The 'C' enclosing 'R' mark - An Elizabethan Rarity

By Piers Percival

Fig 1. (Courtesy Woolley & Wallis)
Marks from one of the Campbell spoons, London 1569/70.

This maker's mark, the C enclosing R in a roundish punch, is another puzzlement. It has not been recorded in Jackson. The above illustration comes from the Woolley & Wallis sale of 25th October 2000, lot 38, being the marks from the famous Campbell set of twelve lion sejant spoons of 1569/70.

Fig 2. (Courtesy National Museum of Scotland)
Marks from a seal top, London 1598/99.

This next illustration is taken from a seal top spoon, London 1598/99, at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and one can see that the maker's mark, though not the same, is sufficiently similar to suggest that the spoons may have come from the same goldsmith. But the surprise is that the seal top was made 29 years after the lion sejants and there is no record of the mark from the intervening period, either on spoons or on other plate.

So do they come from the same goldsmith? If they do not, it might be easy to suggest that the 1569 spoons were made by Richard Chapman and the 1598 spoon by Richard Cotton. Richard Chapman is a favourite choice as he was apprenticed to the specialist spoon maker Nicholas Bartholomew. Presented in 1559, he was sworn to the Company on 14th March 1566/7 (Court book K, p346). Nicholas Bartholomew we may remember, was almost certainly the proprietor of the 'crescent enclosing a mullet' when seen on spoons 1551-1587; by 1568 he was clearly one of the more esteemed spoon specialists of the time as he was chosen by the Company 'to make a dozen gilt spoons (30oz) with leopards heads and dolphins engraved for presentation to the sheriff of London Mr Alderman Bacon[1]' (book K p346). Richard Chapman though, soon fell from glory, possibly through illness. In September 1573 he was chosen to receive the John Standolf charity, and he may be presumed dead by July 1577 when Elizabeth Chapman was granted 6d a week during her widowhood (book L, pp166, 323). At least if he did make the Campbell spoons, his early demise would explain why no others are now extant.

Other possibilities for the 1569 spoons are Richard Catterall, apprenticed to Robert Tayleboyes (who we know made spoons, book K, p23) and free 10.3.1563/4 but ill by 1570 and dead by 1576 (book L, pp39, 256), Richard Coppyn, free January 1568/9 and Richard Courtnall, active at least between 1559-1569 (book K, pp98, 119, 246, 435). Christopher Ringstead, livery 1552 but died 1569[2], Richard Crouke, free in June 1569, his father Robert, and another Robert Crouke apprenticed in 1558, are all rank outsiders. Richard Cox, another outsider, was receiving alms from 1565 (book K pp300, 391, 395, 446) and was dead by June 1574 (book L, p203).

The favourite for the 1598 spoon is an early mark of Richard Cotton, who was free in October 1597. Richard Cotton had been apprenticed to the spoon maker Robert Rase, and was himself a major spoon maker having many dozens of substandard spoons broken, particularly in 1599 (book O, pp31, 44, 50, 90, 719). We also know that in September 1599 it was agreed with the Wardens, that he would alter his mark (book O, p55)[3]. So if belonging to Cotton, this mark would only have been in use for the two years commencing October 1597. Again, this would explain why no other spoons with this mark have been recorded. [Readers please do write in if you have seen this mark outside the year in question]. In fact, if a multitude of fines for substandard spoons were anything to go by, Richard Cotton would be among the small group of high volume spoon makers working towards the end of that century[4].

Other RCs or CRs include Richard Cheney, an apprentice in 1580 and a Warden in 1612, Richard Cooke who presented Charles Cooke in 1599 (free 1605), and who had two 'cruettes' broken in 1599 (book O, p33), Christopher Reynolds apprenticed in 1582, who had 'bolles' broken in 1604 (book O, p374), Richard Crowshaw who presented Daniel Cooke in 1595 (free 1604), Ralph Cawdell who paid rent for the Michaelmas quarter October 1599, and several others. Richard Cheshire in 1607, was before the Wardens for setting new heads worse upon spoons made by other spoon makers (book O, p562), so was probably an out sourced finial worker. Robert Cottrell was not free until 1604.

However if both 1569 and 1598 marks are thought to belong to the same goldsmith, the field is narrowed considerably. In fact there is only one goldsmith with CR or RC initials and known activity that covers this period, Richard Chambers. One can appreciate incidentally, that if output was small, a gap of 29 years could still be compatible as also the survival today of only the odd spoon, particularly if from a small time generalist.

Richard Chambers had been apprenticed to Richard Done in 1563 and was late with him when sworn 31.10.1567. Continued activity over the 1569 and 1598 periods is shown by a fine in 1570 for a substandard salt and cover (book L, p39) and the taking in 1596 of John Ryle as apprentice. Ryle was made free in February 1607/8 (book O, p559). No other apprentices named Richard Chambers have been recorded[5]. That Richard Chambers was a small timer is shown by the paucity of apprentices he presented and by the fact that in 1572 he was a suitor for the Birkbeck charity. He did take Robert Wilbye in 1576 (who had been first with Henry Gilberd and later in 1575 with John Fox), as well as Wyat Chamber in 1580, Peter Smyth in 1584 and John Ryle. He had dealings with John Ashmore (who had also been apprenticed to Richard Done) as in July 1579 a ' tankard of John Assmores to be molten and the said silver to be delivered to the said Rich Chambers' (book L, p462). Later there were some rental problems: in 1600 he was given liberty to sue John Bogey for 45/- rent (book O' p132) and in March 1618/19 he was disallowed an under tenancy in Noble St and Lilypot Lane (book P p388).

So that is a brief story of Richard Chambers. Though a small timer his career appears to have spanned at least 40 years (1567-1607) and he would have been aged at least 75 when last mentioned in 1619.

It will be interesting to know the views of other members as to whether the mark should tentatively be ascribed to expected spoon makers Richard Chapman and after an interval, to Richard Cotton, or to the less likely but all encompassing Richard Chambers. My own opinion is decidedly for the former.

But the spin-off from these notes is to show the difficulties in ascription when confronted only with initials, as there is often a multiplicity of names available. Device marks are sometimes easier as they always had a special meaning and carried greater individuality. The challenge is to find that special meaning, whether by rebus, pun or symbol, the name of a shop, or even reference to a respected master's mark or workshop.

1. James Bacon, fishmonger, was sworn alderman to the Aldersgate ward 24.4.1567 and was appointed sheriff for 1568. 2. His name was entered on the July 1569 list of 'goldsmiths now working in Chepe' but was subsequently crossed out and he was not entered on the comprehensive 1570 list of liverymen. 3. For a full explanation of his tiff with the Wardens and conditions for re-instatement to 'assay and touche' see 'The Finial' 2001, 11:120-121. 4. Others high on the list of fines for substandard spoons at this time, were John Jermyn, Barnabas Turville, Thomas Laurence and John Rounde. 5. From 1578 onwards a formal register was kept of all goldsmith apprentices together with names of their fathers and masters. Prior to 1578 not all apprentices were recorded though most were entered in the Court books at the time of oath taking.

.20. / .21.
The Finial, March/April 2004

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