The hammered copper cup is inscribed ''To the Ancient, from CRA, on the mournful occasion of his transition into matrimony, April 1893.'' 'CRA' refers to Charles Robert Ashbee (1863- 1942) who, five years earlier, in 1888 had founded the Guild and School of Handicraft in London’s East End. Whilst 'The Ancient' refers to his contemporary at King’s College, Cambridge, classic scholar James Headlam (1863-1929), who on April 6th, 1893 married the German musician and composer Else Sonntag (1866- 1950.)

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Ashlee’s biographer Alan Crawford explains in the catalogue description of the piece, that the inscription is a veiled reference to the circle of gay friends that Ashbee – a homosexual in late Victorian society, an era when same sex love was illegal – made during his time at Cambridge.

Ashbee is thought to have joined the Order of Chaeronea, the underground society founded to promote 'the cause.' However, by 1898 Ashbee too made 'the mournful transition into matrimony' when he wed Janet Forbes, daughter of a wealthy London stockbroker.

He had admitted his sexual orientation shortly after the proposal but together they managed 13 years of marriage and had four children.

The cup, that comes for sale from a UK collector with an estimate of £800- 1 200, exhibits many of the features that marked Ashbee’s metalwork as a radical departure from the machine-made wares of Victorian England.

The hammered finish preserved evidence of human endeavour while the wirework loop handles and the berry clusters echo the naturalistic motifs so characteristic of Art Nouveau.

A similar piece was exhibited at Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts house on the edge of Lake Windermere.

Mallams' Design & Modern Art sale on 19th May, 2016, will also include works by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper from the collection of former NHS architect Kenneth Mellon (1923-2015) with the entire sale featuring more than 150 studio pottery works.