This silver centrepiece, also known as a replica of the Jerningham-Kandler Wine Cooler, was one of the highly prized pieces of The Queen's Royal Regiment silver. It is a replica of the Jerningham-Kandler wine cooler sometimes known as "the Cistern" and known to hundreds of officers irreverently as "the flying tits". Valuable though it may be in itself, the replica in no way compares with the original which is currently in Russian hands in the St Petersburg Museum and has a long, interesting and intriguing history.
It has been described as "in all probability the most immense and one of the most elaborate pieces of decorative plate in the world". The cooler appears to owe its origin to the whim of a certain Henry Jernega, or Jeningham, a London goldsmith of Russell Street, London from 1735 to his death in 1761. He was also believed to be a banker. Seemingly of considerable wealth, or else backed by a rich patron, he ordered a wine cooler to be made by another goldsmith at a hitherto unsurpassed price. He roughed out the design of it himself. The sketch still exists and it was presented to the Society of Antiquaries in 1740.
The goldsmith chosen by Jerningham to carry out the work was Charles Kandler, the name being an English adaptation of the original German Kaendler. The cooler was to be fashioned from one solid lump of silver and some of its supporting figures were first modelled in wax by a distinguished sculptor, John Michael Rysbrack, before being finally cast. After four years work the cooler was finished in 1734 and was then triumphantly exhibited at various places with a view to finding a buyer. But this was easier said than done.
The size and price of the object placed it beyond the range of most prospective purchasers and letters to foreign Ministers brought nothing but polite refusals. In desperation, Jerningham petitioned Parliament for the cooler to be disposed of by way of a lottery and this was agreed to.
Queen Caroline became interested in the matter and Jerningham, ever the opportunist, had a medal struck showing her as a patron of the Arts. These were to be given to every purchaser of a ticket and about 30,000 such medals were struck. Sale of tickets, sold at five or six shillings each, a price that was considered enormous but probably being boosted by the medals. The prize-winner was Major William Battine of East Marden, Sussex, who, on receipt of his good news, gave five barrels of beer to the local populace. Surprisingly, after gaining his prize, nothing more seems to have been heard of it for a long time. Rumour has it that it was too big a trophy for the Major to use and handle, and that it was secretly re-sold, probably via Jerningham and Kandler and other agents, into the Russian court. However, in 1741 it was declared to be State property, although for the time being allowed to remain where it was in the apartments of Anna Leopoldovna of Brunswick, Regent mother of her infant son the ill-fated Ivan VI. It was later removed and again became temporarily lost in obscurity.
In 1880 William Cripps, the author of Old English Plate, heard certain rumours about the value of Russian treasures and wrote to the director of the Victoria and Albert museum on the subject. Later in the year, a British party under Cripps, a recognised silver expert, went to Russia, with the consent of the Emperor, to examine valuable pieces in the Treasury. Brought from the depository was the massive silver wine cooler, which Cripps instantly recognised as the Jerningham-Kandler masterpiece, and which was soon to be known to the world again.
Over the years several copies were made of it. One went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, another went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and yet another, via the hands and custody of the Queen's Royal Regiment, finished in its prestigious place in our regimental silver. The Centrepiece was part of the 2nd Bn The Queen's Royal Regiment silver, and now is under the custody of the 3rd Battalion.