The Leigh Cup
Although the extract from the Acts of Court suggests that the cup was already in the possession of the Mercers’ by 1569 (see People section of the website), it was officially bequeathed to the Company when Sir Thomas died in 1571.
To ‘my loveing Brethren, the Company of the Mercers, one faire cupp, and standing cupp of silver, all guilt, garnished with maidenheads, roses and flaggins, with a cover of the like work enameled blew [blue], as the body of the cupp is, with posies therein graven, and a maiden in the knopp, with a unicorne fawning on her lap; and the same cupp, I give them, to use it at the chooseing of the Wardens of the Company, if they shall thinke it soe good.’
The finial has an elaborately butressed hexagonal boss, and each face bears coats of arms in enamel comprising:
- the arms of the City of London;
- the arms of Sir Thomas Leigh, namely gules, on a cross engrailed, between four unicorns’ heads, earsed, argent, five bezants;
- the arms of the Merchant Adventurer’s Company;
- the arms of the Merchants of the Staple;
- the cross of St George;
- the arms of the Mercers’ Company.
Two bands encircle the cover and body are inscribed in gold on a blue enamel ground with the following couplet:
'To elect the Master of the Mercerie, hither am I sent,
And by Sir Thomas Leigh for the same intent.’
The cup bears an unidentified maker’s mark, the date letter for the year 1499-1500, and is said by tradition to have belonged to the hospital of St Thomas of Acon (see Church section of the website).
The ‘maiden in the knopp’ is the Mercers’ maiden and for further information on this emblem of the Company see A.F.Sutton, I Sing of a Maiden: The Story of the Maiden of the Mercers’ Company, Leeds, 1998