Victoriana from Dublin’s Fair City

By staff reporter

A rare Victorian silver ‘castle-top’ card case, die-stamped with the Dublin International Industrial Exhibition building, is just one of the items on offer at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Fine Silver sale at Donnington Priory on Wednesday February 26.

The case was fashioned by Britain’s most prestigious makers of castle-top boxes, Nathaniel Mills & Sons, a family run business in Birmingham who specialised in silver card-cases, snuff boxes and vinaigrettes. The silversmiths dispersed in 1953 after the death of Nathaniel’s son, William Mills, making this rare ‘case one of their last to be made.

Fashionable in the 19th century, castle-top card cases were stamped or engraved with local landmarks and sold to the thriving tourist market as souvenirs. This example hails from the 1853 Dublin International Industrial Exhibition, the most extravagant and expensive public event of 19th century Ireland.

It was the first international industrial exhibition to be held in the world after the ground-breaking London Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, with hundreds of Irish men and woman attending.

The exhibition itself financially ruined Ireland’s greatest railway engineer and promoter of the exhibition, William Dargan, but laid the foundation for the construction of the National Gallery of Ireland. With its unusual and historically significant scene this Irish castle-top card case is estimated at £3,000-5,000.

The case was discovered at one of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ valuation days in Dublin, held in conjunction with Whyte’s of Dublin. The case will be sold at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ Donnington Priory saleroom in Berkshire on Wednesday February 26. The catalogue will be available to view online soon at




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