount of things like cream jugs and gravy boats.’

For more information go to www.silvertrust.co.uk

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