SOME EARLY CRAFTSMEN

The Norman period was not very prolific in the smaller works of art, but from those times onward history tells of many famous British men who wrought in the precious metals, some of them men of noble birth and holding high positions, as well as ecclesiastics who were distinguished workers in metals. Among the number of early workers was Leofstane, who was Provost of London, 1100-1135. Another very notable personage was Henry FitzAlwyn, Mayor of London, who was a skilled silver-smith in the reign of Edward I, and he left his mark upon his handiwork. In those times wealthy and noted patrons supported craftsmen, some of whom worked under the immediate direction of their patrons, and others who appear to have had more latitude given them in their work, fulfilling commissions from those who were in authority over them. The Abbot of St. Albans, a patron of the craft, in the twelfth century, presented a fine pair of silver candlesticks, the work of a monk, Anketil by name, to Pope Adrian IV-the stores of the Vatican contain many wonderful examples of silver ware, the work of monks and priestly craftsmen. The men who worked in those days were no novices ; their methods of working and some of the very handsome pieces they wrought have been recorded, and it is clear that the best workmen were to be found in the religious houses ; many ecclesiastics found change of work and even recreation in the practice of their hobby of hammering metal and engraving and otherwise adorning it. The monk, Theophilus, a writer, and possibly an artist too, made a study of the work of the artists in gold and silver in the twelfth century and recorded their doings and some of their methods of procedure. He tells how they were very clever in smelting, refining, hammering, and chasing silver, and also in decorating some of those early pieces with repouss ornament ; they understood the art of casting according to the circe perdue process. There were some important changes in the commerce of this country in the thirteenth century when the art work which had been performed by the monks and those whom they had taught passed partly into the hands of free workers, and thus separate crafts were established and further protected and conserved by the guilds which were to play such an important part in mediaeval craftsmanship. Mr. Cripps, in his comprehensive work on " Old English Plate " gives the names of several fourteenth century silversmiths and goldsmiths ; among them he mentions Thomas Hessey, who was King's goldsmith in 1566 ; Nicholas Twyford ; John de Chichester ; Thomas Reynham ; John Hiltoft and others. The wonderful silver shrine in Orvieto Cathedral was made in the fifteenth century by Ugolino da Siena and some of his pupils. Many Florentine workers operated in England and performed fine works for their patrons and for the great religious establishments. The silversmith's art found many supporters in England at that time, and early in the century Sir Drugo Barentyne worked and became famous. He was a public benefactor, and among other gifts to his city and services to his nation was the building of the second Goldsmiths' Hall in 1407 ; that building perished, but the memory of its founder is still preserved. Indeed, many famous citizens of London have in their times worked as silversmiths and goldsmiths and have become famous for their skill as craftsmen, thus contributing to the upbuilding of the Metropolis. Those men too, have been philanthropists and have done good work in the encouragement of less fortunate members of the craft and those in a more humble way of business. Many will recall the name of Thomas Wood, whose memory is perpetuated in Wood Street, Cheapside ; he it was who built a row of ornamental fronted shops decorated with figures of the " woodman " (a play upon his name) made of lead and afterwards painted in colour. Most of these shops were occupied by members of the silversmith's craft ; many interesting facts about this famous citizen and the good work he did, as well as the trade he supported, are recorded in Price's " London Bankers." It is, of course, with the work of later crafts-men that collectors and connoisseurs of silver plate are familiar.