Sir Samuel Rowe (1835-88)
A superb and unique Victorian Sterling silver four-light candelabrum by Henry Wilkinson and Co Ltd, inscribed on the base: PRESENTED TO SURGEON MAJOR SAMUEL ROWE C.M.G./ BY COMMAND OF HER MAJESTY'S PRINCIPAL SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES/ IN TESTIMONY OF HIS GALLANT AND FAITHFUL SERVICES IN CONNECTION WITH/ THE EXPEDITION OF SIR JOHN GLOVER AGAINST THE ASHANTEES 1873-4, the central circular candle nozzle above three outward facing monkeys, each seated on an orb above three crocodile-shaped branches, each with open jaws and a vase-shaped candle holder upon its head, the engraved tapering stem with foliate ring supported on the heads of three hippopotami joined by a medal hung banner on a shaped tripartite base
London, dated 1875
Fully hallmarked. Height 51 cm.
This imposing and highly unusual candelabrum was one of several awards presented to Sir Samuel Rowe. Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, 23rd March 1835, Rowe was the youngest son of a Wesleyan minister George H Rowe. Having studied medicine, he qualified in 1856 and in 1862 was sent to Lagos as part of the army medical staff. Soon after his arrival he was appointed a judicial assessor in the chief magistrate's court as well as a slave commissioner and subsequently served as a colonial surgeon. An accomplished musician and linguist who could speak French, Portuguese and Italian, he was known for his rough but kindly manner. Known by the native West Africans as 'Old Red Breeches', he had a particular gift for dealing with them and was employed as commandant of the eastern districts and special commissioner in making a treaty with Epé in the Jebu country. During a leave he graduated from Aberdeen in medicine and surgery, 1865 and in 1866 returned to West Africa and went to Cape Coast Castle. As colonial surgeon at Lagos, he was also appointed superintendent of the houssas. Continuing his medical services, 1869 also saw his appointment as magistrate and clerk of the council at Lagos. In July 1870, Rowe was promoted to staff surgeon and then after another stay in England was ordered to the Gold Coast, 1872, where in March the following year he was made a surgeon-major.
Rowe played a major role in maintaining Britain's territory along Gold Coast against the Ashante tribe, 1873. He was twice involved in action near Elmina, for which he received a medal and clasp. When war was officially declared, Rowe was appointed to the expeditionary force under Captain (afterwards Sir John Hawley) Glover and proved invaluable in dealing with the natives, especially the Yoruba tribe. In recognition of these services, Rowe was made a Companion of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G), 1874. In 1875 Rowe was appointed colonial surgeon of the Gold Coast colony and retired from the army with the honorary rank of brigade-surgeon, 1876. He then undertook several governing posts including that of Governor of the Gold Coast colony, (1881-84), having been promoted K.C.M.G in 1881; at that time there was fear of another war with the Ashantees, which was averted entirely thanks to Rowe's tactful intervention. Rowe married Susannah née Gatliff, widow of Louis de Seilan, by whom he had a son who died young. In failing health Samuel Rowe returned to England but died en route at Madeira on 28th August 1888.
Rowe's presentation candelabrum was made by Henry Wilkinson and Co Ltd. This well-known firm of manufacturing silversmiths had a factory in Sheffield and London premises and a showroom at Bolt Court Fleet Street. Their marks were entered at the London Assay Office by Henry Wilkinson (1857) and by John Brashier (1879). The firm, which was originally founded in circa 1760 by J. Winter, underwent several ownerships but was known as Henry Wilkinson and Co, circa 1830 until becoming a limited company 1872-92. Known for their elaborate work, Henry Wilkinson and Co exhibited at both the Great Exhibition 1851 (for example a candelabrum with figure of Mercury and another with Grecian ornament) and at the 1862 International Exhibition.