MAIDENHEAD, SEAL-TOPS AND OTHER SPOONS

Much that has been written about Apostle spoons applies equally to the spoons of different designs given for the same purpose in the years that followed, when the silversmith changed his design and fashioned spoons more in accord with the times. The Reformation, the lapse into the more ancient faith during the reign of Mary and subsequent events, not the least important being the downfall of the royalists and the strong puritanical element influencing art and production, all had their respective bearing upon the work of the silversmiths-even upon the manufacture of domestic spoons.

From the number of odd " Apostle " Spoons which are met with in private collections, and the large groups of " several apostles " bearing the same hall-marks in our Museums, it is apparent that the custom of giving such spoons as presents by god-parents and others was continued when changes in pattern came. The story of spoons has been told by many writers, and although differently given it is mostly based upon the early work of the pioneers of research into the origin of those changes in design and the classification of ornament, that is those marked alterations in the handle (for it has always been more in the handle than the bowl that these changes have been made). As in so many branches of research in silver plate, collectors are indebted to the pioneer work of Mr. Octavius S. Morgan. His paper on " Spoons," read June 4th, 1852, before the Archaelogical Society, and printed in their journal, contains many particulars relating to the changes which came about after the Reformation, the examples he showed on that occasion indicating the so-called stump top and the later cleft examples. The position he took up was that the first great change came at the Reformation when the " Apostles " fell into disrepute, and that the second was at the accession of the House of Hanover ; and he asks the question, " Did the spoons brought over with the plate of the respective Courts at these periods set the new fashions ? " Since that page was written much research has been made and collectors have secured many fine collections of spoons to examine and take note of. In the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington there are several large cases full of spoons, containing examples of all the rare Apostle spoons, the Maidenhead type introduced during the reign of Mary, and the later developments. The collection made by the late Mr. Fitzhenry and given to the nation is in itself sufficiently comprehensive to enable us to write a " book " on this interesting subject alone. We must, however, be content with mentioning a few of the well known types so fully shown in the national collections. We would draw special attention to the illustration given facing page 169, which is a group of spoons reproduced by the courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum authorities, all the examples being on view to everyone who likes to visit the Museum and see these and countless other spoons so carefully arranged and classified. Taking this group (Figure 47), on the left is an acorn knob ; in the centre are noticed seal-topped spoons, and on the right will be recognised a lion sejant head. It should also be noticed that during these " middle periods " the hall-mark was always placed in the bowl. The British Museum authorities have something to say about the change at the Restoration " when the handle was made flat and broad " and " cut at the end into a form thought to suggest a hind's foot " whence the term pied de biche spoons. On page 251 of the Museum Guide there is an illustration of several of the leading types of English spoons, the acorn and seal headed types being given as well as the older ones ; there is also an excellent example of the pied de biche spoon. It is perhaps noteworthy to point out that although collectors are chiefly interested in silver spoons many examples in other metals of contemporary styles and periods are extant, and are to be found in the national collections. Such spoons were used in large numbers inmediaeval London, and the Guildhall Museum contains some remarkable collections in brass and mixed metals. Then in the early days of George III came drastic changes in table appointments. The rat-tail spoon gave place to the " Fiddle " and several ornamental handles were introduced late in the eighteenth century and in early Victorian days. The best known of these decorative designs are the shell, lily, thread and bead. These constituted the chief types of form and ornament found among the old silver still in use in middle class households. There are, however, many small differences in engraving and ornament, for many of the spoons made towards the close of the eighteenth century were fashioned out of old silver, and some were the work of local silversmiths who added adaptations which might have been favoured in their own neighbourhoods but which never became generally accepted. A word must be said about the relative sizes and the later uses of spoons. In olden time there do not appear to have been any large spoons corresponding with modern " table spoons " which only made their appearance a little earlier than the days of Queen Anne ; after that time there was a marked difference between the spoons used for serving purposes and those required for the personal use of the owner or guest. The knife, fork and spoon in case carried about by their owner belongs to an earlier age and need not be mentioned again in connection with table plate. The beautiful decoration and engraving of Georgian silver appointments of the tea table are among the artistic gems of such work. Charming sets of tea spoons and the tongs so often accompanying them correspond in ornament and engraving to the helmet-shaped cream jug and the similarly shaped sugar basin of that day. In passing it may be noted that amateur collectors and owners of silver teaspoons are sometimes puzzled at the difference in size, weight and occasionally the form of the handles of the teaspoons which are ornamented en suite, and were apparently hall-marked with the same date ; that doubt-less is accounted for by the fact that they were hand wrought and hammered in the days before die presses and machinery ensured exactitude in form, size and weight.