I am greatly saddened to pass on the demise of two well-known personalities of the silver world.

Brian Beet passed away peacefully after a long illness on Thursday 16th January 2003, aged 55 years. As an antique dealer since 1979, with great enthusiasm and interest has met and dealt with most collectors and dealers sharing his knowledge and experience. His interests encompassed wine labels and related items, provincial and colonial silver, collector's pieces and early silver-plating and postal history. In 1994 he published a book on Stamp Boxes and in 1997 his passion led him to become chairman of The Silver Society.

The death of Canon Maurice H. Ridgway, F.S.A. on the 20th December 2002 was a great loss to the silver world. For over fifty years Maurice had been researching the goldsmiths and silversmiths who worked in the Northwest and Wales, and their relationship with the Chester Goldsmiths Company and the Chester Assay Office. He was an honorary member of The Silver Spoon Club of Great Britain and a regular contributor to The Finial.

Maurice was born in the slums of Stockport where his Father was a parish priest. He went to King's School Chester and was later ordained in the Church of England. He served in various parishes in Cheshire and was made a Canon Emeritus of Chester Cathedral. His first work of research culminated in a book on the Rood Screens of Wales for which he was awarded the honour of becoming a Fellow of The Society of Antiquaries. This led to further publications on stained glass.

His interest in silver started in the early fifties and resulted in the publication in 1968 of "Chester Goldsmiths from early times to 1726". It was the result of painstaking research and provided a fully documented history in which institutional and social aspects receive attention as well as the personal and the artistic. His coverage of their activities in the Elizabethan period is fascinating. It was our great pleasure to have got to know Maurice in the mid-sixties. His book "Chester Silver 1727-1837" continued the painstaking research and more importantly for students and collectors covered the more prolific period of Chester plate. He was able in this volume to correct the assignment of various date-letters and he published valuable information on the working lives of makers. Next came" Chester Silver 1837-1962 with special reference to the Chester Duty Books 1784-1984". These Duty Books had been re-discovered since his second book.

He was the contributor in the 3rd edition of Jackson's Silver and Gold Marks edited by Ian Pickford in 1989 on makers for Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Shrewsbury. He published in1997 "The Church Plate of the St. Asaph Diocese" which formed a companion volume to the Church Plate of the Diocese of Bangor by Alfred Jones. This has now provided coverage to the northern half of Wales.

Maurice Ridgway had become a respected authority on church plate and the leading authority on gold and silver assayed at Chester. What is not widely known is that he was actively involved in proposing the continuation of the Chester Assay Office to the Committee headed by Sir Leonard Stone. However it finally recommended the closure of the Chester Assay Office in 1962. He was instrumental in ensuring the Grosvenor Museum in Chester took an interest in the decorative art of silver that was on their doorstep. He badgered the Curatorial staff to spend their resources on acquiring important pieces in the sixties and seventies. He was honoured when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales opened the new silver gallery at the Grosvenor Museum, in that it was named The Ridgway Gallery. Thus he is one of the few silver researchers to have a silver gallery named after him. It probably has the best-displayed silver in a regional museum at the present time.

Before his death he had, together with his co-author Philip Priestley, finalised the text and shape of what will be a future publication. It gathers together existing and new information into a compendium of marks for the total period when marks were used in the Chester area.

Maurice Ridgway was probably one of the last of that generation of researching ministers of the cloth who, through self-discipline and rigorous attention to facts and without great resources at their disposal, produced lasting works for the education of all interested in silver.

Cathlyn and Simon Davidson.


The Finial, February/March 2003

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