A Sheaf of Arrows

By Piers Percival

Could a sheaf of arrows and half a rose
Be the maker's mark for Sir Martin Bowes?

Answer: maybe, but as the plot unravels, the argument becomes more convincing, so please read on. We begin with perhaps the most exotic spoons extant from the reign of Henry VIII and their mark, which is probably a Sheaf of Arrows (fig 1). This maker's mark has perplexed our brethren for many years, and I would like to add to the intrigue. Curiously, it has not been found on any item of silver apart from the 'Astor' or 'Abbey' set of thirteen apostle spoons, London 1536/7, that were purchased by the British Museum in 1981.

Fig. l
Drawing of a Sheaf of Arrows, perhaps for Martin Bowes, c.1536.

The Mark
Unfortunately on none of the spoons is the mark particularly clear and the above is a composite drawing taken from those that are the clearest. The following features may be noted: (i) several definite indentations on the lower border of the punch giving separated spaces for? arrow heads; (ii) the waist of the otherwise curvilinear punch is below the sheaf; (iii) the mark on the St James the less spoon is perhaps the clearest and shows a semblance of feathers upper left and a suggestion of points lower right; (iv) to the upper right the marks are all worn and smudged; (v) on most spoons there is virtually no downward point centrally. Detailed examination however, does suggest that this device is more probably a sheaf of arrows pointing downwards than as sometimes suggested, a sheaf of corn.[1]

The Spoons
These silver gilt spoons are unusually large and are of excellent gauge. The overall lengths average 19.5cm, the finials are between 3.7 and 3.9cm. Weights vary from 75.3g (2.7oz, St James the greater in pilgrim's tunic, fig 2) to 83.3g (2.9oz, St Philip who carries the long cross [2]). The set in total weighs over 36oz and in its original state would have been considerably more, particularly as most of the apostles have now lost the books and emblems they originally held. Even now, the weights are heavier than any of the sets of gilt spoons from any of the three inventories of King Henry VIII's Jewel House! His heaviest gilt spoons were a set of twelve hexagonal seal tops weighing 30.5oz. His heaviest gilt apostle spoons were a set of nine weighing 19.5oz, about 2.2oz each.[3] The present set therefore were extraordinary and it seems highly likely that they were made up to a special commission, probably for an abbot since each bowl is engraved with the sacred monogram IHS.[4]

There is no 'master' but instead a finial of a 'maiden'. The maker could well have been one of the more outstanding liverymen of the time. On the back of each bowl is engraved an anchor, the crest of Thomas Bruges (1751-1835), and Timothy Wilson has carefully traced the provenance of the spoons via William Waldorf Astor and the Ludlow Bruges family to the will of Henry Long (d.161l) of Whaddon, Wilts.[5]

The Finials
Many have been damaged but it is possible to distinguish St James the greater, St Peter and St John (fig.2), St Andrew, The Virgin Mary and St Paul (fig.3), St Philip with the long cross, St James the less with a fuller's bat, St Matthew with a builder's square and a book and St Simon with a saw. The halberd with broken shaft, probably belongs to St Jude, and since it was usual for St Paul to displace St Matthias rather than any other saint, the two unidentifiable saints are probably St Thomas and St Bartholomew.[6]

(Courtesy & Copyright The British Museum)
St James the greater, with a pilgrim's tunic and satchel, and a scallop shell on his turban;
St Peter, with breastplate to denote a belligerent character (John 18:10), a balding pate.
St John, with a youthful face, though emblems of a cup and a book have been lost.

The interest is that the castings were individually made according to the character of each saint. There are no nimbi. Further, the St James the greater, the St Peter and the St John finials have been found to be almost identical to the models on the crozier of Bishop Fox, which has been dated to about 1501, the year that Fox became Bishop of Winchester. It is uncanny how similar are their faces, tunics and mantles, though sadly much detail is now missing, St James the greater for example, should be wearing pilgrim's boots and be carrying a staff in the right hand and a book in the left. The similarity has also been shown with two late 14th century spoons of St Peter and St James, maker's mark a griffin's head but no assay marks. These also have the same dimensions, the length of the spoons being 19.5cm and the finials 3.7cm, the weights being 2.4oz and 2.2oz respectively.[7] It appears therefore, that castings for some of the finials of the 'abbey' set, were at least forty years old at the time (explaining perhaps why St James the greater has no boots to be seen), and that whoever was commissioned to make the spoons, had access to moulds from a quality workshop of the past.

(Courtesy & Copyright The British Museum)
St Andrew with saltire cross.
The 'Maiden' with long hair and holding a lily, representing The Virgin Mary.
St Paul with bald pate (as found in medieval art), carrying a sword and a book.

The Assignation
There is of course no proof, but I would like to suggest that Martin Bowes might be the proprietor for this mark. The most wealthy and powerful goldsmith of his time (and thirteen times Prime Warden), he had been apprenticed to Robert Amadas in 1513 and sworn in 1521. Amadas had been trained by his father, William Amadas (d. 1491), and was the probable protege of Sir Hugh Bryce (d. 1496) who had been trained by William's elder brother. Bowes therefore, was a product of the important Amadas/Bryce school and could well have had access to quality moulds of the past if necessary, for an important commission of spoons.

But the most important clue to assignation is that Sir Martin Bowes chose for a crest to his coat of arms, a lion rampant Gules clutching a sheaf of arrows Or. The original connotation specified the sheaf of arrows 'or' (in gold), a sheaf (not quiver) of arrows pointing downwards,[8] and there seems sufficient similarity to the maker's mark for further consideration.

Additionally there is the double pun on both surname and mark, that he, Bowes, would use arrows to make his mark, alluding to a longbow marksman. To put this another way, a bow would make its mark with an arrow, and Bowes being the marksman here, would use perhaps a sheaf of arrows for bows in the plural. Martin Bowes incidentally, as Deputy Master and later Under Treasurer to the Mint, also had a mint-mark, which was in the shape or a longbow.[9]

So whence did 'half a rose' appear? In order to explain this, it is possible that Sir Martin added it to his mark after some important event, perhaps in 1541 when he was knighted.[10] He was by then, very much patronised by royalty. The rose (spelt in inventories roose), was the emblem of King Henry, and he may have added half a rose to denote royal patronage with a link to himself, phonetically, the second half of the emblem and his own name both being the same. The mark has never been seen, but in King Henry's inventory, there was 'Receaved from the Prynces side before his coronacion' in 1547 several silver saucers, chargers, plates and dishes 'all striken with halfe Rooses and sheefes of arrowes'.[11] Though device marks are rarely mentioned in the inventory, this one crops up in one other entry and it is not difficult to suggest that like the 'heart' of Amadas discussed in the last issue, the 'half rose and sheaf of arrows' was also a mark that belonged to one of the King's goldsmiths. Sir Martin Bowes knight, is mentioned once, when delivering 40oz of gold to Everarde for the garnishing of a porcelain cup.[12]

So perhaps another Tudor assignation can be construed, not only from a double pun, but also with support from a known crest and possibly a contemporary inventory. This would mean that the 'M beneath a bow' device found on spoons for 1552/3 and on other plate 1548-1557/8,13 is likely to belong to Martin Bowes junior (working 1544-1573), the son of Sir Martin.[13]

1. A sheaf of arrows suggested by Sir Charles Jackson (English Goldsmiths and their marks, London 1921, p96); GEP & IP How considered either to be possible (English and Scottish Silver Spoons, vol. 2, London 1953, p108); a sheaf of corn was preferred by Timothy Wilson (note 5). See also The Finial 2002; 12: 115.
2. For clarification of emblems vis-a-vis St Jude and why St Philip would not have been omitted from this set, see Percival, A Set of Apostle Statuettes, The Silver Soc. J. 2001; 13: 40-49.
3. The 1520/1, 1532 and 1547/9 inventories of King Henry VIll's jewels and plate: ref. Lincoln Dioc. Architect. Soc. 1883; 17:155, PRO E36/85, The Inventory of King Henry VIII ed. D Starkey, London 1998, p42-43, respectively.
4. IHS stands for the latin Iesus Hominis Salvator meaning Jesus the saviour of man.
5. Wilson T. Spoons with a taste of history. Brit. Mus. Soc. Bull. no.46, July 1984.
6. The allocation of emblems is debatable (note 2); in the Frith set of 1593, St Jude carries the halberd.
7. How (note 1) pp62-65; Wilson (note 5) p25.
8. Evans CFH The Arms of Sir Martin Bowes, Lord Mayor of London. The Coat of Arms vol 7 no.52, Oct 1962.
9. How (note 1) vol.1 p224, commenting on a seal top of 1543, maker's mark a fringed S, noted that a possible 'longbow' mark at the top of the stem could infer that the spoon had been retailed from Bowes' shop.
10. The alteration of marks was not unknown in Tudor times. Examples include those of William Cawdell, who reversed the crescent that enclosed W, into a C for one of his later variations (The Finial 2001;11:120); John Evans, IE above 3 pellets, who added a bugle after the death of Queen Elizabeth (The Silver Soc. J.2000;12: 129); Nicholas Bartholomew, who probably changed his mark in 1551 from the NB monogram to the Crescent enclosing a mullet (The Finial 1999;10:59).
11. The Inventory of King Henry VIII (note 1) p61.
12. ibid. p.98.
13. Percival P Sir Martin Bowes. The Finial 2001;12:158-161.


.10. / .11. / .12. / .13.
The Finial, October/November 2003

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