Anglesey Abbey's treasures

The National Trust looks after a treasure chest of history. From artistic masterpieces and vast tapestries to precious personal possessions, the range and breadth of the collections is astonishing. A new book – 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust – shares the stories behind some of these remarkable objects. Discover more about the five items from the Anglesey Abbey collection, that are featured in the book, then why not come and see some of them for yourself?

Silver-gilt shield

Shield of Achilles 

Five of these shields were made in silver gilt between 1819 and 1824, all of them considered masterpieces of Regency silver. This shield, which is currently on display in the house, was bought by Lord Fairhaven in the mid 20th century. It has a central scene of Apollo driving the chariot of the sun, surrounded by symbolic representations of constellations. There is also a broad frieze with a series of scenes from the Iliad, bordered by a narrow band of waves representing the ocean.

Video

Pagoda clock

This spectacle has delighted people since the 1800s. In the shape of a pagoda, the clock not only tells the time but also puts on an automated spectacle every three hours: a tune plays upon 12 bells, while three jewelled pineapple plants on each tier of the pagoda lift from their pots and spin around. Unfortunately due to social distancing, we're unable to have the clock performing at present, however you can watch a short clip of it in action here.

Silver-gilt Stag statue at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

Gilded stag cup 

The work on this exquisite gilded stag cup is so minutely detailed that the animal can be identified as a red deer. Around its neck the stag wears a pendant hung with a red garnet to further enhance its rarity and beauty. The cup has a removable head and could be used for drinking wine or spirits. However, it is more likely it was used as the centrepiece of an elaborate tiered display in a banqueting room, perhaps following a hunting party. The stag isn't currently on display, but we hope to have it out later in the autumn.

Amorino, a marble sculptire by Antonio Canova

Amorino 

This marble figure of a young naked boy posing with his bow and arrow was carved by one of the most celebrated Italian sculptors of his age, Antonio Canova (1757–1822). However, by the 20th century, the statue had somehow lost its identity. It was sold in 1965 as a French 'marble figure of Apollo' and put on display as a garden ornament at Anglesey Abbey, later reidentified as a famous work by Canova, and moved inside for conservation reasons. It is not currently on display.

Portrait of Elizabeth 1 on Saxton's atlas of the counties of England and Wales

Saxton's atlas 

The cartographer Christopher Saxton (c.1540–c.1610) spent years surveying the counties of England and Wales to produce the first national atlas in 1579. Saxton was supported by Queen Elizabeth I, whose portrait appears on the frontispiece, and the courtier Thomas Seckford (1515/16–87), whose coat of arms appears on each map. Accurate maps were of critical importance at a time when the country feared foreign invasion from Roman Catholic Spain. The atlas is undergoing conservation work, and we hope to have it on display later in the year.