18th Century Spoon Sizes and their Possible Uses

By David McKinley.

Fig.1 ABC
18th C. Old English pattern spoons, c.1770-1807
(A as dessert spoons, B & C as table spoons)

Leaving aside salt, egg, tea, mote, ice cream and condiment spoons at the lower end of the spoon size scale, and strainer spoons, soup ladles and gravy or basting spoons at the upper end, we are left with only two spoons designated for 18th century dining room use.

The first is of approximately the same size as the dessert fork with which it is paired and is accepted as a dessert spoon. Fig. 1a is of two such spoons of different dates and by different makers. They are both about 6.75 inches long, having bowl capacities of 0.36 fluid ounces and weigh around 1 troy ounce each.

The second of these dining room spoons is paired with the table fork, is known as a table spoon and was used for drinking soup. All the books, which deal with spoons, mention these two spoon types and at auction anything in this range which is bigger than the dessert spoon is catalogued as a table spoon.

The problem for collectors and historians alike, however, is that there are two sizes of this larger spoon and this means either that there was no standardisation, as there appears to have been with the dessert size, and makers produced varying sizes of table spoon as the whim took them or that there were, in fact, two distinct sizes of the larger spoon in use in the 18th century dining room and that only one of them was for drinking soup.

If this latter hypothesis is correct then the third spoon must have had a specific purpose not mentioned in the inventories, account books and other references from which we derive our information on such matters.

In Thomas Coke's account with Paul de Lamerie there is an entry, which reads as follows: "12 spoons for the Stewards Table wt. 28oz 18dwt[1]. As these spoons were for the Stewards table they were presumably for serving food rather than for drinking soup and at a fraction over 2oz 8dwt each they equate to the largest of the three sizes of spoon under discussion here. Fig.1b is of two spoons of this size of different dates and by different makers. They are both approximately 8.5 inches long and have bowl capacities of just over 1 fluid ounce. They each weigh about 2oz 7dwt troy ounce. Interestingly this bowl capacity equates to that of the majority of marrow spoons to be found and these are recognised as serving pieces.

We are now left with the middle size and it is of note that this size is about the same as that of the table fork and it would, therefore, be not unreasonable to pair it with this fork, call it a table spoon and relate it to the consumption of soup. Fig.1c is of two of these spoons and as before they are of different dates and by different makers. Their length is between 7.5 and 7.75 inches, their bowl capacity is 0.75 fluid ounces and they weigh 1oz 5dwt and 1oz 10dwt respectively.

18th C. Hanoverian pattern tablespoon spoons, c.1740-1759

The spoons illustrated so far, as can be seen by their pattern, are all from the second half of the 18th century but the same difference applied earlier in the century as is exemplified by Figure 2.

The point I am making is that there must have been some reason for producing three sizes of spoon for dining room use and I would suggest that the first and second sizes were dessert and table spoons respectively and that the largest of the group were made for serving food and might properly be called Stewards' Spoons.

I would welcome comments and observations on this theory from fellow members.

1. D.P .Mortlock- Thomas Coke and the Family Silver-Silver Society Journal No 9 (1997) P557.


John Anderson is looking for help:
Does anyone happen to know the name of the maker 'AH' on this ordinary Edinburgh tablespoon?


.16. / .17.
The Finial, August/September 2003

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