A Seasonal Topic
(of Hens, Turkeys and Geese?)

By John Sutcliffe


For several years I have been collecting picture back teaspoons. I have read in various books on silver and observed from auction catalogues that amongst the 'farmyard birds' depicted by various dies in use in the 18th century there are reported to be examples of hen & chicks, turkey & chicks and goose & goslings.

Fig. 1Fig. 2

My collection of picture backs is far from comprehensive and the examples shown in Figures 1 to 6 are the most photogenic. The farmyard birds shown in the attached photographs show a turkey & chicks (Fig. 1) and hen on nest (Fig. 2) whilst, in my opinion the remaining birds (Figs 4 to 6) are Hens of varying breeds with chicks.

Fig. 3Fig. 4

In the Philips sale in January 1992 Lot 108 (Fig. 7) was described as Goose with Goslings but from my recollections of viewing the sale I was not convinced that there was any significant difference between this bird and the bird shown in Figures 4 & 5. The same die cast appeared recently (Bonhams November 2002) where it was amusingly described as "a bird with its young, probably an ostrich".

I have been offered goose & gosling teaspoons by various dealers and, again, these spoons have not shown any marked difference from hen & chicks teaspoons.

I wonder whether the birds shown in Figures 4 & 5 are really geese.

Fig. 5Fig. 6

I would be interested to learn whether any members have examples of Goose with Goslings or indeed whether this die type actually exists.

Fig. 7

Acknowledgements:
I would like to thank Ed. and Michael Golding for taking these photographs.
I would like to thank Bonhams for permitting me to use the photograph in Figure 7.

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Toasting Fork from The Weeks Museum - A Postscript:

By Anthony Dove F.R.S.A.


A short while after writing my paper in the last Finial (Oct/Nov 2003) I was informed of an interesting lot (1376) in the Woolley & Wallis sale of 24th October. One of the items from the estate of the late Brian Beet was a parasol with a telescopic silver handle. This had an inscription identical to that on the fork except for the number, which was 1013. This was possibly a reference number within the museum. Thanks to Alexis Butcher I was able to examine and compare the two handles of the fork and parasol. The length was identical when the parasol was fully extended, the maker was the same but the date of assay was 1802, (seven years earlier than the fork). As I had pointed out that Thomas Weeks started his commercial life as an umbrella manufacturer, the question arises - did both items start of life as parasols or toasting forks?

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.20. / .21.
The Finial, December/January/February 2003/04


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