Category: Other Travel Items
The top of this black leather on softwood Dispatch Box notes it was owned by Captain Alfred P. Ryder R.N.
The maker's name of Wickwar & Co. of 6 Poland Street is marked in gilt either side of the lock which is stamped J. Bramah's Patent, S. Mordan & Co. Makers. These 3 pieces of information help us to build a timeline for the manufacture of the box. Wickwar were prolific dispatch box makers who worked for H.M. Stationery Office. John Wickwar was listed at this address by 1839 and the company remained there until the end of the 19th Century. Sampson Mordan was apprenticed to Joseph Bramah and so it is perhaps no surprise that when Bramah's patent expired on his death, Mordan manufactured similar locks through his own company. The S. Mordan & Co. maker's mark was used approximately between 1845 and 1860. Sir Alfred Phillps Ryder was born in 1820 and joined the navy as a 13 year old. After passing his exams at Portsmouth in 1839, he became a Lieutenant on HMS Belvidera 2 years later. In 1847 he was promoted to Commander in charge of HMS Vixen. He rose to Captain in 1848 and in 1851 commanded HMS Dauntless in the Channel Squadron. He became a Rear Admiral in 1866, Vice in 1872 and full Admiral in 1879 before retiring 3 years later. In his career, Ryder saw action in Nicaragua, the Black Sea and took part in the Crimean War at the Battle of Kinburn. He also held administrative posts as Private Secretary to Edward Seymour, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1862, Controller of the Coastguard in 1863, naval attaché in Paris in 1869 and then to the Maritime Courts of Europe in 1873 and finally Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth in 1879.
The box is fairly typical of Wickwar's work except that it has a removable pen tray to the interior. This would originally have been covered in leather but is now ebonised. The box is also stamped VR under a crown, for Victoria, between the brass swan neck handle posts. It is interesting to note that at some stage this mark and Ryder's name were covered by 2 fixed plates which were later removed leaving marks. A good Dispatch Box by a good maker and with an interesting owner. The box can be dated to between 1848 and 1860.