Of special interest is the silver collection, especially the Cape silver. The Heller Collection of Cape Silver consists of hollowware and flatware made by all the best-known silversmiths working at the Cape during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Covered sugar bowls with corded handles and decorative finials are among the prettiest items on display. Apart from European silver, there are also silver items from Malaysia and Russia.
There are several interesting items of Cape commemorative silver including a tumbler cup made by D. H. Schmidt which belonged to Colonel R. J. Gordon, commander of the Dutch garrison at the Cape from 1780 until 1795. The Trafalgar Vase, made by Benjamin Smith and presented to Major General Sir David Baird by Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund for the capture of the Cape of Good Hope on 18 January 1806, is of particular significance to those concerned with the history of the Second British Occupation.
The Cape of Good Hope Vice-Admiralty Oar made by William Frisbee, London, 1806, was a powerful symbol of maritime jurisdiction from 1806 until 1890. Comparable to a great mace, the oar was intended as a sign of authority possessed by the Admiralty courts to arrest persons and vessels in respect of all manners of maritime disputes. The Vice Admiralty Court sat in the building known as the Slave Lodge from 1828 to 1890 when the court was abolished and the oar became the possession of Lord J. H. De Villiers, the last judge of the Vice Admiralty Court.
The Woutersen Vase made by the Cape silversmith, Willem Godfried Lotter, circa 1826. Lotter was assisted by Joseph Arrowsmith in the engraving and possibly the design of the piece. The vase was presented by a group of Cape citizens and slave owners to Pieter Woutersen, a member of the Burgher Senate, for his efforts in trying to keep intact the institution of slavery. In 1826 Ordinance no. 19 had been passed which was part of an attempt by the British colonial government at amelioration and improvement of the living conditions of slaves.
The slave owners considered these laws an infringement of their rights and Woutersen championed the slave owners’ cause in the Burgher Senate. Amelioration, however, won the day. Most of the above-mentioned pieces are on display in the Slave Lodge. There are also items in storage.