History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search

Narratives

Inv. 47759 - original commission

David Connell has revealed the context for the original commission of the mounted lodestone. See his "Recently identified at Burton Constable Hall: The collection of William Dugood FRS - jeweller, scientist, freemason and spy", Journal of the History of Collections, (2009), 17-32. Dugood was a Scottish jeweller (described as the 'most excellent jeweller in Europe') who worked for the Old Pretender, The Farnese family and King John V. He fled from Italy in 1723 and ended up in London where:

"he soon came to the attention of the Whig politician and notable connoisseur William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire. The Duke commissioned Dugood to set a large lodestone weighing about 45 kg into an elaborate oversized ducal coronet, which was then mounted into an apparatus that demonstrated its magnetic capacity to lift heavy weights. This lodestone, which was displayed at the Royal Society, passed through the Cavendish family and was later
presented to the Ashmolean Museum by the Duke's cousin Mary Cavendish, Countess of Westmorland - thus acquiring the title 'The Countess of Westmorland's Lodestone'." (p. 18)

Connell's source is a report from the German antiquary Philip Stosch:

"TNA/SP 98/32 (19 September 1733). Report from Walton/Stosch, stating that Dugood was known in London where he mounted the famous lodestone of the Duke of Devonshire. Dugood's dissertation on magnetism also records that Dugood mounted a large lodestone for the Duke of Devonshire. Dessertacao sobre os Maravilhosos effeitos do Magnete ou Pedra de Cevar Feita por Guilherme Dugood da Sociedade de Londres, manuscrito, cota 49- III -20 (5) Biblioteca da Ajuda, Lisbon."

Note that, as daughter and heir to the second son of the first Duke of Devonshire, there would have been a relatively straightforward route from the Dugood - Devonshire commission to the Countess of Westmorland.

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