Silver English charity school "Learn of Us" medal.[London], 1885 Stock Code: 138670
NotesA beautifully engraved award medal, the central beehive design very skilfully rendered and the whole in impressively crisp, clean condition, presented to the fourteen-year-old student Sarah Noble in 1885 by the Sir John Cass Charity School of Aldgate, London.
The English merchant and philanthropist Sir John Cass (1661-1718) founded a co-education school in St Botolph's Aldgate and his Foundation, established after his death in 1748, continues to fund the various Cass schools and institutes now active across London. M. E. Grimshaw's study of pre-Victorian school medals awarded to girls features a similar medal from his school presented to one Mary Ann Malyon in 1832 (no. 98), with the same beehive design, though engraved in a much more rudimentary style than the present example. She notes that "there are later, slightly larger medals from this school, also bearing representations of beehive and bees, with the same legend It is interesting that the style of the medals persisted for over 50 years".
On the beehive as a favourite device, John Salley writes: "given the bee's diligent, hardworking, community behaviour, it's not surprising that the beehive was often used as the central device on school award medals. Beehives were certainly not the only symbols used, but they came close to being the perfect cultural object lesson for children in the late 18th through the 19th centuries, as primary education became more universal While the beehive itself was sometimes enough to get the idea across, more often the intended message is spelled out explicitly. For example, many of the English medals have legends like a simple 'Industry', 'Learn of Us', and/or 'Learn to Live'. Others have a more elaborate legend such as 'By Industry We Live, By Perseverance, Excel' or 'From Labour & Industry Great Blessings Flow'".
The records of maker's marks list two initialled "JH" set within conjoined circles, as found here, though their dates and locations do not exactly align with the present medal. The first is that of Job Frank Hall, who with Frederick Sibray co-founded the Sheffield firm Sibray, Hall & Co. Their first mark - the initials "FS JH" set within a crest - was entered at the Sheffield Assay Office in 1878, and at the London office in 1880. From circa 1890 they had a London showroom at 30 Ely Place, Holborn. In 1897 Hall entered a mark at the London office using his initials, punctuated, within two conjoined circles. The second "JH" is Joseph Hicks of Exeter, of which less is known.
Unsurprisingly, given their popularity, medals bearing the beehive design appear fairly regularly at coin auctions, though almost never in such good condition. The Sixbid Numismatic Auctions database records just one other instance of a medal bearing the "Learn of Us" motto. Sold as part of the Barker Collection of Engraved Coins (Baldwin's 2016, auction 37, lot 370) and oval in shape, it is smaller in size than the present (measuring 39 x 30 mm) and bears a scrolled monogram ("WJ") rather than a Cass presentation inscription on the reverse. Further research adds a more comparable Cass medal sometime sold by Timothy Millet Ltd, dated 1865 with a near-identical presentation inscription to thirteen-year-old Emma Button.
Circular silver medal (diameter 56 mm) with double-ridged edge, small silver loop at top for suspension. Obverse engraved with "Learn of Us" in capitals, executed in a neat curlicue script, this motto arched above a finely detailed large central beehive with swarming bees, the maker's mark "JH", London 1884 hallmark, and sovereign head duty mark below. Reverse engraved, in a mixture of elegant scripts: "Reward for good conduct 1885. Presented by the Trustees of the School on the Foundation of Sir John Cass Knt. Sarah Noble. Aged 14 Years in the 18th Year of the Reign of Queen Victoria". Housed in a silk-lined cream presentation box with black edging.
Of very fine quality and in immaculate condition, with no surface scratches.
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