THE TANKARD

The earlier tankards used in England were of wood, and long after metal drinking vessels had come into vogue there were bowls and platters of wood in regular use ; it was the cheaper material of the common folk. In Medieval England the leathern blackjack was in constant request, the ale and other liquor being poured from the larger tankard into the smaller leathern drinking cup of tankard form ; although not infrequently, as it has already been suggested, liquor was imbibed direct from the flagon, just as it was from the contemporary earthen-ware jugs, often of large capacity. These early vessels of leather were by no means devoid of ornamentation, indeed, some of the rarer types were mounted with silver and their owners' names engraved upon shields of the same metal ; some of the old Spanish leather work was embossed and very ornate, presenting quite a contrast to the plain black leathern vessels of Medieval England. The pottery of the Middle Ages was very crude, but in later Tudor times, although coarse, it was modelled with greater care, and the rich green galena glaze poured over it added to its appearance and to the convenience and `even refinement of its use. This perhaps gave some incentive to the workers in metals who began to improve their drinking vessels, to give them better forms, and to add to their ornament. Silversmiths, too, often mounted vessels of pottery with silver rims and added lids of the same metal. Hard drinking was customary in Mediaeval England, and until the close of the eighteenth century few men could lay claim to regular sobriety. In quite early times it was found necessary to devise some means to check this heavy drinking, and perhaps to enable all to have a fair share, for it would seem that it was no uncommon thing for the early comer to take the cup or flagon and empty it right away. The idea of inserting pegs in wooden vessels in joint or common use to indicate the draught limit for each person was an old institution. The same custom was continued when vessels of metal were in use, and among the examples extant are many silver " peg " tankards of the time of Charles II, the reign during which the silversmiths received such encouragement. The lasting quality of the craftsman's work is familiar to the collector who knows this to have been a period of art revival and the sweeping away of much puritanical narrow-mindedness. By way of defining a date when the silver tankard came into general use, marking the decline of the use of the earlier pewter by the wealthy, it may be pointed out that there are many dating from the earlier decades of the seventeenth century, although there are frequent mentions of tankards in inventories of the sixteenth century, such pieces being now rare. Most of the best pieces are either in the hands of private collectors or safely deposited in museums ; some, however, are retained by the city guilds

FIG 48. HELMET SHAPED SILVER CREAM JUG ENGRAVED WITH INITIALS "R.C." AND "L.C."

FIG:. 49 WOOD PUNCH-LADLE. WORM HANDLE AND SILVER MOUNTS. 18111 CENTURY. FIGS 50 AND 51 SILVER CADDY SPOONS.

.-SILVER TWO-HANDLED CUP AND COVER, By MATHEW Lofthouse. LONDON, 1710-11. (In the Victoria and Albert museum.)

corporations and municipal authorities in whose hands they have been since they were made by their order or given by wealthy donors in times very different from those of the present day. A few choice bits are in the hands of less wealthy representatives of old families who cling tenaciously to such relics of their ancient lineage. It is useful to note that many of the old tankards have fine, clear hall-marks from which their dates and places of origin can be ascertained without difficulty, a characteristic of great importance to collectors. The two chief varieties of tankards are distinguished by the lids, which are either domed-topped or quite flat, making a marked difference in their appearance. The covers of the older vessels were hall-marked in a very conspicuous position. Later, there was an attempt to hide the mark, and in the days of George II, when tankards were still in regular although somewhat modified use the marks were almost invariably placed inside the lid and on the bottom of the tankard instead of on the top of the lid and on the side of the vessel as in earlier times. This custom set the modern fashion of smaller and less conspicuous hall-marks, although quite recently there has been a decided vogue for the mark, and collectors often refuse to buy plate, new or old, without well preserved marks, clearly impressed. The hall-mark is to the " home connoisseur " or amateur collector the only reliable indication of authentic antiquity.