Chester Assay Office - Incuse Duty Mark

By Simon C. Davidson

It has been known since 1985 that the change from the incuse duty mark (sovereign facing left) at Chester to the cameo duty mark (sovereign facing right) took place sometime during the course of the assay year 20th July 1785 to 20th July 1786[1]. Maurice Ridgway had identified a number of Chester hallmarked items with date letter k of the 5th series with either the incuse duty or the cameo duty marks.

I think it is time to try to obtain a more precise date for the changeover utilising published sources on items with the date letter 'k' of the 5th series. One can then attempt to match them with individual recognizable items in the Chester Plate Duty Books, which start from December 1784[2].

I researched a number of items and was from these able to match items made by Joseph Walley. This maker only submitted two batches of dessert spoons (submitting under the partnership trading name Walley & Jones) in the assay year 1785/86. It so happens that Maurice Ridgway had identified and recorded two Joseph Walley matching dessert spoons, both with the date letter 'k' for 1785/86 one with incuse duty mark and one with the Cameo duty mark[3].

These dessert spoons were part of the two batches Joseph Walley submitted for assay and are recorded in the Chester Plate Duty Book, as follows;

1st August 1785-24 dessertspoons
3rd October 1785-36 dessertspoons

It would appear from this information that the changeover from incuse to cameo duty mark was made by the Assay Master Richard Richardson IV after 1st August and before 3rd October 1785.

It may be possible to narrow down further the period of the change if one could identify any other items submitted for assay between 1st August and 3rd October 1785.

This may be possible with help from the readers of The Finial. I would be very interested to hear from any reader who possesses or knows of any of the following items with an incuse duty mark with the date letter 'k' for 1785/86.

'Chester Plate Duty Book'
- entries between 1st August and 3rd October 1785

15 August 1785Richard Richardson1 skewer
15 teaspoons
2 tumblers
4 ladles
4 funnels
George Walker2 nipperkins
5 SeptemberGeorge Walker25 buttons
7 SeptemberGeorge Walker36 buttons
19 SeptemberJames France7 skewers
26 SeptemberRichard Richardson6 sauce ladles
1 sugar ladle

I have excluded from the above list any item that was submitted between 20th July 1785, the beginning of the assay year, up to and including 1st August 1785 to ease identification.

However we can reliably from the above evidence, already say that the change from incuse duty mark to the cameo duty mark was made by 3rd October 1785, as at present this is the earliest date for known items with the cameo duty mark.

1. Maurice H. Ridgway; Chester Silver 1727-1837 (Chichester), 1985.
2. Chester Plate Duty Books 1784-1809, 1809-37, 1838-40, Archive Department, Birmingham Central Library.
3. Maurice H. Ridgway; Chester Silver 1727-1837 (Chichester), 1985, p212 items7-9.


George Smith II and Thomas Eaton -
A Lost Mark, Partners in Silver?

By Carl Belfield.

In February of this year I made one of my periodic trips to Dorset and discovered, quite by chance, a fine pair of bottom marked feather edged and cartouche tablespoons, made in London in 1769 with unshouldered bowls. The maker's mark interested me as much as the condition, which was very fine overall, 'T.E' over 'G.S'.

My initial reference was to Jackson[1] who lists this mark as unidentified circa 1763/4 and seen on teaspoons. My subsequent reference was to Heal[2] who lists a number of George Smiths, particularly George Smith, buckle and haft maker of 110 Wood Street 1765/82, George Smith, goldsmith and buckle maker of No.4 Huggin Lane, Wood Street 1767/1793. The period coinciding with when the spoons were made. Heal also lists a Thomas Eaton, spoon maker of Wood Street of 1765. On cross referring to Grimwade[3], I found that he listed George Smith II who entered his 2nd mark as a small worker on 21.11.1767 and gave his address as Huggins Alley, Wood Street, also George Smith III apprenticed to Thomas Chawner "to learn the art of a spoonmaker". He entered his first mark as a spoonmaker in December 1774 therefore too late for the period of my spoons.

Perhaps George Smith was part of the partnership that produced the spoons? Interestingly, Grimwade does not list Thomas Eaton but a Samuel Eaton recorded of Huggin Court or Lane in 1751, who entered his 9th mark on 16th March 1768. Could there be a link between Samuel and Thomas Eaton, both working in close proximity at the same time? Evidence suggests that George Smith II and Thomas Eaton may well have entered into partnership for a period and therefore this may be one of the 'lost marks' that was entered into the missing volume of 'Large Workers Marks' from 30/09/1757 to 7/03/1773 that John Fallon[4] refers to in his account of George Smith II apprenticeship to Thomas and then William Chawner. Fallon states that this volume along with 'Small Works Marks' were submitted to the Parliamentary Committee but never returned and suggests that they may exist in archives in Parliament, assuming they survived the fire of 16th October 1834.

Would readers have any observations or comments on this to confirm or deny my suggestions?

1. Jackson's Silver and Gold marks, revised edition edited by Ian Pickford.
2. The London Goldsmiths 1200-1800, Ambrose Heal.
3. London Goldsmiths 1697-1837 their Marks and Lives, Arthur Grimwade.
4. The marks of the London Goldsmiths and Silversmiths 1697-1837, by John Fallon.


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The Finial, March/April 2004

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