Partridges on a West Norfolk estate were the ‘models’ for a perennial silver trophy made by King’s Lynn silversmith, Tim Clayton, which will be presented at the Royal Norfolk Show.
Made annually, the Mills and Reeve Grey Partridge Norfolk Award rewards a Norfolk estate or farm for conservation work to boost numbers of the bird. The life-sized silver trophy of the partridge was commissioned by Mills & Reeve LLP and is presented each year.
Tim, who had not crafted such a large item in silver before – it weighs 82ozs – had a formidable task. First he had to observe the birds in their habitat on the Gayton Estate near King’s Lynn and then to fashion the model that had to be entirely accurate to meet the exacting standards of the head gamekeepers of Norfolk estates.
“I knew it had to be a perfect depiction,” he explains, “because it would be examined by a host of very knowledgeable people who would know instantly if any part was incorrect. In particular, as an English partridge, it could not on any account be confused with the red-legged – French – partridge.
“I spent several early mornings making dawn raids, observing the birds and taking pictures from every angle. Then I made a wax model which was scrutinised for accuracy. Once that passed the test I made a rubber mould just in case anything went wrong in the casting.”
The method Tim employed is known as ‘lost wax’, because in the process the wax melts, and literally is ‘lost’.
He made the wax model, which was then cut into six portions to simplify the eventual casting of the silver. The resulting units of the bird were soldered together before he embarked on engraving and hand-chasing to produce the fine detail – in the case of a bird hundreds of feathers, all delicately delineated.
“Yes pretty laborious”, agrees Tim, “and nerve-wracking too. You can never be quite sure how successful the casting will be, and then when the model emerges it has to be completed by hand.”
Tim Clayton has been working from his King’s Lynn base in Chapel Street since 1975, making a wide variety of jewellery to his own design and also takes commissions.
His latest project is more modestly sized, although still involving game and wildlife and his trademark intricate jewellery skills. He has designed a range of silver cufflinks for sporting gentlemen in the form of a variety of birds, animals and fish including pheasant, hare, fox, chub, eagle, owl and gundogs.