A Nelson Dawson silver ceremonial trowel

Price range: £2,950

A rare silver and enamel ceremonial trowel by Nelson Dawson, fully assayed for London 1901. The trowel celebrates the laying of the foundation stone for the statue of Edward VII in Capetown’s Grand Parade .  The trowel is dated for 26th June 1902, the original day of Edward’s intended coronation for which the foundation stone ceremony was to form a part of South Africa’s own coronation celebrations.

In fact the foundation stone ceremony was postponed to coincide with Edward’s coronation, delayed by his ill health until 9th August.  Details of the ceremony were covered in the local South African press; see other images, including contemporary photos of the ceremony. The  statue itself was ultimately erected in 1905. The statue is a major site in Capetown to this current day.

The enamel plaque on the trowel, most likely made by Nelson’s wife Edith, carries the following inscription:

“With this trowel the Hon: Sir Walter F. Hely Hutchinson. G.C.M.G Governor laid this foundation stone for the statue of His Majesty King Edward VII. Capetown. 26. June. 1902”

Sir Walter Hely Hutchinson was an anglo-irish colonial administrator. The statue itself was by the British / Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John.  He was active within the arts and crafts movement and included works in the 1899 Arts Crafts Exhibition Society. He would therefore have known Nelson Dawson (they were also both examiners for the National Arts Schools Competition) and I think most likely it was Goscombe John who commissioned the trowel.

Nelson Dawson and his wife Edith were early innovators in the area of metalwork and enamel in this period of the arts and crafts movement.  They displayed an elaborate ceremonial trowel in the 1896 Arts Crafts Society Exhibition and subsequently undertook several prestigious commissions for ceremonial trowels, most notably for Queen Victoria and her laying of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s foundation stone in 1901.

For more information on ceremonial trowels see my article published in the Silver Society Journal at this link.

Maker:  Nelson and Edith Dawson
Designer: Nelson Dawson
Date : 1901
Marks: ND, London, f

Material: Sterling silver, enamel
Condition: Excellent.
Size: 23cm long
Weight :  169 grams, 6.0 oz (not silver weight)

SKU: A1122-1 Category:

Additional information


Art nouveau, Arts and crafts


Sterling silver