Abingdon Museum has recently acquired a splendid new addition to the collections: a silver cup, made by Timothy Lee of London. The cup is inscribed: “The Gift of James Jennings Esq. to the Company of Skiners in Abingdon in the year 1714, Humphry Williams Master”.
James Jennings was MP for Abingdon twice, from 1710 to 1713 and from 1715 to 1722. He stood again for election in 1722 and in 1734, but was defeated both times. Jennings was an Abingdon man, the son of Robert Jennings, Master of Abingdon School. The family also had an estate at Shiplake, near Henley. James Jennings was born in 1670 and educated at Abingdon School and Wadham College, Oxford. He was Sheriff of Oxfordshire before becoming an MP. He might not have spent much time in Abingdon after getting involved in politics, but, as this cup shows, he kept up relations with various bodies in the town.
The Company of Skinners was one of three companies into which all tradesmen in Abingdon were organised. The other two were the Butchers and the Grocers. The companies were presided over by a master and two wardens, which were elected annually. Because there were only three companies, each company comprised many more trades than their name would indicate. The Company of Skinners, for example, included ropemakers.
The gift of a silver cup like this was meant to promote friendship and goodwill between the MP and the Company of Skinners.
The cup had been in a private collection and was recently put up for auction. The Museum was able to acquire it with generous support from the Abingdon Museum Friends, and we are pleased that it has returned to Abingdon, its original home.