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Leicester Special Collections

Donation of a Silver Tankard

Newspaper cutting of silver tankard, 1926

The silver tankard is one of the more unusual donations given to the University in 1926. This tankard was passed through the family before it was given as a gift to the University by Mr. John H Bates.  It was originally in the possession of Mrs. Martha Bates's family and was probably bought by Martha's uncle around January 1836 at the old Leicester corporation in the form of a plate. John hoped it would inspire other gifts to the University saying ‘worthy to be compared with the collections which grace the board in the colleges of older universities'.

This would have been a precious item in the family due to it being passed through several generations. It is unknown whether the silver tankard was used at all or if it is kept at the University in the present day. Especially as it was gifted in the condition that it would remain at the university so long as it existed.

John was also from a hosiery manufacturing family in Leicester which was one of the main industries in Leicester. He was known for his earlier donations to the University around 1921 when he gifted the university a microscope and £100. The microscope that he gave was also passed through the family by a well-known Victorian naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892). Henry was known for the first scientific account in mimicry in animals and his expeditions in the Amazon Forest.

A page of the book by Henry Bates 'The Naturalist on the River Amazons', 1863.

Henry managed to collect over 14,712 species which were mostly insects and wrote a book on his adventures ‘The Naturalist on the River Amazons: a record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the Equator, during eleven years of travel’. A copy of this is currently in the University of Leicester’s Special Collections, which was donated in 1919.

When John died in 1949 he left a huge sum of money (£10,000) to the University and is remembered in the present day through the John Heggs Bates charity which provide grants for those who are recovering from an illness and their carers. In the present day, this charity uses the charity link which is also a Leicestershire organisation founded in 1876.

Page curated by Josephine Barnes


Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland College Reports and Accounts (1921-22), University of Leicester Archives, ULA/P/AR1, p.4.

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College Reports and Accounts (1926-27), University of Leicester Archives, ULA/P/AR6.

'Loving cup for college' (1926), Press Cutting Book 1917-1929, ULA/PCB1, p.89

'So that they may have life' Heritage project. A loving cup and a celebrated world explorer. Available at:

Donation of Silver Tankard