From time to time there turn up in private collections very
handsome tortoiseshell boxes inlaid with a gold monogram, and known
as "Drake Snuffboxes".
The origin of these boxes having been generally forgotten, possessors of them often think that they belonged to the great Admiral, Sir Francis Drake. Daphne Drake was shown one in 1945 by the owners Mr. Chavasse of Great Malvern; another got into the local papers in 1941, when a night watchman named Robert Drake dropped dead at Newport, Monmouthshire (on the borders of Wales.) A witness at the inquest said the dead man was a native of Wrafton, Braunton, and had had " a gold monogrammed snuffbox which belonged to (Sir Francis) Drake". By the date of the inquest the snuff-box had disappeared from the man's house and "another man" was reported to be "looking after it"?
The actual truth of the matter is that these snuff boxes never belonged to the Elizabethan Admiral at all, but were made to commemorate the coming of age of his collateral descendant, Sir Francis Drake, 4th baronet, who died on 26th January, 1739-40, aged 47. The boxes have been recognised as the work of a celebrated craftsman of the 18th century, named John O'Brisset. There are four different designs known, one or two are signed by O'Brisset, and one example is dated, They were evidently distributed to family connections and perhaps to principal tenants.
They are described in a very handsome (and costly) book on John O'Brisset by P.A.S.Phillips, published in England by Batsford in 1931.
Sophia Daphne Drake