Review - Bonhams Fine Silver & Collectors' Items
21st March 2003
The Griffin Collection (Part VI)

By Timothy Kent F.S.A.

Lot 166 (top) & 167.

Once again, the Griffin Collection produced some spoons of quality and historical interest.

Lot 166, the York 'death's head' laceback trefid by Thomas Mangy, 1677, though not featuring the "Live to Die, Die to Live" engraving, was a really fine example in tip top condition and indubitably the best spoon in the sale. As such, it was of pre-eminent collectors' interest and merited a hammer price of 6,800.

Lot 167, though not such a fine spoon, was of great interest by reason of its documentary Leeds marks and maker's mark of Arthur Mangy, black sheep of the family. With an interesting history of discovery it well exceeded its estimate to make a hammer price of 3,200, an important spoon.

Lot 168 was an excellent and historically interesting spoon of generous size, dated 1688 and bearing the marks of John Pike I of Plymouth. Who comes to life as a bit of a character. In December 1687 he was in trouble with the London Goldsmiths' Company "for selling of diners spoons of vile and adulterate silver" and was subjected to a heavy fine. In 1700 he was in trouble again, but this did not prevent him from becoming Mayor of Plymouth in 1714. The London Company would in particular have taken a dim view of the "do-it-yourself" Lion Passant, which Pike employed, though the Saltire mark (relating to the Plymouth Arms) would have been more acceptable. Pike also had trouble with the newly born Exeter Company after 1701, but his will (1719) discloses substantial prosperity. His son John II was beneficiary, provided he did not marry "either of the daughters of John Beeve of Plymouth, Gentlemen, deceased, against which I have frequently cautioned and enjoined him." A spoon well worth the 2,800 hammer price for its quality and interest.

Lot 169, an Exeter trefid dated 1695 bearing the marks of Nicholas Browne and William Ekins, the latter as retailer, was not so attractive and bidding petered out at 1,500. I did not care for the surface and sensed that the bowl had received some re-hammering towards its tip. The Ellis catalogue, Lot 175, shows a spoon with identical marks, described as 'silver-gilt', and this may indeed be the same spoon, in which case the unpleasant surface may be due to removal of gilding. A pity, as the Browne/Ekins family (they were related) is of interest: William Ekins, by his will (1712) left 50 per annum to Exeter School for the instruction of boys in mathematics, especially in relation to navigation, and is described as "an eminent, pious old charitable person."

Lot 170 was a reasonable, though unexciting, laceback by Edward Sweet of Dunster, struck in his usual dies, and did well enough at 1,400 hammer.

Lot 171, probably by Henry Servant I of Bideford, was noteworthy for the very crisp bowl die: fully-marked Exeter examples marked SE in the 1701-10 period have been noted struck in the same die, and a hammer price of 1,500 was reasonable for this good example.

Lot 169 (top) & 168.

The same may be said of Lot 172, ascribed to Francis Servant (I or II) of Bideford, which features a different bowl die to Lot 171, but the same stem die, and this interesting collector's spoon was a satisfactory buy at 1,100 hammer price. Once again, fully hallmarked SE spoons were struck in this particular stem die. The Servant family were Huguenots from St. Martin in the Ile fe R, and escaped from France to avoid persecution after Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. History relates that twelve forlorn Huguenots were dumped on Barnstable Quay by the ship on which they had travelled: by sunset all had been given shelter by local families. They stayed and prospered.

The Griffin group ended satisfactorily with Lot 173, another West Country laceback trefid, ascribed to William Rowe of Liskeard in Cornwall, where the mark appears on a parish communion cup. One of a split-up group of six, formerly belonging to the old Cornish family, Treffy of Place, near Fowey, there is no engraving or pricking and in my opinion never has been, as they would have been acquired as a set for household use rather than wedding or baptism presents. Fairly light in gauge, the spoon's good condition and excellent provenance carried it up to a hammer price of 1,900, at which figure it went to join a nice private collection.

Of the eight spoons in this group only one proved a disappointment: a good overall result.

Lot 170, 171, 172, 173.


.23. & .24.
The Finial, April/May 2003

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