by Daniel Bexfield

Hester Bateman, the most famous of all women silversmiths, registered her first mark with the London Goldsmiths Company on the 16 April 1761 at the age of fifty two. She was widowed by John Bateman in 1760 and took over his metalwork business transforming it into one of the most successful silversmithing workshops. Located in Bunhill Row, London with her sons John, Peter and Jonathan and later her daughter-in-law Ann married to Jonathan, their son William and grandson William II became highly skilled silversmiths working at the Bateman workshop, producing some of the best silver pieces of their generation.

The Hester Bateman mark is quite recognisable, it is her initials, "H.B" in a script style, other marks used by the family were "PB,AB", "PB,AB,WB", "PB,WB" and "WB" in a regular Roman text. There is one more makers mark which is the rarest and most sort after and that is the mark for Peter and Jonathan "PB.IB". The reason for this is that the mark was entered on the 7th December 1790 at the Goldsmiths Hall and Jonathan died on 19th April 1791 so the mark was in use for just over four months, pieces having this mark always command a higher price.

Examples of marks

The main reason for their success was due to Hester's attention to design and detail to quality. All the pieces that left the workshop would be inspected to the highest standard and with this attitude the business grew. Many pieces of Hester's silver show identifying characteristics such as beading around edges and the fine designs of bright-cut engraving. Keen collectors can recognise these pieces even before they pick up the item to look at the hallmarks. This awareness has helped many a collector and dealer searching through silver in shops, antique fairs and auctions.

They received many commissions from The City Guilds, private houses as well as religious establishments. One such item, requested by St. Paul's Cathedral, London was a Verger's Wand which can be seen in the Cathedral and is still in use today, I am sure Hester would be very proud of this.

Unlike most silversmiths who specialised in just one area of production, the Batemans' were masters of many, producing fine wares right across the board from spoons, forks, serving utensils, dinner plates, goblets, salt cellars, mustard pots, wine labels, funnels and coolers, teapots, cream jugs, butter shells, tea caddies, trays, salvers, waiters, inkwells and important horse racing trophies and the list could go on. However there is one item I cannot ever recall seeing made by any of the Batemans' and that is a pair of candlesticks, the reason for this, I feel, is that candlesticks would have been cast in silver and Hester Bateman's skills were in hammering, raising, planishing, burnishing and engraving of which she and her family excelled but not casting.

In conclusion, Hester Bateman was a remarkable woman who was illiterate and widowed at fifty two with a family to bring up, turned around a small metalwork business into a highly successful silversmithing company and is today one of the most sort after makers world-wide. All this happened over 200 years ago when there was no electricity or machinery for mass production and the world was very different for women.

Examples of pieces by Hester Bateman


Examples of bright-cut engraving




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