The Case for the Caddy Ladle

By Michael Baggott

We are all familiar with a range of small ladles produced from the 1770's through until the mid nineteenth century. Some are long handled with small bowls whilst others have wide bowls, pierced or plain with much shorter handles. They have for some time all been referred to as condiment or cream ladles, which surely some are given the numerous extant cream pails and contemporary references, but it makes no sense for these to have pierced bowls.

In the eleventh Silver Society journal (autumn 1999) there are two good articles both of which reproduce extracts of lists of wares sent for assay along with their contemporary descriptions. Thomas Sinsteden's article on the Dublin Goldsmiths Company shows that in a list of articles submitted for assay from the 1st May 1787-31st April 1788 were "3 tea shells" above "7 tea ladles", clearly two distinct articles used in the service of tea.

This is again the case in Gordon McFarlane's article on Robert Gray and son. In the appendix is a list of the articles sent by Gray for assay in Edinburgh in 1812. On the 7th August a quantity of flatware was submitted including "2caddysps", clearly caddy spoons, later on the 30th October another quantity of flatware was submitted, this time including "1 caddie ladle", a distinct description from the caddy spoons some two months earlier.

The caddy ladle can again be found in Margaret Gill's paper, 'The Latter Days of the York Assay Office', (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1977). The various wares with contemporary descriptions sent for assay at York are listed for each maker, taken from the 1805-1821 ledger. Whilst the partnership of Cattle and Barber lists only a "caddy l", (caddy ladle) the later partnership of Barber and Whitwell are recorded as submitting "caddy l" (caddy ladles) and "caddy sp" (caddy spoons), as is the silversmith Edward Jackson, again clearly distinguishing between the two.

The fact that caddy ladles distinct from caddy spoons are recorded at these various offices strongly suggests that many of those small to medium sized ladles, especially with pierced bowls (which cannot be cream ladles), are indeed caddy ladles.

Their use at this point can only be speculated on. It may have been that they were first used for narrower necked tea caddies, which no longer used the cover as a measure, the piercing as with many caddy spoons allowing the dust to fall away from the tea leaves before use. Later they may have been used to ladle out the Green and Black teas into the larger central caddy or mixing bowl, at which point the more refined and decorative caddy spoon could be used for service in company.


The Finial, March/April 2004

This site and images copyright © 1997-2005, by Daniel Bexfield Antiques