University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2008.9.197
Object Name Cup, Coffee
Description This cup is part of a service commissioned by Ralph Bigland, born in 1712 at Stepney, a suburb of London. In the lower left of the coat is the inscription, "Deut 8th 7-8-9-10" which refers to the verses in Deuteronomy describing a land, big with wheat and barley, flowing with milk and honey. Symbols representing puns of an owner's surname are common in armorial porcelain.

In 1728 Bigland was apprenticed to Edward Olive, a Wapping cheesemonger, a trade Bigland carried on until the late 1750s. In 1737 he married Anne Wilkins, the daughter of a farmer and cheese supplier resident in Frocester, Gloucestershire County, England. Anne died soon after the birth of their only child, Richard.

After his wife's death, Bigland continued to travel throughout Gloucestershire County, accumulating a vast amount of historical information and recording inscriptions on everything from church monuments to gravestones. His antiquarian interests led to a change in career; in 1757 he was appointed Bluemantle pursuivant (a junior officer of arms) at the College of Arms. In 1758 he married Anna Weir and their union produced two children who died in infancy.

In 1759 Bigland was promoted to the office of Somerset Herald and soon after published Observations on Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials, as Preserved in Parochial Registers. In his book, he advocated for the inclusion of greater detail in church records and better safekeeping and indexing of such records. Along with his friend and colleague, Sir Issac Heard, Bigland deserves much of the credit for re-establishing the College of Arms as the natural center for genealogical inquiry.

In 1772 Bigland and Heard were considered to be the most active practicing heralds, each earning between £500 and £600 per annum. Bigland was a king of arms for the last eleven years of his life, becoming Norroy in 1773, Clarenceux, and Garter in 1780. He died in his rooms in the College of Arms on 27 March 1784 and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral beneath a monument bearing his coat of arms. He himself had drafted the inscription, which contained a wealth of genealogical information.

Bigland became even more well-known after his death, with the publishing of his Historical, Monumental and Genealogical Collections, Relative to the County of Gloucester which continues to be used today.
Year Range from 1758
Year Range to 1762
Material Hard Paste Porcelain
Place of Origin Made in Jingdezhen, Decorated in Guangzhou (Canton), China
Collection The Reeves Center
Collector David Sanctuary Howard Collection of Armorial Porcelain Coffee Cups
On View Reeves Center, Chinese Armorial Gallery